There was a decline in antisemitic manifestations in 2004, especially compared to the first two years after the outbreak of the second intifada. One of the most controversial incidents in 2004 was the placing in August of an antisemitic sculpture in the center of Oslo by the municipality.
the jewish community
There are approximately 1,500 Jews in Norway, out of a population of 4.4 million, mostly in and around the capital Oslo; about 200 Jews live in Trondheim. Both cities have a synagogue. The main organizing body is the Jewish Community of Oslo, which operates a kindergarten, a home for the aged, a kosher grocery store and a ritual bath, and publishes the periodical Hatikwa. Ritual slaughter is forbidden by law, and kosher meat is imported.
In March 1999, Norway became the first country occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II to create a fund for the restitution of Jewish property confiscated by the Quisling government. A significant part of the settlement − NOK40 million − between the State of Norway and the Jewish communities of Norway finances the Center for Holocaust and Religious Minority Studies in Norway, a research and documentation institution affiliated with the University of Oslo.
POLITICAL PARTIES and extra-parliamentary groups
The opposition right-wing, populist Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) is the third largest political party in Norway, with 25 out of 165 seats in the national parliament. It calls for a stricter asylum and immigration policy, and has twice called for the banning of circumcision of boys according to the Jewish and Muslim rituals. At the same time, the Progress Party is overtly and strongly pro-Israel and pro-American, hence attracting some support among Norwegian Jews. Party chairman Carl I. Hagen is sharply critical of Austrian FPÖ leader Jörg Haider and has repeatedly told the Norwegian media that he opposes Nazism. In 2000, the Progress Party expelled several high-profile members for overly populist (e.g., making promises to lower taxes or cheapen the price of liquor, which they cannot keep) and/or racist attitudes. Most of the expellees founded a new party, the Democrats.
The Democrats are led by Vidar Kleppe. Former Progress Party MP Jan Simonsen joined the Democrats in October 2001, and is currently their only representative in Parliament. The Democrats are similar to the Progress Party in many respects; however, they have tended to be much more outspoken on the immigrant question.
The National Alliance (Nasjonalalliansen), founded in 1999, consists of several marginal extreme right parties, such as the White Electoral Alliance (Hvit Valgallianse), White Youth (Hvit Ungdom), United Nationalists (Forente Nasjonalister), the Norwegian Patriot Unity Party (Norges Patriotiske Enhetsparti), Norway against Immigration (Norge Mot Innvandring) and the Fatherland Party (Fedrelandspartiet). The model of the National Alliance is the French Front National (see also ASW 2003/4).
Neo-Nazi and Racist Groups
Compared to Sweden and Denmark, extreme right-wing activity in Norway is marginal, and the number of organized racists is no more than 200. Extreme right-wing groups concentrate their activity in southern, eastern and central Norway. There are close ties between Norwegian neo-Nazis and similar groups in Sweden, Great Britain and the United States. Members of Norwegian groups often visit their neighbors, particularly in Sweden, to participate in concerts and meetings, and import most of their music from abroad.
Most Norwegian Nazi groups are small and poorly organized. Their main activity is disseminating anti-immigration and antisemitic propaganda on the Internet. The most violent group, National Youth, formerly, Boot Boys (until summer 2003), was founded in 1997 by Tore Wilhelm Tvedt, who was ousted as leader due to his ban on alcohol. Boot Boys was subsequently headed by Terje Sjøli, and had fewer than 50 members, most with a criminal record. Three members of Boot Boys were responsible for the murder in Oslo of the Norwegian-African teenager Benjamin Hermansen, in January 2001 (see ASW 2003/4).
The Norwegian National Socialist Movement (Norges Nasjonalsosialistiske Bevegelse), led by Erik Rune Hansen, has 40–50 members, publishes the magazine Gjallarhorn, and in 1999 issued The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The group is associated with the transnational neo-Nazi Blood & Honour, whose Scandinavian branch includes the Norwegian neo-Nazi activist Henrik Blücher. In contrast to National Youth, the Norwegian National Socialist Movement counts older individuals among its members, some of whom were active Nazis during World War II.
Vigrid, founded and led by Tore Wilhelm Tvedt, former leader of Boot Boys, is the only group that appears to be growing. It identifies closely with the US National Alliance, and members of Vigrid have been involved in murders and armed robberies. The group has published the magazine Vigrid since 1999, but most of its propaganda, directly mostly against Jews but also against non-white immigrants, is spread via the Internet.
Vigrid actively recruits very young followers, and practices its own versions of Christian baptism and confirmation. Terje W. Tvedt, who claims to be the prophet of the Norse god Odin, seeks to convert Norway to paganism after expelling or killing Jews and immigrants. Due to these alarming attempts to reach out to children and young teenagers, the Norwegian police launched a campaign in 2003 to counter Vigrid propaganda among elementary and high school students (ASW 2003/4).
Tore Wilhelm Tvedt was convicted in April 2002 for claiming that Jews had sexual intercourse with their dead. He remains free while his appeal is being considered by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the police are investigating Tvedt for statements he made in July 2003 about deporting the Jews from Norway.
There was a decline in antisemitic manifestations in 2004, especially compared to the first two years after the outbreak of the second intifada. A controversial incident occurred in August when the municipal authorities placed a sculpture entitled “The Wall: Fragments from History,” by Sigurd Bjorn Engvik, in the center of Oslo. The piece consisted of yellow stars (which Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi regime), symbolizing the allegedly murderous nature of Jews, a dollar sign, representing 'Jewish greed', and the word ‘Holocaust’ together with the date, 29 November 1947 (the date of the UN vote for the partition of Palestine). Quotations from the Ten Commandments and the Bible supposedly signified Israel's disregard for Jewish ethics. The Jewish community of Oslo and the Norwegian Association against Antisemitism protested the display of an exhibit that used classical antisemitic symbols to attack the Jewish religion and mock the Shoah.
In February, Norwegian state TV-channel NRK 1 hosted a live debate on contemporary antisemitism. During the discussion, NRK’s Middle East correspondent Lars Sigurd Sunnanå stated that reports of antisemitic activities may have been invented by European Jews in order to divert attention away from Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
During another debate, in August, between Swedish researcher of antisemitism Henrik Bachner and the president of the Norwegian PEN club, Kjell Olaf Jensen, at the Bjørnson-festivalen (a Norwegian festival of international literature), the latter claimed that the Jews sought a monopoly on suffering and used the Holocaust to justify Israeli terrorist actions. (In 2000, Jensen compared the Palestinian areas to the Warsaw ghetto and the Israeli army to the German Nazis in an op-ed he wrote for the leftist daily Dagsavisen.)
An exhibition, “Antisemite in the Name of God,” was opened in a private gallery in Oslo in February. In one of the pictures, the letter ‘S’ in ‘Israel’ and the ‘United States’ resembled a swastika. The picture was removed after the gallery received a complaint from the Israeli embassy.
responses to racism and antisemitism
In September, the Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, as well as several members of the government, attended the inauguration of the renovated Oslo Jewish Community Center. In his speech to the Oslo Jewish community, the prime minister lauded the successful integration of Norwegian Jews and their contribution to Norwegian society, and promised to make every effort to ensure their safety.
In early February, the extreme left-wing party Rød Valgallianse (Red Electoral Alliance − RV) demanded that one of its local politicians, the teacher Hans Olav Brendberg, withdraw from the party due to numerous antisemitic statements he had made on the Norwegian Internet discussion forum KK-forum and to his close ties with Israeli anti-Zionist Israel Shamir.
In early 2004 Inge Telhang, a non-Jewish teacher from Kristansand, was asked by the director of the Center for Adult Education to remove a Star of David he wore, on the grounds that it might provoke Muslim students. The head of the National Association of Schools added that a Star of David to Arab students was comparable to a swastika in the eyes of Jewish students. Telhang, who said this violated his right of freedom of expression, hired an attorney to fight his case, which the minister of education supports.