The short Norwegian summer was this year not as quiet as usual. Some aspects of this are also relevant for Israel
and the local Jewish community. Part of Norway’s problems are linked to last year’s murder
of 77 people by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya on 22 July.
The just-released conclusions of the government-appointed investigation commission are damning for Norway’s leadership. The report mentions a long list of major shortcomings among which poor protection of governmental buildings, weak police leadership and general disorganization. The ultimate responsibility for these failures lies with Labor Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
His government has been proven greatly incompetent at protecting its own citizens. Yet it is a master at criticizing Israel. In particular, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere frequently condemns the Jerusalem government and tells it how to handle infinitely more complex challenges than Norway is able to deal with. This arrogance is often shared by Norwegian media editors, NGOs, some Lutheran bishops, trade union leaders and others among the country’s cultural elite.
Yet it was not difficult to understand that there were structural security problems in Norway already many years ago. In my 2008 book 'Behind the Humanitarian Mask,' the Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, I quoted the then-head of the Norwegian Army, General Robert Mood. He described his army’s capability as only being able to defend perhaps one neighborhood in Oslo, much less the entire country.
Besides the Breivik Commission report there were other reasons for a somewhat troubled summer. In the Netherlands, a major tank farm of the major Norwegian company Odfjell had to close. There had been leaks of flammable gases in addition to frequent security and environmental problems. When a Dutch security expert saw a picture of the actual installation, his first thought was that it was taken 30 years ago. Odfjell’s head office declared that security is taken extremely seriously, yet could not explain why the Dutch subsidiary had many failures in this field.
Norway’s cultural elite is fallaciously proud of its ethics. The country’s huge State Pensions’ Fund sold off shares of the Israeli company Elbit because it had manufactured components for Israel’s security fence. The latter has greatly reduced the number of Palestinian murders of Israeli civilians. A major explosion at the unethical and negligent Dutch subsidiary of Odfjell could however have endangered the surrounding population of about one million.
The leading Norwegian daily Aftenposten mentioned in an editorial that Odfjell was endangering Norway’s reputation abroad. In fact this reputation should have been downgraded long ago even if only because of the elites’ empathy with murderous and genocide promoting Palestinians and other criminals in Muslim states. Around the same time, the daily Dagbladet ran two articles detailing the corruption of Norwegian companies in dealings with dictator states.
A few weeks ago the University of Basel and the World Peace Academy, there suspended collaboration with Norwegian Peace scholar 'and father of Peace studies,' Johan Galtung. He had recommended the anti-Semitic forgery, the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' to an audience at Oslo University. Galtung said that one could not read this book without thinking of Goldman Sachs. He also suggested that the Jews were partly guilty of being murdered at Auschwitz. Some may wonder why no action has been taken against him in Norway. The answer is not difficult for those who are familiar with the profound hypocrisy of many among Norway’s cultural elite.
Much less noticeable yet noteworthy is the change in attitude of the Jewish community. For many years it played a significant role in publicly minimizing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in Norway. This was useful for the government. When foreigners dared to point out the obvious Norwegian hatemongering, the reaction was often: “Who knows better - the Norwegian Jews or these people who do not even live here?”
The whitewashing of the country’s unpleasant reality by local Jewish leaders was partly understandable after earlier experiences when they spoke out. About 10 years ago two community members who had been involved in discussing anti-Semitism publicly received bullets in their mail.
Yet even for the small Norwegian Jewish community, there are limits. The Center Party which is part of the government has recently come out in favor of prohibiting circumcision of boys. Ervin Kohn, the head of the Oslo Jewish community in July still said that he would rather be a Jew in Norway than in Spain and Hungary. In August Kohn said that if a 'prohibition of circumcision' law passes, there will no longer be a place for Jews in Norway. No foreign critic has ever gone this far.
Recently former US Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has joined the increasing number of foreign critics of Norwegian anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. For those who are familiar with the many aberrations of the country’s cultural elite, there is only one conclusion: expect more Norwegian misconduct to arrive after the summer ends.
Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of which he has been Chairman for twelve years