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September 24, 2013 11:08 am

Will Norway’s New Government Crack Down on Anti-Semitism?

avatar by Jeffrey Barken / JNS.org

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Norway PM Jons Stoltenberg. Photo: wiki commons.

JNS.org – Earlier this month, conservative candidates in Norway won landslide elections, deposing the Labour party majority that has ruled for nearly a decade. Many are hopeful that the new government will address social intolerance in Norway, including the rampant anti-Semitism affecting a population of nearly 2,000 Jews.

But Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, an author who has written extensively on the prejudices facing Norway’s Jewish community, is skeptical that Norwegians will be able to forget their prejudices. He uses the phrase “part-time anti-Semitism” to describe common attitudes and to highlight the general public’s susceptibility to bias.

“In its origins, Lutheranism promoted Jew hatred,” Gerstenfeld tells JNS.org, recalling Norway’s long history of intolerance. “Norway was the last country in Europe to admit Jews in the mid-19th century.”

At the heart of the new conservative coalition stands Erna Solberg, nicknamed “Iron Erna.” Elected Sept. 9, she will succeed Jens Stoltenberg and will be Norway’s second female prime minister.

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Gerstenfeld argues that many discriminatory instincts and old-world anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews still influence perspectives on the modern Jewish community. He cites a study commissioned by the Oslo Municipality in 2011 that found that one third of the Jewish children there are harassed physically or verbally at least two or three times a month, and that 38 percent of Norwegians believe that Israel is a Nazi state.

“I have never heard of such figures before in Western Europe,” Gerstenfeld says.

Anders Behring Breivik’s infamous 2011 terrorist attack confirmed the worst regarding intolerance in Norwegian society. Following the mass shooting at a Worker’s Youth League camp that left 69 people dead, the facility was discovered to house vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. Teenagers participating in the program prior to the attack were routinely subjected to an indoctrinating hate campaign.

Biased reporting on Israel has created a poisoned atmosphere in which outrageous political cartoons depicting Jews as Nazis circulate, and boycotts of Israel are common. “It is widely known that the Norwegian media has been heavily subsidized by the Labour government,” Norwegian author Hanne Nabintu Herland tells JNS.org.

Herland also confirms the failure of the ousted Labour government to confront the problem of the anti-Semitic indoctrination of youths. “Nothing has been done to de-radicalize the Labour party’s youth groups in the aftermath of Breivik,” she says. “Here in Norway, no one has reacted much to that. As far as I know, only one Norwegian, a prominent, internationally acclaimed ship owner and billionaire, Dan Odfjell, wrote an article where he spoke about the problem, but he was heavily attacked for ‘slandering our youth groups with horrible words.'”

Thirty survivors who had been indoctrinated with hatred at the camp Breivik attacked became Labour candidates in the recent election.

The current influx of Muslim immigrants to Norway fuels additional anti-Israel sentiment. “Jews suffer in two ways,” Gerstanfeld says. “Some Muslims commit extreme anti-Semitic acts, and there are actions in society against circumcision. The Center Party, a smaller party in the defeated government, is in favor of prohibiting circumcision. The circumcision issue was only raised because of the Muslim presence.”

Despite the culture clash, the indoctrination of Norway’s youth, and deep-seated misconceptions that have made life uncomfortable for Norwegian Jews, many believe the election results spell progress.

“Talk of the town is that the Left has taken a tremendous blow,” Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm, director of the Chabad-Lubavitch center in Oslo, tellsJNS.org. “We are cautiously optimistic. The hope is that the new government will take into account a broader picture of the Middle East and will provide educational opportunities that combat anti-Semitism.”

According to Wilhelm, Norway’s anti-Semitism stems from ignorance. “The majority of Norway’s Jews are assimilated into the mainstream culture, and the population is extremely small. Most Norwegians, therefore, have never met a Jew,” Wilhelm says. “Exposure to Jews is what you see in the media, and whatever is the tone of that media becomes the chorus.”

Wilhelm often advises his pupils and colleagues, “Tolerance is not a speech, it needs to be practiced.” His message to the newly elected government calls for Norway’s leaders to understand the sensitivities and intricacies of the Jewish people. “We need them to accept responsibility for what is happening under their noses,” Wilhelm says. “Above all, we need to foster a dialogue.”

The conservative agenda is ambitious. “The new government has promised to revise the heavily bureaucratic state administration, modernize the system, look at our failing school system, the hospitals, infrastructure and other areas that have been heavily neglected by Labour,” Herland says. “They have also indicated that the relationship towards Israel will definitely change and that the funding of the Left wing’s many newspapers will be revised.”

Herland says there has been “surprisingly wide support for Erna Solberg’s election among the [Norwegian] people.”

“Erna Solberg is Norway’s Angela Merkel: calm, kind, diplomatic and very tough,” she says.

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  • The Norwegians did attack my mind for making money, writing about me been an “Anti- Palestinian” in Dagbladet news paper without evidence, attacking my mind in a country of Nobel Peace Prize. They also did attack a Chinese ambassador writing about him been a ” Liar” which only a primitive people will imagine to be able to write this word a ” Liar”. They started it, I will cook it! And they will swallowed for ever and ever in ” The Museum of Disease”, I tried hard to get Justice under law in Norway, no lawyer will take my case. A coward nation of birth!

  • The Norwegians did attack my min for making money, writing about me been an “Anti- Palestinian” in Dagbladet news paper without evidence, attacking my mind in a country of Nobel Peace Prize. They also did attack a Chinese ambassador writing about him been a ” Liar” which only a primitive people will imagine to be able to write this word a ” Liar”. They started it, I will cook it! And they will swallowed for ever and ever in ” The Museum of Disease”, I tried hard to get Justice under law in Norway, no lawyer will take my case. A coward nation of birth!

  • I’m a Moroccan Jew, I did live 30 years among Norwegians in Norway, as a Moroccan Jew I find out that Norwegians are cowardly scared of Jews, the reason is simple, the nature of Norway can not produce food for a big population, only 3% of the land can produce food, it is why on June 8, 793 AD the Vikings went on ride robbing other countries, which they do to day also trough attacking ” Man’s mind”, I call it ” Borrowing out a knife to kill” a coward human behavior, just as Hitler hide in bonkers. The Norwegian did rob my art school – Oslo Fotokunstskole – http://www.oslofotokunstskole.no a fake web site with infiltrated teachers and students. The real web site is http://www.oslofotokunstskole.com
    I will make them my slaves in “The Museum of Disease” by my paintings just as we Moroccans did take them to slavery in 16th – 18th century capturing white people boats with kidnapped Africans to USA slavery. I will not let it GO! See http://www.emilfedida.com

    • Abderrahmane

      Hey Brother Shalom alekhem and salam Alikum, it would be great if you come back to your native country you and our jewish brothers are always welcome

  • Kjell Bergh

    Yesterday, the retiring U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, was quoted in Oslo news media as saying he has not observed an icrease in anti-semitism in he country. That, of course, does not mean it does not exist, but it is a relevant addition to civil discourse on a difficult topic.
    Kjell Bergh
    Minneapolis

  • E Pluribus Beagle

    If the comments here are any benchmark, it’s a silly question. Norway will fight to its dying breath any Jewish presence.

  • Roy

    One does not have to be anti-Semitic to be opposed to circumcision. Many Jews around the world oppose circumcision, including in Israel. To find out why, see http://www.jewishcircumcision.org.

    • Luigi Rosolin

      Medically speaking is a healthy practice.

  • Opposition to non-therapeutic infant circumcision has nothing to do with Jews or with Muslims. It is about protecting the basic human right of all people to make their own rational informed choice about cosmetic amputations.

    Foreskin feels REALLY good. Circumcision alters sex dramatically. Only the owner of the genitals has the standing to choose to lose any part.

  • Fred

    Hitler felt at home in Norway. So what is new???

  • mika.

    According to Wilhelm, Norway’s anti-Semitism stems from ignorance.
    ==

    There’s a perception (a completely ignorant and incorrect perception) that the “ultra orthodox” cult, small as it is, somehow represent Jewry, when in fact they are a fake Vatican created and sponsored caricature designed to do injury to the Jewish population at large. As long as this Vatican caricature exists and is tolerated by the Jewish population, the consequences of negatives stereotype will be with us.

    I can’t expect foreigners to like what I and what most Israelis and most Jews vehemently dislike. The “ultra orthodox” cult and their idiotic fake “religious” garb and fake “religious” practices, needs to be completely disowned and removed from Jewish life.

    • R. Feldman

      Media exposure to diverse Jews is essential.

  • mika.

    According to Wilhelm, Norway’s anti-Semitism stems from ignorance.
    ==

    There’s a perception (a completely ignorant and incorrect perception) that the “ultra orthodox” cult, small as it is, somehow represent Jewry, when in fact they are a fake Vatican created and sponsored caricature designed to do injury the Jewish population at large. As long as this Vatican caricature exists and is tolerated by Jewish population, the consequences of negatives stereotype will be with us.

    I can’t expect foreigners to like what I and what most Israelis and most Jews vehemently dislike. The “ultra orthodox” cult and their idiotic fake “religious” garb and fake “religious” practices, needs to be completely disowned and removed from Jewish life.

  • R

    Norway’s Jews always v an alternative: and it exists for all ages of Jews pick up and move to Israel, where you will be welcomed. You’ll see Norway’s economy do a flip-flop right into the garbage!

  • Kjell Bergh

    To the Editor:
    There is little question about Norway’s attitude toward Israel; ia large number of Norwegians blindly support the Palestinans in much the same manner as a large number of Americans blindly support Israel. As an American citizen born and raised in Norway and with degrees in International Relations from two top notch American institutions under my belt, I have a very clear understanding of the fact that positions are unrealitis, untenable and far too simplistic.

    Nevertheless, I want to draw a distinction between opposition to the Israeli governments actions and anti-semitism; equating the two is dishonest. I believe most Norwegians have no quarrel with Israeli citizens in genral; their argument is with the often disproportionate response of the Israeli government to terrorist attcaks by Palestinians.

    It is absolutely true in my opinion that there is a growing tendency in Norway to be intolerant of foreigners and their religions. (Most Norwegians are secular, but nominally Lutheran.) In fact, there has been a spate of attacks of various forms on Muslim mosques in Norway, with a right-wing group pledging to burn all of them in short order.

    Any kind of intolerance, whether ethnic or religious in nature, is absolutely unacceptable in a highly educated and prosperous country like Norway. On the other hand, playing the anti-semitism card in every situation where Israel is criticized should not be tolerated either. For both sides, it is time for a more nuanced debate, founded in facts, not emotions.

    • Bernard Ross

      It is a lie and a libel that Israels responses to terror are disproportionate. It is less than other countries. This is the typical euro libel against the jews that has been going on for 2000 years. In my view the Europeans are the greatest problem and enemy. They give succor and funds to jew killers.

    • Rosalind Feldman

      How do you solve the problem of children being physically abused by antisemitic Norwegian bullies? Schools could educate their students, ministers could preach to their followers, parents could teach their children civilized behavior.

    • EST

      Mr. Bergh,
      For a supposedly educated man you make completely ignorant comments. Disagreements with Israel or Israeli policy should have nothing to do with anti-Semitic attacks by your countrymen or anyone else. You are trying to justify Norway’s incredibly anti-Semitic position and your countrymen’s historical and deeply anti-Semitic feelings by blaming Israeli policies.
      Let me remind you, the modern State of Israel was not in existence when your countrymen were cheering Hitler on and your countrywomen were lending their uteri to bring forth little Hitlers into this world.
      Your illogical thinking would make it OK to attack all Catholics when people in any country do not agree with Vatican policy on any subject….
      So, kindly do not try to displace the blame from where it rightly belongs. That’s an old trick used by many anti-Semites…just like blaming a rape victim for being raped…

      EST

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