Anti-Semitism in Norway, where I have lived for twelve years, is over the top. I have never quite gotten used to it. Every now and then I hear or read something that reminds me that I am living in Europe, in a country that was occupied by the Nazis, and where a lot of people were perfectly okay with that. I think it is fair to say that anti-Semitism in Norway is most virulent among the cultural elite – the academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, politicians, and technocrats – although thanks to the media and schools, it has trickled down to many ordinary Norwegians, some of whom may never even have met a Jewish person.
This anti-Semitism manifests itself in various ways. When Obama became president, former Norwegian prime minister Kåre Willoch said things did not look promising because Obama had “chosen a Jew as chief of staff.” The chief rabbi of the Oslo synagogue reportedly receives a pile of hate mail every day. During the Gaza War, a major Norwegian newspaper had trouble finding Norwegian Jews who were willing to comment on the record about the war: they said they were scared of repercussions. Norwegian academics have sought to ban contacts with Israeli universities. Norwegian activists have encouraged boycotts of Israeli products. There is terrible anti-Semitic bullying in the schools. Every so often, a high-profile professor or activist or famous author will write a virulent op-ed or give an angry speech denouncing Israel and insulting Jews. Nothing could be safer for them to say; no one will seek to harm them physically or otherwise – as opposed to what would happen if, say, they made certain public statements about Islam. And they know this. Norway’s most respected newspaper cartoonist, Finn Graff, who has admitted that he never draws cartoons about Islam because he is scared for his life, has frequently drawn cartoons comparing Israelis to Nazis; he knows Jews will never harm him. These anti-Semitic op-eds and speeches and cartoons are never remotely fresh, witty, or original; all they ever do is recycle tired cultural-elite clichés. And their creators get nothing but praise from their colleagues, who celebrate them as courageous truth-tellers. It is much more acceptable to scream “kill the Jews” at an anti-Israeli protest than it is to criticize Hamas.