The Norwegian government is supporting a major effort to measure anti-Semitism in the country. The Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL-senteret) will survey attitudes in Norway towards Jews but also Muslims and other groups.
“The Center will get NOK 3 million (USD 530.000) to carry out the study,” Tora Aasland, acting Minister for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday, which also was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The study, Aasland said, “will give us more information about people’s attitudes, with particular reference to Jews and Judaism, but also including Muslims and Roma people. We need a thorough survey of high quality, to form the basis for future political initiatives.”
Explaining why the Holocaust Center on Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula was chosen for the job, Aasland told Aftenposten: “We have great faith in the integrity and the basic tenets of the Center. This is where we had to go to complete a task like this.”
Norway has been criticized, especially by media in Israel, for allegedly rising levels of anti-Semitism. Aasland noted that the Council of Europe has asked for information about Norwegian attitudes toward Jews, something which has not been charted previously. Attitudes towards Muslims, however, have been surveyed twice before.
Although attitudes towards Jews will form the main focus of the survey, Aasland claimed it was also “important to include other groups for comparison.”
Odd-Bjørn Fure, director of the Holocaust Center, said Norway is one of the very few countries in Europe which lacks scientifically-based research on attitudes towards Jews and Judaism. “One reason is that we are not in the European Union,” Fure told Aftenposten. He added that EU members are required to carry out such surveys.
“We have had a certain number of occurrences of a problematic nature,” Fure said. “We have to ask whether they stem from a groundswell of anti-Jewish sentiment or if they are more random.” He mentioned shots fired a few years ago against the synagogue in Oslo, invitations for Holocaust-doubter David Irving to speak at a literature festival, TV parodies involving Jews and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reports about the bullying of Jewish school children. Anti-Jewish sentiments were also expressed during the war in Gaza, while published articles in Norway have pointed out that criticism against Israeli politics can too often be viewed in Israel as being anti-Semitic when that is not the intention.
Work has already started and is being directed by a team of experts from several countries. In addition the team will receive guidance from a committee including members from the Jewish religious organization in Norway (Det Mosaiske Trossamfunn) and the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities (Samarbeidsrådet for tros- og livssynsamfunn). State statistics bureau SSB is reponsible for carrying out the survey interviews. The report should be ready by April next year.