Norway is part of
`the world against us'
Ha'aretz, April 26, 2002
By Yair Ettinger
If Israeli and Palestinian representatives ever again wanted to
meet in a neutral place to discuss a peace agreement, would Oslo
be it? "Not in the foreseeable future," says Professor
Nils Butenschon, director of the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights.
Mutual distrust between Israel and Norway has grown too deep, he
A symptom of this distrust could be seen in Israel's harsh response
to UN envoy Terje Larsen's criticism of the IDF's behavior in Jenin.
Many outraged Israelis hastened to point out that Larsen is a former
senior Norwegian government official, and that his wife is Norway's
ambassador to Israel. The reaction stemmed from the fact that over
the past few weeks, Norway has emerged as one of Israel's harshest
critics - even, said one Foreign Ministry official, compared to
other Scandinavian countries, all of which are known for their anti-Israel
Yet the harshest criticism is coming not from the Norwegian government,
but from groups that in previous years had close very ties with
Israel - academics, unions and the opposition Social- Democratic
A week ago Norway's largest trade union, representing some 800,000
workers, declared a consumer boycott of Israel. It urged its members
not to buy Israeli goods and to reject invitations from any Israeli
Supermarket chains promptly began labeling Israeli produce with
special stickers to help the boycott, and truckers refused to transport
Israeli goods from the ports. This week, a scheduled concert by
a Hasidic band in Oslo was canceled - even though the band members
were Swiss Jews, not Israelis.
The academic community has been particularly active. Oslo University
has publicly urged its faculty to protest against Israel, and senior
lecturers have gone even further, calling for a full-fledged boycott.
The boycott call was issued through two open letters published in
one of Norway's leading newspapers this month. In one, titled "Professors
are abetting war crimes," Professor Edvard Vogt, a lecturer
in law at Oslo University, wrote: "Among the Western countries,
there is only one, Israel, that is involved in a war of expansion,
that annexes and conquers the land of a neighboring people, bombs
and destroys the neighboring people's infrastructure, shoots its
children and aspires to ethnic cleansing. But most Israeli academics
refrain from protest ... An educated Israeli who doesn't take a
clear stand against his country's policy is a collaborator. And
if we continue to cooperate with Israeli academics without holding
them responsible, we are also collaborators... Just as Hitler did
in Mein Kampf, Sharon and his partners have made their intentions
clear ... There is no doubt that Sharon wants to establish `greater
Author Yoram Kaniuk, who has been hosted in Oslo several times
in recent years, said that when talk turns to politics, "you
discover bottomless hatred. The impression is that suddenly it is
permissible to say anything - against Israel and against Jews ...
Have you ever heard them talk like that about what the Russians
are doing in Chechnya, or about the oppression of 40 million Kurds?"
Unlike in many other European countries, attitudes in homogeneous
Norway are not the product of a large Muslim population. Butenschon
explains that after World War II, Norway felt a strong obligation
to Israel, which translated both into military and economic aid
and emotional attachment. Now, he said, "many Norwegians feel
betrayed. Israel disappointed them from a moral standpoint and crossed