Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israeli Complaint against Norwegian Cartoon

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 by some Arabs against a Jew some time 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 Palestine people with the Holocaust against the Jews under the World War II. According to her, the cartoon shows a lack of historical knowledge about the Holocaust, which she finds absolutely unacceptable. Lars Helle, 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 has some clear resemblances to the case about the Danish Mohamed cartoons, but there are some striking differences too. First of all, Israel's ambassador filed a complaint at PFU, thus following the correct way to do this. 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 having to fear for their lives or their security, or of their family. Furthermore, it is not much probable that some Norwegian embassy will be under attack or burnt down any time soon because of the cartoon. As a result, I'm having the impression that the Israeli ambassador is an offended, but otherwise civilized person. That does not mean that I think she's right about filing a complaint: regardless of one's opinion about the cartoon, it would be unacceptable if every cartoonist would have to check and ask the approval from every embassy involved whenever he wants to draw a cartoon about an international event. Moreover, the Israeli ambassador is paying much more tribute than necessary to Finn Graff, particularly considering his comments form less than a year ago about, exactly, those Mohamed cartoons.

In an event somewhat related to this, the ambassador said in a 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 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 the last 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 one's opinion 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, and says it contributes to the confusion about what the two parties' real opinion about the matter is. He also accuses them of being biased against Israel since they never have called for a boycott of Syria or Iran.