By Barry Rubin
“I do not understand Norway’s position, and I say that as a friend of Norway. If they shoot, if they fire rockets, why doesn’t Norway believe that they are terrorists? What else do they need to do? Let us not forget that Norway and the other Scandinavian countries called in Yasser Arafat and said: ‘If you want a deal, you must first renounce terrorism. You must recognize the State of Israel, and you must commit yourself to peace.’ Why is all this forgotten? What is the difference between the PLO at that time and Hamas today?” – President Shimon Peres, May 2011
“We want Palestine in its entirety – so there will not be any misunderstandings. If our generation is unable to achieve this, the next one will, and we are raising our children on this. Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, and Israel cannot exist in our midst… We liberated Gaza through resistance. We want to conduct resistance in the West Bank as well.” – Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, July 2011, a few days before members of Norway’s ruling party expressed enthusiastic support for helping Hamas.
Ironically, the reaction to my article “The Oslo Syndrome,” published in The Jerusalem Post last Monday, proved its thesis, the same point that Peres made. If terrorism is empowered, terrorism is more likely to occur. That uncontroversial point has been blown up into something controversial by deceit.
Essentially, the position of Norway’s media and government is this: Hamas isn’t terrorist, but I’m pro-terrorist.
The Norwegian government and media establishment is not ready to have an honest discussion of these issues. Instead, my article was misrepresented in order to stir up a frenzy that closed ears and shut eyes to what I was saying. Indeed, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet falsely claimed that I had endorsed the terrorist attack there. Not a single Norwegian reporter or editor made any attempt to contact me since the beginning of this issue to hear my side or to ask my views.
How’s that for constructive dialogue and healing? The blog Israel Matzav sums up my position very well: “Rubin said that this terror attack, committed by a ‘normal Norwegian boy’ [not my words] ought to make Norwegians do some introspection about their government’s support for terror organizations like Hamas. Is Norway giving its youth the wrong message through its support for Hamas? Why is Norway not even willing to ask itself that question?” And the Norwegian reaction is to reiterate – as its ambassador to Israel portrayed his country’s view – that there is a rational reason to murder Israeli children (“occupation,” despite the fact that Israel has withdrawn from all of the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, and indicated its readiness to accept a Palestinian state 11 years ago), but not to murder Norwegian children. In other words, one can only discuss the evil Norwegian terrorist in the parameters laid down by the Norwegian Left. One can talk endlessly about how his specific ideology – right-wing, allegedly Christian, and Islamophobic – but not the way he fits into a much wider pattern of rising terrorism in general.
I didn’t write about the content of his ideology but about his choice of strategy on the basis of my three decades’ of scholarly study about terrorism. Why did the Norwegian terrorist think that killing people would help – not hurt – his cause? Because like terrorists around the world, he sees other groups that use terrorism succeed politically, build a mass base of support, and gain sympathy for their cause despite their methods.
Second, nobody ever apologizes for criticizing Israel in the harshest terms after terrorist attacks, something I did not do to Norway. No newspaper in the world to my knowledge apologized for the terrible things written on its pages about the United States after September 11.
The deputy foreign minister and foreign minister of Norway, who both attacked me, have never criticized Hamas or Hezbollah by name.
Last May, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre explained, “We condemn organizations that are involved in terrorism, but Norway has considered the situation as such that having lists where we put an organization and call it a terrorist organization will not serve our purposes.”
Obviously, if Hamas was named as a terrorist group, then cabinet ministers couldn’t have its leaders to tea. But by not naming it, they are saying: You can commit hundreds of acts of terror and it will cost you nothing politically. But if Israel responds, for example, by counterattacking into the Gaza Strip, we will condemn Israel.
Yes, this is a policy that encourages terrorism and makes it look successful: It wins sympathy for the cause and antagonism toward the victims.
But while Norway won’t criticize terrorist groups by name, its officials and media are unrestrained in attacking Israel.
Alan Dershowitz has written from personal observation that in Norway, “Anti-Semitism doesn’t even mask itself as anti-Zionism.” And this behavior is carried on by public institutions and media.
Former prime minister Kare Willoch criticized US President Barack Obama for appointing Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff because he was “Jewish,” with no apology. The author Jostein Gaarder wrote an op-ed in Aftenposten titled, “God’s Chosen People” at a time when three Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped by Hezbollah and a war was on, describing Judaism as “an archaic national and warlike religion.”
Apology? In 2008, a Norwegian comedian said on national television, “I would like to wish all Norwegian Jews a Merry Christmas – no, what am I saying! You don’t celebrate Christmas, do you!? It was you who crucified Jesus.” Apology? Last year, the minister of finance spoke at a largely Islamist-organized anti-Israel rally. Apology? A person who has served as a Foreign Ministry official remarked in 2008 that she occasionally wished the UN would send “precisionguided missiles against selected Israeli targets.”
Apology? But I never said and I’m not saying now that a terrorist attack took place in Norway because of its anti-Israel policies or atmosphere. Nor am I saying that Norway “supports” terrorism itself, that it applauds the murder of civilians elsewhere. What I’m saying – as nobody has publicly acknowledged in Norway – is that to show terrorists they will get more sympathy than Israel, to reward a group such as Hamas, to say that terrorism can be ignored if directed against the “proper” people is to increase the overall level of terrorism against Israel and in the world, including in Norway itself.
You’ve never heard of Samira Munir and Norway’s establishment has swept her story away.
She was a Norwegian politician of Pakistani origin who fought for women’s rights and against Shari’a law. She was found dead in November 2004, supposedly a suicide but seeming far more likely to have been a terrorist murder. She had received daily death threats by phone and while walking down the street.
Might this act, whose perpetrators were never punished, indicate that some people think they can commit terrorism, get away with it, and suffer no political damage? If others who have extremist views and/or mental disorders see every day that terrorism produces political advantage and sympathy for those who commit it, they are more likely to commit terrorism. If groups see their terrorism is no barrier to being invited to Norway and to having lunch with cabinet ministers while their enemies’ self-defense countermeasures are condemned and vilified, they are more likely to adopt terrorism as a strategy.
The underlying concept of the Norwegian response is that Norway is a country that isn’t supposed to have terrorism committed against it. But Israel is a country that deserves to have terrorism committed against it. My point is that neither country “deserves” to have this happen. That doesn’t mean Norway is guilty or should be punished or that an evil terrorist attack is justified. No, it means that Norway should be more consistently and universally against giving terrorists victories – even though it does so by ignoring their terrorism.
We are now approaching the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. There were those then, including in Norway, who said the United States had it coming and the attack was due to its policies.
There are always those – including in Norway – who say that Israel has it coming and the attack is due to its policies.
My view is the precise opposite. I’m saying about Norway precisely the same thing I said about the United States after September 11: The attack proves the need to take a tougher stance against terrorism and against all terrorist groups. If the world thought al-Qaida won and its attack brought political gains, then there would be more terrorism. As it happened, there was tough action against al-Qaida itself, but other terrorist groups concluded that terrorism worked, increased their operations, and did reap political rewards.
The world that the Norwegian government and left-wing media want is one that accepts there are two groups in the world: those immune not only from criticism but from serious discussion of their actions, and those who can be lied about with impunity, have hatred incited against them, and then must apologize for not staying in their place as second-class people with second-class rights to express their views.
What I wrote in “The Oslo Syndrome” is that people who accept rationales for terrorism and reward those movements politically increase terrorism. Equally, those who accept double standards, slanderous lies (without apology) about themselves in the media of other countries, and the consorting of those countries with groups that want to exterminate them only increase that behavior, too.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com