When will the Norwegian elite divest themselves
from their destructive hatred of Israel?
This is the English translation of an article originally published in Hebrew last Friday 6 November, in the Israeli Hebrew weekly Makor Rishon on the NTNU affair. Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Next month the Norwegian version will appear of his book Behind the Humanitarian Mask, the Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews (pdf). KGS


Manfred Gerstenfeld

On 12 November the Board of the NTNU University in Trondheim will meet to discuss the boycott of Israeli universities. If this proposal passes NTNU will be the first university in the Western world to take such a step. Boycott promoting teachers there have already organized a six lecture seminar on the Middle East featuring Ilan Pappe and other biased academics. At NTNU, mainly financed by the Norwegian government, for the first time in the Western world, the university’s rector Torbjorn Digernes has given a subsidy to such hate mongers.
Israel-hatred is not new at NTNU. In 2005 its student organization, of which all students must be members, decided to boycott Israel, but had to cancel this after a year. Israel hate in Norway is largely promoted by an elite, which falsely calls itself “progressive “ and which dominates key media, the government, NGOs and other important Norwegian bodies
There is some opposition to NTNU’s hate programs in Norway. Ragnhild Sodahl, a friend of Israel in Trondheim, published an oped in the country’s largest paper Verdens Gang. She wrote that Norway’s image is gradually becoming tainted and that “if the NTNU boycott passes, the myth of Norway as a humanitarian, peace-loving nation will be totally crushed.”
Prof. Leslie Wagner, who has headed two British universities, wrote on the NTNU rector’s blog about the lecture series: “that these activities take place under the patronage of the Rector is in my experience unprecedented. In doing so you besmirch the name of your university, and its reputation for scientific objectivity… I urge you to think very carefully before you completely obliterate whatever international reputation NTNU currently enjoys.”
In a letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg, Shimon Samuels of the Wiesenthal Center asked the government to condemn the rector “and investigate the growing epidemic of antisemitism in your country.” He added: “The virus of antisemitism in Norway’s media, unions, NGOs and even government circles is now infecting academia.” Samuels sent copies of his letter to various international institutions.
In the last few days several actions against the boycott have begun. Christian Democrat parliamentarian Hans Olav Syversen has said that the boycott will hurt Norway and put questions to the Minister of Research and Higher Education. Twenty-seven professors at NTNU, led by the chemist Bøjrn Alsberg, have signed a statement opposing the boycott. The international academic organization Scholars for Peace in The Middle East is circulating a petition among academics worldwide. It states “We stand in solidarity with Israeli academics and academic institutions; if you boycott them, boycott us as well.” Among the thousands who have signed are 13 Nobel Prize winners, including the two living Norwegian ones, the physicist, Ivar Giaever and the economist Finn Kydland.
The Israeli universities are behaving irresponsibly, as if the boycott issue does not concern them and they will let others fight for them. The only publicly known small exception is a letter by Yossi Ben-Artzi, the rector of Haifa University, urging the NTNU rector to renounce the boycott proposal. Digernes, who is not a NTNU board member, has since declared in a local paper that he opposes the boycott.
It now depends on The NTNU Board, chaired by former Petroleum and Energy Minister Marit Arnstad, to decide whether Norway, with its population of only 4.8 million citizens, will add a new chapter to its long history of anti-Semitic acts and individuals. If it accepts the boycott proposal NTNU will join the internationally best known Norwegian anti-Semite, war time prime minister Vidkun Quisling.

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