Claims the hatred against the Jews is growing in Norway.
The Antisemitism is growing in Norway, and Norway is the only country which is demoinizing Israel to such a degree, claims the Author Manfred Gerstenfeld. Yesterday [25 Nov.08] at a conference on the specific theme was held in Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM (Dagsavisen): Never before has academics in Israel gathered to a conference to discuss something as uncommon: The antisemitism in Norway and Sweden. But yesterday it happened in Jerusalem.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, The chairman of the conference, claims that Israel in the Norwegian medias to such a degree gets villified, criticized and scorned upon «as if the Israeli state was the representative of evil», while other countries with a lot worse record hardly get similar attention.
– I have never seen such a phenomena, only in Norway, just Norway, is Israel to such a degree pointed out as the unique villain, says Manfred Gerstenfeld to Dagsavisen.
Until recently Norway’s reputation in Israel has been associated with democracy, a well functioning society, Nobel’s peace prize and not the least the Oslo-process. But now the Norwegian rosy picture begins to fade.
In all 65 academics, diplomats and others was yesterday [25 Nov 08] gathered at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and the accusations from the stage was very serious.
To back up his case Gerstenfeld provides a long list of cases, including the author Jostein Gaarders infamous contribution in Aftonposten [Norwegian mainstream daily] during the Lebanon war. Gerstenfeld is equally not impressed with the contents of the criticism from Norway.
– To criticize Israel is of course legitimate, this is not what this is about. This is about such a biased focus that it has as an end result become a demonization, a dehumanization, says Gerstenfeld, a Dutch born environmental protection expert who in the last years has worked as a political correspondent. Other criterias
Not long ago Gerstenfeld published a book called «Behind the face of humanism», which raises the case of Norway and Sweden’s relations to Israel. In the book he claims that the state of Israel in Norway is judged from other criterias than other countries. It is exactly that which, according to Gerstenfeld, are the reasons for his accusations that antisemitism is growing in Norway.
Among the participants on the conference yesterday were Zvi Mazel, former ambassador to Sweden, and Ephraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Zuroff spoke in addition that Sweden still allows Nazis who participated in war crimes during the second world war gets protection against extradition. Zuroff is in possession of a list with 21 men who still lives in Sweden.
New form of racism
Manfred Gerstenfeld is not surprised that a growing antisemitism is to be found in Scandinavia, countries with outspoken anti-racist and humanistic traditions. He says he is well aware of the human rights work in Norway, but thinks that these traditions paradoxially, has opened a new form of racism.
– A common notion here is that non-white people always are victims. Or if you say that, you remove the ability to take responsibility for your own lifes, to be responsible, which is a basic human characteristic. You make people less human, they have become inferior. Of this becomes a racism against non-white people whom you to begin with would help, he says.
Gerstenfeld says that it is first and foremost against Africans, and not the case with Israelis, who are exposed to such racism. But the Israelis in the Middle East are instead demonized «where they are the greatest criminals against human rights, something they are not», he says, and warns that this has opened a door to a new legitimization of antisemitism.
To which degree Israel officially supports the accusations which has been expressed is difficult to measure, but it is no secret that diplomats with the Israeli Foreign Department has claimed that it is Norway of all the countries in Europe where the mood has become most anti-Israeli.
The Israeli Foreign Department was very restrained in criticising foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere who earlier this month published a book, in which it is claimed that he compares the Jewish settlers with Nazis. Recently the Foreign Department in Oslo arranged a conference which goal was to increase trade between Israel and Norway.
There is no reason to claim that the Norwegian [public] opinion has become more antisemitic, according, according to research director Odd-Bjorn Fure at the Holocaust Center.
– It is unquestionable that the opinion on the political level and in the Norwegian public opinion has become more sceptic towards Israel the last years. But to say it is an expression of antisemitism does not hold – It has got nothing to do with antisemitism, says Fure to Dagbladet.
The Press on guard
He points out that the increased criticism in the public opinion is directed against Israel’s policies.
– It is totally legitimate to to criticise the Israeli state and the various Israeli governments when Israel breaches international human rights and practice a brutal occupation reign, says Fure, he does not think Norwegian press can be accused of antisemitism.
– I would rather say on the contrary. Norwegian press is on guard against antisemitism, he says.
Fure believes that from the Israeli side from time to time have claimed unjustified accusations of antisemitism.
– I don’t think it is the case with the current [Israeli] government, but in the government of Ariel Sharon you saw attempts of delegitimize legitimate criticism.
You can claim that the Norwegian criticism of the Israeli government currently is onesided, undifferenciated and massive, but not that is is antisemitic, says Fure.
No more sludge.
He underscores that nevertheless there occur antisemitic opinions and expressions thereof in Norway.
– In certain situations antisemitic sludge emerges at the surface, when you mix together the actions of the Israeli state and the Jewish people. But that is not at all representative for the general Norwegian public opinion, and I do not have the impression that it have increased the last years, says the research director.
In an article in Aftonposten [Norwegian daily] recently it was claimed by a Norwegian school pupil in Oslo that “Jew” was among the worst slurs in the social circle.
– I have heard the same from other places and this is a deep, deep cause for worry.
I do not have any information about how common this is, but if one person is using it as a swearword it is one to many who uses it as a swearword, says Fure, who nevertheless points out that the usage of the wording do not reflect in the public sphere.
– But it is clear that this phenomena demands a special vigilance in regard to history, says Odd-Bjorn Fure.