The Norwegian elections, Israel and the Jews

Norway was the most problematic country in Europe for Israel from 2005-2013.

NORWAY’S PRIME MINISTER Erna Solberg arrives at a news conference in Oslo earlier this month. (photo credit: REUTERS)
NORWAY’S PRIME MINISTER Erna Solberg arrives at a news conference in Oslo earlier this month.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Developments in Norway are at best sparsely analyzed abroad, including in Israel, despite the fact that Norway was the most problematic country in Europe for Israel from 2005-2013. Under governments led by Labor Party leader Jens Stoltenberg, anti-Israel attitudes flourished.
There were also extreme expressions of antisemitism, including shots fired at Oslo’s only synagogue by a Muslim. In 2012, the well-known Norwegian author Hanne Nabintu Herland called Norway the “most antisemitic country.”
The current prime minister, Erna Solberg, leader of the Conservative Party (Hoyre), and three potential coalition parties unexpectedly won the September 11 elections, receiving 89 out of 170 seats. Creating a government will, however, not be easy. The Christian Democrat Party, a Solberg ally, which barely passed the entrance threshold of 4%, is opposed to the anti-Islam Progress Party continuing in government.
A few months ago, polls indicated that Labor and its allies would return to power. In that case the Labor leader, Jonas Gahr Stoere, would have become prime minister. If that had happened, it is likely that Norway would have joined Sweden sooner or later in recognizing a Palestinian Authority government which controls only part of the Palestinian territories.
In 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 77 people, mainly Labor Party youngsters. Stoltenberg thereafter publicly proclaimed that Norway, despite this, would become an even more open democracy. In reality dissenters who strongly opposed the social-democratic rule were even more ostracized than before.
After his 2013 defeat, Stoltenberg became secretary general of NATO.
As prime minister he was not so much an anti-Israeli inciter himself as he was tolerant of such incitement by his party and allies. At several venues where he spoke, there were brutal verbal attacks on Israel, while he remained silent. By not confronting these attacks he condoned them.
Stoere’s anti-Israelism reached an extreme point when he wrote a back-cover comment legitimizing a book by two Norwegian Hamas supporters, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse. Writing on the 2009 Cast Lead campaign in Øyne i Gaza (“Eyes in Gaza”), they claimed that Israel entered the Gaza Strip in 2009 to kill women and children.
Stoere always played both sides.
In January 2009, the most antisemitic riots that ever took place in Norway happened in Oslo. Muslims attacked pro-Israel demonstrators with potentially lethal projectiles.
Stoere visited the Oslo synagogue afterward to express his solidarity with the Jewish community.
In 2012, a study was published by the Norwegian Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities. It was paid for by the government. The study found that 38% percent of Norwegians believe that Israel acts toward the Palestinians like the Nazis behaved toward the Jews. (When Shimon Peres, then Israel’s president, visited Norway in 2014, he stated nonsensically: “Norway is the pearl of humanity, built on human values, and seeks to keep people equal and free.”) During the Solberg government years, extreme anti-Israelism among organizations mainly on the Norwegian Left did not end. To the contrary, the large trade union LO, which is a major force behind the Labor Party, came out in favor of totally boycotting Israel. In 2014, the Christian youth organization YMCA-YWCA voted for a boycott on goods and services from the territories.
The Oslo chapter, however, rejected the boycott.
One often underestimates the importance of Norway because the country is not a member of the European Union and has only about 5 million inhabitants. Yet its huge gas and oil income has enabled it to make important donations abroad, including to Palestinian causes.
The Labor governments have made ample use of this and the Solberg government has continued donations.
However, in May of this year Norway asked for funds it had donated to a center for women in the West Bank village of Barak to be returned.
It had become known that the center was named for Dalal Mughrabi, who led the 1978 massacre on a highway near Tel Aviv that killed 37 Israeli civilians, many of them children, and wounded dozens.
A recent study by Jonas Duc Enstad of Oslo University’s Center for the Study of Extremism stated that it seems that “most antisemitic incidents in Norway are caused by Arabs and left-wing radicals.”
As Sweden’s government is currently the main anti-Israel inciter in Europe, it is interesting to note that before the elections Norwegian Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, of the Progress Party, kept warning that Norway should not allow “Swedish conditions” to develop.
The Financial Times wrote: “That is code for the gang warfare, shootings, car burnings and other integration problems that Sweden has endured recently in the suburbs of its three largest cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.” One might also recall that Malmö is considered by many experts the antisemitism capital of Europe.
Listhaug also traveled to Stockholm shortly before the elections and visited the extremely violent Rinkeby suburb. She furthermore stated that there are more than 60 no-go zones in Sweden. Sweden, with its 10 million citizens, is the dominant Scandinavian country and many Swedes look down on Norway. This unusual Norwegian criticism hit Sweden below the belt, all the more so as it was largely true.
If Solberg manages to govern for four years this may enable Israel to further improve relations with Norway and better counteract its leftwing enemies there.
The author’s book The War of a Million Cuts analyzes how Israel and Jews are delegitimized and how to fight this. He is a former chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.