BERLIN – In an eye-opening interview, Bruce Bawer, an American literary critic,
writer and poet and a sharp critic of European anti-Semitism and radical Islam,
who lives in Norway, talks to The Jerusalem Post
about the outbreak of
Jew-hatred and loathing of Israel in his country.
Bawer is the acclaimed
author of While Europe Slept and Surrender
.RELATED:Premium: Norway’s 'boycott' of pro-Israel speakers Outrage over Holocaust-denying Norwegian lawmakerYour recent essay, “Alan
Dershowitz and Norwegian Anti-Semitism,” featured in Pajamas Media, attracted
intense attention. Why did Norwegian universities boycott Professor
One of them wouldn’t say. Another said he was “controversial.” Yet
another wanted him to talk about O.J. Simpson, but not Israel. The fact is that
Norwegian universities are eager to welcome critics of Israel, apologists for
terrorism, hard-line Islamists and relativizers of the Holocaust – but not
defenders of Israel.
These universities consider themselves beacons of
enlightenment and diversity. But being pro-Israel is, for them, over the
What is contemporary Norwegian anti- Semitism? What is propagating
post-Holocaust hatred of Israel and Jews in Norway?
It’s a phenomenon of a sort
that I never encountered in all my years in the US, and that I once thought had
been banished to the dustbin of history. It’s most virulent among the cultural
elite – the academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, politicians, and
They’re overwhelmingly on the left, and intensely hostile to
the West, to capitalism, to the US and to Israel. Before the fall of the USSR,
an extraordinary percentage of them were Communists. They have replaced their
affinity to the Soviet Union with sympathy for the great totalitarian ideology
of our time: Islamism. Thus they romanticize Palestinians and despise
Part of the motivation for this anti-Semitism is the influx into
Norway in recent decades of masses of Muslims from Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and
elsewhere. Multiculturalism has taught Norway’s cultural elite to take an
uncritical, even obsequious, posture toward every aspect of Muslim culture and
belief. When Muslim leaders rant against Israel and the Jews, the reflexive
response of the multiculturalist elite is to join them in their rantings. This
is called solidarity.
Norwegian history also plays a role in all this.
Anti-Semitism has a long, deeply-rooted history here. This was never a
cosmopolitan country – no nation in Europe was less ethnically or religiously
diverse. On the contrary, Norway was a remote, rural, mountainous land of pious
Lutheran farmers whose early 19th-century constitution banned Jews from its
With a few notable exceptions, Norwegians did not exactly
cover themselves in glory during the Nazi occupation. Unlike their counterparts
in Denmark, Norwegian gentiles made no major effort to protect their Jewish
neighbors. To be sure, in the decades after the war, Norway was a staunch ally
of the US and Israel; but the entrenched leftwing elite did its work through the
schools, universities and media – producing a generation of Norwegians for whom
being virtuous and intellectually sophisticated means, among other things,
embracing the Muslim “victim,” and despising the Israeli “bully.”
Oslo’s version of Fleet Street there is a bar, a journalists’ hangout, called
Stopp Pressen (Stop the Presses). For years, there hung in its window a
photograph of a smiling, beatific Yasser Arafat. From the way he was portrayed,
you’d have thought he was Albert Schweizer. I walked by that picture almost
every day for years. It was a good reminder of the sickness at the top ranks of
How is modern anti-Semitism expressing itself in Norway?
Norwegian academics have sought to ban contacts with Israeli universities.
Norwegian activists have encouraged boycotts of Israeli products. Every so
often, a high-profile professor or activist, or some famous author like Erlend
Loe or Jostein Gaarder, will write a virulent op-ed or give an angry speech
denouncing Israel and insulting Jews as a people. Nothing they say is
ever fresh or new; on the contrary, it’s all pure cultural-elite
Nothing, moreover, could be safer for them to say in this
country; no one will seek to harm them physically or otherwise. On the contrary,
their anti-Semitic drivel will only win them plaudits from their
colleagues. Yet they are treated as bold, courageous, original
Can you explain what is driving Norway’s Socialist Left
Party – a member of the current governing coalition – to be amenable to using
the Norwegian military to strike Israel?
The Socialist Left Party is the
spiritual home of much, if not most, of the Norwegian cultural elite. Many of
its members were once card-carrying Communists and Soviet
sympathizers. They despise the US and hate the fact that Norway is in
At one time they would’ve gladly enlisted Norway in the Warsaw
Pact, because in their view the great force for evil in today’s world is
capitalism. Now they are eager to embrace jihadists and terrorists for the same
Are Norwegians consumed with memorializing the Holocaust and dead
Jews, but at the same time ignoring the lethal anti- Semitism directed at Jews
in Israel and Diaspora Jews because of their support for Israel?
Yes. People who
are professionally committed to memorializing the Holocaust will deplore it in
one breath, and in the next will explain that the Muslims are today’s Jews and
that the Israelis are today’s Nazis. Again, in large part I think this can be
explained by history. It salves the conscience of many Norwegians about
their parents’ and grandparents’ wartime moral choices to be able to tell
themselves that, ‘well, that was long ago, and today Norway is a virtuous
bringer of peace, and Israel is a bloodthirsty warmonger.’
Do you consider
Norway to have the highest levels of anti-Semitism among the Scandinavian
It’s close, but if I had to bet on which country was the worst, I do
think I’d pick Norway.
How dangerous is political and radical Islam in
Terrifyingly dangerous. And what makes it dangerous is the eagerness of
the cultural elite to whitewash it. Islamists are welcomed into the elite. In
recent years, one high-profile Islamist has been given a coveted position as a
columnist for the country’s newspaper of record, while another has become a
leading member of one of the political parties, and has established himself as a
powerful figure in Norwegian society.
These men are invited to parties at
the US Embassy, and enjoy friendly relations with top members of the Norwegian
government and with members of the royal family. It seems clear that they are
being groomed for high political office here.
Then there’s our resident
terrorist, Mullah Krekar, and his family, who have long been the subjects of
fawning newspaper and TV profiles in which they are depicted sympathetically as
kind, gentle, suffering victims. (This is a man who founded the terrorist
group Ansar al-Islam, and who is known to be guilty of murdering and torturing
Two years ago, supposedly in response to Israel’s actions against
Hamas, Muslims rioted in downtown Oslo, making a large area of the city look
like Beirut or Sarajevo at their most violent moments in modern
history. The violence was out of control, the damage extensive. Yet
almost everyone got off scot-free.
Early last year, in the same Oslo
Square where Quisling and his henchman once held rallies, scores of radical
Muslims gathered to hear a Nazi-like message of hate against Jews, gays, secular
democracy, America, the West, Israel. The speeches were chilling. Yet the
men who gave those speeches continue to be treated with respect by Norwegian
What types of alliances exist between Norway’s leftists
parties and Islamic groups?
Very cozy alliances. They share common
How can Norwegian authorities combat Islamic, left-wing and
In the next election, Norwegian voters need to hand
the reins of government over to the Progress Party – the only one of Norway’s
several major parties that is truly friendly to Israel, and the only one that is
remotely honest about the realities of Islamism. Otherwise, nothing will
happen. In terms of Norway’s small Jewish community – estimated to be
2,000 – you wrote: “The upside of the Dershowitz story is that his anger over
Norway’s shabby treatment of him – and of Jews generally – seems to have
awakened at least some members of Oslo’s Jewish community. Baila Odidort,
a reporter for a Jewish website, attended a breakfast at Chabad House in Oslo at
which Dershowitz met with Jewish leaders. ‘For local Jews who have grown
accustomed to keeping a low profile,’ wrote Odidort, ‘Dershowitz’s fearlessness
was a stunning eye-opener.’” Odidort provided a vibrant example: “After so many
years of living here and hearing people tell me that day is night and night is
day, I’ve stopped screaming that it’s not true,’ one of the guests at the Chabad
House breakfast who preferred to remain anonymous told Rabbi Wilhelm after the
meeting. ‘Mr. Dershowitz comes along and opens the window and says it’s a
beautiful day!’” What is the explanation for the reticence among Norwegian Jews
to flex their pro- Israel muscles, and at the same time assertively confront
modern Norwegian anti-Semitism?
They are extremely few in number. And they fear
for their children’s future. But their silence is no solution. Their children
have no future here unless they speak up.
Should Norway’s Jews consider
Dr. Daniel Pipes, a leading American expert on Islam,
talked about a reverse migration of Europe’s 1 million Jews, comparable to the
1948 eviction of Oriental and Arab Jews who fled to the State of
He noted European Jews might end up leaving because of Muslim
hostility and hardcore anti-Semitism. Do you see a similar exodus of European
Jews in the immediate future?
It’s happening already.