Israel’s ambassador to Norway, Raphael Schutz, has stirred up protests from Norwegian political leaders on both the right and the left after he described one of his many Norwegian critics as being “a descendant of Quisling,” the infamous traitor who sided with the Nazis during World War II. The ruling Conservative Party has reacted strongly, as have leaders of the Socialist Left and Reds parties.
Schutz spent time during the Easter holiday weekend fending off Norwegian criticism on his Facebook page. The criticism arose after 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire against demonstrators in Gaza. The shootings have also unleashed strong criticism from the EU and the UN, while Israel has rejected UN calls for an investigation into the shootings.
Schutz entered into a particularly harsh debate with Ole Ingvald Hansen of Norway’s Palestinakomiteen on his Facebook page. Hansen had commented that Norway also had “freedom fighters” during World War II, to which Schutz accused him of “lies and pure Antisemitism as might be expected from a descended (sic) of Quisling. You come from a civilization that persecuted Jews for centuries and cooperated with the Nazis and today you express it by declaring the only Jewish safe heaven (sic) illegal. I guess you have no reservations about the legality of states (like) Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and similar “enlightened” societies. Shame on you and on your distorted moral.”
That prompted a lengthy commment from another Norwegian, Jan Anders Kolshus, who noted that Israel is “the bigger, stronger nation” with the technology, the know-how and power “to solve this situation,” yet Israel keeps “choosing solutions that can’t possibly end well.” Kolshus also reacted to the ambassador’s “disgusting comments on Norwegians being the descendants of Quisling,” and added that his own criticism of Israel has nothing to do with “people being Jewish. All I see is a state behaving like a bully and representatives of that state labeling criticism as ‘anti-Semitic.'” Kolshus suggested Schutz should “represent (his) nation honourably,” and that such a comment (about being a descendant of Quisling) “coming from an Israeli official is simply disgraceful.”
Schutz then called upon Kolshus to “please don’t preach without experiencing our reality” and added that Norwegians who compared his country with the Nazis “deserve to be reminded about this dark page of your very recent history.” Schutz also wrote: “Sorry I don’t meet your criteria for a good diplomat.”
The acrimonious debate went on, also between Norwegians, and by Tuesday, top Norwegian politicians were responding. “The Israeli ambassador’s comment is both wrongly placed and crosses the line for what we need in a professional exchange of opinion,” Michael Tetzschner, who leads the ruling Conservative Party’s faction on the foreign affairs and defense committee in Parliament, told news bureau NTB.
Tetzschner went on to claim that also Norway’s history is up for critical debate, “but those who have insight in more modern Norwegian history know that Quisling’s thoughts and his followers were political outsiders before, during and after the war.”
Karin Andersen, a Member of Parliament for the Socialist Left party, wrote on Twitter that the Israeli ambassador’s comments were unacceptable, while the Reds party called for the expulsion of the Israel ambassador, to protest “Israel’s murders of Palestinian civilians.”
Norway’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment. Schutz, meanwhile, claimed he was wrongly quoted in a story in newspaper Dagsavisen, in which he also claimed that he was “on safe ground when I say that there were more Norwegians who cooperated with the Nazis during World War II by sending Jews to concentration camps, that there were Norwegians who actively worked to save Jews.” Schutz wrote on Facebook that he had never said “that ALL Norwegians” are descendants of Quisling, nor does he believe that.
He added that the focus of the heated debate “shouldn’t be about what the Israeli ambassador dared to say (even though it was an undiplomatic and hard truth).” Rather, Schutz wrote, the focus should be on “how incredibly easy it is for Norwegian media to present untruths when it comes to Israel.” He offered no apologies.