The massacre of 77 people in Norway by a Muslim-hating extremist has prompted soul-searching among some Christians and Jews, but also has provoked rationalizations from some in Israel and elsewhere who view fear and loathing of Muslims as key to their political cause, writes Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
By now the world is aware that, despite the ardent wishful thinking of the Western media, the terrorism that struck Oslo on July 22 was not perpetrated by a Muslim individual or organization. It was done by a local Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik.
The object of his terror was the Norwegian government and its cultural and foreign policies. The government’s sins seem to have been being too much in favor of multiculturalism, too little opposed to Muslims, and not being an ally of Israel.
Breivik is at the violent end of a continuum of fear and loathing toward those who are culturally and/or religiously different. In this case, Muslim immigrants in Europe.
Like millions of others along this anti-Other continuum, he is angry that people different from himself are showing up in his neighborhood. It probably never occurred to him that given one or two generations most of these outsiders would be brought to share the culture and outlook of their adopted lands.
Breivik did not have the patience for such a process of assimilation. What he did have was a) the will carry out violence against innocent people, b) the belief that such violence would spark an anti-Muslim turn in Norwegian politics, and c) a sense that he had allies around the world who would applaud his action. Only number b was fantasy.
Anders Behring Breivik had written down a manifesto that runs to some 1,500 pages. In this message he identified those who he saw as his allies. He had not, of course, consulted them on this status but he really did not have to. They had been fighting in his chosen cause for a long time and he admired them for their effort.
He strongly identified with their worldview and he took encouragement from the general atmosphere of a “clash of civilizations” that they had created. Some had fought for the cause with violence some had not. But he knew that they were all on the same side.
Israel’s Jerusalem Post has looked into this side of Breivik’s manifesto. The paper notes that it “mentions Israel 359 times and Jews 324 times.” Not all of these are positive. Breivik does not like Jews with left-wing, multiculturalist leanings.
Overall the Jerusalem Post describes the manifesto as “an extreme, bizarre and rambling screed of Islamophobia, far-right Zionism and venomous attacks on Marxism and multiculturalism.”
Considering the fact that “far-right Zionism” has governed Israel for decades and also characterizes the behavior of most American Zionist organizations, Breivik identification with them is, as we will see, more logical than bizarre.
Breivik the terrorist concludes, “let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marixts/multiculturists.” The man had found an ideological home.
Many of Israel’s “far-right Zionists” quickly recognized their alliance with Anders Behring Breivik in exact proportion to their feeling that Norway was an ally of the Palestinians.
Most in the U.S. will be unaware of this fact because these expressions of approval appear almost exclusively in Israel’s Hebrew press and on the Internet.
I do not think that what one finds there is, as Ziv Lenchner, a Y-Net (Hebrew) columnist claims, a window onto general Israeli public opinion, but I do think we can be pretty sure it represents the outlook of Israel’s ruling rightists.
Here are some of these positions as translated by JJ Goldberg:
–“They [the Norwegian victims] have it coming. … Anyone who acts without mercy towards us [Israel], there’s no reason I should pity them.”
–“Maybe they’ll learn in Oslo that they are not immune they’ll feel what many Israelis have felt…”
–“The Norwegians and Europe generally are super-anti-Semitic. So 100 people are killed there. … I don’t pity them they’re my enemies they hate Israel so they have it coming!”
–“The boy [Breivik] wanted to send a message. Extreme, yes, but they [the Norwegian government that supports the Palestinians] don’t understand anything else.”
–“It’s time for Europe to deal with these Arabs. From my point of view they could kill one million of them here too.”
Goldberg estimates that comments ran “3-or 4-to-1 hostile rather than sympathetic.” That is hostile to the Norway and its victims. There was a general sense that “the killer was right and the victims had it coming.”
This attitude has also found its way into the Israeli intelligentsia. A good example of this is Barry Rubin, Deputy Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Soon after the attacks in Oslo, Rubin wrote an article entitled “the Oslo Syndrome.” In it he claims that there is deep irony in the actions of the Norwegian terrorist.
Specifically he believes that “the youth political camp he (Breivik,) attacked was at the time engaged in what was essentially (though the campers did not see it that way, no doubt) a pro-terrorist program.”
Thus, at least the camp victims (whether they knew it or not) were supporting terrorists and that resulted in their being attacked by a terrorist. Hence, the irony.
In what way were the Norwegians supporting terrorism? Well, here are some of Rubin’s examples:
–“The camp was run by Norway’s left-wing party” which “was lobbying for breaking the blockade of the terrorist Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and for immediate recognition of a Palestinian state without that entity needing to do anything that would prevent it from being a terrorist base against Israel.”
–In pursuing these policies the Norwegian government makes “terrorism appear politically successful and hence a great thing to do.”
Rubin goes on in what comes dangerously close to a “rambling screed” to condemn just about the entire history of Palestinian resistance to Zionist colonialism as terrorism.
And since Rubin believes that it is imperative that terrorists (including the one in Norway) must never be allowed to succeed, then it follows logically that Palestinian resistance must not be allowed to succeed.
Indeed, it can be assumed that for Barry Rubin there can be no Palestinian entity except on Israeli terms – terms that others, outside of Rubin’s world, often equate to apartheid South Africa’s bantustans.
Rubin has gone out of his way to insist that his position is not intended to justify the murders in Oslo. I accept this assertion.
However, his view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so one-sided that it certainly seems to justify the state terrorism consistently applied by Israel both to provoke and respond to Palestinian violence.[Personal Note: Long ago I knew this fellow, Barry Rubin. He was, then, a brilliant man who used his talents to fight for justice, particularly in the case of the Vietnam War. Now, objectivity long lost, he is a convert to Zionism. And converts always make the most ardent true believers.]
The United State and its Islamophobes
If many of Andres Behring Breivik’s Israeli allies rush to defend him, his American allies are now rushing to distance themselves from him.
It is they who, as the New York Times has put it, exercised “undeniable influence” on this terrorist. It is they who helped create the atmosphere in which he felt emboldened. Of course, they deny having done so.
One is reminded here of the outrage from Sarah Palin, who posted the names and places of residence of her Democratic opponents using gun-sight crosshairs. And then, in January 2011, when one of those opponents, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot by a fanatic, Palin said that her incitement had nothing to do with the incident.
Now history repeats itself. Who are these most recent deniers?
Well, among others, two notables that Breivik himself sights as fellow travelers are Robert Spencer, who runs the web site, “Jihad Watch,” and Pamela Geller, who runs the web site “Atlas Shrugged.” Both are major figures in the hate campaign now being waged against Muslims in the United States.
Breivik was probably also influenced by another variant in this campaign, the movement against “creeping Sharia.” This is the nonsensical campaign against an alleged Islamic plot t o undermine American culture by spreading the use of Sharia Law.
Again, according to the New York Times, the man who has spearheaded this movement is David Yerushalmi, “a 56 year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.”
Yerushalmi is also a supporter of the illegal Israeli colonization project on the Palestinian West Bank.
Then there are the poisonous pronouncements continuously put forth people like fundamentalist mega-church pastor John Hagee and the multiple anti-Muslim statements of American politicians such as, among others, Rep. Peter King of Long Island and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
All of these people are part of “America’s rising tide of Islamophobia” and have actively contributed to, as Sarah Wildman has put it in the England’s Guardian newspaper, “the ideological underpinning that motivates militias and terrorists.”
The world is full of prejudiced people who, as noted above, live on a continuum of fear and loathing of all that is different. Some of them are just ignorant. They easily become victims of their own provincialism and allow their heads to be filled with the pronouncements from agencies such as Fox “News.”
Others are ideologues whose world is defined by very narrow political, racial, or religious beliefs in defense of which agitation and violence are thought warranted.
Some are opportunists who see this sort of environment as just right to make their name and fortune. There are other categories as well.
Under the right circumstances, this collective of the prejudiced can be activated. It finds its enemy and focuses with a deadly intensity. The wordsmiths within it plow the ground, the agitators plant the seeds, and then the violent ones reaped the harvest. All of a sudden you find yourself in the midst of killing fields.
This has happened repeatedly in history.
As a phenomenon it is not confined to underdeveloped areas or “backward” nations. It is a potential that plagues all peoples at all times.
To paraphrase Samuel Clemens quote about beauty and ugliness, civilization is but skin deep, but barbarism goes right down to the bone. It takes constant vigilance, constant effort, the constant demand for common sense to keep the barbarian at bay.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author ofForeign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.