Despite being one of the smaller countries in Europe, Norway is to host one of the continent’s largest pro-Israel protests on Sunday. Police are expecting a violent backlash to the protest from Mosques and pro-Palestinian groups, according to the Local.
The 8,000 strong “With Israel for Peace” (MIFF) will assemble in front of the Norwegian Parliament to support Operation Protective Edge. A similar protest in 2009 led to significant violence when the group was attacked and the Police lost control of the situation.
But MIFF have confirmed they will not be intimidated by Muslim groups. MIFF leader Conrad Myrland said: “I expect leaders of opposing organisations and mosques to calm their members, and everyone should respect people being allowed to express their viewpoints in a peaceful way.”
Fears of a riot have been heightened because MIFF was far smaller in 2009 and was therefore less of a target. Also, feelings are running much higher now than they were five years ago, with violent attacks against pro-Israeli groups on the rise.
Myrland claims to have held discussions with the Police about how to avoid violence. Both sides are said to be keen to avoid repeats of 2009, when the Police had to deploy tear gas and dogs to regain control of Oslo’s streets.
Police chief Ole Jacob Smerud from the common operations section of the Oslo police district says that he does not intend to treat this protest differently to any other. Smerud said: “We will implement a level of alertness that is necessary for security.”
He believes MIFF supporters will be safe in Oslo on Sunday. “We have no indications that anything will go on, except the small risk that is always present. We want to take good care of those participating the arrangement.”
Norway has been criticised in the past for its attitudes towards Muslims, in a Guardian article Michael Booth argued that “there remains a disturbing Islamophobic sub-subculture in Norway.”
He continued “Ask the Danes, and they will tell you that the Norwegians are the most insular and xenophobic of all the Scandinavians.” His justification for this is that Norway takes fewer asylum seekers of than its slightly poorer neighbour, Sweden.
In September 2013 over sixteen percent of the country voted for the Progress Party, a libertarian party that opposes further Islamic immigration.
According to MIFF’s website they are campaigning for three things:
• The right of Israel to defend its citizens
• An end to the terrorist campaign by Hamas (which destroys the lives of Palestinians in Gaza)
• Fair media coverage for Israel