After the Massacre: Anti-Semitism, Islam, and Norway

How would you describe the government’s stance toward Israel?

Suissa: Over the years it has made an easily observable u-turn. From being an ardent supporter of the young Jewish homeland and a formerly neutral peace broker in the Arab-Israeli negotiations, Norway has under its present government taken a decisive step to ally politically with the Palestinian side and to leave her former friend by the roadside. This is another aspect of Norwegian politics downplayed by the media.

One of the foremost advocates of this change of Norwegian foreign policy in recent years and the man who irreversibly took sides with the Palestinian Arabs in the conflict is Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. His role in changing his country's relationship with the international community has to a great extent passed without significant debate in Norway. Norwegians have been generally satisfied by living in their own growing welfare bubble, isolated from the evils of the world and very content by having their country ranked number one among countries worth living in.

What can you tell us about Gahr Støre?

Suissa: He came to political office after having been headhunted by leaders of the Labour Party. As a former career bureaucrat he also had to prove his mettle among the radical fringes of his new party. He did so by clarifying Norway's stance towards all the parties of the conflicts of the Middle East; he was the first Western leader to recognize and establish political and economic ties to organizations like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, and recently the Somalian terrorist organization al-Shabaab. His most important slogan is: "Dialogue."

What does the Utoya massacre mean for Norway’s Jewish community?

Suissa: The majority of Jews in Norway try to conceal their Jewish identity. We have three very small congregations which represent a few hundred observant Jews. For the time being there is a full silence, as most Jews have reacted instinctively with fear, afraid of becoming victims of the ongoing blame game. I know this for fact, as some of them have let me know in private conversations. The media were quick to make headlines of the allegation that the murderer was “pro-Israeli.” I see this as part of the massive media propaganda to silence the "right-wing" opposition, which is also generally positive towards Israel.

Are there already any reactions to the massacre which you would describe as anti-Jewish or anti-Israel?

Suissa: I do not fear that the recent atrocities by themselves will increase anti-Semitism in Norway, and I do not see at the moment any reactions to the massacre and bombing which I would describe as anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli. I am however quite worried that the witch hunt directed against the political opposition by the largely left-wing media may make it even more difficult to express solidarity with Israel in public.

We have seen examples of anti-Israeli incitement -- not the least of which came from the foreign minister -- just prior to the terrorist massacre, which I fear may settle as a rock bottom "truth," in particular among the less historically informed younger generations who were traumatized by the terrorist, and this scenario worries me a lot.

After the publication of the report on anti-Semitism in June, the minister had the courage to state that our politicians did have a responsibility for the situation, saying that: "A jargon of slang terms which may have unintended and very grave consequences, may easily take root. Those of us who have the political responsibility must talk about this and counteract such expressions.” Unfortunately, he had forgotten his own piece of good advice -- as late as the day before the shooting he met his expectant colleagues with unmistakably anti-Israeli slogans, saying to his cheering young audience: "The Palestinians must have their own state. The occupation must end, the wall must be torn down, and this must happen now!"

One of the more long-term negative consequences of this brutal terrorist act in Norway is a limitation of the freedom of speech. People have become terrified of being connected to the mass-murderer, whom the media describe as a “conservative Christian fundamentalist.” This tag is sufficient to paralyze half of the Norwegian population, where the majority of the supporters of Israel and the Jews are found. At present we observe a form of slanderous media defamation of Christians which in some cases has already acquired an eerie resemblance to classical anti-Semitism. This witch hunt, spreading like a steppe fire, has already paralyzed conservative bloggers in this country, and I fear others will also suffer before the media may end up with the classical compromise of blaming the Jews.