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Did Norway behave poorly or well under the Nazi occupation? Please don’t leave me now; this will get relevant within 20 or 30 words.
Norway had a lot of Nazi-sympathizers. The very name “Quisling,” the man who sold out Norway to Hitler, is now an international synonym for “traitor.” But Norway was also full of heroes, freedom fighters, the “gutta i skauen” (boys in the woods) who made the hated Nazis sorry Norway had ever appeared on German maps. One of Norway’s greatest resistance heroes is my good friend Gunnar Sonsteby, probably in his 90s by now. I call him my favorite terrorist. More about Gunnar later.
The Nazi and Japanese occupations of World War II were the worst in history; certainly the worst in the modern world. If there were a kind of “Academy Award” for the opposite, the most humanitarian military occupations in the world (not a bad idea!), the prize would be divided between America for our occupations of Germany and Japan, and Israel for its occupation of Arab lands. The freest Arabs in the world are those living in Israel. During the Six-Day-War in 1967, Israeli representatives of Histadrut, the labor federation, followed the Israeli troops into East Jerusalem to arrange equality between Israeli and Arab workers. Arabs, including those who hate the Israeli state, serve in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Is your imagination flamboyant enough to envision a Jewish elected official anywhere in the Arab world?
And if there were a prize for the single-most bitter injustice in the world today, it would likely be the organizations of intellectuals in good Western European democracies like England who vote for total boycott of Israel for committing the audacity of self-defense. During World War II, when the British recoiled against German bombing of British civilians, Britain, later joined by its American partners, staged air raids against German civilian populations consisting of 1,000 and more bombers. If you look at the list of single air raids that took the largest toll of life during that war, you’ll notice that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki rate pretty far down the list, following the conventional bombings of Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo. There was no Israel at the time, but there were Jews, and I don’t recall any bellyaching for boycotts against Britain for such brutish bullying.
How dare I call Norwegian hero Gunnar Sonsteby “my favorite terrorist”? I admit, that’s a “grabber,” a shameless attention-getter. Gunnar is, by me, a freedom fighter. Only Nazis consider him a terrorist. My point vaults way over and above all the clichés of “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter!” No matter whose side you’re on today, if you don’t “get” the following, you’re implacable and, by my yardstick, morally worthless.
In his late 20th-century book, “Report From Number 24,” republished 25 years later by Barricade Books, Gunnar recalls his life fighting the Nazis in Norway, always grasshopper-ing one step ahead of the Gestapo. Gunnar, by his own admission, was no James Bond. He slept, like many resistance leaders, at a different place every night, and six times during the war his landlady came down over breakfast and gingerly handed him a loaded pistol, saying, “You left this under your pillow last night.” There’s a lot more “Gunnar” but not much more space, so let’s get right to it.
Gunnar blew up a lot of Nazi offices, installations and military depots. However, before each explosion detonated, he went to a pay phone and called the Germans and said, “Your building is going to explode in five minutes!”
“Why, Gunnar?” I asked. “Your country was invaded. You were fighting a war. Why did you show such concern for enemy life?”
“Well,” said Gunnar, with a Norwegian accent I’m sorry we can’t duplicate here, “A few more dead Germans would not have hastened Norway’s liberation. We were staging our actions to show the Germans, the Norwegian Nazis, the Norwegian people and our British and American allies that we were here and that we were worth the cost of continuing to get us supplies, ammunition and explosives. Besides,” he added, “it was fun rushing to a place far enough away from the explosion not to get involved, but still close enough to see those frightened overweight German sergeants rushing out of the buildings with their arms full of files, once we had established our credibility.”
That’s a pretty high standard of freedom-fighting!
How can the intellectuals of the advanced world continue to brush off the murderous non-concern of the Jihadist and the Palestinian terrorist and attempt to magnify the inadvertent errors that claim innocent life when Israel moves against areas from which death is deliberately rained down upon innocent Israelis?
If the Arabs were to lay down their arms, there would be no war.
If the Jews were to lay down their arms, there would be no Israel.