Norway — a paradigm for anti-Semitism- - - - - - - - -
“I would like to take the opportunity to remember all the billions of fleas and lice that lost their lives in German gas chambers, without having done anything wrong other than settling on persons of Jewish background.”
This is what Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen said on Thursday 27 November on the country’s largest commercial TV station. Much worse, however, is that the director of the station defended this expression of “satire.”
A week later Jespersen, in his weekly TV appearance, gave a “satiric” monologue of mixed anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli remarks. He concluded by wishing the Jews a happy Christmas. But then as an afterthought, he said this was not proper as the Jews had murdered Jesus. Two years ago the same comedian burned pages from the Tanach in front of a TV camera, but this was no reason to terminate his employment. Jespersen explained that he wouldn’t burn the Koran if he wanted to live longer than a week.
LAST WEEK, on four consecutive days, there were anti-Israeli articles in Norway’s second-largest daily Aftenposten. The first called for a general boycott of Israel. The second promoted an academic boycott, falsely accusing Israeli physicians of participating in torture and the Israeli Medical Association of remaining silent about it. Any honest debater would have reported that Israeli hospitals routinely treat Palestinian children, some of whom express joy when suicide bombers kill Israelis. One wonders whether any other country would allow this.
The third article stressed the right to criticize Israel. This is a typical attack on a “straw man,” as nobody denies this right. The fourth claimed that Israel is not a democracy. Only thereafter a pro-Israeli voice was heard.
Two years ago the conservative Aftenposten got international attention when it published an op-ed by Jostein Gaarder which until this day remains the vilest anti-Semitic article published in a European mainstream paper since the Second World War.
Whoever wants to understand how Jews might live in a future democratic Europe if no major counter-forces are mobilized should study Norway. Among parts of the elite there, Jew-hatred and rabid anti-Israelism intermingle. The country’s population numbers only 4.6 million. The Jewish population, even before the war, was never more than 2,000. It now numbers 1,300, of which only 700 affiliate with the organized community. Yet Norway must figure prominently in any future history of post-war European anti-Semitism.
AFTER THE beginning of the second intifada, several Jewish children were harassed in school. The aggression was supported by teachers on several occasions. Since then, the Jewish community has kept a low profile. When asked by the press, its leaders will admit there is anti-Semitism, but claim that critics overstate it. They usually remain silent on the anti-Semitic aspects of anti-Israelism.
Norwegian hate cartoons often mix anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Some are straight-out anti-Semitic, such as one which appeared in the Labor movement daily Dagsavisen in 2003. It portrayed a Jew with a long beard reading the new Ten Commandments, including “murder, kill, liquidate, execute.” During the Second Lebanon War, anti-Semitic incidents in Oslo were the most severe in Europe. The synagogue was shot at, the cantor was attacked on a main street and the Jewish cemetery was desecrated. The Jewish community’s president Anne Sender was thereafter quoted in a European Jewish Congress report speaking of the considerable “atmosphere of intimidation and fear.”
Anti-Israelism has been built up systematically in Norway by trade unions, media, some prominent Christians and politicians. The demonization is classic: major media report negative things about Israel while obfuscating or omitting Palestinian suicide attacks or declared genocidal intentions. The main counterforce is a small group of Christian friends.