It is striking to see how Norwegian politics differs from Danish politics. Europe is turning Muslim and the major threat to European secularists comes from extremist Islamists. While the Danes have been engaged in a conflict with Muslim extremists, the left-wing Norwegian government parties are appeasing them by fighting the Jews. Last Thursday Kristin Halvorsen (45), the Norwegian Minister of Finance, said that she is in favour of boycotting Israel.
Halvorsen, who is also the leader of the Socialist Left Party (SV), told the newspaper Dagbladet that she never buys Israeli products, such as oranges, and that she supports all Norwegian municipalities and provinces that boycott Israel. Halvorsen prefers Cuban oranges instead.
On 15 December the province of South-Trøndelag officially called for an economic boycott of Israel. The boycott entails that the provincial authorities will no longer buy Israeli products. They have also called on the province’s 270,000 inhabitants to do the same.
The boycott was initiated by the far-left Red Electoral Alliance (RV). It received the support of all three Norwegian governing parties – the Labour Party (Ap) of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Halvorsen’s SV and the environmentalist Center Party (Sp). It was also supported by a provincial councillor of the right-wing Progress Party (Frp) of opposition leader Carl I. Hagen.
The center-right Oslo newspaper Aftenposten remarked sardonically that South-Trøndelag is in “the good company” of Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Iran, the only members of the Arab League that still strictly apply the 1951 Arab League economic boycott of Israel. The 1951 boycott was based on the 1922 decision of the Fifth Arab Congress to boycot all commercial activities of Jews in Palestine. Aftenposten pointed out that clearly South-Trøndelag wants to be more radical than most member states of the Arab League.
Halvorsen’s outspoken support for the boycott caused a row in the government last week. Fearing that Norway’s role as a traditional mediator in the Middle East could be in jeopardy, Oslo was quick to stress that boycotting Israel is not its official policy.
Though Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s Labour Party also voted in favour of the South-Trøndelag boycott, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre felt compelled to write a letter [pdf] to his U.S. and Israeli colleagues to make it clear that “it has never been and will never be the position of the Norwegian government to advocate [a consumer boycott] against Israel. Norway is a friend of Israel based on long historic ties. On this basis we will continue to support the peace process and be available to the parties in the Middle East to help bring the process forward.”
Stoltenberg called Halvorsen to account, as did Åslaug Haga, the leader of the Center Party, the third party in the Norwegian government coalition. She, too, criticised Halvorsen for having cast doubt on Oslo’s position as a neutral mediator, although her own party also voted for the South-Trøndelag boycott. On Friday Halvorsen offered her apologies, acknowledging that as a member of government it is her duty to voice the official government position.
To make amends it is possible that the parties will revoke the boycott decision of 15 December at the next session of the South-Trøndelag provincial council. However, that will be all window dressing. The Norwegian government parties want to boycott Israel, while insisting that the Norwegian government does not. Indeed, the SV still intends to launch a pro-Palestinian “solidarity campaign” later this month. This campaign will call for… a consumer boycott of Israel. Gry Larsen, the leader of Young Labour, the youth section of Stoltenberg’s party, also endorses such a boycott, though she is Gahr Støre’s political adviser and may even have helped him write his letter to his American and Israeli colleagues. In the letter he says: “Norway is a friend of Israel.” But with friends like Norway, who needs enemies?
With Friends Like These, 10 January 2006