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By persisting in slagging Norway, ‘Jerusalem Post’ drains the meaning from the word, ‘anti-Semitism’

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Bruce Wolman writes:
"Norwegian Jews disagree with The Jerusalem Post," blazed the headline of the Norwegian paper Dagbladet in its most commented-upon article today. For the third day the Norwegian media provided ongoing coverage of an Israeli-Norwegian spat. Surveying the wreckage, one wonders if the famed Israeli Hasbara Machine needs an overhaul.

The story continued to have legs as The Jerusalem Post posted its third effort to write about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Norway. The Post brought in a new reporter, Haviv Rettig Gur, and offered the following disclaimer at the end of the thrice revised article:

This article supersedes an article published earlier this week on Norway which contained inaccuracies, and has been withdrawn.

The Post dropped earlier false assertions about the Norwegian Finance Minister, but the latest version of the article leads as aggressively as the previous two with

Israel's Operation Cast Lead in January has sparked a sharp rise in incidents of violence and anti-Semitic statements in Norway that were directed at Israel and the local Jewish community.

But this time the Post reports conflicting testimonies from different Jewish Norwegians. For this version, the Post's A-team managed to find Michael Melchior, the titular chief Rabbi of Norway. Actually, it should not have been too difficult to locate Melchior. He is a former member of the Israeli Knesset and Cabinet Minister.

According to Melchior, the claim that Norway is anti-Semitic is false, and "achieved by taking a complex reality and willfully painting a bleak picture."

For example, he says, "I walk the street in Oslo wearing more than just a Star of David" – Melchior sports the beard, suit and black kippa of ultra-Orthodox Jews – "without being bothered. The same goes for my son, the rabbi of the synagogue in Oslo, and my grandchildren, who walk the streets unafraid."

Melchior notes that "on the Shabbat following the anti-Israel demonstrations, which were not so well-attended in the first place, the foreign minister and the archbishop of Oslo, together with other Norwegian leaders, came to Oslo's synagogue to protest" the anti-Semitic expressions heard at some of the demonstrations.

Dr. Imre Hercz, who reporter Maya Spitzer claimed was a source for her original article, now is quoted in the Post as saying

"It's not right to say that Norway is anti-Semitic," he insists. "Most people are not anti-Semitic. I love Norway. I love Israel. Official Norway has been very good to Israel, has helped Israel and sold oil to Israel. There's a problem with the leftists, who hate America too, and with some youngsters who demonstrate against Israel but won't demonstrate against China or Iran. But these are few. The problem is not as big as you think."

Other Jews in Norway revealed to the Post a picture closer to that portrayed in the original article:

According to Erez Uriely, an Israeli biologist who has lived in Norway since 1992, Jews in Norway "are scared to wear a kippa outside. I'm one of the few who do so. In schools, the word 'Jew' itself is a pejorative term."
Uriely founded the Center Against Anti-Semitism, which records and tries to combat anti-Semitic incidents and trends in the country of 4.6 million.

Uriely told the Post about several run-ins he had experienced with anti-Semites, but even he has to admit that Norway is not Gaza.

Uriely acknowledges that "such incidents are rare. Violence doesn't really exist in Norway. And more often, people go out of their way to be nice to you when they see that you're different."

Still Uriely maintains there is value in his anti-Semitic investigations, especially as the Norwegians are so responsive:

Though he is exasperated that the local community leadership "doesn't acknowledge the depth of the problem of anti-Semitism," he believes calling attention to anti-Semitic incidents helps bring the Norwegians themselves to correct the problem.

"In my experience, when you raise a concern in Norway – not just about anti-Semitism, also about hospital or other issues – it's corrected quickly. I wish Israel worked so efficiently," he said.

The Post claims it also talked with another Norwegian Jew, Cap. David Weiss, who has served in the Norwegian military since 1988. Weiss states:

the Jews are in "a very bad condition [in Norway]. If you wear a Star of David around your neck, as I do, you're taking a chance that you will be spat on, or attacked, or have nasty things said to you."

But Weiss also tempers his criticism:

Yet, despite such run-ins, Weiss says that in his experience, "the average Norwegian is more on the side of the Jews and Israel." He blames certain politicians, what he considers a far-Leftist media and immigrants from Muslim countries for creating the discourse that produces virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks and statements.

In this third attempt The Jerusalem Post seems to be rising to the standards of journalism set by The New York Times and the Washington Post. Bbut wait, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet also did some of its own investigating:

It seems the Post failed to mention that Erez Uriely was excluded from Oslo's synagogue in 2004 on account of his close cooperation with an extreme right-wing political party and with an anti-Islamic organization, Forum Against Islamization.

And Dagbladet also tried to locate Captain Weiss. It appears that Captain Weiss cannot be found on the tax rolls, which are a public listing of every individual who pays taxes in Norway. Perhaps out of fear, Captain Weiss cannot be found in any of the Norwegian telephone catalogues either. He has never presented himself to any of the Norwegian media.

Taking everything into consideration, one has to ask, why did the Jerusalem Post see the need to write this article in the first place? 

Bruce Wolman
About Bruce Wolman

Bruce Wolman is a citizen journalist who has lived in Norway and the Washington area.

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