Old wine in new bottles: On the Edge with Siv Jensen

Siv Jensen. Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

Siv Jensen. Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

“On the Edge” is the new opinion column in the Norwegian American Weekly, which offers opinions written by invited contributors who make some comments on the current issues that define modern Norway.

As I write this, we’re in the middle of Advent, and very soon Christmas will be at our doorsteps. As we’re preparing for the festivities and the holidays, but also getting ready for a fresh new year of opportunities, we should take a few minutes to spend on a certain issue. At this time of year, many get close again with the historic importance of places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem. But these places are not only historical ones, they’re places that are alive today, and they play important roles in one of the most complex issues on the global political scene.

I recently attended a large conference in Ottawa on combating anti-Semitism. Apart from me and two other colleagues from my own Progress Party, we were the only ones attending from the Nordic countries. Parliamentarians and experts from more than 50 countries gathered to discuss what could be done to stop the rise of anti-Semitism, whether it is articulated on the Web, in the schools or in the international arena. To listen to Elie Wiesel talk was a strong experience, and it was very interesting to hear Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper is, in my view, one of the toughest political leaders in the world today, and he warned against hatred against Jews – hatred that could come in many forms.

The old expression “old wine in new bottles” comes to my mind when discussing the topic of anti-Semitism. There was a time in Norway when Jews were not allowed to enter the kingdom. That’s one of the darkest moments in Norwegian modern history. And on Nov. 26 this year, it was 68 years since the Norwegian police forces, under the direction of the Gestapo, handed 532 Jewish prisoners to the SS at Pier 1 in Oslo, at the harbor of the Norwegian America line, to be sent with the ship Donau to Stettin, from where they were taken by train to Auschwitz. Only nine survived. Those were dark times for humankind, and may we never witness such madness again. The above was the most extreme version of anti-Semitism, but there are other milder expressions that unfortunately are still with us in the world today.

Let me be clear on one point: Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Many of the toughest critics of Israel are, in fact, found inside Israel itself, especially in the media. Neither is it anti-Semitism when some political parties, including a coalition partner in the current Norwegian government, from time to time put forward the issue of boycotting Israel, or when a group of Norwegian academics, writers, artists and the coach of the Norwegian national soccer team are endorsing an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. When the Norwegian painter Håkon Gullvåg brings his paintings of Israel portrayed as a baby killer to Syria, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is not anti-Semitism, but it’s somewhat comparable to playing with

matches. To abstain from recognizing the anti-Semitic terrorist organization Hamas is something we should stick to, unless the organization puts both their terrorist actions and their anti-Semitic rhetoric to rest.

We’re getting close to a point where we should draw a line in the sand. One of the disturbing things is that in the debate on the complex situation in the Middle East, it seems like when it comes down to Israel, everything is allowed. The incredible biased stories on the conflict presented by the media

are another issue of concern. We need to pay attention to the mentioned writings on the wall, and I believe that Norway should play a leading role in combating the rise of anti-Semitism, including the types that are not so easily visible as the extreme expressions Europe witnessed before and during

World War II.

Siv Jensen is the Leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and also the parliamentary leader for the Progress Party`s group in the Storting (The Norwegian Parliament). The classical liberal (libertarian-conservative) Progress Party is the second largest party in Norway and the leading opposition party. Ms. Jensen has been elected member of the Storting since 1997, representing the district of Oslo. Ms. Jensen is member of the Standing Committee

on Foreign Affairs and Defense and member of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee.

This article was originally published in the Dec. 17, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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