The Norway massacre has touched off a nasty war of words on the Israeli Internet over the meaning of the event and its implications for Israel. And I do mean nasty: Judging by the comments sections on the main Hebrew websites, the main questions under debate seem to be whether Norwegians deserve any sympathy from Israelis given the country’s pro-Palestinian policies, whether the killer deserves any sympathy given his self-declared intention of fighting Islamic extremism and, perhaps ironically, whether calling attention to this debate is in itself an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic act.
The debate seems to be taking place almost entirely on Hebrew websites. There’s a bit of bile popping up on the English-language Jerusalem Post site as well (for example, there are a handful of choice comments of a now-they’ll-know-what-it-feels-like variety following this Post news article reporting on Israel’s official offer of sympathy and aid). In Hebrew, though, no holds are barred. I’ve translated some of the back-and-forth from the Ynet and Maariv websites below, to give you taste.
The debate exploded aboveground on Saturday in an opinion essay at Ynet (in Hebrew only) by Ziv Lenchner, a left-leaning Tel Aviv artist and one of Ynet’s large, bipartisan stable of columnists. It’s called “Dancing the Hora on Norwegian Blood.” He argues that the comment sections on news websites are a fair barometer of public sentiment (a questionable premise) and that the overwhelming response is schadenfreude, pleasure at Norway’s pain. As I’ll show below, that judgment seems pretty accurate.
He goes on to blame the Netanyahu government, which he accuses of whipping up a constant mood of “the whole world is against us.” Again, a stretch—a government can exacerbate a mood, but it can’t create it out of whole cloth. Israelis have been scared and angry since long before this government came in two and a half years ago, for a whole variety of reasons. The government isn’t working overtime to dispel the mood, but it can’t be blamed for creating it. Finally, Lenchner argues, on very solid ground, that the vindictive mood reflected on the Web is immoral and un-Jewish, citing the biblical injunction “do not rejoice in the fall of your enemy.”
His article has drawn hundreds of responses—more than any of the articles he complains about. They fall into four basic categories in roughly equal proportions: 1.) Hurray, the Norwegians had it coming; 2.) What happened is horrible but maybe now they’ll understand what we’re up against; 3.) What happened is horrible and the celebrations here are appalling; 4.) This article is a bunch of lies, Ziv Lenchner invented this whole schadenfreude thing because he’s a lying leftist who wants to destroy Israel.
It’s worth noting that at some point late on Saturday several readers found links to Norwegian news sites showing that some kids at the campground where the shooting took place had been brandishing signs a day or two earlier calling for a boycott of Israel. These links were posted (here and here) and the mood quickly got darker—sympathy for the shooting victims dropped fast.
The background to this, as Ynet reported in a news article, is that Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store had visited the campsite on Wednesday, two days before the shootings, as he does every year (he was a camper there as a kid) and addressed the group. He was asked from the audience about Palestinian statehood, and he said Norway was looking forward to the Palestinians’ U.N. bid, but he wouldn’t recognize a Palestinian state before that. He was also asked about boycotting Israel. He said it was a bad idea and would make the conflict worse rather than help bring peace. At some point during the day, some of the campers held up the signs that appear in the photos. Israeli readers seem to have concluded that the pictures show the camp program was anti-Israel and therefore fair game.
Here are some of the responses to Lenchner’s article:
15. Almog, Beer Sheva: they have it coming, period. Your article is pointless. Anyone who acts without mercy towards us, there’s no reason I should pity them!!!! Let them continue to respect and honor Muslims. 16. Gidon: I never enjoyed any support from Norway all these years when there were terror attacks in Israel just the opposite you bent, corrupt person let them understand that terror is not a solution to anything you self-righteous Jew 54. Roi, Bet Shemesh: Ziv Lenchner you’re a leftist!! If you haven’t noticed you’re a leftist like the rest of the media!!! Enough with the leftist incitement!!! There’s no getting away from it Norway was always against the state of Israel it’s not new and never will be!! We’re not in favor of the attack but to say that maybe they’ll understand us better after what happened is entirely legitimate!!! 103. Yossi, the north: Oslo … Maybe they’ll learn in Oslo that they’re not immune they’ll feel what many Israelis have felt and some of them can no longer feel because of the activity of Israelis and Norwegians in Oslo. 104. Ilan, on the stoning of gays [sic]: Anti-Jewish? Have you ever heard of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Suddenly a few little Jew-boys have popped up and “invented” a new Torah! Before the Torah is moral it is first of all for survival and the destruction of all enemies! Sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea [Exodus 17:21, after the drowning of Pharaoh’s army—JJG] 303. Effie: I feel no sorrow about it!!!! Anyone who doesn’t feel the no pain of my people shouldn’t ask sympathy for his own pain. 392. We’re more unfortunate: Enough demagoguery! The Norwegians and Europe generally are super-anti-Semitic. So 100 people were killed there are 7 billion more people in the world. I don’t pity them they’re my enemies they hate Israel so they have it coming!!! 393. The whole world dances on Jewish blood. Europe is the same Europe and even more anti-Semitic. The killer is right!!! Europe is defeated, Norwegians are becoming a minority. 458. Very sorry: With all due sorrow they were waving a sign on the island the day before calling to boycott us. So I really don’t feeling like showing empathy. Very sorry. If you don’t believe me here the link to the lovely picture:
When the first news report appeared Friday on Ynet, the Yediot Ahronot website and Israel’s most trafficked news site, comments seemed to run about 3- or 4-to-1 (at a rough eyeball guess) hostile rather than sympathetic. The reported death toll at this point was 11, and the perpetrators were assumed to be Islamic extremists. Here are a few typical comments:
181. Noam: Ha Ha Ha! Europeans, this is your “liberalism” 240. D.A.: Bring the Oslo criminals to justice? 242. Radical Dreamer: Let them eat what they cooked. 243. Just a Person: Speedy recovery to the wounded and condolences to the families. 260. Shai, Tel Aviv: Give Norway back to the Arabs! End the occupation of Norway! 268. Shimon: Good news for Shabbat. So may they increase and learn the hard way. 285. Nir, Hasela Ha’adom: Allow me a few moments of pleasure. 315. Moshe, Haifa: I’m sorry, it doesn’t move me. From my point of view, let them drown in blood.
Ynetnews, the English website, carried an English translation of the story. The comments are far more moderate: almost none express outright pleasure, and there’s a rough balance between sympathy and sarcasm.
When the news came out on Saturday that the killer was not a Muslim but a right-wing Norwegian nationalist angered at multiculturalism, liberalism and tolerance of Islam, the tone sharpened. Suddenly there was a rush of comments claiming the killer was right and the victims had it coming. Here is Maariv’s report on the killer’s 1,500 page manifesto, calling for a European-wide uprising to “reclaim” the continent (here, for you English-language readers, is NPR’s report on the same document). Maariv’s readers piled on.
1. Y.: The best thing to come out of this is that Norway will be divided. 12. Gandi: the boy wanted to send a message. Extreme, yes, but they don’t understand anything else. 13. Yossi: To commenter no. 1: You’re mentally ill. How can you see anything good the depraved murder of boys and girls think for a minute (if you’re capable) what if some of them were your relatives
18. Anti-Left: Of course I condemn this terrible murder but in a larger sense he was right! 19. Ron: A freedom fighter for Norway cleared of foreigners…!!! But this time it won’t be easy for you … Muslims aren’t Jews — who go willingly to death!
To self-righteous Yossi: Coming soon to all the Norwegians. And all the Europeans.
Y.: My relatives aren’t Muslims. It’s time for Europe to deal with these Arabs. From my point of view they could kill 1,000,000 of them here too.
AA: You leftists have to be wiped out too. And it will happen soon. When the economic house of cards comes down, even your shoes won’t be left (unlike last time)…
Horrifying but correct, Muslims will teach them a few lessons. They won’t go like sheep to the slaughter, but today neither will we!
We also let them piss on us
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).