The Norway massacre and the anti-Zionist smear

In the aftermath of Anders Breivik’s terrorist rampage in Norway, a “blame the Jews” theme has emerged: assertions that Breivik was driven by fanatical devotion to Israel. Mostly, complaints about the media’s failure to identify Breivik as a Zionist zealot have been confined to fringe blogs on the left and the right—but they have also cropped up in more mainstream venues, such as the blog of prominent pundit Andrew Sullivan. Daily Beast columnist Michelle Goldberg has pointed to the Oslo killer as evidence of a convergence between right-wing Zionism and European fascism, united by hatred against Muslims.

The recent phenomenon of far-right nationalists latching on to Jewish and Zionist causes in presumed anti-Muslim solidarity is real and troubling (especially given some of these nationalist groups’ anti-Semitic roots). But the trope of Breivik as a Zionist soldier is a gross distortion that plays into the campaign to delegitimize and vilify Israel.

The apparent proof of Breivik’s alleged Zionist obsession is that his 1,500-page manifesto, “A European Declaration of Independence,” has 359 mentions of Israel and 324 mentions of Jews. That sounds like a lot until you realize the “declaration” is nearly 780,000 words.

The document, which Breivik distributed online before his killing spree, covers many subjects, including the evil of women’s liberation (with 200 references to feminism and feminists). But it has one central focus: Islam and the Muslim menace. The words “Islam,” “Islamic” and “Islamist” combined appear 3,360 times; the word “Muslim,” 3,632 times.

Virtually all of Breivik’s other ideas stem from this obsession: Feminism is bad because it saps Western civilization’s (and its men’s) ability to resist Islam; Israel is good because it is an ally in this struggle.

Moreover, Breivik’s “Zionism” coexists with a virulent selective anti-Semitism—one that sees Jews as likely carriers of cosmopolitan, nontraditional values and targets liberal Jews for special loathing. In his discussion of Nazism, Breivik agrees that most German and European Jews in the 1930s were “disloyal”—“similar to the liberal Jews today.” Hitler’s error, he believes, was to lump the “good” Jews with the “bad,” instead of rewarding the former with a Jewish homeland in a Muslim-free Palestine.

At present, Breivik estimates that about three-quarters of European and American Jews, and about half of Israeli Jews, “support multiculturalism”; he urges fellow nationalists to “embrace the remaining loyal Jews as brothers rather than repeating the mistake of” the Nazis. What to do with today’s “disloyal” Jews, he does not say.

Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman has written that Breivik’s professed pro-Zionism is a reminder to “be wary of those whose love for the Jewish people is born out of hatred of Muslims or Arabs.”

There’s no shortage of such false friends these days. In England, the once-rabidly anti-Jewish British National Party, led by an unrepentant Holocaust denier, has recast itself in an anti-Muslim, Zionist-friendly image. The English Defense League, whose “protests” include such tactics as yelling “Muslim scum” at women in headscarves and invading Asian-owned shops, has also taken part in pro-Zionist demonstrations. (England’s premier Jewish group, the Board of Jewish Deputies, has firmly rejected such “support.”) Ironically, the EDL’s main American champion, Muslim-baiting blogger Pamela Geller, has recently voiced alarm over the growth of anti-Semitism in the group’s ranks.

Meanwhile, in the anti-Israel camp, quite a few would gladly tar all Zionist views with anti-Muslim hate., an anti-Islamophobia website which has run intelligent rebuttals of extreme anti-Islam propaganda, has also posted items that portray such extremism as virtually part and parcel of Zionism.

Sometimes, such links are concocted. Last October, England’s Jewish Chronicle ran an Internet poll on whether rabbis should work with the EDL. (The answer was a resounding no.) Anti-Zionist blogger Terry Greenstein and York Palestine Solidarity Campaign Chairman Terry Gallogly were caught bragging online about trying to rig the poll for the EDL in order to embarrass the Zionists.

Yes, some Zionists have made statements about Muslims that amount to bigotry, or at least to offensive generalizations. Disturbingly, comments defending Breivik’s views have cropped up on Israeli online forums. Such ugly sentiments may be explained in the context of ethnic and religious tensions in Israel, but they cannot be condoned—any more than anti-Semitism among Arabs and Muslims can be excused by resentment of Israeli policies.

Therein lies the rub: Talk of Zionism and Islamophobia inevitably raises the specter of the far more violent, vastly more rampant Jew-bashing rhetoric in the much of the Arab and Muslim media today. Unfortunately, not many prominent Muslims have condemned this hate speech, and some Western leftists have excused Muslim anti-Semitism as a reaction to Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel’s supporters should avoid dubious alliances that deepen Jewish-Muslim polarization. Critics of anti-Muslim bigotry should clean house.

A longer version of this column appeared on, August 4, 2011

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe. She is the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.” This article first appeared on Real Clear Politics.  Reprinted with permission.

A new twist on hate

In 1980, for the umpteenth time, someone asked the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal whether “it could happen again” — “it” being the Holocaust.

“You take hatred and technology and you add in a crisis, and anything can happen,” Wiesenthal replied.

Last week, something tragic, horrific, almost beyond words happened.

A man filled with hate, empowered by Internet technology, took out his rage on innocent men, women and, especially, children in Norway. The death toll as of this writing has reached 76, with an untold number still missing.

If there are 1,000 faces of God, it turns out there also are at least that many of hate. The murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, this time around is a self-proclaimed Zionist, someone whose 1,300-page online manifesto praises Israel, the Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism.

And so this 32-year-old man has redefined the stereotype of the European right-wing fundamentalist. We are confronting now a murdering, minority-hating, Jew-loving, Israel-supporting, fascist, Christian, neo-Nazi — the head spins.

I don’t want to make too much of the fact that Breivik in his diatribe aligned himself with Israel and the Jews. I don’t want to pull focus from the victims or their anguished survivors, nor give him credit for having a coherent “ideology.”

“He’s a cut-and-paste Internet weirdo,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said to me on Monday. “You take a guy who’s meshugge and you empower him through the Web. You give him a sense of community.”

True. But Breivik is also the extreme embodiment of those whose approach to the very serious problem of Muslim integration into Western liberal societies is to denigrate all of Islam, to spread fear and to turn the inevitable demographic changes in Europe into a clash of civilizations.

There are many Web sites where adherents of this particular brand of racism connect, stew and brew with one another. (“Where Islam Spreads, Freedom Dies”) even now posts an apologia for the child killer, essentially blaming Muslims for Breivik’s massacre of Christian children. 

These people may think they have an ally in the Jews and Israel. They think they have our back. But our job is to inform them, loudly and clearly, that they don’t. The Jewish reaction to all this should be this: Take your hate elsewhere. To paraphrase our prophet Groucho Marx, we don’t want to be part of any club like this that would have us as a member.

Last February, a delegation of leaders from extreme right European parties toured Israel as a sign of solidarity and support. The trip went all but unnoticed except in a Newsweek article, which pointed out that an Israeli businessman, Chaim Muehlstein, subsidized the journey. 

They visited Yad Vashem and the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha. They met with some leaders of the Likud. 

According to Newsweek, they included “a Belgian politician known for his contacts with SS veterans, an Austrian with neo-Nazi ties, and a Swede whose political party has deep roots in Swedish fascism,” but the Israelis excused the anti-Semitic roots of their guests by pointing out that they had proclaimed their solidarity with Israel against the Muslims.

Most Israeli politicians shunned the delegation, as they should have. Anyone not blinded by Islamo-fear could see through the ploy.

“If you are against Muslims, then there is a certain reason to position yourself with Israel, because it is the single greatest irritant to the Muslims, therefore they’re to be admired,” Michael Berenbaum, a leading Holocaust scholar and professor of history at American Jewish University, told me. 

“They use Israel because they are anti-Semitic enough to believe that Jews control things.”

Cooper, an expert on European neo-fascism, believes Israel’s support from these groups is skin-deep, if that.

“They think my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” he said. “But we’re really talking about people who are anti-Muslim, not pro-Jewish.”

The ironies and fallacies of recruiting Jews to this cause are many. 

The hatred is partly a reaction to radical Islamic violence and increased Muslim population in Europe.

It is also, as Ravi Shankar, executive editor of the New India Express, has pointed out, a kind of Jew hatred without Jews — an extension, I suppose, of the true meaning of “anti-Semite.”

“Europe’s Muslim population of 15 million will become 30 million by 2015, while Europeans will shrink by 4 per cent,” Shankar writes at “Princeton academic and Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis famously said, ‘Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.’ 
If Friday’s bombings in Oslo [are] a dark harbinger of troubled times, soon Muslims will be the new Jews of Europe. For all the old Jews are dead: murdered by fellow Europeans …

“Now the reverse is happening in Europe. It is the presence of Muslims in Europe that is the source of social panic and anger. The fear of being overwhelmed and alienated in their own country by outsiders who they think will breed terrorists. All this makes a fertile breeding ground for anti-Islamic neo-Nazism.”

And in this argument lies yet another fallacy, that Israel is against Arabs.

Israel’s population is about 15 percent Muslim, and their rights, like everyone else’s, are protected in the country’s Basic Laws.  Israel’s leaders recognize in fact, if not always in deed, the importance of coexistence, equal rights and integration.

And that is why a person like Breivik would find his head spinning if he looked at the fact that Muslims in Israel have greater rights to free speech than they do in most Muslim countries, as well as the freedom to practice their religion. Israel’s record on Arab minority rights isn’t perfect, but it reflects the values of Judaism that supersede those of pure tribalism.

The natural alignment here isn’t of Breivik and the Islamophobes being in accord with Israel and the Jews. The true alliance must be for people of all faiths in all nations to join together to fight against fanaticism. With the tragedy in Norway, we once again see we are essentially living in one world divided into two nations: The great majority of us — and Fanatistan.

The ultimate goal of right-wing extremists and Islamic extremists is to undermine tolerant and open societies. 

This new crop of fanatics may see Judaism as a tribe with which they can make a strategic anti-Islam alliance. But that is a misconception. Judaism has a tribal aspect, but it is more than just a tribe. It is a set of laws and values that Jews believe God set before that tribe, and which they must adhere to (with room for argumentation and interpretation, thank God). 

Those values pretty much preclude the murder of innocents, baseless hatred and the death penalty for people guilty of nothing more than that you fear them for being different. 

The pragmatic solution to the real problems of European immigration and integration is first to confront those issues — Europe has a poor track record on this. 

“You need an intelligent debate from the center,” Cooper said.  

“Otherwise it’s a gold-plated invitation to extremists to walk into the mainstream of society.”

And while we hope for that debate to happen, we need to make clear to the extremists that we share no common cause, that the enemy of our enemy can be our biggest nightmare.

Breivik, the anti-Zionist

“2083: A European Declaration of Independence” – the manifesto of the Oslo bomber Anders Behring Breivik – is a baggy 1,500-page document, made up in large part of other people’s essays on the Islamic threat to Europe. It can be ascertained from it that his ideology centres about a vehement opposition to multicultural, so-deemed ‘cultural Marxist’ and the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe.

He wishes, amongst other things, to ban the Qu’ran and other parts of the Islamic canon, outlaw the construction of mosques, end mass Muslim immigration to Norway and prevent the accession of nations with large Muslim populations including Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina to NATO and the EU. However, the element that would immediately appear most disturbing, and have the effect of curdling Friends of Israel’s blood, is that he is a self-described Zionist, or more accurately Israeli nationalist, and a passionate and zealous one at that.

Breivik’s purported Israeli nationalism is something entirely different from everything we might recognise as Zionism. Although Herzl’s manifesto was indeed a call to Jewish nationalism, it was written within the context of fin de siècle European movements to create new nation-states which united all peoples which belonged to a certain nationality or linguistic group, such as Germans and Italians.

By contrast, the Oslo bomber’s manifesto explicitly rejects more liberal or general interpretations of Zionism familiar to the United States and Western Europe. When addressing the question of Nazism, Breivik that the “so-called liberal Jews” were disloyal, presumably during the interbellum at a time when calls to emigrate to Palestine increased in volume, “similar to the liberal Jews today that opposes nationalism/Zionism and supports multiculturalism”[sic].

“Jews that support multiculturalism today”, he adds, “are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us (emphasis added). So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists”. His conclusions are draped in the language of European anti-Semitism, echoing the calls made in Soviet Russia after the Second World War to target ‘rootless cosmopolitans’.

The nationalism Breivik stresses is indeed one born in the postwar crucible and infused with the more aggressive and destructive ideologies such as Soviet communism, and in particular Nazism and its neo- strand. His nationalism is exclusive and discriminatory: one which speaks to notions of racial and religious purity, an opposition to political pluralism and left-wing ideologies, and in the most modern European context, an attachment to what has been dubbed “Islamophobia”, but which might more accurately if less pithily be called anti-Muslim discrimination.

A sizeable chunk of Breivik’s support for Israel is derived from this very negative emotion. His particular interpretation of the source of Israeli-Palestinian antagonism derives from the Crusades, which is an obsession for him. Breivik cites Serbian author Srđa Trifković, in order to argue that Palestinian opposition to Israel is derivative of a repulsion to the idea of a Jewish state existing on land which is part of the Dar al-Islam, or the House of Islam. This reaction, Breivik asserts, has direct historical parallels to the time of Saladin and the movement to demolish the Christian Crusader states of Antioch and Jerusalem.

While Breivik often in his manifesto speaks of the importance of defending Israel, he never goes so far as to explicitly set how it ought to be defended, and more importantly what it is he thinks he is defending. It certainly isn’t any of the values associated with Israel by those liberal Zionists he frequently demonises: democracy; open political discourse; the rule of law. Breivik in fact stresses a support for some elements of present policy that have turned the international community against Israel, including the Security Barrier, which he describes as “working as intended”.

Rather, Breivik seems to perceive Israel as the frontline in a war that he perceives all Muslims are waging against Jews and Christians: “If Israel loses in the Middle East, Europe will succumb to Islam next”. He includes in the manifesto a chunk of an interview with Mohammad Asghar, an ‘ex-Muslim’, who states that Muslims “intend to destroy Israel” and subsequently will “take over the Earth from the followers of other religions” by acquiring deadly, radioactive weaponry and then expanding their populations in non-Muslim nations to the point where they will demand autonomy and later independence.

This kind of support for Israel, if it can be deemed as such, is wholly negative and hateful, borne out of a visceral detest for Muslims. And, it would appear to span the far-right parties of Europe, if not quite in the occasionally eccentric fashion of Breivik with his attachment to conspiracy. In the United Kingdom, the leader of the British National Party Nick Griffin, who in 1998 referred to the Holocaust as “a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter witch-hysteria”, came out in 2009 in support of Operation Cast Lead, saying he supported Israel’s war “against the terrorists”.

His particular spin on the issue – an alliance with Israel as a means to a war against Islam – is not played out in the party’s manifesto, which on foreign policy says nothing at all about Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, their main aim is to “reach an accord with the Muslim world whereby they will agree to take back their excess population which is currently colonising this country”, which the rest of their efforts focused on the other menace, the European Union. (A Union, it should be noted, Breivik believed to cooperating with the Arab world to ‘Islamise’ Europe).

Attempts to forge links with Israel are also deeply cynical and opportunistic, part of a movement to rebrand the far-right as palatable for a twenty-first century audience. The founder of the Front National in France, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had a long history of open anti-Semitism. He was convicted by a Munich court in 1999 for the offence of “minimising the Holocaust” after telling a German far-right meeting that Nazi concentration camps and the gas chambers are “what one calls a detail”. He was fined by a French court twelve years prior for a similar offence.

His daughter and new leader of the party, Marine, has sought to move away from his legacy on Jewish matters, affirming Israel’s right to exist and criticising the Iranian leadership’s attempt to wipe the state of the map through its nuclear programme. “The Front National has always been Zionistic and always defended Israel’s right to exist”, she told Haaretz in an interview given in January of this year. (Though, in the same interview, Le Pen seems to reject the idea of Jewish emigration from France to Israel, saying: “The Jews of France are Frenchmen, they’re at home here, and they must stay here”).

At once, it is important to stress again that with the far-right, a yearning for Zion comes with a bitter anti-Islamic taint. “The shared concern about radical Islam explains the relationship”, Le Pen said of the new relationship between her party and Israel. The Front National has made waves in France with her remarks which compared Muslim emigration and Islamic prayer in the street to the Nazi occupation. “It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply,” she told a gathering of supported in Lyon in December 2010.

Thus it seems evident that any far-right support in Europe for the State of Israel does not appear to be borne out of a newly-discovered fondness for the Jewish people. (Indeed, in the case of Griffin, he has spoken previously in favour of mono-ethnic states – Israel is presumably someplace for British Jews to go at such a time as when the far-right resumes the usual animosities towards them). Rather, they hope that, in the current climate of increased hostility between Israelis and Palestinians and the lurch to the right in domestic Israeli politics, they can forge some kind of dirty alliance in common cause against Islam and the Muslims of Europe.

Just last month for example, German-Swedish neo-Nazi sympathiser and fundraiser Patrik Brinkmann met with Likud MK Ayoub Kara, the former reaching out in order to “establish a unified force to defend our basic Christian-Jewish values”. In this instance, the JTA reports that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand that Kara be prevented from making further trips abroad, with Lieberman accusing Kara of meeting with neo-Nazis and causing damage to Israel’s image.

Need it be said that this is entirely the correct response to such an approach. Israel’s standing in the world can only be diminished by rogue Israeli lawmakers attempting to make hay out of the European far-right’s temporary suspension of its usual pogrom. Any attempts at concord must therefore be rejected, for undoubtedly as Breivik as shown so bloodily, the far-right’s turn towards Israel is potentially as detrimental and as catastrophic for Jews as the movement’s previous overt anti-Semitism, which Israelis and their Friends alike has merely been substituted for a campaign against the Muslims of Europe.

As Norway’s Jews mourn, concern about muting of pro-Israel voices

Norway has just 1,500 Jews, but to hear Avi Ring tell it, the country is reacting to last Friday’s bombing of a government office building and massacre at a political summer camp in a traditionally Jewish way.

“As soon as people speak about it, they start to cry,” said Ring, a neuroscientist and former board member of Norway’s official Jewish community organization, called the Mosaic Religious Community and known by its Norwegian acronym, DMT. “It’s like a country sitting shiva.”

A sea of flower bouquets, candles, photographs and handwritten notes line not just major Oslo memorials—like the fence of the exclusion zone around the blast site or the central Domkirke Cathedral—but far-flung fountains, parks and statues with no connection to the violence.

“We’ll be together in the grief,” said Ervin Kohn, the leader of DMT, which is also the country’s main synagogue and counts about half the country’s Jews as members. No Jews are known to have been injured in the attacks.

Yet even as they mourn along with their fellow countrymen, some Jews here are quietly expressing concern that the attack by a right-wing xenophobe who apparently sympathized with Israel may further mute pro-Israel voices in Norway, where anti-Zionist sentiment already runs strong.

In the rambling 1,500-page manifesto attributed to the alleged perpetrator of the attacks, Andres Behring Breivik, anti-Muslim diatribes are punctuated at times with expressions of admiration for Israel and its fight against Islamic terrorism.

And on Utoya island, the young Labor Party activists who were holding a retreat when Breivik ambushed them, had spent part of the day before discussing the organization of a boycott against Israel and pressing the country’s foreign minister, who was visiting the camp, to recognize a Palestinian state.

If the Norwegian public is looking for a larger villain than Breivik, Jews here are worried that Zionism and pro-Israel organizations may be singled out.

“Can the average Norwegian accept that this is the one random act of one confused ethnic Norwegian?” Ring asked. “What I’m worried about is that in the Norwegian mind it will slowly attach an antagonism to Israel.”

Joakim Plavnik, a young Norwegian Jew who works in the financial sector, said he’s already worried by news reports that have focused on the seemingly pro-Zionist parts of Breivik’s writings.

“That can potentially have very negative ramifications toward the small, vulnerable Jewish community,” Plavnik said. But, he added, “We can’t be paralyzed by that fear.”

Rachel Suissa runs the Center Against Antisemitism, a pro-Israel group that counts about 23,000 supporters and 10,000 subscribers to a quarterly journal. She said the Norwegian government’s general pro-Palestinian stance—Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, recently said that Oslo soon would announce its support for an independent Palestinian state—makes Zionism difficult to promote here.

“Anyone who dares support Israel is demonized,” said Suissa, a professor of medical chemistry. “The Jews need to know that they have a lot of friends in Norway, but the Norwegian politicians are not our friends.”

In an interview published Tuesday by the Israeli daily Maariv, Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevje, said it was important to recognize the distinctions between the Norwegian attacks and terrorism in Israel.

“We Norwegians consider the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel,” he said. “Those who believe this will not change their mind because of the attack in Oslo.”

Suissa said she is concerned that Breivik’s attack will make it more difficult for Israel supporters and the right-wing Christian groups she works with to express their views. But Rabbi Joav Melchior, spiritual leader of the community synagogue also known as DMT, dismissed such concerns.

“That someone … calls himself pro-Israel shouldn’t in principle change anything for us,” he said of Breivik. “We don’t feel that he’s a part of our group.”

The bombing in Oslo and shooting rampage on the nearby island of Utoya has sparked a national debate in Norway about security measures in this country of 4.6 million where political leaders routinely travel without a protective security detail and police officers do not carry guns. The slow police response to the massacre—it took about an hour for police to reach Utoya—has been widely reported and debated here.

“This happened in a place where if someone walks in and steals a pack of eggs, it would make the news,” Ring said. “Norway will have to increase its awareness of security on all levels.”

At Oslo’s main synagogue, which was the target of an early-morning shooting attack in 2006 that resulted in cosmetic damage but no casualties, security already is high. Concrete barriers make it impossible to park in front of the building, and a receptionist told a reporter that he could not enter the facility on Tuesday “for security reasons.”

Norway, like practically every country in Europe, has a spotty history when it comes to the Jews.

Jews were first allowed into Norway after the Inquisition, but were banned from 1687 to 1851. The first synagogue in Oslo was established in 1892. Some 800 Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation of the country, and many who fled to seek asylum in Sweden did not return after the war.

Today, most of the country’s Jews live in Oslo, though smaller congregations do exist in other cities, like Trondheim, a seven-hour drive north.

David Katzenelson, an Israeli transplant who has lived in Norway for 15 years, said Norway is not known as a particularly hospitable place for Jews. A high school math and science teacher who also runs the small Society for Progressive Judaism here, Katzenelson said he has had a swastika spray-painted on his mailbox and that Jewish students of his have been afraid to publicly disclose their faith.

“There’s a feeling in the society that you have to be nice to everyone who’s in the room—and since Jews are generally a very small group who are usually not in the room, you’re allowed to speak nasty about them because that doesn’t discriminate against anyone present,” he said. “That can develop into very ugly things.”

In the wake of last Friday’s attacks, however, the prevailing mood among Norwegian Jews has been solidarity—as it has for all Norwegians.

More than 150,000 people participated in a “rose march” in front of Oslo City Hall on Monday even after the event was officially canceled for security reasons because it had grown too large. People have taken to cheering for policemen and Red Cross workers when they pass by on the streets. And bars and restaurants are packed in Oslo in an apparent show that this city of about 600,000 will not cow to terror.

While many Norwegian Jews interviewed by JTA were quick to say now is the time for grief and that soul searching should be put off for later, Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm, who runs the 7-year-old Chabad-Lubavitch center in Oslo, said the way to prove Breivik and his ideology wrong is to embrace tolerance.

“What we should try to learn from all this is that multiculturalism isn’t just a thesis and a concept,” he said. “That would be the greatest revenge against this murderer and against people of his ilk: that we can actually practice tolerance in a very real way.”