What people of conscience need to know about Norway (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MICHAEL SHARNOFF 05/01/12)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
Casual observers of the Middle East are no doubt aware of the deeply
anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist attitudes in the leadership of the
Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. These groups make
little attempt to conceal their desire for a world without Israel,
and care not whether this goal is achieved through the so-
called “right of return” which would grant millions of Palestinians
the “right” to live in Israel, or through the liquidation of
the “Zionist entity.” Any rational observer knows these actions would
end Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Nor do these groups devote much attention to distinguishing whether
this aim should be achieved through violent jihad or by the expulsion
They often insist a peaceful and just solution can be achieved only
if Jews return to their previous homes in the former Soviet Union,
Morocco, Iraq or Germany.
The ubiquitous demand for the “liberation of Palestine” is understood
by any rational observer to be an appeal not solely for the
liberation of the West Bank but a euphemism for the destruction of
Israel. In the end, they want Israel not to exist – to be destroyed,
and care little how it happens.
However, a new and not-so-subtle threat has emerged from one of the
more peaceful places on earth – Scandinavia. Norway has never posed a
direct threat to Israel nor has it advocated Israel’s liquidation.
However, many in its government, and some large businesses, have
recently displayed a pattern of strong anti-Israel and often anti-
Semitic attitudes which would make Islamist radicals very proud.
Why would a very tolerant, progressive and democratic government
espouse such prejudicial views? Why is this significant for Jews and
all persons of conscience? Western nations are typically categorized
as advocates of liberty, democracy, human rights and tolerance.
The Kingdom of Norway is no exception and prides itself as a
universal champion of these noble values.
For instance, in December 2010, the Norwegian government released a
12-page brochure affirming that “The protection of human rights is
one of the main pillars of Norwegian foreign policy, and providing
support for human rights defenders is a central part of these
Therefore, it would be incumbent upon Norway to practice what it
preaches. However, Oslo’s recent behavior reveals a proclivity toward
singling out Israel among all other nations for international
Norwegian leaders and officials attempt to justify their anti-Israel
actions based on the narrative that Israel occupies Palestinian land.
They typically avoid specifically targeting Jews, for fear of being
labeled anti-Semitic, but their actions nonetheless exhibit traits
of “genteel anti-Semitism.”
Norway once played an instrumental and nonpartisan role, during the
Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s.
Then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat made compromises and offered mutual recognition. Arafat
Norway’s position has since dramatically changed.
In January 2006, Socialist politician Kristin Halvorsen proposed a
boycott of Israeli products, while insisting that her views did not
reflect the government. Oslo may have distanced itself from
Halvorsen’s controversial remarks, but it has refused to follow the
United States and European Union’s classification of Hamas as a
designated terrorist organization.
“We condemn organizations that are involved in terrorism,” said
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, “but Norway has considered the
situation as such that having lists where we put an organization and
call it a terrorist organization will not serve our purposes.”
Støre has also insisted that Israel dismantle its security wall built
in response to the wave of suicide bombings from the West Bank.
Additional anti-Israel actions further raises the question of whether
Norway objects to specific Israeli policies or is anti-Jewish. In
2008, Socialist politician Ingrid Fiskaa asserted to a Norwegian
newspaper that the United Nations should fire “precision guided
missiles against Israeli targets.”
Trine Lilleng, a Norwegian diplomat to Saudi Arabia, emailed dozens
of pictures to friends of Holocaust pictures juxtaposed with images
from Israel’s war with Hamas in December 2008 to portray Jews as
Moreover, during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel
tirade at the Durban II Conference in Geneva, Norway remained in
attendance while most other Western nations either boycotted the
conference or walked out.
NORWEGIAN ANTI-ISRAEL and anti-Jewish sentiment appears to be a “top-
down” phenomenon. A 2010 report from NGO Monitor which provides
information on organizations claiming to advance human rights
revealed that Oslo provides tens of millions of kroner annually to
West Bank and Gaza NGOs. Some of these organizations are blatantly
anti-Israel and promote anti- Israel boycotts.
Norwegian Church Aid denounced Oslo’s decision to withhold aid to the
Hamas regime in Gaza in 2006, and has met with senior Hamas leader
The Norwegian People’s Aid, funded by the Foreign Ministry, described
Israel as “apartheid” and accused it of “war crimes.”
The University of Trondheim in Norway tried to impose an academic
boycott against Israeli universities in 2009, but the motion
ultimately failed. On November 9, the Norwegian University of Science
and Technology hosted a six-session seminar featuring Norwegian
scholars on Israel’s alleged use of anti-Semitism as a political
tool. In a letter to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the Simon
Wiesenthal’s director for international relations Shimon Samuels
described the seminar as “a new stage in Norwegian incitement to Jew
In October 2010, Norway’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would
not permit the German shipbuilder HDW to test its Dolphin class
submarine, built for the Israeli navy, in Norwegian territorial
This despite the fact that HDW leases a base from Norway to test its
submarines in deep water.
The most recent example of Norway’s genteel anti- Semitism was
exemplified by Roar Arnstad, CEO of a Norwegian pharmaceutical chain
called VITA, with his decision to boycott Ahava cosmetics
manufactured in West Bank settlements. Arnstad justified the decision
based on the logic that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was
illegal and that therefore it would be immoral to purchase Israeli
products from occupied territory. Arnstad denies holding anti-Semitic
beliefs and claims his policy is only against the Israeli occupation,
but if this was indeed sincere, he would apply the same boycott to
other occupying nations.
But Norway does not propose academic boycotts against universities in
China, Britain, Turkey, Armenia, India or Morocco, nor does it enact
sanctions and divestment programs. Singling out Israel is anti-
Semitism and this demonstrable fact cannot absolve the Norwegian
government of its own bigotry.
I would like to remind the Norwegian government and corporate CEOs of
the European Union’s examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism
manifests itself: “Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel
is a racist endeavor, applying double standards by requiring of it a
behavior not expected or demanded by any other democratic nation; and
drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the
So tell us, do you boycott cultural and academic events in Britain
(occupier of the Falkland Islands), China (occupier of Tibet), Russia
(occupier of the Kuril Islands), Iran (occupier of Greater Tunb,
Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa Islands), Morocco (occupier of Western
Sahara), Armenia (occupier of Nagorno-Karabakh) and Turkey (occupier
of Northern Cyprus)? Do you ban imports from these countries?
Moreover, do you criticize suicide bombings and rocket attacks
against civilians with the same fervor with which you criticize
Israeli policies? For many, regarding Norwegian policies – enough is
enough. If Vidkun Quisling was alive today and read the anti-Israel
an anti-Semitic statements that were coming out of Norway, a big
smile would appear on his face.
The writer completed a PhD in Middle East Studies from King’s
College, London. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/01/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY