On Wednesday, June 13, during an Internet search, I ran across a left-wing Norwegian blog with which I was previously unfamiliar. The posting I stumbled upon dated back to February and was concerned with what it described as my many lies about Norway. Chief among these lies, apparently, is my claim that “there is strong antisemitism in Norway’s ‘elite.’” The blogger claimed to find this claim outrageous. “Does he not know the labour party [sic] has historical strong ties with Israel? That a recent prime minister was a devoted friend of Israel?”
Less than an hour later, I followed a link in my inbox to a just-posted Jerusalem Post article by Benjamin Weinthal headlined “Norwegian student in Oslo burns Jewish pupil.” The story, which was originally reported on June 12 by a Norwegian Jewish blog, Med Israel for Fred (With Israel for Peace) – MIFF for short – was straightforward enough: on June 11, at an Oslo secondary school barbecue, an ethnic Norwegian student had burned a Jewish classmate with a red-hot coin, leaving “a very visible burn on the boy’s neck.” In a letter to Norway’s Minister of Justice, Grete Faremo, the Simon Wiesenthal Center complained that “this child has been the subject of anti-Semitic bullying and violence for the past two years, reportedly, because his father is Israeli,” but that “there has been no reaction by the school, the police or governmental authorities.” The Wiesenthal Center complained that “the silence of the school, the police and your government is too reminiscent of another Norway, under the WWII Nazi collaborator, Quisling.”
Vebjørn Dysvik, Norway’s chargé d’affaires in Tel Aviv, told the Post in an e-mail that he knew nothing more about the case than what had already been reported and insisted that “the Norwegian government has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying in schools.” But Dysvik didn’t leave it at that. He also took the occasion to complain that the letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center “contains several extreme statements that lack any foundation in reality. We take exception to the attempt of painting a picture of Norway and Norwegian society as being anti-Semitic. This is a gross distortion of facts for which the Center must bear responsibility.”
The very fact that Dysvik felt comfortable slapping back at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in this snotty manner reflects the Norwegian government’s exceedingly different way of responding to charges of anti-Semitism, which is a very real and escalating problem in Norway, and to charges of “Islamophobia,” that invention of the Muslim Brotherhood which, in Norway as elsewhere, is employed by the usual suspects to manipulate nervous multiculturalists. Clearly, while Norwegian officials like Dysvik are terrified of offending Muslims, they are not terribly worried about offending Jews.
But the main point here is that Dysvik’s glib rejection of the Wiesenthal Center’s charges is an offense against reality. As Weinthal writes, “Norway’s school system has permitted an increasingly hostile climate for Jewish pupils….Critics say Jewish students have been subject to assaults in Norway’s schools, and teachers have simply looked the other way.” A recent report on anti-Semitism in Norway by the Norwegian Holocaust Center explicitly states something that any halfway conscious person in the country already knows – namely, that the Norwegian media play a major role in disseminating and reinforcing anti-Semitism. (In this context, it’s worth noting that, immediately after reading Weinthal’s article, I carried out a series of Google searches in an attempt to discover whether the barbecue incident had been covered by any Norwegian media other than the MIFF blog. Only one item turned up: a story that had been posted an hour earlier on the website of Vårt Land, a small, Christian, Israel-friendly daily newspaper.)
Also helping fan the flames of Jew-hate, as the Holocaust Center report acknowledged, is Norway’s political left. A third factor, I might add, is the hatred for Jews that is a prominent feature of the Islamic holy books and, consequently, a major attribute of the Norwegian Muslim community. I say “I might add” because the Holocaust Center itself chose not to include this on its list of leading causes of anti-Semitism in Norway. On the contrary, far from acknowledging that a disproportionate number of anti-Semitic acts in Norway are committed by Muslims and that the fierce Jew-hatred inculcated in Muslim children from infancy has contributed in no small way to a general atmosphere of anti-Semitism in Norwegian schools, where a rapidly growing percentage of the students are Muslim (in 2009, 39 percent of primary-school students in Oslo had immigrant backgrounds), the Holocaust Center – predictably – turned its anti-Semitism report, in large part, into a report on prejudice against both Jews and Muslims. This is par for the course in Norway: it’s rare to hear any discussion of anti-Semitism that doesn’t turn, sooner or later, into a bout of hand-wringing about “Islamophobia.” The unwritten rule is clear: Muslims must always be depicted as the #1 victims of prejudice, no matter what the facts may be; they must always be cast as objects of bigotry, never as bigots themselves.
In fact, though the Holocaust Center suggests that anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim prejudice go hand in hand in Norway (and in some cases this is undoubtedly true), there is another fact from which the Holocaust Center, again, preferred to look away – namely, that the growing anti-Semitism of many ethnic Norwegians, especially those belonging to the nation’s cultural elite, is intimately related to their pathetic eagerness to demonstrate their own Islamophilia. As I put it in an interview with Weinthal last year: “Multiculturalism has taught Norway’s cultural elite to take an uncritical, even obsequious, posture toward every aspect of Muslim culture and belief. When Muslim leaders rant against Israel and the Jews, the reflexive response of the multiculturalist elite is to join them in their rantings. This is called solidarity.” And though it is a major explanation as to why Norwegian anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is an explanation that official and semi-official agencies like the Holocaust Center dare not look at very closely.
I have mentioned that within an hour of running across that blog entry on June 13 about my alleged exaggerations about Norwegian anti-Semitism, I was reading Weinthal’s piece on the anti-Semitic incident at that school barbecue. Within that same hour, I happened across another news article, also just posted. Norway’s Center Party, it reported, had just proposed a law against male circumcision. On being informed of this proposal, Ervin Kohn, head of the country’s Jewish community, noted that if Norway introduced such a ban, “we would be the first country in the world to do so. It’s like re-introducing the second clause of the 1814 constitution.” Kohn was referring to the notorious “Jewish clause” of Norway’s constitution, which, until its repeal in 1851, excluded Jews from the kingdom. Alas, the treatment of Jews in today’s Norway brings to mind all kinds of parallels from the country’s history – none of them, needless to say, at all pleasant.
Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" will be published late this year by Broadside / Harper Collins.
This article appeared June 14th, 2012 in Front Page Magazine