What is Norway's Jewish problem?
Recent events in Norway — a peaceful Scandinavian country which prides itself on championing universal human rights, tolerance and democracy — hold troubling messages for Israel and Jews.
A recent survey conducted by the Oslo-based Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities found that more than one third of Norwegians polled believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is comparable to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. Slightly more than half felt that Jews either exploit the Holocaust or have a superiority complex. Last week, a Norwegian pupil was branded with a hot coin on his neck at school, allegedly because his father is an Israeli. When the school refrained from taking disciplinary action, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre complained to the Norwegian Minister of Justice, Grete Faremo.
It should be remembered that overt forms of antisemitic physical violence in Norway are the exception, not the rule. However, Oslo’s recent anti-Zionist and antisemitic attitudes have no doubt contributed to an increasingly prejudicial climate which could explain a rise in hate crimes.
In the past decade, Norwegian leaders and corporate CEOs have demonstrated a proclivity for singling out Israel for unfair treatment, while exhibiting antisemitic traits. Politicians have equated Israel’s behaviour with Nazism; called for anti-Israel boycotts (while not advocating boycotting other nations); and one politician appeared to mimic Hamas or Hizbollah rhetoric by proposing that the United Nations launch “precision-guided missiles at Israeli targets”.
A Norwegian University unsuccessfully attempted to impose a boycott against Israeli universities in 2009. In October 2010, the Norwegian government banned a German shipbuilder from testing its submarines in Norwegian waters because the subs were being purchased by Israel.
The CEO of a leading pharmaceutical chain in Norway boycotted Ahava cosmetics because they are manufactured in the West Bank. Apparently it is immoral to purchase products from Israeli occupied territory, but the same rules do not apply to other nations with territorial disputes — for example, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, Russia’s occupation of the Kuril Islands and China’s occupation of Tibet.
On April 30, 2012, I wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post about this pattern of hypocrisy, entitled What People of Conscience Need to Know about Norway.
On May 9, Svein Sevje, the Norwegian Ambassador to Israel, wrote an official response to my op-ed. At no point did he state that what I wrote was factually incorrect. Rather, he asserted that my remarks were taken out context, even though the facts are indisputable. Many of the ambassador’s comments reinforced my argument that Oslo has tolerated an atmosphere of singling out Israel, applies a double standard and equates Israeli behaviour with Nazism — actions defined by the European Union as a manifestation of antisemitism.
Israel has gone to the extent of announcing a Arab Druze envoy, Naim Araidi, for Oslo in order to combat its ‘Nazi’ reputation there. Mr Araidi is yet to take up his post.
During the past week, two events have occurred which, taken together, reinforce my argument.
First, the Norwegian Pension Fund Global announced that they would no longer invest in an Israeli construction company as it is involved in projects in East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities forced a woman who was in her seventh month of pregnancy to have an abortion.
Will the ethics board in Oslo now boycott Chinese goods or divest Chinese stocks from their portfolio? We will be watching this closely.