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What People of Conscience Need to Know about Norway

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Casual observers of the Middle East are no doubt aware of the deeply anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist attitudes in the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. These groups make little attempt to conceal their desire for a world without Israel, and care not whether this goal is achieved through the so-called "right of return" that would grant millions of Palestinians the "right" to live in Israel, or through the liquidation of the "Zionist entity." Any rational observer knows these actions would end Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Nor do these groups devote much attention to distinguishing whether this aim should be achieved through violent jihad or by the expulsion of Israelis.

They often insist a peaceful and just solution can be achieved only if Jews return to their previous homes in the former Soviet Union, Morocco, Iraq or Germany.

The ubiquitous demand for the "liberation of Palestine" is understood by any rational observer to be an appeal not solely for the liberation of the West Bank but a euphemism for the destruction of Israel. In the end, they want Israel not to exist -- to be destroyed, and care little how it happens.

However, a new and not-so-subtle threat has emerged from one of the more peaceful places on earth -- Scandinavia. Norway has never posed a direct threat to Israel nor has it advocated Israel's liquidation.

However, many in its government, and some large businesses, have recently displayed a pattern of strong anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic attitudes that would make Islamist radicals very proud.

Why would a very tolerant, progressive and democratic government espouse such prejudicial views? Why is this significant for Jews and all persons of conscience? Western nations are typically categorized as advocates of liberty, democracy, human rights and tolerance.

The Kingdom of Norway is no exception and prides itself as a universal champion of these noble values.

For instance, in December 2010, the Norwegian government released a 12-page brochure affirming that "The protection of human rights is one of the main pillars of Norwegian foreign policy, and providing support for human rights defenders is a central part of these efforts."

Therefore, it would be imperative for Norway to practice what it preaches. However, Oslo's recent behavior reveals a proclivity toward singling out Israel among all other nations for international opprobrium.

Norwegian leaders and officials attempt to justify their anti-Israel actions based on the narrative that Israel occupies Palestinian land. They typically avoid specifically targeting Jews, for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic, but their actions nonetheless exhibit traits of "genteel anti-Semitism."

Norway once played an instrumental and nonpartisan role, during the Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s.

Then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made compromises and offered mutual recognition. Arafat renounced terrorism.

Norway's position has since dramatically changed.

In January 2006, Socialist politician Kristin Halvorsen proposed a boycott of Israeli products, while insisting that her views did not reflect the government. Oslo may have distanced itself from Halvorsen's controversial remarks, but it has refused to follow the United States and European Union's classification of Hamas as a designated terrorist organization.

"We condemn organizations that are involved in terrorism," said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, "but Norway has considered the situation as such that having lists where we put an organization and call it a terrorist organization will not serve our purposes."

Støre has also insisted that Israel dismantle its security wall built in response to the wave of suicide bombings from the West Bank.

Additional anti-Israel actions further raise the question of whether Norway objects to specific Israeli policies or is anti-Jewish. In 2008, Socialist politician Ingrid Fiskaa asserted to a Norwegian newspaper that the United Nations should fire "precision-guided missiles against Israeli targets."

Trine Lilleng, a Norwegian diplomat to Saudi Arabia, emailed dozens of pictures to friends of Holocaust pictures juxtaposed with images from Israel's war with Hamas in December 2008 to portray Jews as Nazis.

Moreover, during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel tirade at the Durban II Conference in Geneva, Norway remained in attendance while most other Western nations either boycotted the conference or walked out.

Norwegian anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment appears to be a "top-down" phenomenon. A 2010 report from NGO Monitor, which provides information on organizations claiming to advance human rights, revealed that Oslo provides tens of millions of kroner annually to West Bank and Gaza NGOs. Some of these organizations are blatantly anti-Israel and promote anti- Israel boycotts.

Norwegian Church Aid denounced Oslo's decision to withhold aid to the Hamas regime in Gaza in 2006, and has met with senior Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef.

The Norwegian People's Aid, funded by the Foreign Ministry, described Israel as "apartheid" and accused it of "war crimes."

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology tried to impose an academic boycott against Israeli universities in 2009, but the motion ultimately failed. On Nov. 9, the university hosted a six-session seminar featuring Norwegian scholars on Israel's alleged use of anti-Semitism as a political tool. In a letter to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the Simon Wiesenthal's director for international relations Shimon Samuels described the seminar as "a new stage in Norwegian incitement to Jew hatred."

In October 2010, Norway's Foreign Ministry announced that it would not permit the German shipbuilder HDW to test its Dolphin class submarine, built for the Israeli navy, in Norwegian territorial waters.

This, despite the fact that HDW leases a base from Norway to test its submarines in deep water.

The most recent example of Norway's genteel anti-Semitism was exemplified by Roar Arnstad, CEO of a Norwegian pharmaceutical chain called VITA, with his decision to boycott Ahava cosmetics manufactured in West Bank settlements. Arnstad justified the decision based on the logic that Israel's occupation of the West Bank was illegal and that therefore it would be immoral to purchase Israeli products from occupied territory. Arnstad denies holding anti-Semitic beliefs and claims his policy is only against the Israeli occupation, but if this was indeed sincere, he would apply the same boycott to other occupying nations.

But Norway does not propose academic boycotts against universities in China, Britain, Turkey, Armenia, India or Morocco, nor does it enact sanctions and divestment programs. Singling out Israel is anti-Semitism and this demonstrable fact cannot absolve the Norwegian government of its own bigotry.

I would like to remind the Norwegian government and corporate CEOs of the European Union's examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself:

"Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded by any other democratic nation; and drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis."

So tell us, do you boycott cultural and academic events in Britain (occupier of the Falkland Islands), China (occupier of Tibet), Russia (occupier of the Kuril Islands), Iran (occupier of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa Islands), Morocco (occupier of Western Sahara), Armenia (occupier of Nagorno-Karabakh) and Turkey (occupier of Northern Cyprus)? Do you ban imports from these countries? Moreover, do you criticize suicide bombings and rocket attacks against civilians with the same fervor with which you criticize Israeli policies? For many, regarding Norwegian policies -- enough is enough. If Vidkun Quisling was alive today and read the anti-Israel an anti-Semitic statements that were coming out of Norway, a big smile would appear on his face.

This article was first published in The Jerusalem Post.