Debate at the highest political level in Norway
following TV report on PMW findings
MPs challenge Norway's funding of the PA
and criticize Norway's failure
to stop PA Antisemitism and hate promotion
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
A debate at the highest political level is underway in Norway following NRK TV's 11-minute report on Palestinian Media Watch's findings about PA hate promotion, as documented in PMW's book Deception. The report by investigative journalist Tormod Strand showed explicit examples of ongoing hate incitement, Antisemitism and terror glorification by the PA.
The next day, two Norwegian MPs from opposition parties were interviewed by NRK TV and challenged Norway's funding policies. They called to stop funding the PA if the PA continues its hate incitement and terror glorification:
Morten Høglund, foreign policy spokesman for the Progress Party:
"We must use the power we have, and as a major donor to the PA, we must fight fire with fire and say that we will stop the aid unless the PA takes immediate action to stop this type of hate message."
Click to view
Hans Olav Syversen, MP for the Christian Democratic Party:
"Yes, I believe we should [stop funding if hate continues] because you have to send a clear political signal that we as a donor country also want to reinforce the peace process. I think anyone who sees this realizes that this contributes to the opposite."
Two days later there was a long debate in parliament in which the three opposition parties - the Conservative Party, the Progress Party and the Christian Democratic Party - challenged the Norwegian Foreign Minister about Norway's funding of the PA.
MP Hans Olav Syversen of the Christian Democratic Party asked the Foreign Minister what the government intends to do this time, noting that this is not the first time Norway has objected to Antisemitism broadcast by PA TV:
"...we are talking about state-funded and state-controlled TV broadcasts from the Palestinian territories. It is, with due respect, not the first time this problem (i.e., Antisemitic messages on PA TV) has been discussed. I have here a long list of questions that the Christian Democratic Party among others has asked about the same [issue], since 2000. My question is: what are you doing now with the PA so that this may come to an end, contrary to what has been done in the past, when you (i.e., the Norwegian Foreign Ministry) also said that you would bring it up with the Palestinian side?"
Click to view
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide replied that Norway "brought this up immediately at a high level with the PA, who responded that they would pursue this, and that they did not wish to broadcast this kind of expression through a Palestinian TV channel."
MP Dagfinn Høybråten of the Christian Democratic Party also criticized Norway's previous ineffectual actions to fight PA hate promotion. He said that "history repeats itself," noting that "we have received the same assurances from former Foreign Minister Gahr Støre":
"According to what the Foreign Minister has now said, I assume that it is the government's view that Norwegian taxpayers should not fund hate propaganda through state-funded and state-controlled television in the Palestinian territories. This has been brought up by the Christian Democratic Party time after time, as our parliamentary head just said, and we have received the same assurances from former Foreign Minister Gahr Støre and now from [present] Foreign Minister Barth Eide, of Norway's clear stance and Norway's resolve to bring this up. History repeats itself. The question is what the [Norwegian] government will do beyond sending messages that we do not like this. Is it true that Norway will take steps to ensure that Norway certainly is not helping to fund this hate project - that Palestinian children's TV apparently still is?"
Arguing that the PA needs financial support from donors to be able to "establish the elements of a state," and "continue towards a two-state solution," Foreign Minister Barth Eide assured the MPs that "it is not the government's intention to finance hate propaganda from the Palestinian side - if there is any doubt about it... We are very concerned about this. We have brought it up, and we will continue to bring it up."
However, later in the debate, Foreign Minister Barth Eide tried to minimize the severity of the PA hate incitement that PMW documented.
"I want to emphasize that even though we now again saw one such example that was documented here - and which the Israeli organization Palestinian Media Watch made NRK TV aware of, and it is correct and well documented that this [PA TV incitement] happened - it's not as if nothing [positive] has happened... For example curriculum and textbooks, including in Gaza, are among the best in the Arab world in terms of how they relate to Jews and the other party."
PMW notes that the Norwegian Foreign Minister's reference to PA incitement as "one such example" is a gross understatement. Not only did the 11-minute NRK TV report cite several examples of PA hate incitement, libels, and terror glorification, PMW's book Deception, which was given to the Foreign Ministry, documents many hundreds of examples. PMW has shown that the PA hate promotion, libels and terror glorification from PA leaders and their controlled media is PA policy and not just "one such example" as the minister claimed. (See www.palwatch.org)
Referring to former Norwegian Foreign Minister Gahr Støre's comment in 2008, that it was "unthinkable that Norwegian aid goes to TV productions that transmit hatred of Jews" - a comment in response to PMW director Itamar Marcus' presentation of PA hate incitement on Norwegian TV2 at the time, Peter N. Myhre, MP of the Progress Party, asked "if the Foreign Minister believes that it is unthinkable that Norwegian aid goes to TV productions that convey hatred of Jews today?"
Defending Norway's funding of the PA, Foreign Minister Barth Eide explained that Norwegian money does not support PA TV directly, but admitted that giving money to the general budget leaves the money going to "many different expressions":
"It is obvious that when you provide general budget support, it will in principle have many recipients, because you enter a big budget with many different expressions ."
The Foreign Minister then again promised to follow up with the PA, emphasizing what he called a "positive sign" that the PA "denounced" the recent Antisemitic hatred on PA TV that PMW documented:
"Now I really need to emphasize that the response from [PA] President's Abbas office yesterday, in conversation with our envoy, was that they also denounce this, and that they wish to pursue this. I take that as a positive sign. We are going to follow up [and see] that they actually do it."
PMW notes that the PA's "denunciation" of the Antisemitism in the PA TV documentary in January 2013 has been expressed to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, but not to the Palestinian public. PMW has not seen any mention of this "denunciation" in any of the PA sources we follow. Although there have been three reports on official PA TV about the Norwegian TV report presenting PMW findings, it was never mentioned that the PA "denounced" or rejected any of the content criticized in the report.
MP Peter Skovholt Gitmark of the Conservative Party argued that Norway's support of the PA's general budget makes Norway an indirect supporter of everything the PA does:
"With budget support as an instrument we are indirectly supporting everything that is government-funded."
MP Gitmark also mentioned that Norway heads the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), "a 15-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people," and includes among others the EU, the US, the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Norway must therefore not just readjust its own funding policies, it must demand united action by the entire donor group:
"Far more important than the protest, which may be important in itself, is how we follow up on the protest and how we follow up with action. For Norway the single example with Palestinian Media Watch and PA TV and what is exposed there is especially important for us as head of the donor group (AHLC). While I agree with the Foreign Minister that it is positive that the [PA] President's office in the Palestinian territories reacts, I expect that the Foreign Minister is going to do something more than just following up on it, that he also follows up with concrete action by the donor group (AHLC) and say that this is unacceptable behavior."
The following day, the debate continued in Norwegian parliament. MP Dagfinn Høybråten of the Christian Democratic Party summed up the severity of the problem with the PA using its controlled media to incite hatred and spread Antisemitic messages:
"To achieve popular support for reconciliation and peace, the prejudices and stereotypes must be torn down. Last Sunday, NRK TV News had a report on Antisemitism in the Middle East, focusing on the relationship between Palestinians and Jews. The program was factual and [well-] documented. As we from the Christian Democratic Party's side have pointed out for years, Palestinian media are sending - and also from the PA government's TV station - regular programs with racist content, where the Jews as a people are stigmatized in a totally unacceptable way. The worst is that well-prepared broadcasts are being made, also on children's TV. Children are used to perform messages learned by heart like 'Our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail.'
Jews are on PA TV - [which is] funded by the [Palestinian] National Authority - portrayed as devils with tails, as greedy, power-hungry creatures who run a conspiracy for world domination. It takes one to know one! This cannot be done away with just by calling it a result of adults' political agitation battle. This is not about political struggle and debate, [or] about the occupation or security, terrorism or border check points. These are serious matters. What we are talking about is pure racism and demonization of a people - Antisemitism, which attributes negative traits to the Jews as humans."
In the end the Foreign Minister reiterated Norway's attitude to hate speech and Antisemitism:
"This is not something we can accept, this is something we strongly denounce, something we have denounced (in the past), and something we will continue to denounce (in the future)."
PMW documents that PA hate incitement and demonization of Jews and Israelis is common in the PA.
The following is the translation of the follow-up report on Norwegian NRK TV:
NRK narrator: "The Progress Party and the Christian Democratic Party want Norway to cut the aid to the PA unless the demonization and hatred of Jews is stopped. Yesterday, NRK [TV] reported that the PA finances and partially controls a TV channel that broadcasts hatred of Jews."
PMW-translated video from PA TV is shown
(PA TV:) "[Faced with the Jews' schemes,] Europe could not bear their character traits, monopolies, corruption, and their control and climbing up positions in government..."
NRK narration: "This is from PA TV this year, where classic Antisemitic beliefs about Jews with negative traits are broadcast.
NRK's report on the Sunday Evening News, where we reported on the demonization and hatred of Jews in PA TV, is now causing strong reactions in [Norwegian] Parliament."
Morten Høglund, Foreign policy spokesman (Progress Party): "I'm pretty shocked by what was reported [on TV]."
NRK narrator: "Norway has since 2008 provided over 300 million kroner a year in budget support to the PA. They are the ones who finance and partially control PA TV. The Progress Party believes that this support should now be reevaluated."
Morten Høglund, Foreign policy spokesman (Progress Party): "We must use the power we have, and as a major donor to the PA, we must fight fire with fire and say that we will stop the aid unless the PA takes immediate action to stop this type of hate message."
NRK reporter: "Should Norway cut budget support to the PA if it continues?"
Hans Olav Syversen, Member of Parliament (Christian Democratic Party): "Yes, I believe we should, because you have to send a clear political signal that we as a donor country also want to reinforce the peace process. I think anyone who sees this realizes that this contributes to the opposite."
NRK narrator: "It is not relevant for Norway to cut aid to the PA, the Foreign Ministry told NRK [TV] yesterday. Today, the Foreign Ministry has not had the opportunity to comment on the criticism."
[Evening News, NRK TV (Norway), Feb. 11, 2013]
To view the translation of the full debate in Norwegian Parliament about PMW findings and PA hate promotion, click here.