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September 2, 2016 3:55 am

Attention Norway: Stick to Polar Bears, Disregard BDS

avatar by Judith Bergman

Email a copy of "Attention Norway: Stick to Polar Bears, Disregard BDS" to a friend
Longyearbyen. Photo: wikipedia.

Longyearbyen. Photo: wikipedia.

One of the world’s northernmost inhabited places is Longyearbyen, a small town of about 2,000 people in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard is a place of indescribable beauty, filled with an untouched arctic wilderness that will leave you in constant awe, simply grateful to be alive to witness such staggering wonders: untouched arctic landscapes, blueish glaciers and frozen tundra, which is home to an arctic wildlife that includes polar bears.

Indeed, the most dangerous neighbors a human being can come across in Svalbard are polar bears, which is why it is prohibited to venture outside Longyearbyen without a weapon.

Longyearbyen’s residents come from all over the world and the place feels as far removed from any kind of international politics as you could possibly imagine.

Ever since my husband and I visited this place, we have spoken about going back, and my husband has even taken to reading Svalbardposten — the world’s northernmost newspaper.

It was during the perusal of this usually apolitical source of news — it is not uncommon for nine out of 10 headlines to include polar bears in some form or other — that my husband jumped from his chair, pointing to the computer screen in horror. I looked at the headline, which said, “Boycott Israel!”

So there it was: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement had made its way to the northernmost inhabited place on earth. The text was a letter to the editor, written last summer by a local priest, Leif Magne Helgesen, in which he was peddling the most outlandish claims, including that Israel is “a military regime” and encouraging his fellow Longyearbyen residents to boycott Israel. The priest had spent his summer vacation in a Palestinian-Arab village and had returned a full-fledged BDS warrior, ready to go against Israel, which he continued throughout his lengthy diatribe to describe as a “regime.”

There is something deeply ironic, tragicomically so, about a priest who does his business in the northernmost spot on earth, surrounded only by the Creator’s beauty and the occasional scare from a polar bear, isolated from the rest of the world and certainly from the issues of the Middle East, venting his antisemitic fury and rage at a country that could not possibly be further removed from him than Israel. It is also telling that this man is, of all things, a priest.

Unfortunately, it should not surprise us. Svalbard belongs to Norway, which according to a recent report by watchdog group NGO Monitor, has recently joined Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands in contributing funds to an organization funding NGOs that promote a boycott of Israel. According to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s website, 5 million Norwegian kroner (over $600,000) was allocated to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (HR/IHL) Secretariat in the second half of 2016. According to the NGO Monitor report, the “HR/IHL Secretariat is an intermediary that distributes funds to nongovernmental organizations … active in BDS … campaigns and other forms of demonization against Israel. It is managed by the Institute of Law at Birzeit University (IoL-BZU) in Ramallah and the NIRAS consulting firm, based in Sweden.”

Also according to the report, “80% of the HR/IHL Secretariat’s distributions are allocated to core NGO funding. NGO Monitor research shows that out of 24 core recipients, 13 support BDS, receiving $5.78 million (more than half) out of an operating budget of $10.38 million over the course of four years. Some grantees have also promoted antisemitic rhetoric and have apparent links to the PFLP terrorist organization. Core group members receiving funding include BADIL, Al-Haq, Addameer and MIFTAH, all vehemently anti-Israel NGOs at the forefront of BDS campaigns.”

How surprising is it, then, that a Norwegian citizen, even in such a remote and apolitical place such as Longyearbyen, joins the BDS bandwagon? It is not surprising at all.

Official Norway, naturally, denies all wrongdoing. This was the response of the Norwegian Embassy in Israel to the findings of NGO Monitor: “We do not find their characterizations to be representative of the work that these organizations are doing. Norway does not tolerate hate speech, efforts to delegitimize Israel, or anti-Semitism and have close dialogue with all our partners to make sure this is understood. … Norway does not provide financial support to organizations whose main goal is to promote the BDS campaign.”

How lovely it would be if Norwegians could just stick to looking out for polar bears instead of pathetically attempting to meddle in Israel’s business and then not even having the backbone to admit it.

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom. 

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  • This is the article I wrote for Icepeople about all this. Obviously I will include a response by the author of this column or the newspaper it was originally published in if one is sent. I also welcome comments here or at the Icepeople website that I will post in the comments section of the article. As with this site, they will be moderated for profanity, etc., but not ideology.

  • To the moderator(s): I accidentally sent a fragment of a comment while trying to correct a couple of typos (it was a mobile keyboard), which remains posted, while a corrected message sent shortly afterward was ignored and/or blocked. I’m hoping it was an oversight, not an attempt to make me look illiterate, and you’ll delete the fragment and post the full comment I sent.

  • Sven

    Perhaps Norwegians would benefit from being subjected to a BDS campaign directed at them. Maybe it is time for a campaign promoting a boycott of Norwegian exports, for corporations around the world to disinvest in Norwegian companies, and for the real anti-racism community to pursue sanctioning of Norway’s continued involvement in promoting anti-Semitism.

  • I could take someone on a tour of all the slums in the USA to talk to the most disadvantaged members of our society, totally skewing a first time visitor’s view of our country. Too bad the good priest didn’t allow himself to visit and speak with Israelis as well to expose himself to all sides of a very complex situation.

  • nat cheiman

    BDS scumbags have infiltrated globally. However, Israel is making huge stridesin medical/military/ agricultural technology that is taking the world by storm.
    Europe, on the other hand is slowly dying from a cancer called Islamisation and their viability will be severely impugned in due course.
    Therefore, BDS has no future at all.

  • Henrik True

    To the point. Always a pleasure reading you.

  • Evan Howard

    So are you linking stories to underline how ridiculously ill-researched, context-deprived your hometown newspapers are? Look at Palestinian children shows where kids are encouraged to stab civilians. Look at the PA and Hamas government that call for the blood of innocent Israelis. Look at milestone occasions where Israel tried to negotiate a two-state peace agreement categorically rejected or answered in warfare.
    The original and sustained calls for “annihilation” are echoed by all too many Palestinians, not Israelis who are trying to retain 2-4 percent of territory surrounding its continually breached borders.

  • Mr. Sabbatini’s jibberish is, unfortunately, a red Norwegian herring. Perhaps he can explain in his comments why this noble priest hasn’t paid attention to the millions of Christian and Muslim refugees throughout the Middle East and to the families of 100,000 dead children killed by their fellow countrymen. Perhaps he can inform us why Norway is now building a fence at its northern border with Russia to keep out the onslaught of Middle East refugees. Or perhaps he can tell us how he has come to the conclusion that the land on which the “Palestinians” are squatters belongs to them. Maybe even tell us why that Norway, for 1,000+ years, has been one of the most anti-Jewish nations on Planet Earth; even preventing Jews from touching Norwegian soil for lengthy periods of time.

    And why is it, Mr. Sabbatini, that your publication is so far to the anti-Israel left that it actually might slide off the tundra in your neighborhood? The lack of objectivity in your headlines suggests there are no journalistic standards in your “newspaper” whatsoever.

    The articles you posted, sir, are nothing more than a reminder that Norway and its Quislings continue to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Your BDS Movement, by the way, is failing miserably.

    • Sigh…hit a wrong key trying to correct the last comment. I’ll just note 1) I’m half-Jewish and half-Italian, 2) this place is so far removed from there I’m just writing about what happens when our folks are there or their folks are here, and 3) I get stopped a lot at airport security for carrying a very old and decorative Qurʾān in my carry-on (feel free to speculate why I own it, but as I often state the main reason I’m a journalist is the learning experience).

  • sass

    Israel and universal values just don’t fit, which even the remote people on earth realize.

  • Tom Ramberg

    Commenting with an alias on a site that requires full name is strange. Cussing our King is out of order. Hence your comment should respectfully be deleted. Yours truly.

    • silas lieberman

      You are right it is an alias, the first “s” is superfluous.

  • hillel

    Perhaps the Norwegian ambassador should be cordially asked to f***k off back to Norwegistan with his haken kroiz shoved firmly up his juxy.

    • Jay Lavine

      Thanks for the background information about Susiya. As we all know, il y’a toujours le revers de la médaille, and when nearly half the people responding to Svalbardposten’s online poll support a boycott of Israel, I wonder whether they are getting both sides of the story (of course, such a poll is not scientific, as people who strongly support a position will be more likely to participate). Zealots for a cause tend to be one-sided; their ideology has become a religion to them and they tend to see everything according to their preestablished biases.

      That is not to imply that Israel is in the right here: it’s a complex and controversial issue and it’s necessary to examine all the facts and perspectives before taking a side. Those seeking to prevent the expulsion of the Arabs encamped at this site may well have a legitimate point of view.

      Regardless of the rectitude of the Israeli government’s position, however, BDS should not be seen as a legitimate response. It is a divisive and hate-propagating tactic that does not serve the cause of peace.

      • Tom Ramberg

        Thank you for at least admitting that this is something that deserves being looked into. It gives me some hope that not all of the readers here are bigots.


      No, not really. The Palestinians bring in all sorts of uninformed useful idiots and propagandize them quite thoroughly with absolutely bogus and contrived misinformation. These people neither understand the history of the area, what they are being shown, nor the multitude of ways in which they are being misled and turned into the brainless stooges of these master propagandizers. I would suggest that suggest that these instruments of evil forces and the countries they come from be made to pay a heavy price for their treachery and blatant Jew-hatred, but they’re going to be paying the very heavy price of losing their countries to Islam over the next 20-30 years. Let only hope that as they flee to freer lands they don’t bring their anti-Semitism along with them.

    • Jonas

      I am Dutch an think to know a bit of Europe’s past I see with a great disappointment, that Europe has still to learn the lessons of her past. Shame on Europe.
      But I do understand Europe’s behavior in the transform-time to Eurabia.
      Action gives reaction, this is the result oof 100years of Jewhunt in the land of Israel.
      Fine the church is again active.
      I advise you to look in history instead of swallowing Islam/palestine propaganda

    • Eve

      You call this coverage? No research, no background, no objectivity. You sound like the press agent for this stupid man.