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19 Jul, 2019 17:48

Scrabble or anti-Semitism? Norwegian ‘Jewish pig’ cartoon courts controversy

Scrabble or anti-Semitism? Norwegian ‘Jewish pig’ cartoon courts controversy

A satirical cartoon on Norwegian public television has drawn complaints about anti-Semitism, after it showed a man contemplating a derogatory term in a word puzzle game Scrabble, while playing against a Jew.

Part of the NKR Humor series, the cartoon depicts an overweight man dressed as a Haredi Jew, playing Scrabble with a younger man in the park, and berating him for taking too long. 

“We are clearly on different cognitive levels,” the Jewish man declares.

As the camera pans around, the reason becomes obvious: his opponent is pondering whether to reveal the winning eight-letter combination that might win him the round, but is incredibly offensive: “Jødesvin”“Jewish pig” in Norwegian.

Norske Grønnsaker, the animators who created the clip, chose to share it on Facebook with a caption “tag a Jew,” prompting an avalanche of complaints. The video was later re-uploaded without the offending caption.

NRK Entertainment editor Charlo Halvorsen defended the video as a joke and denied it was anti-Semitic.

“The point in the sketch is precisely that the person who plays Scrabble has made a word that is indecent and indefensible. A word we can't and shouldn’t use,” but is tempted to do so in order to win the game, Halvorsen wrote in an email to the daily Aftenposten

The word used is “very strong,” Halvorsen wrote, but “is far from anti-Semitism.”

The nationalist party Alliance, led by the controversial politician Hans Lysglimt Johansen, begged to disagree, praising the cartoon as a gift to their election campaign.

Ervin Kohn, leader of the Jewish community in Oslo, told the paper his first reaction was that he didn’t get the joke. 

“Then I thought a little bit about it and realized that I am not indignant as a Jew, but as a Scrabble enthusiast,” Kohn said. “For one, this is not possible with eight letters in Scrabble. And secondly, this is not a word in the Scrabble dictionary.”

He added that the best comment he read on the case was someone on Facebook asking if there were any adults working at NRK that day.

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