Conservative party leader Erna Solberg’s comparison between Muslims and Jews during the interwar period, is still attracting attention.
Transcription of a debate in Dagsnytt 18 NRK on 2011 04 08.
Participants: Erna Solberg (chairwoman, conservative party), Mona Levin, Trine Skei Grande (chairwoman, Liberal party),Jorunn Seim Fure (Professor of history).
This is the first part of the debate, the rest will be in tomorrow’s summary.
NRK: First you, ES. You have raised some notice over your statements on comparisons of 1930s anti-Semitism and the persecution of today’s Muslims.
Do we see parallels?
ES: Yes, what I have told VG today, it is much of the thoughts, the way of descriptions which these extreme anti-Islamic groups are in possession of, it reminds of much of what these extreme anti-Semite groups were doing, well, all the time up to the second world war. And it is this, the conspiracy theories, who are ruling the world, who shall take over the world, it is, it is they do not believe in public authorities stating otherwise. These opinions are manifold. And thinking in groups. This means individuals being made representative of a group, all of the time. And the violent pressure exerted upon for example moderate Muslim voices in debates and to have opinions. It is frightening to see. The I told clearly it has nothing to do about the actions against or the treatment of the Jews in WW2 or that. But I fear some of the same mechanisms making the populations of Europe act passively to what happened to Jews being the same as those in the debates on Islam and Muslims from those who are most extreme. And I think it is right t issue warning, understanding some of these mechanisms. If you think you are not facing a human but a representative of a religion. Yes, if so you are beginning to make a mistake. We are always facing humans,
NRK: Mona Levin, you are an author and a journalist. What is your opinion on this comparison between persecution of Muslims and anti-Semitism?
ML: I find it lacking in understanding of history. And I find it irrelevant as it is employed right now. None of the new minorities in Norway have, god be praise, god be praised, experienced or will ever experience anything approaching what Norwegian Jews have experienced. And it is not just about what extreme anti-Semite groups did, it is about large parts of the population. This systemic and industrialized extermination of Jews is something Muslims will never experience in this country. And this means ES should have stopped herself before making any comparisons between persecutions of Muslims and persecution of Jews. Because, there are no reasons to compare. And the persecution of Muslims is objectionable, being neither for the better or worse over what Jews experienced before and during the war. Or by drawing parallels that have nothing to do about each others. Nor can I understand why Jews are to be drawn into debates that have nothing to about them all of the time. What do the poor 1400 Jews have to do in his debate. Why are we to become innocent hostages, which we have to speak up against? It is a problem.
ES: No, I do not mean there is a need for anyone to contradict me. I am speaking on what happened until what lead to Nazism. The decades written about in VG, the decades ahead of the 1930s, creating images of a Jewish conspiracy. An image is made of Jews ruling the world. The received the responsibility over the 1929 stock market crack (sic). When a dangerous person is drawn, an image of a Jew is drawn. Much of the same mechanisms are utilized .And it is not about the experiences of the Jews in WW2 pr the Nazis and the persecutions and the pogroms for that matter and history through centuries being traumatically to the Jews, making it lesser. But we must look for signs of dehumanizing humans. And it is the start of using violence against humans.
ML: Well, I believe, or ES expresses, and we must believe, she is aware of the results of the persecution of the Jews, from the 1920s, starting a long time before, and the 1930s and the terrible that happened. And it makes it impossible for me to understand why she can draw such a comparison today. And I find it strange, at a time when the leaders of the Labor party actually behaves as examples while houses literally have fallen to the ground around them, choosing not to blame anybody before knowing who it was, It was marvelously\y wise. And for that reason I find it so strange ES now shall, I understand of course her need to distance herself from the definition of conservatism by this criminal. But why she shall draw the Jews into an impossible parallel I cannot understand. Why can she not rather distance herself from Varg Vikernes who says in Aftenposten the Jewish world conspiracy is behind. Who are behind this attack and murders.
ES: I can of course distance myself from this, and I am making these same way of thinking. But if I can say one thing. I think ML, if it is too sensitive if Jews cannot understand how we draws parallels between the thought and the conditions for growth starting, making it possible to commit what the Jews and the Jewish people have experienced. I have the opinion one must be able to tolerate the possibility of comparing mechanisms in a community without interpreting it as an attack on the Jews, or relieving the Jews of any dignity.
NRK: Yes, are you too sensitive, Levin?
ML: No, I must disagree on this, really. One is you saying it is too sensitive. This gives me the thought you cannot comprehend how sensitive it is.
NRK: Another person with us, you are seated in Tønsberg. Mona Levin. But there is also another party leader. And it is you, party leader of the Liberals, Trine Skei Grande. Because you say please to follow Erna Solberg, after a press release today. Because of what you wrote of Islamophobia in Aftenposten earlier this year. And you named it housetrained racism.
TSG: yes, I am very glad Erna raised the level of this whole debate. And I have the opinion grading the type of racism and persecution is not having any meaning at all. So I believe the debate should be put to an end. What I as a former teacher of history can say, is that we must learn something by, the signals we see in a society. It is when a group is subjected to persecution as member of a group, where individuals are no perceived anymore, where, in a fashion, the limits between criticizing a religion and the members are removed. I am a Christian. Many regarding themselves Christian are proponents of values from which I distance myself. A different interpretation of my religion. It is the same for Muslims.
NRK; Yes, correct, but you also draw a parallel to persecution of Jews between the world wars.
TSG: I have spoken of the way of thinking in which individuals have no value. Individuals only have value through belonging. If there has been persecution of Jews. Or if it has been racism connected to blacks, Or all these times through history in which we have stopped seeing individuals, only seeing groups. History has taught us this is dangerous, terribly dangerous. And I think it is absurd to say which persecution is of more worth (sic) or of different character. But the method of thinking is the same. And it happened to all of us in Oslo n last Friday in the hours we did not know who it was who did it. Where Muslims can experience being dragged of the bus and beaten up. Where Muslims women have their hijabs torn off them in the streets, Are being spat after, given names. And you see there are things in society in need of being addressed. And which we must dare to talk of.
NRK: ML, no grading shall be done here.
ML. Yes, I can hear. But others have been good at grading through centuries.
NRK: In order to understand we must comparison as a method…
ML. But it has to be a relevant comparison. This is not to be compared.
TSG: We are not dragging the Jews into this. We are dragging the persecutors.
ML: But you are involving the Jews through always bringing them into every type of debate. Why do you do it?
ES: It is because it is perhaps the greatest and worst tragedy our societies ever has experienced. And as an obvious measure of what may happen if we level human value totally. And therefore this conspiracy theory. The way in which many of these groups make images. Making individuals responsible far beyond what is responsible to imagine, reminding of the same.
So I think one should rather regard it as somewhat of a honor for Jews to be drawn into the worst parallels. It honors them. The historical transgressions made ended up in Nazi Germany, but actually it has happened through centuries because Jews have been regarded as the different, the strange in our culture.
NRK: Historian at the University of Oslo, Jorunn Sem Fure, how relevant are these parallels?
JSF: Yes, I do have problems seeing the relevance of this. I believe Solberg is correct on us being on guard against these sort of mechanisms. Stereotyping, the creation of images of hostile aliens, this happen in periods in which a society has the emotion of something being wrong. So, many are in motion, feeling at unease, feeling estranged, are in fear. Fear over mass unemployment, the financial crisis, climate change, whatever.
NRK: So there is a parallel?
JSF: The interwar period also had that fear. The world was unhinged. International tension, mass unemployment started to build up. And many are in need of simplifying reality, looking for the guilty, scapegoats, those responsible. In the interwar period group think was much less of a problem than today. Today, we know it is a simplification of reality that is not to be allowed.
TSG: Have we learned by this?
JSDF: No, Solberg says we have not learned by it. And many has not learnt by it.
NRK: But where is there disharmony I this comparison? You started on this.
JSF: The disharmony lies in Norwegian society then and now being so extremely different.
After all, we are living in a media reality in which individuals receive incredible amounts of input, of stimuli. Skei Grande told me before entering what we need are more basic facts. So, there are so many relating to myths hovering around, concepts, conspiracy theories are flourishing. And much more than in the interwar years where few read newspapers.
Anti-Semitism in the interwar years was to be found in Aftenposten and Nationen and a few other underground newspapers and that sort of things. But people were not served it daily through the internet as today.
NRK: But, JSF, as a professional, do you find it relevant to indirectly involve the destiny of the Jews in talking about these issues?
JSF: Probably, too many things are very different. One thing is how this, which Levin is preoccupied with, ended up. It may perhaps easily be suggested that, such fear over this ending likewise. With mass confrontation and a genocidal development.
NRK: But it was the actions, but it is a parallel to anti-Semitism.
JSF: We are talking of prejudices against Jews as the mobile prejudice. Jews could be used for explaining away or explaining everything that was wrong.
NRK: And this is what ES says that if somebody cannot do it even today.
JSF: Interwar anti-Semitism had such a biological component non-existent today.
It was extremely murderous. So, a Jew can convert, change ideology, playing no role.
This person is still a biologic creature, at the time defined as the enemy of the body of the people. So, it is a type of concept not seen today. Today, Islam is an ideological and religious entity one relates to as an opponent. And those who take it further, then they are enemies. But to which degree you go even further, saying enemies must be eliminated. Then we are into the genocidal.
ES: Yes, but it often starts by creating an image of somebody else. And then its early on the searchlight must be put upon the making of an image of somebody else making you estranged, and in a sort of matter makes, so, if you are reading today after this interview was printed in the web pages of VG, after ten minutes the web page was closed down.
Because, it was filled with persecution of Muslims. And if you enter, diving deep into what are on web pages, you will find incredible descriptions, of both what Islam is, what everybody are responsible of, a total lack of, and the Muslims are having the responsibility of an incredible amount of wrongdoings.
NRK: Yes, nobody doubts this description of reality, but then parallels to anti-Semitism are like it was experienced in the 1930s. So, this is what we have been talking of today.
And, like Mona Levin , I understand you are angry over Jews being employed as a reference in these issues. But here you have heard you have got to accept this, this almost being a honor.
MS: I really have difficulties understanding this is a honor.. Else how, I agree with ES on persecution of Muslims today. I really cannot however see how this gets somehow less bad by dragging the Jews into this. You are very well aware of, ES, rumors of the Jews being behind 9/11. I have experienced being told this by a young Muslim girl, because she knows this to be true, as it in YouTube. And now this terrible shooting at Utøya. And when Jews as a concept, because you imply Jews a group, are being drawn into this, the way is short to blaming the Jews over this. And you are more harmful to Jews than you realize yourself. Because, the first we think of, what can it be, watching this on television, seeing the explosion, we think, O God, what may this cause to us. Are we to blame? Can it be connected with us? This is the first thing we thinks of. And by now, I know it is the first thing Muslims are thinking of.
NRK: Solberg must be allowed to comment upon this from the studio.
ES: I actually believe it is of relevance to take this into consideration. And if we are to deny historical figures are a frame of reference for how to discuss signals of danger in our own policies, yes, then we can stop using history for learning. Because we will not progress.
NRK: Skei Grande.
TSG: I have the opinion there are things we should have learned after what has happened, and this is to have used resources in history learning, more on the profession of history, more of understanding it. And if we cannot talk of history, learn by former experience, so this sacrifice will become absurd, in a way all those killed becomes some sort of persecution, it is absurd if we cannot learn by it today.
ML: Therefore, Norway, must confront with the war. What happened in the war, what the destiny of the Jews in Norway was. This debate was never raised. I know it is a debate different from this, my advice then is to the politicians in office now and others. Make this confrontation, finally.
NRK: Let us wait with that confrontation to another opportunity, as we have spent our time here. Thank you, Erna Solberg, leader of the Conservatives. Trine Skei Grande, leader of the Liberals,. There you are, seated in Tønsberg, Mona Levin, author and journalist. And Jorunn Sem Fure, historian at the University of Oslo, thank you all.