Monday, September 18, 2006

Norway synagogue target of shooting 

Shots fired at Oslo synagogue; no injuries reported

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Mon., September 18, 2006 Elul 25, 5766

Norway's Jewish community yesterday clung to the hope that Saturday night's shooting at an Oslo synagogue would shake up Norwegian society and put an end to the wave of anti-Semitism in the country.

The Oslo police are pursuing the unknown individual who came to the building late Saturday night and fired at the synagogue and the attached Jewish community center. The synagogue itself was unoccupied at the time of the shooting, but there were people in the community's retirement home and guesthouse. Eleven bullets damaged the synagogue's exterior.

An Israeli man staying at the guesthouse told Haaretz he heard a volley of shots at 2:30 A.M. yesterday. Police officers who arrived on the scene told people to stay inside and cordoned off the street. Yesterday the police stepped up security around the Israeli Embassy in the capital and Jewish sites in the country.

Asked if the shooting was connected to religious intolerance, a police spokesman said, "We are keeping all options open and investigating this possibility."

The shooting was the latest in a series of incidents directed against Norwegian Jews, especially in Oslo, whose Jewish community has 150 to 200 active members. In July a Jewish man was assaulted on the street, while in August a man defecated on the steps of the Oslo synagogue and smashed two windows.

The publication last month in Aftenposten, a leading Norwegian newspaper, of an opinion piece by the bestselling author of "Sophie's World," Jostein Gaarder, ignited a firestorm.

In the piece called "God's Chosen People," Gaarder attacked Judaism and asserted that the state of Israel had forfeited its right to exist. At the height of the war in Lebanon, Gaarder wrote: "We call child murderers 'child murderers' and will never accept that people such as these have a divine or historic mandate excusing their outrages." He compared the Israeli government to the Afghan Taliban and South African apartheid regimes.

The paper's political editor justified the publication, saying, "Gaarder's voice is important in the Norwegian discourse."

Mona Levin, a music critic who belongs to Oslo's Jewish community, spoke out publicly against Gaarder's article. Yesterday she told Haaretz that his piece was being distributed, in Arabic translation, among Norway's Muslim community as well as being posted on the homepage of a neo-Nazi Web site.

"I think this time the police will take the incident seriously," Levin said. "What happened is very worrisome but maybe something good will come of it. I don't think the average Norwegian wants to see such things."


Police arrest four over shots fired at Oslo synagogue

By Reuters
Wed., September 20, 2006 Elul 27, 5766

OSLO - Norwegian police on Tuesday arrested four men suspected of firing shots at an Oslo synagogue last weekend, the national news agency NTB reported.

The four, aged between 20 and 30, were suspected of having fired at least 10 shots at the synagogue in central Oslo with an automatic weapon, or of having taken part in the incident.

"The four men have different ethnic backgrounds," police Inspector Iver Stensrud told NTB, but he declined to say where they were from.

Stensrud said there might be further arrests.

"We have intelligence information that it will not necessarily stop with this," he told NTB.

No one was injured in the shooting, which took place in the early hours of Sunday. It was the most serious of a series of attacks on the synagogue in recent months.

The Mosaic Religious Community, which owns the synagogue, had asked for better protection of its property following threats and after the site was vandalised last month.

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