Norway is pro-Palestinian – and pro-Israeli

The response of the Norwegian people and their government to the terror attacks on July 22 has been overwhelmingly in favor of not politicizing the event.

By SVEIN SEVJE
August 17, 2011 22:18
3 minute read.
Svein Sevje

Svein Sevje 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The most important consequence of the anti-Norwegian articles in The Jerusalem Post in recent weeks is not the baseless accusations they make, but that they cloud one important fact: Norway remains committed both to the State of Israel and its right to exist in security, and to the creation of a Palestinian state.

On Friday, August 5, the Post published a brave and much appreciated apology to Norway and wished the Norwegian people a time to heal. Yet in the week that followed, three seriously biased articles were published in the paper, making grave, unfounded and unfair accusations against Norway.

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I will not speculate about the motives of the authors of these articles for showing such a lack of respect for our country at a time when the Norwegian people are in mourning. I would, however, like to address one general point, one that goes beyond the name-calling that generally characterized the articles: It is true that Norway is pro-Palestinian; however, it is equally true that it is pro-Israeli.

For historical and religious reasons, in Norway there is great interest in the conflicts in the Middle East. And there has been a corresponding will to assist in the management and resolution of the conflicts, even in the years before the Oslo channel. Norwegian soldiers, in total more than 40,000 of them, have served and continue to serve in the peacekeeping mission on the borders of Israel, and several soldiers have lost their lives.

Norway contributes around 100 million euros a year to the Palestinian Territory, to promote a two-state solution that both the Israeli government and the PLO have as their stated political goal. Norway chairs the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, where international donors coordinate their efforts. The funding goes to the Palestinians, and Israel shares in the benefits.

Norway condemns all acts of terrorism, and considers it essential to promote respect for international humanitarian law. Anyone with an interest in recent political positions taken by Norway can see this for themselves in the press releases and the regular foreign policy addresses by the foreign minister to the Norwegian Parliament, which are published online at www.government.no/mfa. The Norwegian government condemned the killing of four Israelis outside Hebron in August 2010, and the murder of the Fogel family this past March. It continues to demand the release of Gilad Schalit from Hamas captivity. Norway also condemned the bomb attack in Jerusalem on March 23, and has repeatedly condemned the rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas and other groups. The same goes for Hezbollah’s actions along Israel’s northern border.

Repeatedly the Norwegian foreign minister has emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself, but he has also called for proportionality in the Israeli military responses and respect for international humanitarian law. He stated that the killing of unarmed demonstrators in the Golan Heights on June 5 could not be justified, and Norway is among those who strongly criticize Israeli building of illegal settlements on occupied territory.



Finally, regarding Hamas: In 2007, Norway chose to engage with the Palestinian unity government, which was based on a joint platform negotiated by Fatah, Hamas and independent Palestinian representatives.

In bringing about the unity government, and in our contact with this government after its formation, there were exchanges of views at the political level with Hamas, until its violent takeover of Gaza. Contact with Hamas, however, does not mean that we finance it, or that we condone its use of terror, or that we approve of its charter or its political program. We do not.

THE NORWEGIAN government believes that terrorism must be fought with all available means – including with military power. At the same time, we must also take a political approach and search for processes that can lead groups away from terrorism and into politics.

The response of the Norwegian people and their government to the terror attacks on July 22 has been overwhelmingly in favor of not politicizing the event, but instead standing together for a more open and inclusive society. In the campaign for Norway’s local elections, to be held on September 12, extremist and accusatory rhetoric is being avoided as people unite in defense of our democracy and values. Fortunately the three recent articles in the Post stand in stark contrast to the many and deeply touching expressions of sympathy that Norway has received from both the Israeli government and Israeli citizens since July 22.

The writer is Norway’s ambassador to Israel.

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