Changing the Divestment Tune: “Norwegian Wouldn’t”

A guest post by Profco

The Norwegian Finance Ministry has announced that the government of Norway will be divesting from Elbit, a major Israeli defense contractor with operations in Asia, North America and the Middle East. Speaking at a Oslo press conference Sept. 3, the Norwegian Finance Minister, Kristin Halvorsen, said that the decision had been recommended by Norway’s Ministry of Finance council on ethics, charged with assuring that  government investments abroad meet ethical guidelines, because the Israeli arms firm was  providing the technology used in the construction of the West Bank separation barrier (referred to as the “fence” in the Israeli media). “We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law,” Halvorsen was quoted as saying in a Norwatch report.

Haaretz journalist Amira Hass’s initial report in Haaretz (which can still be read on various websites in the blogosphere, including the Israeli-Occupation Archive) about the divestment (from which the above quote was gleaned) was  originally headlined “Norway Divests from Israel Defense Firm over Ties to West Bank Fence.”  It has been expanded and rewritten with, or by Barak Ravid, who now shares Hass’s byline. Ravid is Haaretz’s spinmeister par excellence, specializing in hasbara (“explanation”–the Israeli euphemism for propaganda). Ravid’s contribution to Hass’s original version is a new lede designed to put the Norwegian government on the defensive:

The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Yossi Gal, on Thursday summoned the Norwegian ambassador to Israel, Jakken Bjørn Lian, to protest Norway’s decision to pull all of its investments from the Israeli arms firm Elbit.

Following the meeting, the Foreign Ministry relayed that, “Israel will consider further steps of protest in the future.”

As the old saying goes, “the best de-fence is a good off-fence“!

It’s been just over a week since Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Norwegian government of anti-Semitism for honoring Knut Hamsun,Norway’s greatest author, because of Hamsun’s pro-Nazi sympathies during WWII.    Lieberman also took a swipe at the Norwegians for participating in Durban II.  “I remember that in the Durban-II conference,” Lieberman said, referring to last April’s UN anti-racism summit which was criticized as allegedly biased against Israel. “The Norwegian representatives were among the few who didn’t walk out, and today I realize it’s not a coincidence. How low can you go?”

As I (‘Profco”) waste my time noting in the comments below the Haaretz article, the Nobel-prize winning Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer considered Knut Hamsun (also a Nobel Laureate) to be the the father of modern literature.  “The whole school of fiction in the 20th century stems from Hamsun,” Singer wrote in 1967, citing Hamsun’s “subjectiveness, his fragmentariness, his use of flashbacks, his lyricism.” Singer also wrote the Introduction to Hamsun’s novel Hunger. If it’s okay for Singer, one of the greatest Jewish writers of all times, to admire Hamsun, why not the Norwegian government? And speaking of Nazi sympathies, it’s worth noting that Zionist revisionists (the political forerunners of today’s Likud party) were quite sympathetic to the goals and methods of Mussolini’s Fascism and even Hitler’s Naziism until they targetted Jews.

 Tom Segev’s book, The Seventh Million:  The Israelis and the Holocaust, has some pretty eyepopping (and meticulously documented) revelations about the attitudes of some Zionists toward the Nazis in the 1930s and even the 40s. A revisionist journalist by the name of  Abba Ahimeir had a regular column in Doar Hayom, a Hebrew  newspaper pre-state Palestine, which he called From the Notebook of Fascist.” Ahimeir headlined his article that eagerly awaited the arrival of Zev/Vladimir Jabotinsky, the great-grandaddy of Revisionist Zionism (although Jabotinsky would probably be considered a moderate by today’s lunatic Israeli right standards), “On the Arrival of  Our Duce” (p. 23).

According to documented archival materials cited by Segev, in 1932, Ahimeir was one of several Jewish Defense League-style disrupters of a lecture at Hebrew University against whom charges were brought.  His lawyer, Eliezer Meir, objected to the prosecuting attorney’s comparing the actions of the lecture disrupters to Nazi tactics on grounds that, “Were it not for Hitler’s anti-Semitism, we would not oppose his ideology.  Hitler saved Germany.” Hazit Hayom, a revisionist movement newspaper, praised Meir’s “brilliant speech.”

Ahimeir subsequently included Hitler among the “shining names” of world leaders like Mussolini, Pilsudski, Ataturk, and Eamon de Valera.  Furthermore, Hazit Hayom said that Revisionists should fight the Nazis only to the extent that they were anti-Semites, since the kernel of Nazism was anti-Marxism, and its anti-Semitism was only an empty shell.   In 1963, David Ben Gurion brought up Ahimeir‘s praise for Hitler in the 1930s in 1963, as a political swipe against the Herut party (the major political party that comprises the Likud bloc) when its members objected to reconciliation between the State of Israel and West Germany under Adenauer (pp. 374-375).

So now Norway is making its own moral claims, this time against Elbit, an Israeli security and weapons contractor.

Elbit Systems Ltd. is an international defense electronics company engaged in a wide range of defense-related programs throughout the world. The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications,
computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (“C4ISR”), unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, airborne warning systems, ELINT systems, data links and military communications systems and radios. The Company also focuses on the upgrading of existing military platforms and developing new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial aviation applications

Shortly before the 2008 election, Gregg Early,  a science and high-tech focused stock specialist wrote in his The Real Nanotech Investor, “If John McCain becomes president, look to Elbit Systems (NASDAQ: ESLT)…”This company is already growing but a President McCain, who’s a former military man and who sees the strategic value of our close ties with Israel as a fulcrum in the Middle East, would likely find key companies in the region to reward as an example of what cooperation with the U.S. can do. And defense is the best place to start.”

If investment in “key companies” is appropriate as a reward, then it would seem equally valid, and fair, for governments to use divestment punitively as well. Nevertheless, Israelis and pro-Israel politicos and ideologues, who are the major promoters of divestment from Iranian firms to show disapproval of their government, are finally finding out what it is like to be on the receiving end of the divestment stick (shtick?). Elbit, by the way, has already been awarded  the contract to build the surveillance system for the proposed wall between the US and Mexico, pending approval of the wall’s actual construction by Congress. (Yes, THAT Congress–the penny-pinching one that’s so worried that health care reform will be cost too much.) A substantial portion of the U.S.-Mexican, were it ever to be built, would no doubt  be constructed in McCain’s home state. 

What’s rather ironic that the Norweigian divestment from Elbit is based upon its providing surveillance sytems for the Wall. Elbit’s UAVs were used extensively by Israel in the “second Lebanon war,” and were considered to have performed so successfully that the British govt. ordered 110 of them. Elbit’s UAV’s have also been used by Israeli forces in Gaza. Sixty percent of Elbit’s sales are to foreign countries and governments, . Elbit  has provided upgrades to Myanmar’s (a/k/a Burma’s) air force fleet.

According to a March 1, 2000 report in Jane’s Intelligence Review by William Ashton, titled “Myanmar and Israel develop military pact,” Israeli companies and the Israeli government had been supplying and developing weapons for the Burmese regime.  In 1997 Elbit won the contract to upgrade Myanmar’s (then) three squadrons of Chinese-built F-7 fighters and FT-7 trainers. Six years ago, Elbit established an office in Shanghai, China, whose human rights record is less than stellar. No doubt there are numerous  other cases of Elbit’s technology being used by regimes and for purposes that contravene human rights.

Nevertheless, the Norwegian government has finally put the divestment shoe on the Israeli foot.   It fits perfectly, and Israel will have finally have to face the music and dance to the divestment tune, although not one it wanted:  “Norwegian Wouldn’t.”  While late in coming and limited in scope, it’s a start!

[Crossposted at Profco’s Politackle Newsroom]

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  1. There’s an awful lot to chew on in this piece (thanks for reminding us that the Zionist far right of yore admired everything about Hitler except the “empty shell” of his anti-Semitism!), but I’ll confine myself to Knut Hamsun. Singer’s opinion notwithstanding, Hamsun was not THE founder of modern literature. And he WAS an anti-Semite. That doesn’t mean Norway is anti-Semitic because it honored him. Americans can admire Henry Ford (definitely an anti-Semite) or H.L. Mencken (an equal opportunity despiser of religiously-minded people — not just Jews) without being anti-Semites themselves. Calling people anti-Semites because they oppose Israeli repression of the Palestinians is a tired tactic that just doesn’t work very well anymore. The Israeli right is doing its best to dig not just its own grave, but that of the Israeli people as a whole.

  2. Boy, they’ll really be sweating those market powerhouse Norwegians’ absence. Man, that pretty much will have them begging for mercy any day now, any day…

    It’s a great start, hopefully others will pick it up. Meanwhile, this country is coming unhinged. When does the Boycott of America start? It’d be hard, what is it we make again?

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