Some are aware that Norway has a very distinctive antipathy toward Israel. It funds a notably large number of anti-Israel NGO’s that campaign to delegitimise the existence of the State of Israel itself. There are also occasional controversies, such as over anti-Semitic cartoons published in mainstream newspapers, and a number of stridently anti-Israeli Norwegians have become prominent internationally, like Mads Gilbert who justified the 9/11 attacks.
Still the material contained within the cables is quite disturbing. The texts make it quite clear the hostility toward Israel is a façade disguising anti-Semitism. When this hatred becomes overwhelmingly obvious it is defended or excused. It is a malign oddity, especially considering the tiny Jewish populace in Norway itself. However, before one casts Norway as some sort of latter-day fascist state, it should be noted that the hallmarks of this phenomenon are very much in evidence in other nations where a strong pro-Palestinian paradigm is predominant culturally.
The texts claim that the failure to deal with anti-Semitism goes to the top of Norway’s establishment. Indeed Jonas Gahr Stoere, Norway’s long-time Foreign Minister provided aid to Hamas and urged other countries to lift sanctions on the terrorist organisation, which is famed for advocating the mass genocide of the Jews. This tolerance of terrorism directed at Jews manifested itself in the trial for the 2006 gun attack on the synagogue in Oslo by a local Muslim, one Arfan Qadeer Bhatti. Amazingly, the judge ruled the act constituted vandalism rather than terrorism, even though Bhatti had previously been implicated several times in similar behaviour. A double standard is also displayed toward Muslims. Norway also permits halal slaughter, whilst the Jewish kosher equivalent is banned.
Of course there has been a lot more controversy since early 2009. This year Anders Mathisen, an MP in the ruling Labour Party openly denied the Holocaust. It would appear there is an unofficial university boycott of Jewish pro-Israel academics after the experiences of Alan Dershowitz, whilst the rather undiplomatic Norwegian Ambassador to Israel appeared to justify Palestinian terrorism!
Two extracts of cables attributed to Mr. Kevin Johnson, deputy chief of the US Embassy in Norway, are below. These cables were first published by Aftenposten, a popular Norwegian newspaper. Ironically enough, they are reputed to have come from a source that leaked the "Wikileaks", one Johannes Wahlstrom who is known for a deep antipathy towards Israel that often crosses into outright anti-Semitism
Origin: Embassy Oslo; Reference ID: 09OSLO114; Created: 2009-02-13 14:48
2. (C) Over the last two months, a former prime minister, Kare Willoch, and a preeminent commentator on U.S. policy, Ole Moen, were accused of making comments that were anti-Semitic. On December 30 in a television debate program, when asked about the prospect for progress in the Middle East with Obama leading negotiations, Willoch said, "it doesn’t look good, because he has chosen a Jew as a chief of staff." Mona Levin, a Jewish columnist who also participated in the television debate, later wrote a column in which she accused Willoch of both anti-Semitism and racism for sending a message that Jews can’t be trusted and blacks are easily manipulated. She also commented on a feeling of hatred she perceived from him during the television debate, noting he pointedly said "you people," although her family has lived in Norway since the 19th century. Many voices in the media (including Willoch’s own) have risen to his defense. Willoch has for years been an especially strident voice against Israeli policy.
3. (C) Ole Moen… predicted that Americans would never elect either a black man or a woman due to the racism and sexism that he believes permeates American society. On January 9 Moen said Obama "has appointed many Jews and pro-Israel people in his administration. …This makes me have little hope for significant change (in Middle East policy.)" Despite complaints by a prominent commentator that Moen characterized Jews as a group and appears to have assumed Jews don’t have independent opinions as individuals, because they’re Jewish, no apology was offered… Despite the "debate" about the issue, neither has truly been tarred as an anti-Semite in the Norwegian consciousness.
4. (C) Anecdotal evidence shows the small Jewish community in Norway, comprising about 1000 members, are experiencing a growing fear of rising anti-Semitism. When attempting to write a January 10 story about how Jewish families were dealing with the fallout from the war in Gaza, a major newspaper found that most of those contacted refused to be interviewed, because they were afraid of being targeted if they appeared in the paper. One orthodox Jewish family in Oslo chose not to take their children to synagogue, as their appearance on the street makes them especially vulnerable… A recent expose on anti-Semitism in a major paper found that "Jew" has become an epithet among both Muslim and Christian teenagers…
5. (C) The chief Rabbi of the Oslo Synagogue reportedly receives a pile of hate mail each day. Typical salutations on such mail are, "Murderers," "Maybe Hitler was right," "May hatred toward you Jews grow and strengthen," and so forth. In a question that typifies the general views of the Norwegian media, a reporter asked the Rabbi bluntly, "Don’t you understand that the world is outraged by the gruesome attacks against the civilian population in Gaza?" The Rabbi answered that he understood the terrible tragedy for the civilian population in Gaza, but that hatred was growing and impacting Jewish people who had never even been to Israel. According to an Israeli embassy official, during a dinner in honor of a visiting member of the Knesset, some Jewish Israeli-Norwegian married couples commented that among people like themselves, many were talking of moving to Israel, because they did not want to expose their children to fear and hatred…
6. (C) In mid-January, a first secretary at the Norwegian embassy in Saudi Arabia used the MFA’s email system to send out a fundraising email appeal for Gaza with images comparing Israeli soldiers with Nazi soldiers, urging recipients to forward it as a chain letter. The MFA said it would be dealt with as an internal personnel matter and there has been no further public information given on the disposition of the case.
7. (C) … While acknowledging the delicacy of his speaking about the Norwegian Jewish community, an Israeli diplomat told emboffs that the problem is that it was only the Jews in the room who heard this message from Stoere, as it was not directly or widely covered by the media. He said he believed the rising tide of anti-Semitism represented a "terrible failure of the Norwegian establishment," with for example Finance Minister Halvorsen initially participating prominently an anti-war parade that ended with a full-scale riot in front of the Israeli embassy. Cries of, "Kill the Jews!" were heard at this demonstration. Police had not seen such violent demonstrations since the 1980s. Interestingly, one pro-Israel demonstration in Bergen was cancelled because police told organizers that they could not protect participants…
8. (C) … whether an anti-Semitic (or racist) statement has been made is determined by the speaker, not the offended group. Even unacceptable statements are forgiven so long as the speaker insists upon his or her good intentions. Third, Norway follows a social model based on consensus rather than individualism, so Norwegians are somewhat more prone to have difficulty differentiating between individuals and groups…
9. (C) For all of these reasons, latent anti-Semitism is more likely to be expressed publicly, if indirectly, and in turn increase anti-Semitism in society at large. Offended Norwegians feel constrained about protesting anti-Semitism, since they would be questioning the Norwegian self-image. Post believes that the "legitimization of rage" practiced by the Norwegian media, in which outrage over Israeli policy is encouraged, has contributed to an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism is easier for ordinary Norwegians to express; there is no corresponding freedom to attack Hamas, however, sin[c]e the local narrative predominantly blames Israel…
Click for the full text of the above Norwegian cable published by Wikileaks.
Origin: Embassy Oslo; Reference ID: 09OSLO115; Created: 2009-02-13 14:48
1. (C) Summary: Norway aspires to be a leader in Middle East peace negotiations and could be a genuine asset in bringing peace to the region…"
4. (C) Compounding this aversion to force, Norwegians do not generally see any threats. For example, they do not see a danger from terrorism…. This societal attitude was demonstrated by Norway’s first terrorist case. Despite shooting at Oslo’s synagogue, planning to behead the Israeli ambassador and to attack the Israeli and U.S. embassies, the accused was convicted only of grave vandalism (although his strict sentence showed some understanding of the severity of the charges).
5. (C) Finally, Norway has substantial funds to back any mediating role it chooses to play. Rich with energy funds, it has for years been a leading donor to the Palestinian authority, most recently chairing the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee…"
6. (C) … It has elevated peace and reconciliation studies in its universities and reorganized its Foreign Ministry to showcase its expertise in this area. It revels in its self-described role as the "moral superpower" and points to the Oslo Peace Accords as a defining national moment.
7. (C) … Norway’s Jewish community has always been very small and based in the country’s biggest cities, Oslo and Trondheim. Challenges confronted the community early on. The birth of modern Norway was its 1814 constitution, which included a clause excluding Jews (later removed in 1851). In German-occupied Norway, Norwegian police cooperated with the Germans, rounding up almost all of the Norwegian Jewish population, most of which were sent to concentration camps.
9. (C) … As the Oslo Accords crumbled, ties between Norway and Israel weakened. The Lebanon wars had a major impact, with approximately 20,000 Norwegians serving in UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon from 1978 to 1998. These soldiers came home with sympathetic reports about Palestinian refugees and negative impressions of Israelis…
10. (C) This shift was so dramatic that a 2006 cartoon in a major newspaper depicted the PM of Israel as a concentration camp guard. During the 2006 war in Lebanon prominent author Jostein Gaarder made a statement saying "I refuse to recognize the state of Israel" and characterized Judaism as "an archaic national and warlike religion."… By 2007, FM Stoere [Jonas Gahr Stoere - Foreign Minister] decided to recognize the Palestinian Unity Government, which included Hamas Ministers. Hamas’ vow to destroy Israel was ignored or characterized as only rhetoric by the Norwegians. Norway became the leading dissenter to international norms (only joined by Switzerland), willing to overlook Hamas’ stated aims in pursuit of dialogue at all costs. At this point, some Israeli officials began to characterize Norway as the most anti-Israel state in Europe. (Note: Although the GON would deny it, there are clear signs that contacts with Hamas go beyond a tactical desire for dialogue to a level of sympathy for Hamas positions. The FM once told DCM for example that one could not expect Hamas to recognize Israel without knowing which borders Israel will have. While the FM expresses some sympathy for Hamas’ positions only in unguarded moments, other prominent Norwegians go further. End Note.)
11. (C) Norway’s growing minority population also plays a role in hardening public attitude toward Israel. The primary minority groups in Norway (25% of Oslo’s population) are Muslim and stem from Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. They are interested in Middle East politics and not surprisingly very critical of Israel. (See reftel A.) "Traditional" Norwegians are independently quite critical of Israel as discussed above, but it is likely that this viewpoint will be re-enforced by the growing minority groups in Norway.
13. (C) … debate centers on defining when comments by public figures are or are not
anti-Semitic. Press coverage and public opinion of the Gaza war was overwhelmingly, and at times vehemently, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian (viewing Israeli tactics as brutal and Palestinians as innocent victims).
15. (C) The Israel Government has chosen, according to an Embassy official, to take a very low key approach to Norway’s negative views towards Israel. They see no point in openly pressing the government. With GON Ministers and Vice Ministers having a track record of meeting with Hamas, calling for boycotts of Israel, and showing up at violent anti-Israeli riots, the Israel Embassy holds out very little hope that the current GON can ever act moderately towards Israel.
17. (C) Norway, and particularly their charismatic Foreign Minister, has a strong interest in playing a peacemaker role. With money to spend and open channels to all parties in the conflict, they bring important assets to this role. However, Norway’s attitudes towards Israel and Hamas also constrain Norwegian diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. Norwegian public and elite opposition to most of Israel’s actions and their view that Israel does not value dialogue is widely reported. A level of Norwegian sympathy for some Hamas’ positions, hidden behind its broad policy of dialogue with all, should be kept in mind as we engage with Norway on U.S. Middle East priorities.
Click for the full text of the above Norwegian cable published by Wikileaks
Note: A similar article to the above by the same author was originally published at The Propagandist