Sunday, January 24, 2010

Norway’s Middle East Hypocrisy

Ben Cohen
Z-Word Blog
20 January '10

This is a guest post by Christian Tau of NIJ.

Norway FM Jonas Gahr Støre toured the Middle East between January 16th-20th, visiting Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Egypt and UAE. The topics of Støre’s meetings in the different countries as well as the manner in which he was received shows us a Norwegian foreign policy bathed in the gold sheen of hypocrisy. The manner in which the Norwegian media reports on Støre’s tour reveals how this hypocrisy is rooted in a bedrock of popular denial.

Criticizing Israel on human rights

Of the countries Støre visited we find Israel at the far end of the spectrum. Freedom House ranks the little nation as a “Free”. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index for 2008 ranks Israel at no.38. The nation is a vibrant affair, producing writers, film-makers, and scientists amidst a strong entrepreneurial culture. It is by far the state in which most Norwegians would settle, if they were to live in the Middle East.

In spite of this, Israel has reluctantly come to realize that what goodwill she enjoyed with Norwegian Labor has, after the failure of the Oslo accords, mutated into a seething resentment of failed expectations and dashed hopes. Merged with the traditional anti-Zionism of the Norwegian left-of-centre, this resentment has made criticism of Israel the very core of the Norwegian debate on the Middle East. In this debate Hamas and Hezbollah appear as symptoms of a problem which in itself consists solely of Israeli politics.

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