Israel's ambassador to Norway, Miryam Shomrat, has filed a complaint at PFU against the cartoon in Dagbladet about Ehud Olmert. She also said she was «disappointed» in the Norwegian government because it has neglected to react against the assault of a jew by some Arabs a while ago. Meanwhile, the bishop of Oslo has urged the government to officially condemn what happened.
PFU (Pressens Faglige Utvalg) is the body in Norway where everybody can file complaints against press articles. Israel's ambassador has now filed a complaint against the cartoon that appeared in Dagbladet comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with the Holocaust against the Jews during World War II. According to her, the cartoon shows a lack of historical knowledge about the Holocaust, which she finds totally unacceptable. Lars Helle, the editor in charge of the newspaper, is rather confident about the case, and says the cartoon clearly is within the borders of the freedom of expression.
This case bears some clear resemblances to the case of the Danish Muhammad cartoons, but there are some striking differences too. First of all, Israel's ambassador filed a complaint at PFU, thus following the correct procedure. She hasn't asked for an intervention from the Norwegian government, nor demanded a meeting with the Prime Minister. Lars Helle and Finn Graff can enjoy the warm summer weather without needing to fear for their lives or their security, or that of their family. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a Norwegian embassy will be attacked or burnt down any time soon because of the cartoon. Consequently it is my impression that the Israeli ambassador is an offended, but otherwise civilized person. That does not mean that I think she is right about filing a complaint: regardless of one's opinion about the cartoon, it would be unacceptable if every cartoonist should have to check and ask the approval of every embassy involved whenever he wants to draw a cartoon about an international event. Moreover, the Israeli ambassador is attaching much more importance than necessary to Finn Graff, particularly considering his comments less than a year ago about the Mohammad cartoons.
In a somewhat related event, the ambassador said in an Internet conversation with the readers of the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land that she was «disappointed» because the government hasn't made any official comment on the assault against a Jew in the streets of Oslo not so long ago. It has, however, already more than once expressed concerns about the military actions of Israel in Lebanon. In the Internet conversation she received much support from the readers of Vårt Land, for which she was very grateful. A couple of days later Ole Christian Kvarme, the (conservative) Lutheran bishop of Oslo, followed up, saying that he too is disappointed about the lack of reaction from the Norwegian government. He added that the ambassador's call should be completely unnecessary in a country like Norway. According to him, the assault was an anti-Semitic act and totally unacceptable.
The Christian-democrat Ingebrigt S. Sørfonn (Krf), president of «Friends of Israel» in the Norwegian parliament Stortinget agrees that the Norwegian government should react officially. He asks the government to contact the representatives of the Jewish community in order to discuss the situation. He also said the media and the political parties bear a lot of responsibility because of their repeated calls for a boycott of Israel during the past months and years, and points in particular to the local groups of the Socialist Left Party (SV) in South Trøndelag and Bergen. The president of SV in Hordaland, Jørgen Melve, disagrees, and says Sørfonn is talking nonsense when he tries to blend anti-Semitism with opinions about the state of Israel and its behavior in one and the same discussion.
Morten Høglund of the Progress Party (Frp), also a member of «Friends of Israel», criticized the position of SV and the Labor Party (Ap) too. He accuses the two parties of speaking with two tongues: one in the government on a national level, and one on a local level in the provincial councils, saying that it contributes to the confusion about the two parties' real opinions about the matter. He also accuses them of being biased against Israel since they have never called for a boycott of Syria or Iran.