Inside Story: Stumbling in Norway

'David Weiss' and the search for accuracy on reports of anti-Semitism in Norway.

rabbi Michael Melchior 248 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
rabbi Michael Melchior 248 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In two recent news articles, The Jerusalem Post sought to report on whether Norway was a country suffering from the age-old scourge of anti-Semitism. In doing so, it stumbled, in part by dealing with members of the Jewish community it should not have believed. First among these is the Norwegian army captain David Weiss, a man who is neither an army captain nor named "David Weiss." After speaking to the 45-year-old Norwegian Jew for a March 31 article in which Jews reported relative tolerance but also anti-Semitism in the Scandinavian country, the Post touched off a dramatic search for the supposed army captain by local Norwegian media. When they could not find the man, some Norwegian reporters called this reporter, who supplied the cellular phone number of "Weiss." He was finally tracked down over this past weekend by a reporter from the major Norwegian daily Dagbladet. In the ensuing interview, "Weiss" told the reporter he had just wanted to set out how he, and Jews like him, experienced anti-Jewish incidents in Norway. He did not explain why he needed a false identity. The Dagbladet's revelation came too late for several other media outlets, too. "Weiss" was interviewed by the BBC and the major Norwegian daily Aftenposten before Dagbladet managed to squeeze out of him that his identity was faked. Indeed, Aftenposten's highly-respected political editor Harald Stanghelle publicly accused the military of a coverup over Weiss's identity just one day before Dagbladet's revelation. Weiss even got himself invited to the Pessah Seder of Oslo's Rabbi Yoav Melchior before finally telling the truth. The "Weiss" incident followed an erroneous Post report that Norway's finance minister had chanted "Death to the Jews" at a demonstration in January. Such errors prompted criticism by the former MK and minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who serves as the titular chief rabbi of Norway. "A respected newspaper that is quoted around the world has to be extremely careful with claims of anti-Semitism. The battle against anti-Semitism is very important, not just to Jews but to civilization. There are problems out there. There are anti-Semitic phenomena and places where criticism of Israel passes the red line into anti-Semitism," said Melchior. "But you can't deal with anti-Semites if you're not very clear yourself about where the lines are drawn and where truth lies. This has to be done with extra care." And what of the original question of anti-Semitism in Norway? In the wake of our articles, other Norwegian Jews have contacted the Post and related their experiences of living in the country. In general, they say, Norway does not suffer from widespread anti-Semitism. Norwegian Jews are an accepted and respected part of the country. But, they add, there are rare incidents of tension over their Jewishness, usually with children being teased in school or with Muslim immigrants bringing their politics into their day-to-day meetings with Jews.