Photo: Flash90

Norway takes pro-Israel action

Norway has enacted several recent measures in support of Israel over the past week.

The parliament in Oslo endorsed the severance of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), for its promotion of antisemitism and incitement to violence in curriculum for the 2020-2021 academic year.  The withdrawn funds total 30 million Norwegian krone ($3.4 million).

The landmark decision comes after Norway’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Members of Parliament (MPs) from across the political spectrum were briefed on the PA’s educational system by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) in November.

The PA has long been accused of including false and inflammatory depictions of Israel, Israeli citizens and Jews in school textbooks to indoctrinate young Palestinian students. The Norwegian parliament warned the PA a year ago that it must omit violent, anti-Semitic or racist curriculum or risk a cutback in financial assistance. Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said she personally conveyed “the government’s views on the matter, stressing that lack of improvements in the school curriculum could have budgetary implications for future Norwegian aid” during a meeting in Ramallah last February with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh; followed up with her announcement in June that Oslo’s funding of the Palestinian educational system would be withheld until content encouraging antisemitism and terrorist violence against Israelis was deleted.

In violation of previous PA commitments to omit the objectionable material, an IMPACT-se report in September revealed that Palestinian textbooks continued to legitimize terrorism and teach anti-Jewish propaganda even in science and math manuals, while glorifying martyrdom through Islamic jihad holy war as “the greatest virtue.” Examples included the positive portrayal of the 1972 PLO massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, glorification of suicide bombings in Arabic language class, the teaching of addition and subtraction by the counting of martyrs and Newton’s theory of gravity with drawings of sling shots loaded with rocks by Palestinian children aimed at IDF soldiers.

“The Palestinian school curriculum abounds with calls for violence and hatred against Israel and for martyrdom to be glorified,” MP Sylvia Listhaug was cited by the Algemeiner as saying, adding “It is quite clear that Norway cannot support this, therefore we want to cut this item.” Listhaug is the Deputy Leader of the right-of-center Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP).

“We have long been uneasy about both textbooks and teaching programs in the Palestinian territories,” said Foreign Affairs Committee member MP Geir Toskedal of the Christian Democrats in the same report, emphasizing, “It is very important that the school focuses on peace and cooperation.”

Progress Party MP Himanshu Gulati, who reportedly led the budget-cutting effort, expressed regret “that it has taken us so many years to take a strict line against these things. It is very good that it is happening now,” underscoring that, “Not a single krone should go to Palestinian education until this is clarified and they have stopped” such activities.

Gulati, who is also the Deputy Chair of the Friends of Israel parliamentary group, advocated even further action be taken against the PA in a statement posted on his faction’s website. “Norwegian taxpayers will not pay the monthly salary to terrorists” he wrote, in reference to monthly payments the PA makes to convicted terrorists and their families based on a scale of attacks committed on Israelis. “When Norway provides aid to Palestine, the money goes into the same economy that is also used to pay prisoners’ salaries,” he explained.

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff welcomed the parliamentary move, saying, “Norwegian legislators from across the political spectrum are simply not satisfied with the same worn platitudes coming from Ramallah and parroted in Europe about improvements to the textbooks being imminent.” He added that, “It is clearly not and until the hate and incitement is removed from Palestinian textbooks, the EU and European nations need to take note of Norway’s leadership on the issue, and stop being a party to the daily incitement of Palestinian schoolchildren and to the embarrassing abuse of their own taxpayers’ funds.”

In another pro-Israel development, the Norwegian government refused to comply with United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) blacklist compiled earlier this year of 112 Israeli and international companies that operate in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

The anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement had campaigned for the list’s formation as part of its effort to financially damage the Israeli economy and any companies that conduct business with the Jewish State.

The Expedia travel agency is on the UNHRC registry, and BDS activists had been trying to ban its Egencia subsidiary from Norway.

In refusal, the Department Director of Norway’s Government Procurement Center Kjetil Ostgard was quoted as saying that a legal assessment showed that the country had “neither the right nor the duty to reject Egencia.”

The UNHRC has long been accused of maintaining a virulently anti-Israel platform. The Jewish State is the only nation in the world for whom allegations of human rights violations have been made a permanent matter for debate at UNHRC session, notoriously known as “Item #7.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the UNHRC’s bias against Israel “unconscionable” and “well-documented.”

The United States withdrew from the 47-member body in 2018, which then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Hailey called, “a cesspool of political bias” and a “hypocritical, self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.” She noted, “You know something is seriously wrong when the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel – which has a strong human rights record – and just 7 against Iran, whose history is abysmal.”

At the time the U.S. left the UNHRC, then-Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his nation “shares the view that the dedicated-agenda-item #7 focused solely on Israel is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace.” The British leader also warned that “unless there is a change,” London “would vote against any resolutions introduced under this item.”