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(Small correction "He utterly represents Judaism..." -> "He utterly MISrepresents Judaism...")


Nice post, but I think you got it wrong with Gaarder deliberately trying to make Christianity seem superior to Judaism. I expect he thinks both are equally disgusting.

In any case, it’s pretty clear that Gaarder was genuinely surprised and completely baffled, even shocked by the massive critique his op-ed resulted in. That to me speaks volumes of the values and accepted truths that have become the norm and so glibly accepted in the circles Gaarder moves in. That virulent irrational hatred of Israel and outright anti-Semitism has become a thing so banal and widely accepted amongst the isolated and incestuous intelligencia, that it comes to them as a complete surprise that others can think otherwise. Unfortunately those are the same persons who often are centrally placed in the press and many influential government positions.


What do I make out of the level you lower this discussion to, Leif?

My name is Roar, yours is Leif. They're typical names in Norway. You want to poke fun at mine and refer to me as "this character?" Well, if you feel it emphasises your point...

Further, if you feel my challenge to you for you to actually back up your serious accusations against Gaarder and his "God's chosen people" by way of referring to his text - as opposed to not to - is something to be annoyed by, I can understand why you resort to any cheap attack available.

But in all fairness, a challenge to back up arguments when they bring grave accusations against someone (such as Gaarder in this case) isn't an act of "self-righteousness." If you don't see that, I trust other readers do.

As I've written too many pages on Gaarder's "God's chosen people" here already, I don't feel inclined to repeat those efforts. That's my position for a couple of reasons:

1) At this point in the discussion on Gaarder's text one would have thought that you would indeed reflect in your analysis of "God's chosen people" on some points brought to you by readers' comments. To me that's good ethics for a discussion. Having written quite a few comments myself I'd have thought you'd have had something to say on some of the aspects I've argued counterargue a series of your interpretations of "God's chosen people." But you don't, do you? (Note here that if you'd had the slightest honour to respond to points made on readers' context - who is Gaarder addressing? - you'd have to rewrite roughly two-thirds of your analysis in this post. I'm not the only to make that point - Gaarder makes it himself in his second op-ed in Aftenposten. Of course that text isn't addressed to you, but you should know it since you've provided a translation of it on your blog. Note also that Gaarder's "we" in his "God's chosen people" intergrates his political goal. He wants u s to stop recognising that Israel has a right to do as it does in Palestinian territories and Lebanon. You don't see that and I suspect it's because you don't want to. Still his text shifts between a confirmative form and one that appeals to the reader. But since the confirmative is rooted in an ideal not currently dominant politically, the confirmative is just an extension - an emphasis - of his appeal. Sometimes it's possible without getting into textual content in detail to locate and identify textual tools and modes. You'd have saved yourself some meaningless speculations on Gaarder's use of "we" if you'd only have applied basic textual analysis.)

2) What you call a "line-by-line analysis" is nothing of the sort. It's a selection of lines (that you find imply a negative reading). Why is that important? It's a cut-and-paste reconstruction of a text that because it's been cut and repasted only exist once you've made that reconstruction - it for sure isn't a text written by Gaarder in that form. It's Leif's remake. And anyone can do that. I could for instance collect quotes of Gaarder's "God's chosen people" that are unequivocally benign or less problematic and on such a basis write an analysis. I could also call it a line-by-line analysis. But it wouldn't make my analysis one that attempted to be fair. As yours isn't.

3) You fail to see the duality in Gaarder's critique of the state of Israel - Israel of today as an aggressive state and an Israel of 1948. It would be a mistake to understand what he calls Israel of 1948 literally (in that case Gaarder's "no way back" would be final as one can't turn back time). Because as much as that state could evolve into a state of Israel as of today, it can also develop into a state from now on that honours the rights of the Palestinians. So if you in the beginning of your analysis understand that Gaarder says the state of Israel is no longer legitimate per se (your current critique is unclear here so I'm not quite sure whether this is what you're saying), you're missing the point. He calls for a reshaping of this state to the better. Other states have done that. South Africa is one. Hence what he denunciates isn't a state called Israel on the map, but the state of Israel in how it deals with the Palestinians and other neighbours in the years following 1948. However, if you feel the state of Israel today is its o n l y possible and only correct form, I understand your attack on Gaarder. But you don't have my sympathy.

Beyond stating the above-made reasons that may also serve as useful pointers in a reading of Gaarder's "God's chosen people" I withdraw from this debate. You're not open to responding to points made to you (and I've made too many efforts to make available other perspectives on Gaarder's "God's chosen people" as it is). Consequently you also refuse to problematise them as a debater. Responding here is therefore futile. That being your position on the Gaarder row, you might as well put up a post saying "respond in the comments section only if you agree with me, otherwise beware, I might ignore you and I might also go to personal attacks on you on whichever ground I can."

On such grounds I fail to see the value of a discussion.

Leif Knutsen

Roar, there is no personal attack against you in my analysis, and your wish to interpret it that way reflects the utter lack of any reasonable arguments you have.

I am Norwegian, I understand the readers, and it is only fair that I read the op-ed on its own merits. To do otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

I omitted only a few lines toward the end but covered every single other one, so it is exactly what I said it would be.

Roar, you've lost the argument - your verbosity didn't get you anywhere. And stop lecturing me about honor.


Interesting analysis.

I deconstructed it a little bit elsewhere but focussed on the religious aspects, separating them from the criticism of Israel, which I would deem legitimate even if I don't agree with it.

"I broke up the piece and pulled out the parts which I feel specifically target Jews, as opposed to Israeli government policy.

I'd just like to make two things clear.
1. I don't think that Gaarder is consciously anti semitic. I think that he views himself as a humanitarian, dislikes what he has heard of Israel and has heard of the religious right, although he is badly misinformed as to the their numbers. However what comes up in his writing are a number of prejudices which can only be explained as anti judaism as they favourably reference Christianity, so I cannot surmise that he is simply anti religion.
2. I have found the response of many Norwegians to be very interesting. Obviously they are very proud of their reputation as humanitarians and their role in the world as neutral peacemakers, and rightly so. However, from many who dismiss those who say that Gaarders piece is anti semitic, I get the distinct feeling that they just have trouble believing that any Norwegian could say or believe something which is biased in any way. Could I be correct?

Anyway, these are the lines which are distinctly anti semitic with explanations:

We don't believe in the illusion of God's chosen people. We laugh at this people's conceits and cry over its misdeeds.
"Chosen People" is the biblical term for the Jews. "Peoples conceits" calls the Jews conceited

"To act as God's chosen people is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity". Again focuses on Jews, not Israelis. Now to be one of "Gods Chosen People" is a crime against humanity. If he is talking about Israel the State, he should not have used a religious reference.

"We don't believe in divine promises as a basis for occupation and apartheid"
Again confuses religion and religious people who believe that G-d promised the Land of Israel to the Jews, with the modern political State of Israel.

"We are embarrassed by those who believe that the god of plants, animals and galaxies has appointed one particular people as its favorites and given them funny stone tablets"
Now he seems to believe in G-d but is insulting the Torah.

"We don't believe that Israel mourns more over 40 Lebanese children than they for the last three thousand years have complained about 40 years in the desert"
The 3000 years references the Jews, not the state of Israel, and who complained about the 40 years in the desert?

"We take note that many Israelis celebrate such triumphs the way they once celebrate the Ten Plagues as "suitable punishment" for the Egyptian people. (In this story the Lord of Israel appears as an insatiable sadist)'
Still on religion, still critical of the Jews.

"It's been two thousand years since a Jewish rabbi criticized the ancient doctrine of an "eye for an eye.""
Now is positive about Jesus and insulting about Judaism, mistakes the biblical "eye for an eye" for retribution (it actually references compensation) and then claims that no Jewish rabbi has criticized retribution. By the way, the commandments prohibit retribution and Rabbis condemn it all the time.

"He said: "All that you would others do for you, you should do for them."'
As in, Jesus invented this concept while he was actually promoting Jewish tradition.

"We do not recognize the old kingdom of David as normative for the 21st century's map of the Middle East."
Again tying in Judaism as opposed to Israeli politics.

"The Jewish rabbi who claimed two thousand years ago that the kingdom of God is not a resurrection of David's realm, but that the kingdom of God is within us and among us. God's kingdom is one of mercy and forgiveness."
Again, referencing Christianity as preferable.

"It's been two thousand years since the Jewish rabbi disarmed and thoroughly humanized old war rhetoric. Already in his time there were Zionist terrorists."
Referencing Jesus again, with Christianity as preferable to Judaism. Compares the "bad" Jews of the New Testament with modern day Zionism, calling those Jews, 2000 odd years ago terrorists.

"For two thousand years, we have emphasize the curriculum of humanity, but Israel doesn't listen'
You got this one all by yourself.

"It wasn't the Pharisean who helped the man who lay on the side of the road because he had been attacked by robbers. It was a Samaritan, today we'd say a Palestinian'
Takes the New Testament (Christian) story of the Good Samaritan and compares the modern day Palestinian with the Samaritan (good guy) and the modern day Jew with the Pharisean (bad guy).

"He was the one who wrote so beautifully about the Jew and the Jewess [two epic poems by Wergeland]. But he rejected the the illusion of a chosen people."
Still on the topic of Jews as opposed to Israelis."


Without defending most of what Gaarder says, one should perhaps point out that you appear to have misunderstood him at one point:

You say:
"We do not recognize collective punishment or population diets as political weapons." ... As for "population diets" it flies in the face of the Arab "population bomb" talk that so dominates the debate in and around Israel. So Gaarder is taking that idea out of thin air, only useful to the extent that it demonizes Israel.

Gaarder's reference to "population diets" is presumably an allusion to Dov Weissglas's description of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians after the election of Hamas (originally reported by Gideon Levy in Haaretz on 19 February 2006, and widely disseminated from there), that "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die." (

Presumably you agree that, if Weissglas indeed said this, Gaarder's objection that this is illegitimate as a political weapon is not unreasonable, for much the same reasons as Levy sets out in his article.


Gaarder is a mediocre writer whose fame came from the book "Sophie's World" - a vain attempt of introducing Philosophy to young people. Bad wroted, the book, despite its goods intentions, is quite tedious. He had showed - once again - his limited intellectual capability and that he has no skills to adventure himself into this kind of subject (unless his intentions was only to make the minds of ignorant people).

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