vrijdag 26 augustus 2011

The village of Norway

After the attacks in Norway I read a few comments about the village-like character of Norway. There there still is a sense of community, people trust each other and they keep Europe and cosmopolitanism out. It sounds almost like Geert Wilders’s dream, if only those damned socialists would not cherish their Muslims so dearly. In this village, ritual slaughter is allowed to Muslims and not to Jews, and Geert would rather have that exactly the other way round.

Indeed, something village-like cannot be denied to Norway. Attacks were unknown from personal experience. Perhaps therefore Breivik’s crime hit the people extra hard, though the kind of suffering which is caused this way is universally terrible, wherever it occurs.

Something remarkable, I would say village-like, there was also to the first reactions of the conference participants on the shots of the terrorist, namely immediate associations with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To clarify this reaction, it is important to know that the day before on the island Utoya the people had been extensively involved in promoting the Palestinian cause.

Among the issues discussed some were, to my opinion, important and worthy of consideration, such as calls for ending the occupation of the West Bank and support to the formation of a Palestinian state.

But there were also problematic issues. The Foreign Minister Gahr Stoere, for instance, who attended the conference, would without problems approve of a plea for a boycott of Israel – see photo –, which is something else than a boycott of the settlements. And he brought to the conference the demonizing set of ideas which after the attack was expressed once again by Norway's ambassador to Israel: that Hamas’s terrorism against Israel is more justified than other terrorism. In short, they were bashing Israel a few days long already.

In this situation of village-like convenient arrangement of good guys versus bad guys, the following can happen. According to a report by Adrian Pracon, a survivor of the massacre, when the shooting began some people immediately thought of Gaza. This was going to be a simulation of what they had learned just now, so of what according to the conference Israel uses to do in Gaza.

“Some of my friends tried to stop him by talking to him. Many people thought that it was a test ... comparing it to how it is to live in Gaza. So many people went to him and tried to talk to him, but they were shot immediately”, tells Adrian Pracon.

Except that the idea that it might be serious was (happily) far away, the only connection the conference participants were able to establish between the shooting and the rest of the world was the thought of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Apparently to these people words like ‘violence’, ‘shooting’, ‘quarrel’ are largely synonymous with that conflict. It has become proverbial for everything which has to do with shooting, you can think of nothing else anymore.

When people start to think as schematically as this, what happened in their heads? Because something must have happened, unmistakeably. People have done something to images in their heads, or they have let others do something to them.

Somehow distortion of information takes place. Indeed, in substance, there is no justification for such stereotyping and for attributing such negative symbolic value only to Israel. Not because there are no terrible things to report. But because that is not unique to Israel and not highly distinctive either.

It is true, I agree with everyone who thinks that the creeping colonization of the West Bank is a dirty trick, and that every victim that falls in the fight against missiles from Gaza is one too many. But it must also be said that about this situation in Israel there is a lot of discussion. There are historians who with unprecedented openness figure out what exactly happened and happens and who do not spare Israel. And this summer 60,000 Palestinians are on vacation in Israel.

In addition, there are quite a few regimes and militias in the world that make as many or more victims and in more horrible ways. And such for many years already, and among its own people. Or would the idea be that in those cases it is just the leaders who are bad? They are depraved – the common people in all these countries are, as noble savages, only victims. And would it be thought perhaps that in Israel the whole community is bad?

Yes, something like that must be the case. A suchlike distortion must take place in people’s minds, otherwise I cannot explain the exclusive demonization of Israel. Because objectively spoken, there is no reason why the demoncard should be played exclusively to Israel. So if nevertheless you do so, then you do something yourself - in your head. It happens more often than can be justified, I'm afraid.

Or than well-minded people want to account for, I hope – even in a village. I am justified in hoping so because, after all, the village of Norway has been the scene of the first treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

See also Thought Police