Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachmann, caused an uproar this week when, in a radio interview, he compared Israel’s release of 26 terrorists as a “gesture” to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to Norway releasing mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
Breivik is currently serving a 21-year prison sentence for killing 77 people, mostly youths, by planting a bomb outside Oslo's main government building and later opening fire on a youth camp on the island of Utoya. The attacks took place in July of 2011.
"To put it in Scandinavian understanding, we can say that the atrocities committed by these Palestinian prisoners can be compared to the actions of Breivik in Norway," Bachmann said in the interview.
"Imagine that Breivik will be released in some similar gesture like the Palestinian prisoners," the ambassador added. "Studies have shown that such people return to terrorism. It’s not easy to get public support for the release of such people."
Following the interview, families of the victims of Breivik’s massacre protested Bachmann’s remarks and argued that there is no room to compare between the release of terrorists by Israel and the mass slaughter committed in Norway. Some of the families claimed that the situation in the Middle East is different because there, they said, there is a genuine struggle “against the occupation”.
Shortly after the court in Norway sentenced him last year, Breivik apologized for not having murdered more people. He recently applied to study political science at the University of Oslo, angering some of the faculty who said they would refuse to have any contact with the 34-year-old killer.
The Almagor Terror Victims Association expressed support for Bachmann’s remarks and denounced the distinctions made by the victims’ families between the murder of Jews and the murder of Norwegians.
"The reactions in Norway trying to differentiate between terrorism directed at Norwegians and terrorism and murder directed against Jews by Palestinians show that the Norwegians have learned nothing from the time period in which European Jews were murdered and they remained silent,” the organization said. “There is regular anti-Semitism in Norway and what was said there today symbolizes the bleak situation there.”
“The argument that the Palestinians are fighting for freedom is an argument that supports terrorism and in that sense, in retrospect after they suffered a terrorist act, they should make the following conclusions: Murder is murder and terror is terror. There is no justification for a Norwegian madman slaughtering children and there is no justification for a normal person killing children,” said Almagor.