This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Asil Jamal Abuassba from St. Olaf College.
As a Palestinian, Norway has a special place in my heart. I grew up associating the words “peace” and “negotiation” with the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993, when Norway brought together Palestinians and Israelis for the first time. As a child, I was constantly reminded that I was born during the peace era. Yet I soon came to understand the contradictory nature of the phrase ‘Oslo Peace’ because Palestinians did not enjoy the peace they were promised, but continued to face daily Israeli oppression. Despite the failure of the Oslo Accords, we were impressed that a Scandinavian country like Norway brought Palestinian and Israelis to the negotiation table for the first time, which was something the United States failed to do for years.
On our first day of Scandinavian Politics and Goverment class in ISS, our professor asked us to share our countries’ perceptions of Norway and its society. Most students spoke of Norway as an advocate for human rights and peace. It is hard not to be impressed with Norway when it scores one of the highest for the gender equality index, the living standards and even for the UN happiness index. Yet our professor explained that Norway has had the advantage of being small and wealthy. Furthermore, Norway gained trust around the world because it has no colonial past, and many developing countries
look up to Norway because it managed to reach this far despite being colonized for hundreds of years.
Needless to say, some of us started believing that a “perfect” country can actually exist in this world. However, this idealistic image was soon shattered as we got to know that Norway had the highest weapon export per capita in 2003 and continues to arm dictatorships and the Israeli occupation (ChangeMaker.org). Yet the weapons export (about NOK 4.9 billion) is relatively small compared to the NOK 30 billion annual Salmon exports (Nortrade.com).
Most students in class were shocked to hear about this other “dark” side of Norway, but sadly some were relieved because it becomes a lot easier to accept the hypocrisy of their countries. I tried to make sense of this contradicting image of Norway, but according to a Croatian friend, “there is no love in international relations”!