Solberg implicitly admitted that her comparison was largely false, stating herself that Muslims today are not subject to brutal repression as Jews were in the 1930s. She also conveniently ignored that the Norwegian authorities encourage Muslim participation in society. Muslims also play a significant role in Norwegian politics.
August is usually a quiet month in Norwegian politics. People still reminiscence about their vacations, taken mainly in July. This year, however, the Breivik murders have changed the political climate in the country. This is even more so as initially many thought that the Oslo bombing was committed by Muslims. There are reports that Muslim women and children were chased on the city’s streets after the bombing.
With municipal elections coming up in September, Solberg felt the need to distance her party from anything that was critical of Muslims. Polls taken after the murders showed that the ruling Labor party of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is gaining votes partly at the expense of the Conservatives.
Solberg’s mention of the Jews in her controversial statements was not only totally out of place - it also significantly distorted the debate that followed. Mona Levin, a Jewish journalist, summed it up by writing that “Muslim bashing is reprehensible and is neither better nor worse by drawing parallels with Jewish history.”
Had Solberg left the Jews out of the interview the debate would have focused on key issues such as: To what extent are Muslims discriminated against in Norway, does this concern Muslims specifically or all non-white immigrants and last but not least - what damage has been caused by some parts of the Muslim population vis-à-vis Norwegian society.
Elites’ twisted culture
The contamination of the debate started immediately after the interview had been posted on the Internet. Within minutes Verdens Gang closed down its talkback section. Not only comments claiming that Muslims are rapists appeared on the site, but Solberg’s abuse of Jewish victimhood also backfired when talkbacks suggested that Muslims far more resembled the Nazis of the 1930s than the Jews.
The Chairman of the small Jewish community in Oslo, Ervin Kohn, reacted by stating that Solberg’s inappropriate remarks about the Jews show that she does not understand history. During the 1930s Jews were persecuted by states and were victims of racist laws, which is not the case with Muslims in Norway. Kohn added that if Solberg had compared their treatment with northern Norwegians in the 1950s or with the Sami minority group, she would not have received similar attention.
The blogger McGonagal wrote: “We must also deal with aspects of immigrants’ inherited prejudices against other minority groups: This blog was founded on the scary appearance of signs calling for the extermination of Jews during very violent protests against Israel’s war against Hamas bombs in 2009. Oslo was turned into a battlefield where people who were believed to be Jewish were beaten up on the street, 12 year old kids were told to chase Jews, and where Muslims rose to the ancient battle cry of Khaybar Khaybar al yahud. Our elected politicians and academic elite chose to ignore it.”
Comments elsewhere mentioned that while one in every three Jewish children is physically or verbally harassed in Oslo schools, the same is true for one in 20 Muslims. Another commentator remarked that “Jew” is frequently used pejoratively in schools, while nobody uses “Muslim” in the same way.
Later, Trine Skei Grande, the leader of the Venstre Liberals, which is a small opposition party, also jumped on the bandwagon. She claims that the problem in Norway is not Islam but Islamophobia. Grande also referred to the Jews in the debate. She said that if one were to criticize Islam and replaced the word “Muslim" with “Jew” or “black,” then anti-Muslim statements would be far more shocking.
From the discussion, several conclusions can be drawn concerning Jews. Living Jews is a different issue than dead Jews. The less than 2,000 Jews living in Norway are evidently insignificant. The symbolic dead Jews, however, whose image can be used as a political instrument, play a central role in the minds of many Norwegians who are obsessed with both Israel and the Jews.
The Norwegian Jewish community wants to keep a low profile. Yet with Solberg’s interview and the ensuing discussion, it was reminded once again that due to the twisted culture of Norwegian elites, this is frequently impossible.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Two of these address Norwegian anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism
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