Government tackles anti-semitism

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On her first day back at work after the government’s annual budget conference, Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen met with the leader of Norway’s largest Jewish organization, vowing to tackle reports of anti-semitism in the schools head-on.

Halvorsen and Anne Sender of Det Mosaiske Trossamfunn discussed reports aired by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) over the weekend, and Halvorsen immediately set up a working group to assess the problem and try to solve it.

“I have spoken with many teachers who think it’s difficult to tackle the problems that crop up with bullying, racism and anti-semitism in Norwegian schools,” Halvorsen told news bureau NTB after the meeting. “Therefore we’re inviting representatives from various schools, the police and religious groups to take part in the working group. We must find common ground on this.”

Sender was positive after the meeting with Halvorsen, and over the creation of the group. “I think something concrete will come out of this,” Sender told NTB. “Now we’ve got this problem up at a national level, and then the chances to succeed are better.”

NRK’s reports indicated that much of the anti-semitism in the schools stems from Muslim students who make anti-Jewish remarks and even threaten Jewish students. Halvorsen, however, said this is “not a Muslim problem, but a Norwegian problem.” Others argue that the government must take up the issue with imams at local mosques, in the hopes they in turn will condemn anti-semitism. Muslims also complain of bullying and prejudice, points out Halvorsen’s party fellow and cabinet minister Audun Lysbakken, and shouldn’t be guilty of it themselves.

Halvorsen herself has been highly critical of Israeli policy and urged boycotts of Israeli products, because of Israeli encroachment on Palestinian territory and Israeli aggression in Gaza. Halvorsen insists this has nothing to do with anti-semitism, stressing how important it is to separate criticism of Israel’s national politics from Judaism itself.

Views and News staff