Life Illumined

Declaration against Antisemitism

The resurgence of antisemitism in Europe – yes, even in Norway – is preoccupying and shameful. Antisemitism is a latent gangrene in our body politic. When it becomes apparent and starts festering, it is significant of a general corruption of consciousness that does not concern just attitudes towards Jews; it signals a fatal, passionate mixture of amnesia and selfrighteousness that, fuelled by rage, casts a blinding veil over justice.

Opposition to policies of the state of Israel does not make one an antisemite; one is entitled, of course, rationally to contest these policies just as one may rationally contest the policies of other states. What constitutes antisemitism is the projection of political antagonism onto a people in a dynamic touching the rawest depths of irrationality, depths at which otherwise reasonable women and men are capable of the most preposterous attitudes and deeds.

‘Antisemitism’, wrote Jonathan Sacks, is ‘a prejudice that like a virus has survived over time by mutating’. He called it ‘the world’s most reliable early warning sign of a major threat to freedom, humanity and the dignity of difference’. That this is indeed the case is evidenced through the history of our continent by many sad examples. 

Regarding the position of the Catholic Church, we read in the declaration Nostra Aetate, promulgated by Paul VI on 28 October 1965: ‘in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone’.

I am pleased to be cosignatory to the declaration below, made public on 3 February 2024.

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We are appalled by the attack on Israel that took place on 7 October [2023]. With great sorrow we witness the ongoing war and the increase on a global scale of antisemitism and of hatred of Jews. As Christians we experience particular responsibility to stand up for the Jewish people, to which we are fraternally bound, not least because the history of the church is full of anti-Jewish attitudes and enterprises. We cannot remain silent before this reality.

1. We believe that each human being, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, is created in the image of God, possessed of unique and unassailable dignity. This holds for all human beings, also in Israel and in Gaza. The sufferings inflicted on civilians are terrible; they concern us all.

2. We find it unacceptable that Jews resident in Norway should experience in heightened measure insults and fear. Never must we forget the injustice that the church and Christians have inflicted on Jews through almost 2000 years. Throughout our history the Jewish people has been persecuted and expelled. Attempts have been made to eliminate it. Today we see a new resurgence of antisemitism. Our society must again confront the reality of antisemitic attitudes and prejudices – and indifference regarding the way in which Jews are spoken of in our culture. In 2012, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe reacted against strong anti-Israeli currents in Norwegian society. This tendency is apparent still in reporting on the 2023 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

3. Antisemitism plays an important role in the war between Israel and Hamas. Statements from Hamas to the effect that the organisation wishes to repeat 7 October again and again until Israel ceases to exist manifest a fundamentally antisemitic purpose, which likewise finds expression in the charters of 1988 and 2017. We resolutely distance ourselves from such statements. The antisemitic element in the conflict, the war, between Israel and Hamas cannot be ignored and must not be forgotten.

4. Our focus on resurgent antisemitism does not indicate that we forget or look away from the suffering of the people of Gaza or the conditions of Palestinians. However, the attack and massacre perpetrated by Hamas against Israel is closely tied up with  Hamas’s terroristical governance of its own population. Palestinians, too, need support and help in order to obtain a better, secure future.

5. The unmasking of and fight against antisemitism is a responsibility incumbent on our society. Several reports have pointed towards antisemitic attitudes in Norwegian society, attitudes that find expression in commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We regret the lack of attention paid by Norwegian media to this problem; we encourage editorial boards to present Israeli experiences and perspectives to a greater extent.

We call on everyone to pray for peace for all concerned parties – in Israel, in Gaza, on the West Bank, throughout the Middle East – and for the release of hostages.

We call for engagement and constructive support.

We call on everyone to desist from the demonisation of opponents and to commit instead to conversation, that we may speak about difficult issues on the basis of the different perspectives we carry.

We call on everyone to affirm that it should be safe to be a Jew in our country.

Det evangelisk-lutherske kirkesamfunn
Ungdom i Oppdrag
Den nordisk-katolske kirke
Den Norske Israelsmisjon
Kvinner i Nettverk
Internasjonale Kristne Ambassade Jerusalem
Ordet og Israel
Mgr. Bernt Eidsvig Can.Reg. (Biskop i Oslo katolske bispedømme)
Mgr. Erik Varden OCSO (Biskop i Trondheim katolske bispedømme og administrator av Tromsø Stift)
Ole Christian Kvarme (Biskop Emeritus i Den norske kirke)
Daniel Sæbjørnsen (Pastor og kommunikator)

Neil Shicoff in an unforgettable performance as Eleazar in Halévy’s La Juive, a study in antisemitism. Photo: Metropolitan Opera.