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Scandinavia and the Jews

6:20 PM, Aug 8, 2012 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Scandinavia is boring. People living there apparently have little to do. And as European history teaches, when there is nothing much to do you may as well amuse yourself by attacking the Jews.

Scandinavia

It was bad enough when a judge in Germany barred circumcision, and that decision was followed by similar moves in Austria and Switzerland (and then widely attacked in Germany, by everyone from Chancellor Merkel on down). Now comes a suggestion from a Norwegian official called the “Ombudsman for Children in Norway” proposing that the ancient procedure be replaced by a “symbolic, nonsurgical ritual.” Apparently in Norway it is possible to create religiously meaningful rituals overnight, which is an insight into the understanding of religion in Norwegian public life. And Norway’s “Centre Party,” which is a member of the governing coalition, has just proposed that circumcision be outlawed entirely. One gets some inkling into local politics when that’s the view of the Centre Party—not the fringes.  In this context we might recall that, as the news story puts it, “Norway is among a handful of European countries where the kosher slaughter of animals is prohibited.”

But that kind of assault on Jewish practice isn’t sufficient for Scandinavians, because the anti-Israel element is missing or merely implicit. So on Tuesday we found that “Scandinavian activist groups are launching an aid ship destined for Gaza… hoping to challenge the Israeli blockade.” Their ship is “backed mainly by Swedish and Norwegian groups.”

“We have the same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by challenging the Israeli navy,” said Torstein Dahle, the leader of the Norwegian section of the activist group “Ship to Gaza.”

This action is perfectly timed. This week the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt has closed the main Gaza/Egypt border crossing at Rafah indefinitely and sent bulldozers to seal off the many smuggling tunnels after several terrorist attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel in Sinai. The Egyptians believe jihadists were able to meet, organize, and cross into Egypt from Gaza. Hamas has complained that this is collective punishment of Gazans by Egypt. There is even a religious element: “The shutdown at Rafah has so far prevented 3,000 Gazans from heading to Saudi Arabia for ‘umrah,’ the minor pilgrimage believed to bring greater merit if carried out during Ramadan.”

I have yet to see the news that the Scandinavians are turning their boat around or sailing it to Alexandria to “put an end to the blockade of Gaza,” but obviously that would be no fun. The fun comes in attacking Jews: their rituals, their religion, and the Jewish state. It is particularly disappointing to see how Norway has fallen into this pattern, because for many years it followed a balanced Middle East policy that avoided anti-Israel attacks. No longer; for example, in 2010 Norway “informed German shipbuilding company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) that it will no longer be allowed to test Israel-bound submarines in its territorial waters as part of the country's ban on security exports to Israel.” It’s less surprising to see this from Swedes, whose antipathy to Jews is not so new. There are so many attacks on Jews in Malmo these days that the city is considered unsafe for Jewish life, and the city’s mayor commented in 2010—apparently thinking he was defending the city—that “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.” Nor Judaism, it seems: Sweden too has outlawed Jewish ritual slaughter, as has Denmark.

Perhaps the “Ombudsman for Children in Norway” and the mayor of Malmo could join the “Ship To Gaza,” bringing together all the various forms of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity. After all, it’s summer in Scandinavia.

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