Norwegians are particularly angry at Israel today. Norwegians are angry at Israel every day, but today, they have a new excuse. Israel's Ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, is the focus of the latest hate-fest, after he said that Israel's release of Palestinian terrorists in a "goodwill gesture" apparently required to get the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table was comparable to Norway being asked to release mass murderer Anders Breivik.
Breivik, of course, was the individual who took the lives of 77 Norwegians and injured 242 others, many of them teenagers, in July 2011, first carrying out a bombing attack in Oslo that killed eight, and then a shooting attack on the island of Utoya that killed 69. Israel, as is its pattern, was quick to condemn the mass murder the day it occurred, and express its sympathy for grieving Norwegians.
The attack on Utoya targeted a Labor Party summer youth camp. Part of the program on Utoya prior to the attack included training the young political elite on Israel's alleged crimes against the Palestinians, and lobbying government officials to pressure Israel and support the Palestinians (signs on these subjects welcomed the government officials who visited the campers on the island before Breivik's monstrous acts).
The Middle East conflict has been a seeming obsession for the government of Norway for many years, particularly for the ruling Labor Party. Blame for the breakdown of the "Oslo peace process" has always been disproportionately assigned to Israel: "The Labor Party will be passing only one specific international motion at its annual conference, one which will hold only Israel responsible for a failure to achieve a two-state solution." This at a time when victim number 100,000 is fast approaching in Syria (and nobody knows how many Norwegian Muslim 'freedom fighters' that might have participated in the atrocities there).
Given the Norwegian city associated with the peace process, initiated after secret talks there between Israeli and Palestinian officials, many Norwegians seem to have taken a personal stake in the success of the negotiating process. Since the near-universal opinion in the country is that the stalemate has been created by Israel's actions and intransigence, the negative attitudes towards Israel have grown over the past two decades.
In Norway, hostility to Israel has been part of a history of hostility to its own Jews. The fact that very few Jews have ever lived in the country has never prevented attacks on the few who have lived there, whether during the collaborationist Quisling regime during World War II, or by Muslim immigrants who have moved to the country in recent years. Just as in Sweden, the multi-culturalist ideal still dominates political thinking by government officials, the media and academics, and fear of offending the large Muslim immigrant community takes precedence over protecting Jews in the country. The fear factor is also at work in the near-universal support for the Palestinian cause, and the regular slander of Israel in the media, and by government officials.
Norwegians have become very sensitive of late to Israelis hitting back at Norway's political posture, and to pointing out the results of a recent survey of Norwegian attitudes towards Jews and Israel. In the survey, 38 percent of Norwegians thought Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians was the same as the Nazi behavior towards the Jews. Since 15,000 Norwegians volunteered to fight with the Nazis on the eastern front in World War II, and the Quisling government cooperated in the roundup and murder of nearly half the country's 2,000 Jews, it is not clear that "behaving like the Nazis" was considered a bad thing for many Norwegians during the war.
Professor Manfred Gerstenfeld has argued that the European Union's own definition of anti-Semitism includes comparing Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis. Hence, if 38% of Norwegians hold this view, "one can conclude that the number of Norwegian anti-Semites is close to 1.5 million," Gerstenfeld recently wrote for Ynet.
There is more. Norway chose to celebrate a pro-Nazi writer and spend $20 million of public funds for a museum honoring him:
According to JNS.org, "Current tensions over Norwegian attitudes toward the Holocaust first emerged three years ago, when the Norwegian government launched a year-long celebration of the life and work of a Nobel Prize-winning novelist who supported the Nazis. The author, Knut Hamsun, shocked his countrymen during the war by welcoming the 1940 Nazi occupation of Norway, meeting personally with Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and sending his Nobel Prize to Goebbels as a gift. The Norwegian government also provided $20 million to underwrite the celebrations and build a museum to honor Hamsun."
Norway's only other Nobel winner, novelist Sigrid Undset, fought the Nazis and tried to save European Jews working with the Bergson group in the U.S. Norway has passed on celebrating her life or establishing a museum to honor her.
In the same vein, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz was invited to Norway, but Norwegian universities asked him to speak about the O.J. Simpson trial, and instructed him not to discuss Israel while he was there. Norwegians are clearly not interested in a serious discussion about Israel, since their enormous self-regard might be jeopardized by having their most closely held political views subject to scrutiny and attack.
Not surprisingly, some Norwegians went ballistic in their reaction to Bachman's comments, as they attempted to distinguish the acts of Breivik from those of the Palestinian prisoners Israel has released in the last two days, and is scheduled to release in the months ahead.
Some background is required here as well, since one prominent Norwegian sociologist, Johan Galtung, has publicly blamed Israel's Mossad for Breivik's actions, a position consistent with his call for Norwegians to read "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." This is not a view held only by one professor in Norway, where lunacy on the "evil that is Israel" is not uncommon. In any case, if some Norwegians really think Israel was responsible for Breivik's actions, their attitudes are more consistent with the twisted conspiratorial worldview of Breivik than they might think.
The pushback against Bachman took a predictable turn, with the argument that Palestinians arrested by Israel and now released are in fact "freedom fighters," not murderers or terrorists.
Two comments by Norwegians protesting Bachman's comparison were particularly noteworthy:
"The comparison does not make sense," said Bjorn Ihler, who survived the massacre by hiding on the southern tip of the island. "Breivik was a solo terrorist whose actions were based purely on an unreal situation. The situation in the Middle East is very different. There is a real fight for Palestinian freedom going on."
This comment seems to suggest that if there were more Breiviks out there, then their worldview might be more deserving of respect.
Then there is "Middle East expert" Per Jonsson with the Swedish Institute for International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutets), who also slammed Bachman's Breivik comparison.
"The comparison with Brevik is insane in several ways. Breivik is very special. These people that Israel is now releasing are freedom fighters, murderers, and in some cases terrorists, but they are nevertheless rather normal people," he told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Normal people, of course, slit the throats of infants, drive a bus filled with children off a cliff, and blow up restaurants, buses, schools and airplanes, as part of their "freedom fighting."
Norway is a very prosperous country, thanks to its oil wealth, which has not been squandered in Gulf Arab fashion. Its warm embrace of the Muslim/Arab world has brought a few hundred thousand immigrants to the country, and as in Sweden, where the same immigration policies have been adopted, crime rates have risen, and a separate unassimilated community has been created within the country.
One might think that there would be some soul-searching about the wisdom and success of the country's "open-border" policy. But that can wait. After all, it is easier to focus on Israel committing crimes, whether against the Palestinians, or in Norway itself.