Friday, November 20, 2009

SPEECH BY MANFRED GERSTENFELD: NORWAY'S ATTITUDES TOWARD ISRAEL AND THE JEWS.......



Continued..... from here

In my book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, there is an article by Odd Sverre Hove, the editor of the small Norwegian Christian daily Dagen, who analyzes how the state TV station NRK systematically manipulated the news from Israel in the first days of the second intifada in 2000.
There are only two TV stations in Norway: the state NRK and the commercial station TV2. The latter has hosted the infamous comedian Jespersen who said that he commiserated with the lice and fleas who made the bad choice of going onto the bodies of Jews in concentration camps. Worse still is that these remarks were considered acceptable by the director of the TV2 station.
That same station TV2 paid for the Holocaust denier David Irving to come to Norway this year and had him interviewed for more than a quarter of an hour by one of its journalists who showed hardly any knowledge of the Holocaust.
I can tell you from my own experience that the TV2 people are major falsifiers of what a person says and the National Telegraph Bureau, which is the main provider of foreign news to the 300 Norwegian papers, is hardly any better. The situation is one of a mixture of manipulation and a widespread very low level of journalistic professionalism in Norway.
No Level Playing Field
Let me make this clear. Norway is a democratic country – it is not the Soviet Union under Communist rule. It is not that the ruling parties rigidly promote only anti-Israel hate. But once you promote hatred this overshadows everything else you do. There is no state sponsored anti-Semitism in Norway. The government however supports a reality which is conducive to anti-Semitism. This means that in Norway there is no real possibility for a battle of ideas. For that you need a level playing field, and that level playing field does not exist in Norway.
The reasons why there is no level playing field in Norway are many: Thete is this hard core extreme left elite, others are socialists who have a tendency to show solidarity with the weak. This includes whitewashing those weak people who are extreme criminals, such as genocidal Muslims. Added to this is the fact that there are no checks and balances resulting from foreign newspapers reporting on the Norwegian realities. That is also why there is so little selfcriticism in the country.
The situation is complicated by other factors. First is that with the immigration of a large number of Muslims into Norway, a number of extreme criminal anti-Semites have entered the country. This became evident in the riots during the Gaza campaign which, according to the police, were the most severe Oslo had seen in decades. Shops were burned on Oslo’s main street. Today the extreme anti-Semitic Muslims in Norway probably outnumber the 700 members of the Jewish community. (Slide 4)
Furthermore, there is a long tradition of anti-Semitism in the country. It is not true that what one sees in Norway is pure anti-Israelism, which has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Minister Halvorsen however did not leave the anti-Israel demonstration when there were shouts of “Death to the Jews.”
Another Obsession: No anti-Semitism
Besides the obsession with Israel, there is another obsession in Norway which concerns the Jewish people. That is the obsessive way in which one is told by many Norwegians that there is no anti-Semitism in Norway.
Because of that lack of anti-Semitism two of the three Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated in the last five years, the synagogue has been shot at in 2006, the cantor has been attacked on Oslo’s main street. Jewish children in schools have been harassed. Some Jews have received death threats. The community, the school and the old age home need heavy security. All these signs of lack of anti-Semitism show that Norwegian Jews are in a position which is typical of all other Norwegians.
There is nothing many Norwegians are more sensitive to than being reminded of Quisling, the war-time Norwegian prime minister whose name has become the expression of the archetype of a traitor in English and many other languages. It was not the German occupiers who arrested the Jews, but the Norwegian collaborators. They handed the Jews over to the Germans, to be sent to their death.
We are always told that Quisling had only limited support in the country. This is true as far as the elections are concerned, but the number of anti-Semites was far larger. A great majority of parliamentarians had voted to prohibit Jewish ritual slaughter already in 1929. In Germany this happened only when the Nazis came to power in 1933. A false claim is that the Norwegian prohibition derived from their concern for animals. If so, they should have long ago prohibited hunting and the killing of whales, which until today is still allowed in Norway.
Oil and Gas
Norway was an insignificant country until large quantities of oil and gas were found there. Prior to that, fishing and farming were its main activities. Today you might say that the country specializes in fish, oil and gas; one of my acquaintances has said that, to this, you have to add boredom.
The wealth gained from oil and gas has enabled the Norwegian government to build a new mythology. Norway may be small in population, but it is great in charitable, humanitarian aid. This is what I call Norway’s “humanitarian mask.” As Gerald Steinberg and Yael Beck show in an article in my upcoming book in Norwegian, under the heading “humanitarian aid” Norway provides substantial funds to Palestinian and other NGOs which incite against Israel.
The same wealth also gives the Norwegian government the feeling that it can criticize Israel, while at the same time being silent or soft on the endless crimes in the Arab world. To a certain extent, such an attitude contradicts one of the basic characteristics which Norway claims for itself : the so-called Jante Law. This law says that you should not think that you are better than someone else. The Norwegian government however thinks that it is better than Israel and can thus teach Israel some lessons. You might put it this way: to a certain extent, part of all that gas has gone to their heads.
Should Norway teach Israel lessons? The former commander of the Norwegian army General Robert Mood, is now based in Jerusalem, as part of a United Nations mission. In 2008, he said that the Norwegian army’s current capability is that it cannot defend the country, but it could defend one neighborhood in Oslo. I also read in Aftenposten that the Norwegians are only now investigating major war crimes by Norwegians in a prisoner camp during the Second World War,
The Jewish Community
Before I come to the most recent events, a few words about the Jewish community: In a country where you have two or three Jews at most among every 10,000 citizens, they of course play no role. But, the Jews in Norway play symbolic roles. When there are accusations of anti-Semitism, the Jewish community is supposed to say that it isn’t so bad.
In this way they have the symbolic role of whitewashers of the country’s misbehavior. In my recent essay, which is available here, I quote a number of examples of Norwegian Jews who, on various occasions, have said that the situation isn’t so great as far as anti-Semitism is concerned. And even the head of the Oslo Jewish community, a significant whitewasher has said on various occasions that the situation is problematic. This is the essence of the Diaspora existence in such a country. As one lives as a Jew in Norway and make his living there, one must promote the image of the country even if that means twisting the truth.
Elbit
Let me now conclude with short observations of the two most recent discriminatory events: The first one is the Elbit story. Out of so called ethical considerations, the large Norwegian pension fund disinvested from Elbit. The same pension fund however has no ethical problems with investing in companies which mine phosphate in the disputed Western Sahara. The local population there sees this as robbing their natural resources.
The Norwegian state-controlled Statoil Company is trying to get into Turkmenistan, one of the least democratic countries in the world. Statoil also is invested in a project of oil from oil sand in Alberta in Canada where it will destroy a forest the size of England. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says that the decision to divest from Elbit had nothing to do with the Norwegian government but is the decision of a private fund.
I always have the feeling that the difference between some Norwegian politicians and politicians- in other countries is that, when these Norwegians twist the truth, they do it more transparently. If it were a private pension fund, why was the decision announced by Minister Halvorsen?
The NTNU Affair
The other recent major discriminatory issue is the NTNU affair. The NTNU university in Trondheim already had an anti-Israel record. Its student union, of which membership is obligatory, boycotted Israel for almost a year in 2004. In May this year a number of professors from NTNU and the local Trondheim college Hist, asked the boards of the two institutions to boycott Israel. Apparently, the board of the college shortly afterwards voted against this.
In September a series of seminars on the Middle East, to be given over a few months, was announced. All six lecturers are anti-Israelis. Tomorrow night Ilan Pappe speaks there. The key organizers are all people who had signed the resolution to boycott Israel. Despite all this, the rector Torbjørn Digernes supported and financed a large part of the series. It was another pioneering act of anti-Israelism in Norway.
The NTNU affair requires a detailed case study and a detailed seminar on another occasion, so let me just summarize it briefly:
Entirely by chance someone discovered a few weeks before the board meeting on 12 November that the academic boycott of Israel was on its agenda. One NTNU professor, Bjørn Alsberg, prepared a petition to the board against the boycott. It would ultimately be signed by 103 NTNU professors, far more than those who had signed the pro-boycott petition. On the basis of Alsberg’s petition, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East prepared a petition against the boycott, which was signed by 3,500 academics all over the world, among whom were 13 Nobel Prize winners including the only two living Norwegian prize winners.
Other Jewish organizations, including ADL, AJCommittee, the Wiesenthal Center, CAMERA, World Jewish Congress, Academic Friends of Israel in the UK and many others, were very helpful. The boycott was also condemned by the Association of American University Professors, the Russell Group of the leading 20 UK universities, etc.
After all the bad international publicity finally the minister of higher education, Torah Aasland an extreme leftist herself, said that the board had no legal authority to support such an issue. Suddenly a few days before the vote, NTNU Rector Digernes who had partly financed the propaganda seminars organized by people who promote the boycott came to the conclusion that he had always been against the boycott. In the end the entire board was against the boycott.
Prof. Alsberg told me that the media present at the NTNU Board meeting were afterwards mainly interested in talking to the people who had supported the boycott. In a country where the battlefield for the battle of ideas is level, they would have been more interested in interviewing the winners, rather than the losers.
In this short introduction I could not cover all the incidents of the last year. These included Foreign Minister Støre maintaining the Holocaust memory abuser Trine Lilleng as a diplomat in Riyadh; the visit of Queen Sophia to a Muslim institution in Oslo, whose imam supports suicide bombings; and Norwegian government investment of $30 million in memory of the author Knut Hamsun, who dedicated his Nobel Prize for Literature to Goebbels and remained an admirer of Hitler till the end of the war.
The present Norwegian government was recently elected for four years. We can thus expect again many anti-Semitic and anti-Israelis incidents in Norway in the coming years. My conclusion is that we will have to gradually show the Norwegian Israel-haters and anti-Semites that there are no free anti-Semitic lunches. Thank you for your attention.