Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Anti-Semitism in Norway - 3


Some readers may wonder why, on a translation blog, we are paying so much attention to the current upsurge of anti-Semitism in Norway. After all, Norway is a small country, and what happens within the fabric of its social structure is unlikely to effect major changes in the outside world. Well, we believe that Nordic translators have a special responsibility in an area like this. After all, we, or some of us, are engaged in the task of bringing Norwegian literature and new writing to the the English-speaking world and beyond. And in Norway, as in many other countries, writers,essayists, journalists and poets are part of the media establishment - as such, they reflect and influence public attitudes in Norway, and often bring them to expression.

A destructive phenomenon like widespread anti-Semitism is an indicator that something may be wrong with a society that nurtures it. As in other European countries, including the U.K., it cannot be dismissed as simply a reaction to events in Gaza or Lebanon. The recent willing participation of a Norwegian government figure, the Norwegian finance minister, in a demonstration which was characterized by the chanting of anti-Semitic slogans, cannot be a good sign. Yet we refuse to believe that the whole of Norwegian society is affected this way. The Tundra Tabloids blog, which writes about social and political trends in the Nordic countries, especially Finland, has recently extended its coverage to Norway. A reader of TT recently sent a letter to that blog, and we are taking the liberty of reproducing it here, as we believe that it reflects the true state of affairs in Norway today where the present topic is concerned. We would not normally publish a whole text like this: but we consider that the subject is important enough to warrant a full reproduction of the text, particularly as the letter also points to the possibility of developments in a more positive direction.

TT reader Bent writes:
Sadly enough, it is true that anti-Israel attitudes in Norway are both increasing and to some extent turning into anti-Semitism. There are several reasons for this. One is the radical increase in the number of Muslims being allowed to enter Norway and live for free on its irresponsible welfare system. Left wing political parties try to accommodate Islamic attitudes in order to gain or keep their votes (83 % of the Muslim community vote on socialist parties). And that means to some extent supporting anti-Semitism.

Another, larger, reason is the left wing takeover of the media, both newspapers and TV. Almost all journalists in Norway today are socialists; a situation has existed for 30 years now. There is not a single “rightwing” newspaper left in Norway today! This situation has of course resulted in objectivity losing out to unbalanced leftist subjectivity. And since left-wingers really never liked Israel anyway (they are too successful, and left wingers neither like successful people nor successful countries), fostering of anti-Israel attitudes has been a left wing agenda for at least three decades. We find the same situation in universities all over the country.

The result is that anti-Israel attitudes are no longer a phenomenon isolated to left wing radicals and neo-Nazi “rednecks” (called “extreme right wing”, but they of cause belong to the left). Today a vast majority of social democrats strongly dislike Israel, and this dislike has infiltrated all political parties and the populace at large, so that today there are probably more Norwegians with anti-Israel attitudes than not.

By this I mean people that dislike or do not trust Israel, but instead support Palestinians, and hold that Israel in large is the cause of trouble in the Middle East, not Hamas and/or the Palestinians. In fact, a poll published January 27th 2009 (Dagbladet) showed that 50 % of all Norwegians are antagonistic towards Israel. Not only that: Even before the war in Gaza an opinion poll showed that 18 % of the Norwegian population no longer recognise Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state, and the proportion in the age group between 18 and 25 with this opinion is 35 %. An alarmingly high proportion!

The situation is far worse among politicians. Today there are only two political parties left (represented in Parliament), where anti-Israel attitudes do not dominate: the Progressive Party and the Norwegian Christian Democratic Party. The other parties are becoming more and more antagonistic towards Israel, and more and more willing to “go to bed” with Islamist radicals. This is especially true of the Socialist Left Party, the radical socialist party to which Kristin Halvorsen, the Minister of Finance, belongs.

The fact that Halvorsen willingly participated in a hateful anti-Israel demonstration (before it became violent, which such demonstrations often do after “the elite” leaves the scene) is not accidental. It is on the contrary a classic case of how Norwegian radical socialists behave. Those who disbelieve that a socialist Government Minister in Norway would be irresponsible enough to engage in such a hateful demonstration, please visit http://frittforum.diskusjoner.com/voldelig-demonstrasjon-i-oslo-t1865.html?mforum=frittforum and scroll down to (the first) picture.

The picture shows Halvorsen amongst the demonstrators and on the poster is written (translated): “The greatest axis of evil: USA and Israel.” Among the slogans repeatedly shouted were: “Død over jødene!” meaning: “Death to the Jews!” If Halvorsen had disagreed with such a view, she would have left the scene in protest. But she did not; despite her high position. She stayed on, and thus acted as a kind of “ambassador” for this horrible view. Halvorsen is guilty as charged!

Still, there are signs that plausibly show that the tide is about to turn in Norway. The violent demonstrations in Oslo, followed by unabashed demands by radical elements in the Muslim community (halal food in supermarkets and for all prisoners whether they are Muslims or not, use of hijab in the police force, the removal of freedom of speech in religious matters) seems to, at least to some degree, have awakened the people. Many Norwegians are starting to realize what Islam really is (at least its radical version), and that the problems are mounting up on their own doorstep, not just in faraway countries.

This new trend is indicated by that fact that after the leader of the Progressive Party (Siv Jensen) openly showed her and her party’s support to Israel, AND strongly opposed the above mentioned demands from radical Muslims and socialists, polls have dramatically increased the support to Progressive Party. Also opinion building via Internet and blogging is on the rise. A new arena not controlled by socialist journalists.

Best regards

Bent (Oslo, Norway)
See also in this blog: Anti-Semitism in Norway
Anti-Semitism in Norway - 2

18 comments:

  1. Harry D. Watson1 April 2009 at 20:45

    The Swedes and Norwegians (I'm not so sure about the Danes) tend to have a holier-than-thou attitude to international politics (why can't everybody be as sane and liberal as we are?). When I worked in Sweden in the early 1970s I found many of my acquaintances and students only too keen to give me the benefit of their half-baked and simplistic views on other people's problems, e.g. the Northern Irish "troubles". When Olof Palme was gunned down in a Stockholm street many years later a large part of the shock and horror of the Swedish populace was not because of the murder itself but because of the revelations about how a leading Scandinavian politician had been ready to get down and dirty with nasty types like arms manufacturers.

    Re Norway and anti-Semitism - I used to do some work for the Norwegian journalist and social commentator Dag Herbjørnsrud, who is currently trying to make the former tabloid "Ny Tid" into a weekly news magazine of the "Newsweek" stamp. When Al-Jazeerah started up their English-language website in 2004 Dag was quick off the mark and got his foot in the door as a political commentator. He got me to check his English before he submitted his articles. The first one was a masterpiece of the art of sucking up. Declaring that his intention was "to bridge differences between Westerners and Arabs and to show the nuances of Western views about Islam", he came up with figures from some obscure survey showing that Norwegians hated George Bush personally and American foreign policy generally far more than people in a swathe of Muslim countries. He even came out with the breathtaking assertion that Norwegians felt they had more to fear from their "neighbours" (was he talking about Sweden and Russia?) than from so-called Islamic extremism.

    This was a bit too rich for some people, including the Norwegian blogger Bjørn Stærk, whose blog is well worth a read, although like all such blogs on sensitive issues it soon descended into exchanges of mutual violent abuse (I shall not quote from it here).

    I saw nothing overtly anti-Semitic in Herbjørnrud's articles, although the rabid anti-Americanism might be thought to imply such an attitude, as exaggerated Islamophilia among Westerners tends to do.

    The Norwegians tend to be seen as "goodies" by most people in the West because of their suffferings under Nazi occupation in WWII and the undoubted heroism of their Resistance fighters, but it's less well known that, like the Swedes, they had a lot of Nazi sympathisers before and during the war (Quisling was not a solitary aberration), and they provided plenty of recruits to the Waffen SS Viking division. Norwegians don't like to remember all that, but a recent Norwegian crime thriller, Jo Nesbø's "Rødstrupe" (The Redbreast) manages to link surviving SS Alte Kameraden to pimply young neo-Nazis in the Oslo of today.

    Harry

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    Replies
    1. I guess this was some April Fool's Day joke, as these accusations by Harry Watson was published on April 1st 2009. I have not seen them until now, by chance, some six years later. But since these inaccurate (read: false) descriptions are still published here, I'll correct them as follows: It is true that I was one of the Nordic commentators for Al-Jazeera English in 2004-2005, like the secretary of the Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad. But the text I wrote was hardly anything like Mr. Watson claims. And if Watson had read my book "Frykten for Amerika" 2003, he would have known that his public slandering about my anti-Americanism hardly could be true. Or as the reviewer in The Hudson Review, Bruce Bawer (which I presume Watson have more of a jolly for), wrote:
      "America and Europe need each other, perhaps more than ever. More sane, sensible European books along the lines of Revel’s L’obsession anti-américaine and Bromark and Herbjørnsrud’s Frykten for Amerika can help."
      (check out my website www.sttar.com/dag for links/info)

      Back to my opinion piece at Al-Jazeera's English website in 2004 (can't see it online now, but it was when Watson published it): It was the renowned Pew Global Research poll I was quoting (check my/Bromark's book of 2003 to see more), and it tells that Norwegians did really dislike George Bush more than anyone suerveyed (11 % in favor, while Obama in 2008 got some 80 % in favor) - so it was not an "obscure" poll, Watson.

      And how you can claim that I was "sucking up" to the global English audience at Aljazeera English (maybe mostly read by Americans/Europeans, those who don't read Arabic), is unbelievable - at least when I consider your supposedly English manners (ooops, or Scottish?)

      I ask you to prove this claim: "He even came out with the breathtaking assertion that Norwegians felt they had more to fear from their "neighbours" (was he talking about Sweden and Russia?) than from so-called Islamic extremism."
      --> This is of course untrue. While I strive to be political neutral, after my ten years in Aftenposten, I am saddened to read such a political rant on this blog of Nordic Voices. I say to you as to the Arabs: You can do so much better! How, you might ask? We may say a bit like Mr. Holmes, in a sampled version: "Elementary, my dear Watson: Stop telling lies."

      regards,
      Dag Herbjørnsrud
      www.sgoki.org





      Delete
  2. Welcome to Nordic Voices in Translation, Harry, and thank you for your comment on this topic. I think that someone probably needs to write a history of the Nordic countries for a non-Nordic readership, since as you say there are a number of misperceptions abroad as to what really happened in these somwhat isolated states during the 20th century.

    Bjørn Stærk's blog certainly used to be very interesting indeed, and a great centre for debate and discussion - more recently, though, he seems to have switched to discussing matters of a less controversial kind (movies, games, books), which is is a pity, in my view.

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  3. The Jerusalem Post has now published a new article, putting both sides of the argument, and presenting numerous readers' comments, many from Norwegians, which make interesting reading.

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  4. Just a few comments on David and Harry's comments.

    It's not only in Norway, where the revival of anti-Semitism worries people. I buy random European newspapers to read in the pub, and Thursday's "Le Figaro" had a half-page advert or announcement, declaring: ' 352 actes antisemites en France pour le seul mois de janvier 2009 "Nous en avons assez!" '.

    And the Dutch daily "Trouw" has a long article today about what in Dutch is termed "jodenhaat", also about anti-Semitism. The Dutch are in a similar position to the Norwegians. They like to focus on all the Dutch Resistance heroes, and conveniently forget about the many thousands of Dutch people that collaborated with the German occupiers, or were members of the NSB (not Norwegian Railways, but the Dutch Nazi Party), during WWII.

    But I agree that some Scandinavians wax self-righteous when it comes to complex problems far away from Norden. And that Jew-bashing is the default mode of some. Some older person from Bonniers once told me how swastikas were daubed on the doors of that publishing house in Stockholm during WWII.

    By the way, the Finland-Swedish magazine "Ny Tid" ( http://www.nytid.fi/start/ ) has nothing to do with the Norwegian one with the same name ( http://www.nytid.no/ ). In fact the copy of the Finland-Swedish "Ny Tid" I received yesterday had a one-page article making fun of the antics of Johan Bäckman and other Finns who have a downer on Estonia. If I read a Norwegian weekly, I am more inclined to read "Dag og Tid", written almost entirely in nynorsk. This magazine has a much more nuanced view of the world.

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  5. >>It's not only in Norway, where the revival of anti-Semitism worries people.<<

    However, the officially sponsored anti-Israel campaign in Norway does appear to be unusual and even unique in its protracted intensity. This recent NGO Monitor report states that "For more than a decade, numerous NGOs in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza have been funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)..." and concludes that

    Unfortunately, Norwegian money continues to be channeled from the MFA and NORAD to many politicized Norwegian, Palestinian and international NGOs. The radical political campaigns promoted by some of these NGOs continue to contradict objectives which the Norwegian government sets out for its development aid, such as the establishment of a Palestinian state through a two-state solution and laying the foundation for resuming peace negotiations. The promotion of democracy, human rights and good governance is also hindered by the financing of NGO campaigns that focus on one-sidedly attacking Israel, while ignoring Palestinian human rights abuses, corruption, and factional violence.

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  6. Harry D. Watson4 April 2009 at 18:31

    I don't want to get into the habit of knocking Norwegians, an admirable people in many ways, but another dark side of their history which is only now being uncovered is their harsh treatment of women who bore children to occupying German soldiers and of those children themselves. Some of these women were treated as mentally deficient and locked away in institutions, a misuse of psychiatric facilities that Beria would have been proud of. Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the brunette in Abba, was the daughter of a Norwegian mother and a German soldier and I believe she has a memoir out at the moment which should be an interesting read.

    Harry

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  7. Once again, the Dutch and, to an extent, the Danes have treated collaborators in a harsh way, in the hope of distracting public opinion from the fact that there was masses of national collaboration.

    Nor must Sweden be forgotten in this context. They let a lot of trainloads of materiel and men through to Norway. Yet Sweden did accept and look after refugees (with one blip being Baltutlämningen) during and after the war. I suppose it is easy to speak after the event, but in real life compromises and mistakes are made.

    If you look at the separate histories of all the Nordic countries in the context of WWII, there are many differences and similarities, e.g. the British role in protecting Iceland and the Faroes, the German occupation of Norway and Denmark, Swedish neutrality and the Finns trying to play the Germans off against the Russians all make for a very complex situation.

    Another factor that plays a role when self-righteous people support one side in a faraway conflict, as in a football match, is the fact that all the Nordic countries now enjoy a high standard of living and are physically far away from the conflict zones. There may be subliminal guilt that they have it so good while, for instance, the Palestinians live in constant turmoil and poverty. I fear that Scandinavians are often blind to causes and act surprisingly emotionally and collectively to long-drawn-out international conflicts.

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  8. "Bjørn Stærk's blog certainly used to be very interesting indeed, and a great centre for debate and discussion - more recently, though, he seems to have switched to discussing matters of a less controversial kind (movies, games, books), which is is a pity, in my view."

    Glad you remember it. ;) While I'm here, I'd like to point out that I do not agree that anti-semitism is a major problem in Norway today. Most of it is anti-Israel bias, and has nothing to do with Jews as such. There are some people who clearly are anti-semitic, and others who borrow anti-semitic rhetoric for their criticism of Israel, but it is inaccurate to describe this as a widespread problem.

    Here's the popular Norwegian view of Israel (not mine): It is a militaristic democracy with a heavy streak of religious fanaticism. They have stolen Arab land, and want to steal more. Many of their neighbours are evil and dangerous too, but Israel is the major power in the region, and their actions cause suffering for ordinary Palestinian civilians. Being democratic and semi-Western also gives them particular responsibilities. They're "us". We expect more.

    Norwegians will sometimes talk about "Jews" and "Israelis" as interchangeable, as when a heavily anti-Israel correspondent once referred to the "Jewish war machine", or Norwegian Jews are asked to condemn the actions of the Israeli state. But the Israeli's identity as Jews - their culture and religion - is not a factor in the debate. It is their perceived identity as a militaristic and expansionary semi-Western power that matters to Norwegians.

    So who are the anti-semites? Muslims, ie. immigrants from anti-semitic Arab countries. A few extreme leftists, and a few neo-nazis. The first group is the only relevant one, and it _is_ relevant. But to imply sympathy with anti-semitic ideas among mainstream political parties is just .. inaccurate. It's based on a faulty understanding of Norwegian politics.

    Btw, I would also like to add that I think Muslims have taken over some of the role of Europe's Jews, as a large religious minority that is subject to much unfair suspicion. The situations are not directly similar, but there are some similarities, such as the concern about dual loyalties. (Norwegian newspapers ask Norwegian Jews to condemn Israeli politics, but they also ask Norwegian Muslims to condemn al-Qaeda.) On the whole, Norwegian Muslims are viewed far more unfavorably in Norway than Norwegian Jews, and about as unfavorably as Israelis are, (but not of course by the same people).

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  9. Thank you for this. The view from inside Norway is different from the view from the rest of the world, of course. I still feel, however, that the publication of the Aftenposten essay in 2006, with its statements like "We do not believe in the notion of God's chosen people", did much to damage Norway's reputation abroad. The author of the essay, a hitherto well regarded intellectual and novelist, could not be categorized as an extreme leftist or indeed an extremist of any kind - and his views appeared to reflect those of many people in Norway.

    Being a small nation, Norway's culture is important to it, as it is by means of that culture that the rest of the world can get to know the country and its people. Norwegian intellectuals and writers have a great responsibility here, it seems to me, as their statements and utterances are likely to be seen as representative by the outside world, and especially by those who have taken on the task of trying to export at least a part of Norwegian literature beyond Norway's borders.

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  10. Jostein Gaarder's essay is an example of Israel criticism that borrows anti-semitic rhetoric. Gaarder is not an anti-semite, but he is so heavily biased against Israel and all its policies that he is unaware of the anti-semitic origin of his arguments. He should know better - yes, but that is not the issue. The issue is: Are Norwegians becoming anti-semitic? They are not. That opinion piece is about as extreme as anything resembling anti-semitism gets in the Norwegian mainstream. Few Israel critics would make ironic comments about "God's chosen people", and those who do are unaware that this rhetoric is anti-semitic. (Meaning, if you tell them, they'll be offended, and if they agree, they'll stop doing it.)

    "Norwegian intellectuals and writers have a great responsibility here, it seems to me, as their statements and utterances are likely to be seen as representative by the outside world, and especially by those who have taken on the task of trying to export at least a part of Norwegian literature beyond Norway's borders."

    Intellectuals have a responsibility to be honest, factual, and conscious of the power of their words - independent of their audience, local or international. And I would add that it is the responsibility of those who explain Norway to the rest of the world to point out the diversity of Norwegian opinion, and portray the political and ideological landscape accurately.

    I don't know how well you know Norwegian society, (perhaps very well), so I will make this a general comment: When one tries to understand a foreign culture, there is a danger of seizing on one particular viewpoint within that culture as an authority, perhaps a viewpoint that sounds familiar to one's own views. At best, this leaves out important nuances in one's understanding, at worst it leaves one at the mercy of local crackpots. This is true even if one knows the language, because you'll still need some sort of key to unlock the culture.

    For instance, you quote Bernt as saying: "There is not a single “rightwing” newspaper left in Norway today! This situation has of course resulted in objectivity losing out to unbalanced leftist subjectivity." This is highly partisan analysis. Yes there is no right-wing presence in Norwegian journalism, but neither is there much of a left. The only leftist media in Norway are tiny state-subsidized newspapers like Dagsavisen and Klassekampen. The relevant media are all politically opportunistic, meaning they print whatever sells. So they'll give a lot of attention to the rightish Progress Party, because it is controversial, and controversy is popular. Norwegian _journalists_ are relatively left, but the Norwegian _media_ is not a reliable friend of the left. In some areas their bias serves the left, in other areas it serves the right - it's complicated. (Isn't it always?)

    The anti-semitism issue suffers from similar problems. Some of the self-professed authorities you'll find on the web, (especially on blogs that deal with anti-semitism and Islam in Europe), are highly partisan, and represent at best one side of the story.

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  11. What we as translators find hard to take is the combination of apologies and denials that characterize Norwegian responses on this issue. My colleague on this blog wrote:

    "I'm quite shocked that an author, used to writing fiction for both adults and children, comes up with such a rabidly anti-Semitic rant. And gets it published in a major daily. So it serves him right that Schocken books dumped him as a translated author. He has been apologising ever since, if the Wikipedia is anything to go by. But his books no doubt still sell like hot cakes."

    Norway is not alone. In most of the countries of Europe, anti-Semitism is still endemic. But whereas in France or Britain one does at least hear prominent intellectuals lamenting the fact - Bernard-Henri Levy and Howard Jacobson are notable examples - there is not much coming out of Norway in a similar vein. If Norwegian writers and artists could be more honest and open about the issue, instead of persisting with denials that it exists at all in Norwegian society, and with assertions that Norway occupies a special postion of moral authority in the world as a defender of human rights and social justice, that might go some way towards rectifying the situation.

    It is not the responsibility of translators to "explain" Norway to the world. That is is the task of educators, social scientists, journalists and historians. At least two of us here have had three decades of professional involvement with the translation of Norwegian literature, and have been visiting the country over a similar length of time. What we have aspired to do is to acquaint ourselves with the background, history and reality of Norwegian society, so that our translations will be alive rather than mere bookish exercises. And above all we are dependent on the Norwegian writers themselves, and on what they say and write as articulate representatives of their country and as the spokespersons for it.

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  12. "If Norwegian writers and artists could be more honest and open about the issue, instead of persisting with denials that it exists at all in Norwegian society"

    Some times people deny an accusation because they are unable to see that it is true. Other times they deny it because it clearly _isn't_ true. The strong version of this argument, that genuine anti-semitism is making a comeback in the Norwegian mainstream, is in my view just untrue. You won't find Norwegian intellectuals making that claim because they know their country better than that.

    The weak version of the argument, that Norwegian criticism of Israel has become so biased that it uncritically borrows anti-semitic rhetoric, is true. That's the argument that ought to be made.

    "and with assertions that Norway occupies a special postion of moral authority in the world as a defender of human rights and social justice, that might go some way towards rectifying the situation."

    Actually it is very common to question Norway's moral authority. Both by cynics who find the whole idea rather pompous, and by others who want to hold us to the high standards we claim we believe in. (Ie. "we like to think we're so morally superior, but look what we just did/didn't do in X").

    "It is not the responsibility of translators to "explain" Norway to the world."

    Well, in this particular post you were explaining an aspect of Norwegian society. Your description relies too much on a marginal viewpoint, and I believe my description is more accurate.

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  13. >>the argument, that Norwegian criticism of Israel has become so biased that it uncritically borrows anti-semitic rhetoric, is true.<<

    So at what point does the uncritical borrowing of anti-Semitic rhetoric cease to be anti-Semitism? I fear that hairs are being split here.

    I still don't see how the position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict that's adopted by large sections of the Norwegian media and public opinion can be characterized as a "marginal viewpoint". If there is another viewpoint on the issue that is more widely held in Norwegian society, it hasn't received much expression.

    And the sight of Norway's finance minister standing in the midst of an anti-Israel demonstration, smiling (see the photo above) beside a large placard that reads "The Greatest Axis [axes?] of Evil - Israel and the USA" does not fill one with confidence.

    Norwegian intellectuals may "know their country better than that" - but if that is so, there is clearly a problem of presentation and public relations here, for the world beyond Norway sees what it sees.

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  14. "So at what point does the uncritical borrowing of anti-Semitic rhetoric cease to be anti-Semitism?"

    When it is applied to a state, and not to the family next door.

    "I still don't see how the position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict that's adopted by large sections of the Norwegian media and public opinion can be characterized as a "marginal viewpoint"."

    I was referring to the person you were quoting. Even if you agree with that analysis, you should still be aware that it _is_ a marginal viewpoint, and that there is value in learning how other Norwegians may see that issue. For instance, from that quote alone one may get the impression that in Norway one is _either_ a leftist who hates Israel and Jews, _or_ is on the right and is concerned about Norwegian anti-semitism. That's not true. There's me, for one.

    "And the sight of Norway's finance minister standing in the midst of an anti-Israel demonstration, smiling (see the photo above) beside a large placard that reads "The Greatest Axis [axes?] of Evil - Israel and the USA" does not fill one with confidence."

    As I said earlier, the state of Israel is strongly disliked in Norway. They're about as unpopular and suspected as Norwegian Muslims, (only with different people). Nobody will argue otherwise. I have not questioned this, and I don't know any Norwegians who would.

    Anti-semitism is something else. The fact that these two ideas sometimes overlap does not mean that they are the same, just as the fact that there's an area where red meets and crosses over into yellow does not mean that red _is_ yellow.

    "for the world beyond Norway sees what it sees"

    Much of the reason why Norwegians are so heavily biased against Israel is that they do not perceive the variety of opinion within Israel, nor have they attempted to understand any of these viewpoints. They already have an idea of why Israel does what it does, (religious imperialism), and are not interested in exploring it further. At best they'll adopt a simplistic model such as "there are moderates who want peace on both sides, but the extremists prevent it". Whose fault is this? Israel's, for not explaining itself well enough, or ours, for not trying hard enough to understand?

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  15. We musn't lose sight of what we're talking about. This debate is becoming rather involved.

    There are one or two things that do stand out about Norway and anti-Semitism:

    1) Gaarder's diatribe, given the fact that Gaarder is one of the best-selling Norwegian authors worldwide; hence status in what he says.

    2) Those two Marxist doctors in the Gaza strip were Norwegians. This was one of the few times this year that Norway was in the international news.

    Nordic countries are rich. Money breeds Besserwisserei. Swift conclusions and gut sympathies are foolish in a world where naïve people are duped every day into thinking that terrorists are angels, totalitarianism is democracy.

    Furthermore, anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the place. Whether this is on account of disgruntled Muslims or not, even "Le Figaro" had a half-page advert saying that 352 anti-Semitic incidents in France during January 2009 alone was more than enough. Anti-Semitism is also discussed in the Dutch press. You can't so easily divide anti-Israeli sentiments from anti-Semitic ones. Devious people simple use anti-Israeli statements as a cover to hide the fact that they hate Jews.

    Finally, one thing that Western intellectuals rarely tackle is that for all its faults, Israel is the only functioning parliamentary democracy in the whole Middle East. Israel is not run by David XIV, whilst many surrounding countries are ruled by kings. Kings! This is the 21st century. But because we (not Norway in this case!) need their oil, we tolerate mediæval rule.

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  16. "You can't so easily divide anti-Israeli sentiments from anti-Semitic ones. Devious people simple use anti-Israeli statements as a cover to hide the fact that they hate Jews."

    Yes - someone who hates Jews will most likely voice that hatred as criticism of Israel. But it does not thereby follow that someone who criticizes Israel hates Jews. In fact, I am confident that this is not the case in the Norwegian mainstream. See my explanation above of how Norwegians feel about Israel. If you disagree, I am curious to learn why. It is _understandable_ that someone might think that Norwegians are becoming anti-semitic, judging from various incidents like the Gaarder piece, but I am explaining to you now that this is not the case. The impression, understandable though it is, is wrong.

    "Finally, one thing that Western intellectuals rarely tackle is that for all its faults, Israel is the only functioning parliamentary democracy in the whole Middle East."

    Now we're talking about prejudices against Israel, not anti-semitism. As I said earlier, just because there's an overlap doesn't mean they're _equal_. And it should be possible to discuss whether Norway is anti-semitic without discussing the overall rights and wrongs of the Middle East conflict.

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