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Dagbladet and antisemitism

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The political caricature is a satirical portrayal where exaggerating or twisting reality are typical tools. These empower the caricature, but also open up to many different types of interpretations of its meaning. Sometimes these lead to a total disconnect between the purpose of a caricature and the reactions to it.

We witnessed this when Jyllands-Posten - and subsequently Dagbladet and other Norwegian newspapers - printed the satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. We now have similar reactions to a cartoon that Dagbladet printed last week. Jewish communities, human rights organisations and private individuals across the world have strongly criticised Dagbladet for publishing what they consider an antisemitic cartoon by our guest cartoonist, Thomas Drefvelin. They leave little room for nuances and reflections.

Those who have made up their minds about the cartoon being antisemitic, do not believe the cartoonist when he claims that his parody of a religious practice was not directed at a specific religion or group.

Furthermore, they claim that this is proof of Dagbladet's antisemitic views. We come from a different angle and have a different interpretation of the cartoon. The aim is to criticise circumcision justified by religion, a practice done by several religious groups, and a practice which is the subject of much debate in Norway. The underlying point of the cartoon is that if you can put attitudes and actions under the umbrella term «faith», then any criticism or debate can be dismissed. We believe that this is a topic which most certainly belongs in the public domain.

Post Holocaust it is impossible to dismiss or ignore reactions from the Jewish communities regarding antisemitism. The industrial genocide of Jews in Europe was the absolute abyss of political evil. A prerequisite to the genocide was racist propaganda in all media outlets. All of this has resulted in a sensitivity for any hint of antisemitism, which is strong and understandable.

Meanwhile, it is important to distinguish between friend and foe when considering this question of values. Dagbladet has a long and consistent history of fighting antisemitism. This is a result of our belief in human values and rights, and our position on freedom of speech and religious freedom. There must be maximal freedom on both these counts. Thus, religious sentiments, dogmas or rituals cannot be exempt from criticism. To open up for questioning religious beliefs in the public debate is a guarantee for religious freedom and the safety of the believers.

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