Norway illustration (do not publish again).
(photo credit: AVI KATZ)
THAT THE OFFER OF FREE LECTURES ON THE MIDDLE East conflict by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, one of the most eloquent advocates of the Israeli case, was refused by three universities in Norway should come as no surprise. Besides being a substantial producer of oil and gas, the country is also a major purveyor of Israel hatred and anti-Semitism.
Several ministers of the Labor and Socialist Left governing parties have endorsed hate-inciting acts. The state TV and radio company NRK has an anti-Israel bias officially approved by the Broadcasting Council. There is a dominant anti-Israel attitude in the media and significant anti- Israelism in academia. Trade unions make periodic boycott calls. Some Lutheran bishops are major inciters. There is substantial anti- Semitism in schools.
In 2008, comedian Otto Jespersen urged his nationwide TV audience to remember “all the billions of fleas and lice that lost their lives in the German gas chambers, without having done anything wrong other than settling on persons of Jewish background.” There are also a number of true friends mainly among opposition politicians and parties, as well as pro-Zionist Christians.
But they do not come close to balancing the bias propagated by the cultural elites.
For a long time this Norwegian reality went almost unnoticed abroad. It surfaced with a vengeance in the “Wall Street Journal” in late March when Dershowitz attacked the heads of the universities who refused his offer. “Only once before have I been prevented from lecturing at universities in a country. The other country was apartheid South Africa,” he observed. Then, turning to Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who claims that Norway’s philosophy is ‘dialogue,’ Dershowitz wrote that “Hamas and its supporters are invited into the dialogue, but supporters of Israel are excluded by an implicit, yet very real, boycott against pro-Israel views.”
Jay Nordlinger of the “National Review,” the only foreign journalist who occasionally writes about the Nordic country, usually does so sympathetically. Yet a few days after Dershowitz’ article, Nordlinger remarked: “Norway is a splendid country, and its citizens are right to be proud of it. But it has a problem, one common to many countries: anti-Semitism. Not just opposition to Israel [which is problematic enough], but plain, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.”
This rare foreign criticism of Norway was followed by an interview in “The Jerusalem Post” with American author Bruce Bawer, who argued that Norway’s cultural elite has replaced its affinity “to the Soviet Union with sympathy for the great totalitarian ideology of our time: Islamism. Thus they romanticize Palestinians and despise Israel.”
He recommended that Norwegian Jews leave for Israel.
Norway’s authorities, however, need the small organized Jewish community with 800 members in Oslo and Trondheim to help whitewash its anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.
The community’s leaders believe that to survive as a collective, they should never fully expose what they and their children are confronted with.
The attitude of the ruling cultural elite toward Israel can best be described as a national mutation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As Dr.
Jekyll, it presents itself as a great supporter of human rights and major contributor of development aid; as Mr. Hyde it rarely misses an opportunity for Israel-bashing.
Where do the Israel hatred and anti- Semitism originate? The Lutheran creed, which dominated the country in the past explains much. In the 19th century, Norway was the last European country to let Jews in.
During World War II, it also behaved like Jekyll and Hyde. While a significant number of the Jews were helped by the resistance to flee to Sweden, more than 750 others were arrested by the Norwegian authorities, who, after confiscating their possessions, delivered the captive Jews to the German occupiers. Almost all were killed in Auschwitz. Norway is also one of a handful of countries in which kosher slaughter is outlawed.
It preceded Nazi Germany in passing a bill to this effect by a large parliamentary majority in 1929. However, to this day Norway has not seen fit to outlaw whaling and the brutal slaying of large numbers of seals.
Norway is falsely ranked among the leading countries concerning freedom of the press. That is because in this democracy, censorship is executed by the editors of the papers rather than by the state. The end result, though, makes for far less than a free market of ideas, especially when it comes to issues like anti-Semitism and Israel hatred.
A typical example is a letter of complaint last August by then-US senator Sam Brownback to the Norwegian ambassador in Washington about the hatred against Jews and Israel. To back up his claims, Brownback attached a 10-point document from the Simon Wiesenthal Center with serious allegations of hate-supporting acts by the Norwegian king and several ministers, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Støre. Only the small Christian “Norge Idag” newspaper mentioned Brownback’s letter. All other media ignored it, even though it is unlikely that an American senator had ever written anything as critical of Norway and its leaders. But serious public debate, as is often the case there, was stifled. Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 19 books, including ‘Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews.’