Norwegian Jewish leader: Trade union’s boycott vote was anti-Semitic

May 19, 2017

(JTA) – In a rare rebuke, the leader of Norway’s Jewish community said that anti-Semitism motivated a local trade union to pass a resolution urging a boycott of Israel.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, said the vote last week by the assembly of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions “is anti-Semitic in the way that it singles out Israel.”

“However,” he told JTA in an interview this week, “I’m not so interested in it but rather in ways to achieve peace.”

The confederation, known locally as LO, represents over 900,000 unionized workers in the country – more than one quarter of the adult working population. Its delegates voted 193-117 in favor of the boycott.

“Since dialogue and resolutions have had little effect, there must henceforth come an effort to achieve an international economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel in order to achieve those objectives,” the resolution read.

Leaders of Norway’s small Jewish community of 800 rarely cite anti-Semitism in explaining the prevalence of anti-Israel attitudes in Norway.  Nonetheless, “the vast majority of people in Norway are interested in seeing a safe, secure and democratic Israel,” Kohn said.

In recent years, LO has called to boycott various Israeli institutions, including the Histadrut labor union and businesses “that profit from the occupation of Palestinian land,” as the organization stated in a 2013 resolution. Virtually all the major players in Israel’s industrial and economic sector have dealings with or offices in Israeli settlements, which has contributed to such calls by LO being interpreted as a call for a blanket boycott on the Israeli economy.

A Norwegian government spokesman distanced the Cabinet from the vote and said it does not represent the official position of Norway.

Foreign Minister Børge Brende wrote on Twitter: “Norwegian government strongly opposes Norw Labour Union’s decision: #boycott of #Israel. We need more cooperation and dialogue, not boycott.”

LO President Hans-Christian Gabrielsen’s recommended against passing the resolution, according to the news agency Sputnik.

A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “discriminatory.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a statement Friday that the LO vote “not only reflects a deep bias against Israel and its active labor movement, but undermines efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. A vote in favor of boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a vote against the very legitimacy of the Jewish state.”