Nov 16th by Bruce Bawer.
by Bruce Bawer
November 16, 2011 at 5:00 am
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Anti-Semitism in Norway, where I have lived for twelve years, is over the top. I have never quite gotten used to it. Every now and then I hear or read something that reminds me that I am living in Europe, in a country that was occupied by the Nazis, and where a lot of people were perfectly okay with that. I think it is fair to say that anti-Semitism in Norway is most virulent among the cultural elite – the academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, politicians, and technocrats – although thanks to the media and schools, it has trickled down to many ordinary Norwegians, some of whom may never even have met a Jewish person.
This anti-Semitism manifests itself in various ways. When Obama became president, former Norwegian prime minister Kåre Willoch said things did not look promising because Obama had “chosen a Jew as chief of staff.” The chief rabbi of the Oslo synagogue reportedly receives a pile of hate mail every day. During the Gaza War, a major Norwegian newspaper had trouble finding Norwegian Jews who were willing to comment on the record about the war: they said they were scared of repercussions. Norwegian academics have sought to ban contacts with Israeli universities. Norwegian activists have encouraged boycotts of Israeli products. There is terrible anti-Semitic bullying in the schools. Every so often, a high-profile professor or activist or famous author will write a virulent op-ed or give an angry speech denouncing Israel and insulting Jews. Nothing could be safer for them to say; no one will seek to harm them physically or otherwise – as opposed to what would happen if, say, they made certain public statements about Islam. And they know this. Norway’s most respected newspaper cartoonist, Finn Graff, who has admitted that he never draws cartoons about Islam because he is scared for his life, has frequently drawn cartoons comparing Israelis to Nazis; he knows Jews will never harm him. These anti-Semitic op-eds and speeches and cartoons are never remotely fresh, witty, or original; all they ever do is recycle tired cultural-elite clichés. And their creators get nothing but praise from their colleagues, who celebrate them as courageous truth-tellers. It is much more acceptable to scream “kill the Jews” at an anti-Israeli protest than it is to criticize Hamas.
The quintessential expression of Norwegian anti-Semitism during my time in Norway was an op-ed written by Jostein Gaarder, author of the international bestseller Sophie’s World. It appeared on August 11, 2006, in Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record. I will quote from it just to give you a flavor of the kind of thing that is considered respectable discourse in Norway. “The state of Israel in its current form is history,” wrote Gaarder. “We do not believe in the notion of God’s chosen people….To act as God’s chosen people is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity….We acknowledge…Europe’s deep responsibility for the fate of Jews….But the state of Israel…has massacred its own legitimacy….The State of Israel has seen its Soweto…. ” Gaarder went on to describe little Jewish girls writing hateful words on bombs to be dropped on civilian populations in Lebanon and Palestine – as if it were Israel that teaches its children to hate and kill. He wrote: “We do not recognize a state founded on anti-humanistic principles and the ruins of an archaic national religion and warrior religion.” You might have thought he was talking about Saudi Arabia or Iran, but no; he was talking about Israel. After reading Gaarder’s op-ed, one of the leading members of Norway’s tiny Jewish community, a writer named Mona Levin, said she had not read anything so disturbing since Mein Kampf. Many ordinary Norwegians agreed. Yet members of the cultural elite lined up to support Gaarder. As far as they were concerned he had struck a blow for truth and virtue.