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Anatomy of an anti-Semitic falsehood: ‘Jerusalem Post’ said Norway’s Finance Minister led chant, ‘Death to the Jews!’

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Bruce Wolman of Bethesda, MD, lived in Norway for more than 20 years. He reads the Norwegian press in Norwegian and offers the following exclusive report:

According to NTB, the Norwegian wire service, Norway's Finance Minister and Socialist Left party leader, Kristin Halvorsen (left) was described as a Jew-hater in an article released on the net issue of the Jerusalem Post Monday morning and later withdrawn. The article purported to describe the rising hatred of Jews in Norway.

Reporter Maya Spitzer wrote:

"Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment has exploded in Norway – driven by the Norwegian media and intellectual elite – due to Operation Cast Lead, according to Norwegian Jewish leaders.

"During the war, Oslo was fraught with violent anti-Israel demonstrations. Numerous government officials decried Israel's actions in Gaza – including Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen, who led a march shouting, "Death to the Jews!" Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who worked in Gaza and disseminated stories about Israel's brutality, became a national hero in the Norwegian media.

"Even before the war began, local Jews were tense because of anti-Semitic cartoons, recent boycotts of Israel merchandise, and the highly publicized affair of Norwegian comic Otto Jespersen, who made anti-Semitic remarks on national television.

"This wave continued with renowned Norwegian painter Håken Gullvåg's opening a new exhibition entitled 'Requiem for the Children of Gaza' in Trondheim over the weekend. The city's mayor, Rita Otterwik, applauded Gullvåg for accurately depicting the Gaza conflict. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg also commended Gullvåg for 'painting pictures that place this [the plight of the Palestinians] on the agenda.'"

The article raised a storm in the Norwegian media. The strongest reaction was to the claim that Halvorsen shouted "Death to the Jews" during the march. This is an outright falsehood. Norway's leading newspaper, Aftenposten, told its readers that the Jerusalem Post article claimed "Norwegian society is riddled with anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli attitudes".

After Norwegian reporters inundated the Jerusalem Post's offices with enquiries, the article in question was temporarily removed from the Web site. The Post said that it would refuse to answer the Norwegians' questions, however, until its editor David Horovitz, became available. News editor, David Brinn, later said to Afterposten.no that the paper stands behind the contents of the article:

We received rather many reactions after we published the article, and we removed it for safety's sake while we checked the facts. Doubts were raised about its truthfulness, but the content absolutely agrees with reality, said Brinn.

A new version of the article was published on the web site today, but was again removed. The revised version no longer had Halvorsen shouting "Death to the Jews" but instead wrote that "Death to the Jews" was heard from participants in the march. Brinn told Aftenposten:

The Finance Minister led a demonstration against 'Operation Cast Lead' . We want to ask her why she led this demonstration and if she knew about the shouts at the demonstration. The article will return. It will be republished as soon as we have been in contact with the Finance Minister."

When Aftenposten directly asked Brinn whether the Jerusalem Post was claiming that the Finance Minister shouted "Death to the Jews," the editor responded that he couldn't hear the question due to a bad telephone connection. Aftenposten repeated the question and Brinn then cut the phone call.

The Socialist Left Party of Norway issued the following press release in English: 

Kristin Halvorsen participated in a demonstration for peace in Gaza on January 8th this year. There were no anti-Jewish slogans during the event what so ever, as The Jerusalem Post alleges.

There were appeals for inter-religious coexistence and peace, calling on Israel to stop the war on Gaza. The demonstration lasted for about an hour, and was a dignified and peaceful event.

A splinter-group continued a march towards the Israeli embassy afterwards. This was not a part of the official demonstration, and Kristin Halvorsen did not join this rally. She publicly denounced the violent outbreak that occurred in the aftermath of the peace demonstration.

When Dagbladet, another national Norwegian newspaper reached the Jerusalem Post reporter, Maya Spitzer, she told them:

Everything I wrote is accurate. I have received information from several sources. From Israel-Wat, from Manfred Gerstenfeld and Imre Hercz. But I don't want you to cite me on anything.

Israel-Wat, "Israel's War Against Terror" web site, is an extremist propaganda source. Manfred Gerstenfeld, who grew up in the Netherlands, is Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and director of the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs. Last year he penned an article, Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews. Imre Hercz is a Holocaust survivor living in Oslo.

Hercz

Dagbladet spoke with Hercz [photo above] and he is not comfortable with the Jerusalem Post article:

The article is just crazy and I am dismayed. I spoke with the journalist at length, twice, and I said the exact opposite. But this did not fit into her scheme.

Hercz has written a reply which he wants the Jerusalem Post to publish. He plans to send his response this evening.

I do not experience the Norwegian people as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. There is a small part of the Norwegian radical left from the 68-generation which are that. There are some in Norway who attack Israel and America regardless. For me, anti-Semitism is when people demand something of Jews and Israel which they don't demand of others. To demand a trade boycott of Israel on account of the occupation – while at the same time not demanding a boycott of China on account of the occupation of Tibet.

Hercz is not only concerned about the Jerusalem Post article. He doubts also the objectivity of Manfred Gerstenfeld, who steadily criticizes Norway for anti-Semitism.

I doubt his objectivity and I am very tired of his propaganda war against Norway. We are about 1500 Jews in the community in Norway, and the milieu is not large. Let Gerstenfeld show his sources. I would gladly meet them myself.

Dagbladet writes that in an interview with Norway's TV2 this month Gerstenfeld asserted that "Norway is an anti-Semitic nation."

Norway has been in the forefront of opposition to Israel with clear signs of anti-Semitism, claimed Professor Gerstenfeld, who has also characterized Norwegians as a barbaric and non-intellectual society which "has a sick need to defy world opinion."

Hercz noted,

He [Gerstenfeld] has been to Norway once, and I don't know anyone who has spoken with him. I told him that it is not always so easy to be a Jew in Norway, but Gerstenfled goes much further than that.

Aftenposten interviewed Anna Sender, leader of the Jewish religious community in Norway. She doesn't believe that the article will worsen the relationship between Norway and Israel, but says it won't make the situation any better for the Jewish minority in Norway.

This type of reporting is not acceptable. It is rather unfortunate, and we don't identify with it. We have discussed this also with the newspaper.

Sender wants to see an accurate picture of Norway in the Israeli media, and finds it regrettable that the papers' readers only get half the story.

The content in the article is not correct factually. Yes, the Finance Minister went in a demonstration march, but that does not mean that she supports all the attitudes which are expressed under the demonstration….

Norway has a long and warm friendship with Israel and with the Palestinians. The possibilities which good contacts can shape are destroyed when descriptions of reality are based upon stigmatizing events and statements more than understanding and nuance. This serves neither one nor the other side.

Norway became one of Israel's biggest supporters upon the foundation of the state. Elements of the left have supported Palestinian rights since the sixties, but there remained amazing cross-party support for Israel up until the nineties. After Norwegian troops were assigned to Hebron to help keep the peace between the Israeli settlers and the Palestinian residents, attitudes in Norway gradually began to change in the wider population. The soldiers did not return with positive stories about the extremist settlers and their behavior towards the Palestinians or the troops. Once Israel turned "Oslo" into a dirty word, Norwegian support for Israel continued to decline. The Sharon regime did not help the Israeli cause, but the issue was not a major one in Norway. In the more recent years, labor unions and youth groups have tried to organize boycotts, but they have not come very far. Israel reacted very negatively to these even modest efforts and the demonization of Norway in the Israeli press picked up steam. The Gaza war, however, has unleashed a great deal of ill will for Israel and all the Norwegian politician's have been forced to declare a stand.

Since the war, anti-Semitism has not been a problem in Norway except among the very small extremist neo-Nazi groups. The government has moved against these groups in a manner harsher than the United States has with its similar groups. Hate speech is more restricted under Norwegian than American law. The right-wing Populist party, which has grown to one of the two biggest in Norway, is Israel's biggest political supporter.

Israel's attempts to portray any opposition or even support for Palestinians as anti-Semitism is bound to have a backlash and for the first time you are beginning to see this among Norwegians.

David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, has been on a crusade to paint any foreigner who doesn't accept Israeli hasbara as either naive, irrational or anti-Semitic. I would suggest you see his op-ed of the other day, but then I wouldn't want you to spend the $3.95 the Post is now charging to view it.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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