This is the full version of the article written by Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld, that was greatly shortened by YNET. KGS
A Norwegian Massacre and Remote Israeli Aspects
By Manfred Gerstenfeld
The barbaric massacres of last Friday in Oslo and in the camp of the AUF, the Youth Movement of the Labor Party at the island of Utoya, raise many questions. It once again proved however, what hate and terror experts have known for many years. One does not have to be a card-bearing member of fanatic and violent organizations in order to adopt their message and in the extreme case, act according to their recommendations. The internet permits people to belong, and at the same time not belong. Even though there are indications that the murderer Anders Breivik has visited neo-Nazi meetings, a lone wolf like him can be eclectic nowadays and take his ideas from various sources.
The Norwegian extreme Right is very small in number. From what is known now, Breivik is described as an extreme rightist and also as a Christian fundamentalist. While there are numerous such fundamentalists in Norway, they operate within the parameters of Norwegian democracy and do not promote any violence.
The Israeli government has done what it should do. President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other cabinet members have expressed Israel’s condolences to Norway. The Israeli Embassy in Oslo, in what is considered an unusual diplomatic act concerning an event in the host country, lowered its flag to half mast to express its horror at the major tragedy which has befallen Norway. Israel also offered assistance for which it was thanked, but which was not accepted. One should not read too much into that however, because in view of the lack of Norwegian experience with terror, the authorities have difficulty in quickly defining their needs.
For those like me who have many friends in Norway who have helped in the battle against the rampant anti-Israelism among parts of the country’s elite, the feeling of horror goes beyond the usual abstract sympathy most Israelis feels for victims of terror attacks abroad. One worries about friends until one hears that they are indeed safe.
It was clear from the beginning that Israel will somehow be drawn into the general debate on these terror attacks. The first reason is that there is an obsession in Norway with Israel, and its mentions in the media probably exceed those of, for instance, its giant neighbor Russia whose acts are far more relevant to Norway than those of remote and small Israel. There were other reasons as well. Terror in a democracy and how to defend oneself against it is an issue which almost by nature draws in references to precedents from Israel. Additionally, the slow reaction of the Norwegian police to the Utoya massacre can best be evaluated when one compares it to how Israel reacts to such events.
Many foreigners wonder why there were so many youngsters on the island with hardly any security personnel around at all. Norway however, has no experience with terrorism. There was also a general mood in society that terrorism “cannot happen here.” This belief was backed in part by Norway being one of the most appeasing democracies toward radical Islam. As soon as one of its small journals published the Danish Mohammed cartoons, huge pressure was applied on the editor to apologize. The Norwegian government then also sent diplomatic envoys to Muslim countries to state that they distance themselves from any such criticism. Similarly, lone wolf murderers, like the one in Malmö in neighboring Sweden last year, are unknown as well.
One of my more memorable observations during a stay in Oslo last year was the relative absence of security at the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament. I am not comparing it to security at the Israeli Knesset, but to for instance, the Dutch Parliament. The main place in town, other than the fortified Israeli and a few other embassies, is the Jewish community buildings. There are policemen at the entrance of the street, where the synagogue is located, onto which no cars are allowed to pass.
In a societal climate such as this, extremists of all shades are not subject to much scrutiny. One can see this best concerning extreme anti-Semites. Tore Tvedt, Norway’s best known neo-Nazi had once told the country’s leading paper Verdens Gang – the one whose buildings were bombed last Friday – that “the Jews are the main enemy;” “they killed our people;” “they are evil murderers;” “they are not human beings and should be uprooted.” In 2007, the District Court found him not guilty of anti-Jewish harassment. This verdict was later overturned by the Superior Court.
This same court however, found another right-winger, Terje Sjolie not guilty because Norway grants freedom of expression. He had said that the country was being destroyed by Jews. Afterwards, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the U.N. concluded that Sjolie’s words violated the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of which Norway is a signatory. It requested the Norwegian government give wide publicity to this statement.
In the meantime, an additional element has come to the fore which will stress Israeli aspects remotely connected to the massacre even more. At the AUF camp, well-known anti-Israelis such as Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Sidsel Wold, the NRK state broadcasting group’s correspondent in Israel spoke. Stoere was welcomed by the leader of the AUF, Eskil Pedersen, while in the background posters were hanging with “Boycott Israel” written on them. Pedersen and the AUF have participated in many anti-Israel activities in the past.
It is too early now to assess how all of this will develop further. It is certain however, that in future Israeli-Norwegian relations and the public debate around them, the Breivik murders will be mentioned quite frequently.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Two of these address Norwegian anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.,