Antisemitism common in Norway: study
Some 12.5 percent of Norwegians hold clear prejudices against Jews, according to the country’s first ever comprehensive survey of antisemitism.
The study, commissioned by several Norwegian government agencies, was carried out by the Holocaust Centre in Oslo in conjunction with pollster TNS Gallup.
“In all, 12.5 percent of the population have distinct prejudices against Jews. In a European context, this makes the prevalence of antisemitic thinking relatively low in Norway and on the same level as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden,” according to the report.
In certain areas, respondents displayed a particularly high level of antisemitism. For instance, a full 19 percent agreed with the statement that “the world’s Jews are secretly working to advance Jewish interests”, while 26 percent of Norwegians agreed that “Jews view themselves as being better than others”.
Eight percent said they would not like to have Jews as neighbours or friends.
Antisemitic tendencies were most apparent among men, older people and people with a low level of education, while women, young people, and well-educated Norwegians were in general less prejudiced.
Holocaust Centre coordinator Øivind Kopperud noted that, while the level of antisemitism was relatively limited, 12.5 percent of the population still equated to more than 600,000 people.
“A few of the individual figures are quite frightening,” said Kopperud, who pointed out that Norway is a politically stable and wealthy country.
He expressed particular concern over the fact that 38 percent of respondents equated Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi’s treatment of Jews during World War II.
Furthermore, a quarter of Norwegians believed Jews used the memory of the Holocaust to gain advantages for themselves, while 12 percent said Jews bore responsibility for their own persecution. In neighbouring Sweden, just 2 percent of people said Jews had themselves to blame, while in Germany the figure rose to 10 percent.
Kopperud said it should also be borne in mind that Norway is home to only around 1,500 Jews. Few people have either Jewish friends or colleagues at school, university or in the workplace.
“So when they speak about Jews and their view of Jews, they are speaking about the mythical ‘Jew’, and that’s completely different from the relationship to other minorities who are quite visible.”
The study also showed that criticism of Israel did not always go hand in hand with antisemitic opinions.
An analysis revealed that half of respondents who held radical pro-Palestinian views did not display signs of antisemitism.
Among people with more moderate pro-Palestinian opinions, 75 percent showed no indication of being antisemitic.
“This shows that the relationship between antisemitic and anti-Israeli views is more complex that an often polarized public debate sometimes suggests,” said Kopperud.
The study also showed that Norwegians are more prejudiced against certain other minorities, with Muslims, Somalis and Romany people subject to the highest levels of discrimination.
The report makes four recommendations for improving the climate for Jews and other minorities. These include providing more information in schools about Jewish history, antisemitism, and prejudices against other minorities.
The authors also propose carrying out a similar survey every five years, as well as compiling comparable surveys for other minorities.
According to the researchers behind the study, the Norwegian police should begin keeping records of any hate crimes with antisemitic motives.
The Jewish communities blame the press for antisemitism
Three quarters of Jews living in Oslo believe antisemitism in the population has grown.
This morning the Jewish community reeled the results of a survey among the members of the congregation. The numbers are striking. Of about 300 Norwegian Jews at the synagogues in Oslo and Trondheim, 54 percent said that they had experienced antisemitism.
– This is important to know, because we now identify antisemitism as something special. We now have to address the fear of discussing this topic, Ervin Kohn the leader of the community in Oslo told Vårt Land at a press conference today.
There are indications that more and more experience hatred of Jews. Of all respondents, it is not a single person who believes that the extent of antisemitism has been reduced over the last ten years. Many also say that they have experienced antisemitism in school.
– We have probably under reported the problems our children face. We have said that we have not experienced much antisemitism, but the figures show that the reality is different, Kohn said.
The press gets their share of the blame for the harassment many people experience. 9 out of 10 said that media coverage of the conflict in the Middle East has led to more antisemitism. But now the members of the Jewish Community want to do something about this situation; more than half of members from Oslo would like it to use more resources on educating the wider community on Judaism.
– We did not realize that we are so interesting to the wider public. We are humbled by the interest the public has shown in this matter, Kohn says.
Respectfully, and taking care to not ride roughshod over sensitive toes… I believe this is what Gerstenfeld tried to point out only a few years ago, triggering a furious response by the community. As they say, in order to make an omelet, you need to break an egg. Gerstenfeld might be perceived as undiplomatic by some (I just think he speaks clearly), but nobody can claim that his diagnoses miss the mark.
Antisemittisme i Norge ?
This report presents the results of a survey of Norwegian
attitudes toward Jews and other minorities, undertaken
by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious
Minorities. Data were collected in November 2011 by
TNS Gallup. 1522 respondents participated.
The results confirm that stereotypical notions of
Jews do exist in Norwegian society. Overall, 12.5 per
cent of the population can be considered significantly
prejudiced against Jews. Thus, in a European context,
the prevalence of antisemitic notions in Norway is
limited and on a par with Great Britain, the Netherlands,
Denmark and Sweden. Certain antisemitic notions are,
however, more widespread in the Norwegian populace.
19 per cent of respondents agree with the assertion
that «World Jewry works behind the scenes to promote
Jewish interests», and 26 per cent believe that «Jews
consider themselves to be better than other people».
Antisemitism can also be measured by negative
feelings and social distance. The survey reveals that
9.7 of respondents feel antipathy toward Jews, while 8
per cent do not want Jews among their neighbours or
circle of friends. Taken as a whole, the three dimensions
that were utilized to measure negative attitudes toward
Jews are somewhat less prevalent among women,
young people and those with higher education than
among men, older people and those without higher
ATTITUDE TOWARD OTHER MINORITY GROUPS
Attitudes toward other minority groups
Respondents were also questioned about their attitudes
toward immigrants and people from other
nationalities and religions. The results show a greater
degree of social distance toward most other groups
than toward Jews. The populace is most negative
toward interaction with Muslims, Somalis and Romani
(gypsies). Those who possess the strongest antisemitic
attitudes also denounce contact with other groups.
76 per cent of those who demonstrate social distance
toward Jews display similar attitudes toward Muslims.
Antisemitic attitudes are also more common among
those respondents who are most sceptical toward
immigrants. Such tendencies have been observed in
other European countries as well.
A much larger share of respondents perceived
negative attitudes toward Muslims to be widespread in
Norway than the share who perceived such attitudes
toward Jews to be widespread. When asked what
they thought the reasons for such prejudice were,
respondents often made a connection between negative
notions of Muslims and specific societal problems
of multicultural Norway. Negative attitudes toward
Jews were more often explained with reference to
the role played by Israel in the Middle East conflict.
Specific references to Norwegian society were hardly
ever made in attempting to explain attitudes toward
Jews. The comments did, however, sometimes contain
stereotypical notions of Jews or held such prejudice
to be the cause of negative attitudes among other
There is widespread consensus in the Norwegian
population on the importance of Holocaust education.
Practically everyone agrees that pupils should learn
about the fate of the Norwegian Jews during World War
II, with three out of four stating that this is an important
part of Norwegian history. A clear majority also believes
that Jews today have the right to remind international
society of what occurred during World War II. At the
same time an equally clear majority dismisses the
notion that the Holocaust gives Israel the right to any
kind of special treatment. Rather, the Holocaust is used
against Israel and to some degree against Jews in
general. Almost two thirds of respondents agree with
the statement «I am disappointed in the way the Jews,
with their particular history, treat the Palestinians»,
and 38 per cent believe that Israel’s treatment of the
Palestinians is similar to Nazi treatment of the Jews
during World War II. One out of four believes that
Jews today exploit the memory of the Holocaust to
their own advantage. Also a relatively large share of 13
per cent believes that Jews themselves are to blame
for their persecution. The corresponding number for
Sweden is 2 per cent, and for Germany 10 per cent.
Norwegian attitudes toward the Holocaust, then, are
complex: On the one hand, the strong belief in the
necessity of Holocaust education. On the other, a
refutation of the belief that the Holocaust provides
grounds for any particular considerations regarding
Israel and contemporary Jewry.
THE MIDDLE EAST
To what degree are Norwegian attitudes toward Jews
connected to attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict? Aiming to answer this question, the survey
has also mapped attitudes toward the Middle East
conflict. While approximately half of the respondents
take no stand regarding this conflict, 13 per cent support
Israel and 38 per cent support the Palestinians.
Respondents can be grouped into three categories:
pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian (critical of Israel) and radically
anti-Israel. The second category, pro-Palestinian,
dominates, and respondents who fall into this category
often express disappointment in Israel. 29 per cent
say that their attitude toward Israel has changed in a
negative direction (and only 2 per cent in a positive
direction), a view that is more widespread among
men, older people and those with higher education.
The analysis demonstrates a clear connection between
antisemitism and attitudes toward the Middle East
conflict: respondents with antisemitic attitudes more
often support anti-Israeli statements and disagree with
pro-Israeli statements. This, however, does not imply
that antisemitism motivates all those who support
anti-Israeli statements. Half of those who support
such radical positions show no antisemitic attitudes
whatsoever. This holds to an even larger degree for
those who support a more moderate pro-Palestinian
position. In this group, 75 per cent show no antisemitic
attitudes, while 15 per cent show only moderate
antisemitic attitudes. Thus, the connection between
antisemitic and anti-Israeli attitudes seems to be more
complex than what is sometimes asserted in public
debates, which are often sharply polarized.