Norway FM 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Visiting Norwegian members of parliament and journalists last week denied there is a significant presence of anti-Semitism in their country, despite recent high-profile assaults on Jewish targets. Such attacks, they claimed, should be attributed to sentiments held in the Muslim community.
"I don't see any anti-Semitism in Norway," said Vidar Udjus, political and foreign relations journalist for The Patriot, one of Norway's major daily newspapers. "You never see it in the streets. However, it may be in some elements [of society]. We have a large Pakistani minority."
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Udjus's Swedish counterpart, Per Ahlin, foreign editor for a popular Swedish newspaper, also pointed to the Muslim community.
"For the first time we are hearing people say Israel should cease to exist, a position which is due to the Muslim community," said Ahlin.
Sigrid Leijonhufvud, an advisor to the leadership of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, said the Swedish public's lack of information on issues relating to Israel leads them to feel more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
"The greater Swedish public is not very well informed of the issues," said Leijonhufvud. "Their position is influenced by their feelings, which are in turn determined by what they see on TV. They feel for the ones that are the underdogs - the Palestinians, in this case."
Their comments came at a time when Israeli and Scandinavian relations have been strained by recent anti-Semitic attacks and criticism of Israel's actions in this summer's war in Lebanon.
On July 15, a man said to be of Middle Eastern origin assaulted a Jewish boy who was wearing a kippa on the street in Oslo. This was followed by another incident on August 2 when vandals attacked a Norwegian synagogue. On September 17, the same synagogue was attacked again by a hail of gunfire.
Nonetheless, the delegation said there were deep wells of support for Israel in their countries.
"The large majority of people are pro-Israel and defend the Israeli state," said John Inge Lavdal, the international secretary for the Norwegian Christian Democrats. "While they may disagree on Israeli politics, they support the existence of a homeland for the Jewish people."
Udjus agreed. "There is tremendous sympathy in Norway for the Jewish community, even among the far-left, who are the strongest anti-Israel critics," said Udjus, pointing to the solidarity expressed by Muslim and Christian leaders in the days following the anti-Semitic incidents.
Invited by Thanks to Scandinavia, an institute of the American Jewish Committee, the delegation of 13 Scandinavian politicians and journalists arrived in Israel last Sunday to participate in a weeklong seminar aimed at fostering a greater understanding of the issues driving Israeli decision-making.