The chapter explores how the concept of antisemitism was used in the Norwegian public sphere in the post-Holocaust period. Was antisemitism regarded as a problem for Norwegian society and accordingly scandalised? How were the boundaries of expression (of what can be said about Jews) defined and negotiated: by consensus or conflict? Analysing two central debates that took place in 1960 and 1983 respectively, the chapter traces a fading consensus about the definition of antisemitism. In 1960, the Norwegian public unanimously condemned any flare-up of Nazi ideology, race hatred and antisemitism, and did not allow any space for expressions of neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial. In 1983, by contrast, there was no consensus in the Norwegian public about the question of whether the radical condemnation of Israel (“Zionism is racism”) that had developed in the Norwegian radical Left after 1967 should be seen as illegitimate antisemitism, or as legitimate criticism protected by the freedom of speech.
This chapter explores the afterlife of the newspaper op-ed article “God’s chosen people”, written by Jostein Gaarder in 2006, and the intense and heated debate it sparked off. In this debate, Gaarder was accused of antisemitism due to his portrayal of the Jewish religion as archaic and violent and his indication that Israel, following its brutal warfare in the region, had lost its right to exist. The chapter looks into how the opening of the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies and a growing public awareness of the Holocaust may be seen as possible reasons for the fierce criticism of Gaarder and how his op-ed became the prime example of criticism of Israel crossing the line to antisemitism. The chapter argues that the “Gaarder debate”, despite Gaarder’s own attempts to free himself from the stigma of antisemitism, lives a life of its own as a narrative abbreviation. As such, the allusion to Gaarder is used to mark the red line between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. The “Gaarder trope” is even used to discuss latent antisemitism in contexts outside Norway.
The term Islamophobia is seldom used in Norwegian public debates, but people are increasingly recognising the phenomenon to which it refers. Regardless of the labelling – anti-Muslim sentiments, discrimination against Muslims, prejudice, harassment, or enmity against Muslims – there seems to be a new awareness of Islamophobia as a problem that needs to be addressed. Although only 56 per cent of the respondents to the population survey conducted by the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies (CHM) saw a need to combat harassment against Muslims, 81 per cent believed negative attitudes towards Muslims were widespread. The population’s perception of prejudice as being prevalent in Norwegian society might be a reflection of a growing concern for Islamophobia expressed in public debates. This chapter gives an overview of the cases that put Islamophobia on the map in Norway: When are anti-Muslim discourses seen as problematic – and why? It identifies developments in the understanding of Islamophobia and asks whether the acknowledgement of the phenomenon has resulted from a growing consensus of Islamophobia as a social and political problem that cuts across various political standpoints.
The aim of the chapter is to establish how widespread negative attitudes towards Jews and Muslims are among the Norwegian population, and to look for factors that may stimulate such attitudes, through an analysis of the two representative population surveys conducted by The Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies in 2011 and 2017.
Attitudes towards Jews are measured by indices of prejudice, dislike, social distance, and a summary index of antisemitism. Islamophobia is measured by a corresponding set of indices in 2017. The level of negative attitudes towards Jews is low and declining for all indices. Negative attitudes towards Muslims are more widespread. Women, younger people and those with higher education have a lower level of negative attitudes towards the two minorities. Opinion on the Middle East conflict affects antisemitism and Islamophobia in opposite directions, while both are strongly influenced by xenophobia. Negative attitudes towards the two minorities tend to coexist in individuals.
In a recent study on “Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain”, Daniel Staetsky introduces a promising new way of thinking about the level of antisemitism in society, which exists at different levels of intensity.1My special thanks go to Ottar Hellevik, without whose help in the calculation of data this contribution in the present form could not have been written. My thanks also go to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism of an earlier version of this chapter. By differentiating a more or less coherent “learned antisemitism” (the diffusion of antisemitic ideas and images) from open dislike of Jews, he proposes the concept of an “elastic view”. In this chapter, Staetsky’s concept and the different ways to measure antisemitic ideas and open dislike of Jews, as well as anti-Israelism and the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Israelism are used to analyse the data of the Norwegian Survey “Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims in Norway 2017”. Furthermore, this chapter will also examine how the legitimation of violence against Jews is influenced by the levels of antisemitism and anti-Israelism. Lastly, although the Norwegian and the British studies mainly do not use the same questions to measure antisemitism and anti-Israelism, the results for Norway will tentatively be compared with the results of the British study by looking at the underlying patterns and correlations instead of the numerical data.
Studies of conspiracy beliefs in Scandinavian countries have been few and qualitative in nature. This chapter analyses recent surveys and gives tentative answers as to how international research findings about conspiracy beliefs hold up in a Norwegian setting.
Some of the expected effects were found. Two surveys validate the five-item conspiracy mentality scale for Norway, a measure of the generalised propensity towards believing in conspiracy theories. Scores on conspiracy mentality predicted belief in single-item conspiracy beliefs regarding Jews and Muslims, but the effect size was small. Conspiracy stereotypes of Jews and Muslims were a contributing factor in a more general xenophobia and correlated positively with measures of social distance. The conspiracy stereotypes contributed to explaining differences in views on the legitimacy of violence towards members of outgroups in general.
Contrary to expectations, anti-Muslim conspiracy beliefs were more closely tied to conspiracy mentality than antisemitic ones. With regard to the debate on whether adherents of the political far left and far right believe in conspiracy theories more than those of centrist and mainstream parties, the Norwegian left-wing adherents generally scored lower on conspiracy beliefs about Jews and Muslims. Conspiracy theories were for election winners: the populist right generally scored significantly higher than other political orientations. The differences in scores were particularly strong for anti-Muslim beliefs.
The analyses were run by adopting questions asked for other purposes. With the exception of conspiracy mentality, scales were constructed by using those survey items that were arguably approximate items to those in reliable measures. Further inquiries should adapt established scales for more robust answers and in order to build reliable models.
For more than a decade, there has been a discussion about the scope and character of a “Muslim antisemitism” in Europe, spurred on by anti-Jewish harassment and terrorist attacks by Muslims in some European countries.*My special thanks go to Ottar Hellevik, without whose help in the calculation of data this contribution in the present form could not have been written. I am also thankful for the critical remarks of both editors and the reviewers on an earlier version of this chapter. However, there are only a few major studies on the attitudes of Muslims towards Jews in Europe, while larger studies on the attitude of Jews towards Muslims have so far been missing completely. Based on the data from the 2017 survey, “Attitudes towards Jews and Muslims in Norway. Population Survey and Minority Study” (CHM), it is now possible to investigate how Jews and Muslims in Norway perceive each other, whether they see opportunities for cooperation as minorities and have common experiences of discrimination, what their positioning in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks like, and whether it influences their mutual perception. While the focus is on the relationship between Muslims and Jews, in some cases the results for the general Norwegian population are included as a tertium comparationis, since Jews and Muslims form part of Norwegian society.
Negative stereotypes of Muslims are widespread in Norway: 34 per cent of the population displays marked prejudices against Muslims and 28 per cent also dislike and show hostility towards Muslims. The fact that these numbers are from a population survey and not from a survey conducted in established anti-Muslim milieus shows a disturbing degree of anti-Muslim attitudes among “ordinary Norwegians”. This chapter consists of an analysis of the answers to an open-ended question that was part of the population survey: “What do you think might be the reasons for existing negative attitudes to Muslims?” The findings are interpreted in light both of claims about Muslims found in the quantitative part of the survey and of different public discourses that took place the same year as the survey was conducted. I argue that the increase in anti-Muslim discourses that has developed at the margins of the public sphere cannot be understood as fully separated from the public mainstream, and that it has affected attitudes in the general population. The chapter also discusses whether the results from the survey can be explained by a lack of recognition of the racist elements in Islamophobia. Islamophobia is commonly understood as “fear of a Muslim takeover” or as something similar to a critique of Islam. This understanding has concealed the racist elements in Islamophobia: Would Islamophobic statements be met with stronger self-sanctioning if they were understood as varieties of racism?
This chapter explores antisemitism in contemporary Norway through an analysis of data from open-ended questions in the population survey Attitudes towards Jews and Muslims in Norway 2017.1Christhard Hoffmann & Vibeke Moe, eds., Attitudes towards Jews and Muslims in Norway 2017: Population Survey and Minority Study (Oslo: Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, 2017). The chapter investigates the part of the survey that dealt with views on the reasons for negative attitudes towards Jews. By examining the respondents’ broad range of explanations, the chapter explores different contexts for antisemitic views in contemporary Norway and possible new forms of expressing such attitudes beyond the limits of fixed-response questions. The chapter thus contributes to the discussion of the current development of antisemitism and the seeming paradox that while surveys show that antisemitic attitudes are decreasing in the general population, Jews around Europe see antisemitism as a serious and increasing problem. The analysis thus simultaneously explores the Norwegian population’s understanding of antisemitism and indicates where the boundaries of what can be said about Jews are drawn. It shows that answers often described antisemitism as something spatially, “ethnically” or historically distant. While few answers expressed classic stereotypes of Jews, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes a communicative arena where negative views of Jews are more easily tolerated.
The following chapter presents findings from group interviews with Muslims and Jews conducted in Norway between May 2016 and May 2017. Six groups were interviewed; three had Jewish participants and three had Muslim participants. The chapter explores interpretative patterns among the interviewees, focusing on the ways in which antisemitism and Islamophobia were expressed or rejected in the conversations, and how antisemitism and Islamophobia were perceived as contemporary societal problems. Photographs were used as visual prompts during the interviews and served as a starting point for the analysis of the social interaction between the interviewees. A central question of the analysis is how intergroup attitudes were negotiated and eventually regulated throughout the conversations.
Christhard Hoffmann (b. 1952) is Professor of modern European history at the University of Bergen and Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies in Oslo. He has developed special research interests in the history of migration and minorities; antisemitism and Jewish history; the public uses of history and memory. Recent publications include The Exclusion of Jews in the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 (editor, 2016); Migrant Britain. Histories and Historiographies: Essays in Honour of Colin Holmes (co-editor, 2018).
Vibeke Moe (b. 1976) is Research Fellow and Project Coordinator at the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies. Moe’s fields of research include antisemitism in contemporary Norway; Muslim-Jewish relations; historical consciousness and identity among Jews and Muslims in Norway. Among her recent publications are Attitudes towards Jews and Muslims in Norway 2017 (ed. with C. Hoffmann, 2018) and “Hvis de hadde oppført seg som vanlige nordmenn, hadde alt vært greit, tror jeg”, FLEKS-Scandinavian Journal of Intercultural Theory and Practice, 3:1 (2016) (with C. Lenz, I. Levin and C.A. Døving