Israel’s ambassador to Sweden is drawing fire in Scandinavia after comparing Palestinian prisoners released earlier this week to a Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011.
Isaac Buchman told Swedish Radio on Tuesday that Israel’s freeing of 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of an agreement to launch peace talks was akin to Norway freeing Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right activist who set off a bomb in Oslo and shot up a summer camp on a nearby island in one of the worst terror attacks in the Continent’s history.
“The horrors that [the Palestinian prisoners] did, to put it in a Scandinavian understanding, it’s like what happened in Norway with Breivik,” Buchman told the station, according to the Swedish news outlet The Local. “Imagine if Breivik was released as a gesture of some sort.”
However, survivors of the Utoya island massacre and family members of Breivik’s victims cried foul over the comparison, saying the Palestinians, many of whom were convicted on terror charges after killing civilians, were part of a larger cause.
“The comparison does not make sense,” Bjørn Ihler, who survived the camp shooting, told The Local. “Breivik was a solo terrorist whose actions were based purely on an unreal situation. The situation in the Middle East is very different. There is a real fight for Palestinian freedom going on.”
Trond Blattman, who lost his son in the camp shooting, called the comparison “ridiculous.”
Breivik, a self-styled anti-Muslim militant, surrendered to police on July 22, 2011, after setting off a bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo and opening fire at a summer camp for young Labor Party activists on Utoya island. Eight people died in the bombing and 69 others, mostly teenagers, were killed on the island. Breivik showed no remorse for his actions, calling his victims traitors for supporting a multicultural society, and was sentenced to 21 years in jail.
On Tuesday, Israel released 26 prisoners held since before the Oslo Peace Accords, the first batch of 104 prisoners to be freed in exchange for holding peace talks.
The prisoners included terrorists like Raai Ibrahim Salam Ali, who axed to death 79-year-old Morris Aizenstat while he sat on a park bench reading a book.
The release drew heavy criticism in Israel. On Thursday, Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked sent US Secretary of State John Kerry a sharply worded letter accusing him of hypocrisy for facilitating the release.