By Benjamin Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post
June 13, 2012
A schoolboy burned a Jewish student with a red-hot coin at an Oslo secondary school on Monday, triggering the Simon Wiesenthal Center to issue a strongly worded letter to Norwegian Justice and Police Minister Grete Faremo.
“This child has been the subject of anti-Semitic bullying and violence for the past two years, reportedly, because his father is Israeli,” the letter said.
“Despite the mother’s report of assaults on her son to NRK radio evening news in 2010, there has been no reaction by the school, the police or governmental authorities.”
Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the Wiesenthal Center’s division of international affairs, noted: “The boy has stated that he must stay clear of Norwegian and Muslim children and hide his parentage to avoid continued anti-Semitic attacks.
“These young school hatemongers point to a new generation of Breivik-style racists for Norway’s future. You have a responsibility to protect every threatened child and, especially, this victim targeted simply for being Jewish,” Samuels added, referencing Anders Breivik’s Oslo massacre in July 2011, which was motivated by his far-right ideology.
“The Norway, Israel and the Jews” website, which monitors Norwegian anti-Semitism and hate directed at Israel, appears to have first reported on the attack. The article’s headline read: “Anti-semitism in Norwegian schools – now they are fire-branding Jewish kids.”
According to “Norway, Israel and the Jews,” the “Med Israel for Fred” website “has gained access to a private cellphone image showing the result of the attack, which took place at a school barbecue for the senior class this Monday. The 16-year old boy was enjoying his grilled chicken when a red-hot coin was placed on his neck by a fellow student, an ethnic Norwegian.
The coin made a very visible burn on the boy’s neck.”
Vebjørn Dysvik, the chargé d’affaires at Norway’s Embassy in Tel Aviv, wrote in an email on Wednesday to The Jerusalem Post, “The embassy does not presently have any more information about the specific case other than what has been reported on a Norwegian blog.
At a general level, I would like to underline that the Norwegian government has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying in schools. This has been an important objective for successive Norwegian governments.”
Dysvik continued, “The letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center will be replied to by the Ministry of Justice in due time.
I would nevertheless like to highlight that the quotes I have seen from the letter contain several extreme statements that lack any foundation in reality. We take exception to the attempt of painting a picture of Norway and Norwegian society as being anti-Semitic.
This is a gross distortion of facts for which the center must bear responsibility.”
“Recent studies show that that the prevalence of anti- Semitic notions in Norway is low, and on par with countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain and the Netherlands,” he said, conceding, “Nevertheless, anti-Semitism is a big problem for those who feel its effects.”
According to European reports, Norway’s school system has permitted the fomenting of an increasingly hostile climate for Jewish students.
The Austrian paper Die Presse wrote in 2010 that “statements sharply critical of Israel” by Kristin Halvorsen, education minister of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party, have been “legitimizing attacks” against Jews.
Critics say Jewish students have been subject to assaults in Norway’s schools, and teachers have looked the other way.
The Wiesenthal Center said that “the silence of the school, the police and your government is too reminiscent of another Norway, under the World War II Nazi collaborator [Vidkun] Quisling.”
The center referenced the Norwegian politician who in 1940, with the German invasion of Norway in progress, seized power in a Nazi-backed coup d’etat. Quisling went on to serve as minister-president from 1942 to 1945.
“Our center urges your immediate investigation of this case and protective and judicial action, as continued silence is tantamount to complicity,” Samuels wrote in the letter.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a leading Israeli expert on anti- Semitism in northern Europe, wrote in an email to the Post, “The issue with Norway is not that they are more or less anti- Semitic than others. The issue is that their elites are pioneers in promoting Israel-hatred and that according to the European definition of anti-Semitism, [this includes] several members of their government.”
Meanwhile, a woman who took over the Swedish government’s Twitter account unleashed a storm of criticism on Tuesday with tweets viewed as anti-Semitic.
Sonja Abrahamsson, a mother of two from Goteborg, participated in a project that allows ordinary Swedes to run the country’s Twitter feed.
“What’s the fuzz with Jews?” she asked, also lampooning Jewish circumcision.
“In Nazi Germany, they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn’t, they could never know who was a Jew and who was not a Jew,” she tweeted.
Gerstenfeld commented: “The social Web has created new means to transmit anti- Semitism to certain publics.
The contents of the anti-Semitic messages usually do not differ much from what one sees or hears elsewhere; the mode of transmission is, however, different and reaches different publics.
“Experts keep telling us that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all problematic when one approaches them to remove hate content,” he added. “As I once heard: ‘On the Internet some Davids can become Goliaths.’”