Norway has been a strong supporter of Israel since its foundation. We remain
committed to Israel’s right to exist within secure and internationally
recognized borders, and we have over the years committed financial and political
resources, as well as the lives of Norwegian soldiers, to that end.
Norwegian government, like the Israeli government and the Palestinian
leadership, remains committed to a two-state solution. Just as there is
widespread opposition in Norway to the expansion of the illegal Israeli
settlements in the West Bank, there is widespread support for the Israeli right
to live in security. We consistently condemn the targeting of civilians by
rockets from Gaza.
Nevertheless, The Jerusalem Post persists in regularly
publishing strongly anti-Norwegian articles. The latest example is the
article by Michael Sharnoff, prominently placed in the 1 May edition.
Mr. Sharnoff’s article follows a familiar pattern. He makes harsh
allegations against “Norway,” “the Norwegian leaders” and “Oslo,” claiming that
many in the Norwegian government have recently displayed a pattern of
anti-Semitic attitudes “which would make Islamist radicals very proud,” and also
claims that the actions of Norwegian leaders “exhibit traits of genteel
He even goes so far as to claim that “If Vidkun Quisling
was alive today and read the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements that were
coming out of Norway, a big smile would appear on his face.” Anyone with even a
cursory knowledge of Norwegian history would know how insulting the reference to
Quisling is to Norwegians.
If you want to make a serious allegation, you
have to make sure you have your facts straight. This is the problem with Mr.
Sharnoff’s article. Actions and statements are described as anti-Semitic without
real justification, and then attributed to Norway or the Norwegian people in
general. In the following I will address some of the claims made in the
Claim: Norway is singling out Israel among all other nations for
Fact: Even a brief glance at the website of the
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that Norway’s commitment to human
rights, democracy and peace is worldwide, not confined to one country or part of
Claim: Then-Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen
proposed a boycott of Israeli products in 2006.
Fact: It is true that
Kristin Halvorsen publicly supported her own party’s campaign. She also
subsequently made it clear that the Norwegian government is opposed to a
consumer boycott of Israel. The Norwegian government does not believe that
boycotts are an effective way to promote political change. But a consumer
boycott is a legitimate way to protest policies that you are against, and cannot
in itself be claimed to be anti-Semitic.
Claim: Norway has refused to
follow the US and EU in classifying Hamas as a designated terrorist
Fact: Norway does not have a national list of designated
terrorist organizations. This is a general policy which is not particular to
Hamas. What we do have is legislation that outlaws terrorist actions, and we
have shown, not least through our military commitment in Afghanistan, that we
are unwavering in our resolve to combat international terrorism.
The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre has insisted that
Israel dismantle the security barrier.
Fact: Norway has consistently
recognized the security needs of Israel and Israel’s right to self defense.
According to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice
published on 9 July 2004, the construction of the security barrier in The
Palestinian Territory was contrary to international law and should be
dismantled. It should also be remembered that the problem the court found with
the security barrier was that it was built on occupied territory and that other
considerations than security were important for the route that was chosen for
There are no limitations on building barriers within a
country’s internationally recognized borders. In a UN General Assembly
resolution, 150 countries, including all EU member states, urged Israel to
implement the advisory opinion. Singling out Norway is not
Claim: During the Durban II Conference in Geneva, Norway
remained in attendance during Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s
Fact: It is misleading to mention this without at the same time
mentioning why Norway remained in attendance. It is Norwegian policy not to cede
the podiums of the UN to extremists, but rather to use these podiums to confront
them publicly. The Norwegian Foreign Minister was the next speaker at the Durban
II Conference, and used the opportunity to sharply criticize the Iranian
Claim: The University of Trondheim in Norway tried to impose
an academic boycott against Israeli universities in 2009, but the motion
Fact: It is wrong to claim that the Norwegian
University of Science and Technology in Trondheim tried to impose such a
boycott. It is true that a proposal to that effect was made to the board by
faculty members and students, but the board unanimously voted against a boycott.
The government also made clear that such a boycott, if adopted by a university,
would be illegal under Norwegian law.
Claim: 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
Fact: It is true that Norway has strict rules for the
export of arms, including services, to countries that are at war or where there
is a threat of war. This applies to many countries around the world, so there is
no singling out of Israel.
Claim: Norwegian retail chain Vita’s decision
to stop selling cosmetics produced in an illegal settlement in the West Bank is
an example of “genteel anti-Semitism.”
Fact: Companies are free to make
their own ethical choices, including when it comes to products from settlements
that have been established in contravention of international law. There are
companies around the world, including in Israel, that make the same choices. The
claim that Vita’s decision is “genteel anti-Semitism” remains unsubstantiated by
Claim: Norway does not propose academic boycotts against
universities in China, Britain, Turkey, Armenia, India or Morocco, nor does it
enact sanctions and divestment programs.
Fact: This is correct. But
Norway is not enacting sanctions and divestment programs nor proposing academic
boycott against universities in Israel either, so it is not very
In sum, Mr Sharnoff’s claims do not hold.
government has consistently proved itself to be a friend of Israel. We have not
always agreed with everything Israel has done. Even the best of friends do not
agree on everything. But we have demonstrated our willingness to employ
our political and financial means to assist Israel. The kind of name-calling that
Mr. Sharnoff resorts to is not conducive to a sensible political exchange. And
as shown by the above, his allegations are built on a flimsy
The writer is the Norwegian ambassador to Israel.