Most anti-Jewish activity in Norway took place during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008-January 2009, when the
level of verbal attacks and hostility toward Jewish Norwegians in the media, in
the streets, and against school children increased significantly. The perpetrator of the armed attack on the Oslo synagogue in 2006 was sentenced
to eight years in prison for “vandalism.”
The Jewish community
only some 1,500 Jews in Norway, out of a total population of 4.4 million. Most
are concentrated in and around the capital Oslo, while about 200 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; it 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
to the University of Oslo.
Political parties and
Since World War II, none of Norway's main political parties
has a history of consistent antisemitic activities or antisemitic utterances.
Neo-Nazi and Racist Groups
right-wing activity in Norway is marginal, and the number of active racists is
no more than 150. 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. Norwegian neo-Nazis often visit their neighbors, particularly in Sweden, to participate in concerts and meetings; they import most of their music from
Most Norwegian neo-Nazi groups are small and poorly
organized. Their main activity is disseminating anti-immigration and
antisemitic propaganda on the Internet. The most violent group in the late
1990s/early 2000s was National Youth, formerly Boot Boys (until summer 2003),
founded in 1997 by Tore Wilhelm Tvedt. It was subsequently headed by Terje
Sjøli, and its membership never exceeded 50, 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, directed 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. Tore Wilhelm
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.
Tore Tvedt was convicted in April 2002 for claiming that
Jews had sexual intercourse with their dead. He was sentenced, but appealed to
the Supreme Court, which acquitted him. In October 2006, Tvedt was sentenced to
45 days in prison for stating in an interview (in 2003) with the daily tabloid VG
and elsewhere that all Jews "must be wiped out"; his appeal to the
Borgarting (local) appeal court ended in his acquittal. However, it was
overruled by the Supreme Court in 2007.
Most anti-Jewish activity in Norway took place during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008-January 2009, when the level
of verbal attacks and hostility toward Jewish Norwegian in the media, in the
streets, and against school children increased significantly.
On January 15, 2009, the Socialist Left Party (SV), which is part
of the centrist-left government coalition, called for a trade boycott of Israel. They were accused of antisemitism in several op-ed sections in Norwegian
newspapers, on the grounds that they never called for trade boycotts of other
countries involved in acts of war and for referring to Israeli policy towards
the Palestinians as “worse than apartheid.” The government did not adopt this
position, and there is no official Norwegian boycott of Israeli goods.
Earlier, on January 3, Trond Andresen, a member of the
extreme left, extra-parliamentary Rødt (Red) party, had published an
op-ed in the extreme left daily Klassekampen accusing Jews in general of
lacking empathy and humanistic attitudes. After being accused of harboring
antisemitic attitudes by fellow Rødt members, he left the party on his
own accord a few days later.
On December 29, a demonstration against Israel turned violent when demonstrators threw firecrackers and stones at
the Israeli embassy in downtown Oslo. Buildings close to the embassy were
vandalized and attacked with bricks. Similar events took place in January, organized by Palestinakomiteen (the Palestine
Committee – the main organizing body of pro-Palestinian supporters in Norway, which had no previous record of violence) with support from several leftist groups, including Arbeiderpartiet i Oslo (Oslo Labour Party), Sosialistisk Venstreparti7SV (Socialist Left Party), R?dt (Red) and Norges Kommunistiske Parti/NKP (Norwegian Communist Party), as well as the youth sections of most of them. The Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party are both members of the government.
escalated and turned antisemitic on January 8, when youths – mostly of Middle
East and North African origin, as well as adherents of the far left autonomous
group Blitz – attacked a peaceful pro-Israel demonstration outside the parliament
with the participation of MPs Siv Jensen (Progress Party) and Ingebrigt
Sørfonn (Christian People’s Party). The demonstration had been organized
by Med Israel For Fred/MIFF (With Israel for Peace), with the support of several
Christian groups. The attackers shouted “Death to the Jews” in Arabic, and vandalized
several restaurants and shops in downtown Oslo.
a pro-peace demonstration was taking place at the Youngstorget marked place,
with the participation of Norwegian community leaders and public figures,
including Oslo Rabbi Joav Melchior and president of the Oslo Jewish Community
Anne Sender, as well as Lutheran Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme. Shouts of “Get
out!” and “Kill the Jews!” were heard from some members of the public, who urged
the Israeli army and not Hamas to cease fire. Melchior and Sender departed the
demonstration on January 10 in downtown Oslo also turned violent and
antisemitic. Pro-Palestinian groups, such as the Palestine Committee with
support from leftist groups, had received permission from the police to protest
against Israel outside the Norwegian parliament. The demonstrators, however,
decided to march on the Israeli embassy some blocks away. Children smeared with
red paint were positioned between the embassy and the police forces to act as
living shields while the embassy was pelted with fire-crackers and stones.
After the police had dissolved the demonstration, the participants continued to
wreak havoc in downtown Oslo. Restaurants and shops were damaged, and the Oslo
Free Masonry headquarters were fire-bombed while 200 children were inside the
building during a post-Christmas party. Several bystanders were injured, and an
elderly (non-Jewish) man was beaten “because he’s a Jew.” Shouts of “Let’s go
to the university to hunt for Jews!” were uttered by the mob; however, they did
not enter the campus area. The Oslo police arrested 194 individuals in the
following days, several with criminal records. Ten faced charges of vandalism
In the media, the
centrist daily VG published a cartoon depicting Israel as Adolf Hitler http://www.document.no/2009/01/norge_har_et_problem.html.
On Norway’s state Radio 2 (NRK P2), former Prime Minister Kåre Willoch, from Høyre, the
Conservative Party, claimed on December 30 that incoming US President Barack Obama was unlikely to pressure Israel because his chief of staff was a Jew.
Willoch is outspokenly pro-Palestinian, and was accused of antisemitism in 2003
for participating in an anti-Israel demonstration on the anniversary of
Kristallnacht, November 9. Similarly, in January, professor of North American
Studies at the University of Oslo Ole Moen claimed on the same station that
Obama’s Mid-East policy would be heavily influenced by “the Israel lobby” due to his having several Jewish staff members.
In addition, leaflets
were distributed in Oslo by immigrants of Middle East and North African origin calling for attacks on Jewish community
buildings and verbal abuse of Jewish Norwegians. The Oslo Jewish Community
reported the matter to the police. The leaflets, which were not produced
professionally, may have been prepared by individuals or by a small, unknown
On January 9, a class of 6th grade students and their teachers from Åsveien elementary school in Trondheim refused to visit the Trondheim Jewish Museum because of “angry feelings toward Israel.” Visits to local museums and religious institutions are recommended for Norwegian
school children as part of their history and religion instruction.
On January 12,
Norwegian physicians and professors of medicine Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse,
who worked as volunteers in Shifa hospital in Gaza City during the war, told the
center-leftist daily Dagsavisen that “Gaza is like the Warsaw Ghetto,
only worse.” It also transpired in January that Norwegian diplomat and first
secretary of the Norwegian embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trine Lilleng, had
used her foreign ministry email account to distribute mail comparing the war in
Gaza to the Holocaust and the Israelis to Nazis.
(For an unofficial description
in English of some of the events of December 2008 and January 2009, prepared by
the registered foundation Document.no [consisting mainly of freelance
journalists and dedicated to the spread of liberal-conservative ideas], see http://www.document.no/2009/01/something_rotten_in_the_state.html.)
responses to antisemitism
In June 2008, the
perpetrator of the armed attack on the Oslo synagogue in 2006, Arfan Bhatti,
was acquitted of terrorism, but sentenced to eight years in prison for
vandalism by an Oslo court (see ASW 2006).
measures to protect the Jewish community were strengthened as a result of the
threatening atmosphere generated by the anti-Israel rallies and Hamas’ calls
for attacks on Jews throughout the world. The location of outdoor activities of
the Jewish kindergarten was changed, for instance.
As a sign of
solidarity with Jewish Norwegians following the war in Gaza, Foreign Minister
Jonas Gahr Støre, Oslo’s Lutheran Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme, and the
head of Oslo City Council Erling Lae, participated in the Shabbat service of
the Oslo synagogue on February 17.
The Jewish communities
received a large number of calls, e-mails and letters of support from members
of the public during this period. Moreover, a greater number of letters-to-the
editor and opinion pieces criticizing antisemitic statements and anti-Israel
views appear to have been published in the Norwegian media than during the 2006
Second Lebanon War.
In order to try
and prevent a repeat of the violent demonstrations that took place in downtown
Oslo in early January 2009, the lawyer and politician (from the
liberal-centrist Venstre [Left] party), Abid Q. Raja arranged a series of open “dialogue
meetings” in Oslo, inviting public figures, members of the royal family and
government, representatives of immigrant youth, and officials from the Oslo
Jewish Community to debate the subjects of tolerance and freedom of speech.
During one meeting, Norwegian Muslim Mohammed Ali Chishti, an invited speaker,
said that he “hates Jews and homosexuals” and that “Jews are behind all the
evils of the world.” Chishti received little support from the audience, and the
representatives from the Oslo Jewish Community did not feel threatened.
When asked why
he invited Chishti to state his opinions in a high-profile debate, Raja, who
had read and accepted all speeches to be given during these meetings, answered
that extremist views, too, should be freely expressed and debated. In 2006, Raja
criticized the publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons and called on Norway to adapt anti-blasphemy laws to prevent offense to Muslim religious sentiments.