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The Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s flagship vessel, The Handala, concluded the first stage of the 2023 Gaza Freedom Flotilla voyage this past week when it arrived in Oslo, Norway. According to the Coalition, The Handala has visited 12 ports in a number of European countries over the past two months carrying the Palestinian flag and raising awareness of its mission to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. On board The Handala, TRNN contributor, lawyer, and freelance journalist Dimitri Lascaris speaks about the Flotilla and the global movement for Palestinian liberation with fellow passengers Hege Bae Nyholt, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, representing The Red Party of Norway, and Aram Zaheri, Deputy Leader of the Red Party of Norway (Oslo section).

Studio-production: Dimitri Lascaris
Post-production: Cameron Granadino


Dimitri Lascaris:  This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from the Handala, the flagship vessel of the 2023 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. I’m here today en route to Oslo, Norway with two representatives of the Red Party of Norway. Please introduce yourself, Hege.

Hege Bae Nyholt:  My name is Hege Bae Nyholt.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And could you tell me what your position is within the Red Party?

Hege Bae Nyholt:  Yes, I can. I’m a member of the Parliament. I’m actually the Chair of the Standing Committee of Education.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And Aram, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Aram Zaheri:  My name is Aram Zaheri. I am the second leader of the Norwegian Red Party in Oslo.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And let’s start with Hege. Could you tell us a little bit about the political orientation of the Red Party in Norway and where it sits on the political spectrum?

Hege Bae Nyholt:  I’ll try. Of course, it’s a socialist party, so we don’t agree. Of course. Inside we have many, many different views about the party. But we are a socialist party, a modern socialist party. We are only 16 years old and recently, in the last two years, we have been more than one in the Parliament. But we are growing all the time. We are becoming stronger, with more members, more powers. So, in the beginning, we were a party but we are an old movement in Norway.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And how many seats does the Red Party currently have in Norway’s Parliament? And what is the overall size of the Parliament?

Hege Bae Nyholt:  We are 169 in the Parliament and we have 8 seats.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And Aram, could you tell me about the Red Party’s activities in Oslo? Where does it fit in terms of the political power structure of the city?

Aram Zaheri:  Well, we have a lot of political situations going around Oslo. For example, we are now fighting for free dental care around Oslo, or at least cheaper in the beginning. Many people around the world think that we have a lot of things that are free in Norway, for example, free healthcare. A lot of free stuff goes through the welfare system. But yet we don’t have any free dental care in Norway and it’s very expensive. When you see the situation around Norway where people can’t buy food or have to skip their meal because they have to pay electricity bill, the bills for dental care is now more expensive. The longer you go without going to a dentist, it gets even more expensive. This is the type of stuff we are fighting for, cheaper dental care, et cetera, and also – What do you call, non-commercialized –

Hege Bae Nyholt:  Welfare.

Aram Zaheri:  – Non-commercialized welfare as well, which we are struggling with.

Dimitri Lascaris:  So, let’s talk about the issue that we’re all here to activate about and that is the Palestinian cause. What is the position of the Red Party with respect to the plight of the Palestinian people and how to deal with that crisis?

Aram Zaheri:  Well, in our position here in Norway, we see it as our duty to follow what the Palestinian civil society wants us to do, and that is of course supporting the BDS Movement. So, in terms of the Red Party, we fully support the BDS Movement. It’s a part of our struggle as well as the Red Party members. We’re also the ones who formed the first Palestinian solidarity movement called the Palestine Committee of Norway. So, it has always been in our struggle to support the Palestinian liberation, support taking our oil pension fund out of Israel, and support a sovereign state for Palestine. And yeah.

Dimitri Lascaris:  And Hege, what motivated you to come on this particular journey?

Hege Bae Nyholt:  On this boat? Well, I was born and raised in the solidarity movement, in a way. My parents were active when I was a child so it’s always been a part of my politics. My heart is beating extra strongly for the Palestinian cause. I’ve been to Palestine twice but never to Gaza. It’s not been possible for me so this was an opportunity to do it. And before the Parliament closed this year, we suggested a bill that Norway should recognize Palestine as a state. We haven’t and there is also a way to hopefully get some publicity about our suggestion because it’s difficult to get the media’s attention when we try to suggest things. I nominated Al-Haq for the Nobel Peace Prize and it’s difficult to tell the world about it. Al Jazeera wants it; they make a big case about it. But in Norway, it’s difficult to wake up the media and get the attention that we need.

So things like this flotilla are super important to make people remember what’s happening in Palestine. Because right now, it’s mostly about the war in Ukraine in Norway and we don’t talk about what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening in Africa, what’s happening in other places in the world. So, it’s so important that we still have some interest in issues about what’s happening in Palestine. And it’s difficult so we need these boats.

Dimitri Lascaris:  Right. And Aram, Hege mentioned the fact that the Norwegian government has not yet recognized Palestine as a state. Could you tell us more about the government’s policies towards the Palestinian people, towards Israel, and what is the Red Party’s position about the Norwegian government’s policy towards Israel?

Aram Zaheri:  Well, it’s a very interesting question you’re asking. Because for the government, they want to say we hold a position of standing with international law and then say we are supporting Palestine. But in reality, the government is funding Israel and funding the Israeli settler movement through our oil pension fund that goes to the Israeli banks which hold the settlements. This makes us invest in those settlements which is totally illegal according to international law, which, we are, by the way, breaking in Norway. So we hold a position.

There have also been found that in terms of arms deals, in Norway, we probably have the world’s biggest arms deal as a nation-state. So when we send weapons – Because we usually say we send weapons to countries that aren’t at war – When we send weapons that end up being sent to countries that are at war, for example, Israel, we found out that Norwegian ammunition and bombs have been used in Gaza. The latest I found was in 2009. That’s the double standard morality that we hold as a so-called peaceful nation that gives Nobel Peace Prizes and stuff to people and tries to make up a great morality that Norway holds a good position. Yeah.

Dimitri Lascaris:  Right. And Hege, you mentioned the Ukraine war. My understanding is that the Norwegian government supports a policy of sending weapons to the Ukrainian military. That’s right?

Aram Zaheri:  Yeah. It is.

Dimitri Lascaris:  In your opinion, is there any rational and moral way to reconcile the Norwegian government’s position with respect to arming Ukraine and its position with respect to the Palestinian people?

Hege Bae Nyholt:  Oh. The biggest debate inside the Red Party this year and last year. But of course, it’s tough when you’ve been part of the solidarity movement for a long time to see how differently the government treats the different wars. Because it’s a war, it is occupation, but also war going on against the Palestinians. It’s important that we, of course, need to support everybody who’s fighting for their freedom, if it’s a Ukrainian or a Palestinian. They are humans; they need our support. But it’s difficult sometimes to see that it’s much more will and it’s easier to get the support when it’s happening in Europe. And when it’s not happening in Europe, well, we close our eyes and it’s other issues that are more important. How the US finds the conflict, defines how our government sees the conflict.

Dimitri Lascaris:  Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Lastly, I’d like to ask you, Aram, about the Red Party’s position with respect to NATO. Could you tell us what it is and what is the underlying thinking behind that position?

Aram Zaheri:  Well, first and foremost, we look at NATO and NATO as a so-called superpower, a great power that holds a position of influence in other world countries. It’s not necessarily a defensive force for Western countries. We have seen that in Libya, we have seen that in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, and so on. So for us, we see we don’t want to be a part of NATO. We think NATO, as much as Russia and China, have their own colonial interest. That’s how we see it. We wish one day to be independent outside of NATO so we don’t commit more crimes against humanity.

I wanted to put this out as well as it’s very important: Norway which gives out Nobel Peace Prizes around the world is the same nation-state that has bombed Libya probably the most and has participated more actively than most NATO countries that were participating. That is very important of our double standards when we think about NATO. Yeah.

Dimitri Lascaris:  Right. Well, thank you very much both of you for speaking with me here today, and it’s been Dimitri Lascaris reporting from the Handala en route to Oslo, Norway.

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Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer that focuses on human rights and environmental law. He is the former justice critic of the Green Party of Canada and is a former board member of the Real News Network. You can follow him @dimitrilascaris and find more of his work at