Mass killer in Norway makes Nazi salute in courtroom


Right-wing extremist and mass killer Anders Behring Breivik made a Nazi salute in a Norway courtroom.

Breivik, making his first public appearance since he was sentenced in 2012 to 21 years in prison, was in court Tuesday to challenge his solitary confinement, which his lawyer in court called “worse than the death penalty.” His time outside the cell, which has a television and computer, is limited to one hour a day.

His sentence can be extended at the discretion of the court if he is still considered a danger to society.

Breivik killed 77 people in  2011 when he detonated a car bomb in central Oslo before going on a shooting spree at a Labour Youth camp on the island of Utoeya.

His attorney, Oeystein Storrvik, told Reuters he had advised his client against making the Nazi salute.

“He says he is a national socialist,” the attorney told Reuters, adding that making the gesture was “the worst thing you can do in a courtroom.”

Breivik made a variation of the Nazi salute several times during his 2012 trial by holding his closed right fist to his chest and then extending his arm.

In numerous online postings, including a manifesto published on the day of the attacks, Breivik promoted the Vienna School or Crusader Nationalism philosophy, a mishmash of anti-modern principles that also calls for “the deportation of all Muslims from Europe” as well as from “the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” The Vienna School supports “pro-Zionism/Israeli nationalism.”

He reportedly has radicalized in prison, recently describing himself as a “militant nationalist,” according to The Local-Norway, citing the Nazi salute as proof.

Mass killer Breivik gives Nazi salute as he sues Norway for ‘inhuman treatment’


Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik claimed in court on Tuesday thatNorway was violating his human rights by keeping him in isolation for murdering 77 people in 2011, but irritated the judge with a Nazi salute at the start of proceedings.

Clean-shaven and wearing a black suit, white shirt and golden tie, Breivik raised his right arm in a flat-handed Nazi-style salute on arrival at the court, slightly different from the outstretched arm and clenched fist he used in 2012.

His lawyer said Breivik considers himself a national socialist, or Nazi, and that the gesture was “the worst thing you can do in a courtroom”. Breivik later suggested it was an old Norse gesture, he said.

Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic was not pleased either way. She told Breivik not to repeat the salute when court proceedings resume on Wednesday.

Appearing in public for the first time since he was sentenced in 2012, Breivik is claiming inhuman treatment by Norway, where he is serving 21 years for killing eight people with a bomb in Oslo and gunning down 69 others on an island nearby, many of them teenagers.

He has had just one visitor with whom he had physical contact – his mother, who was allowed into prison and gave him a hug shortly before she died of cancer in 2013.

Breivik's lawyer, Oeystein Storrvik, accused Norway of violating a ban on “inhuman and degrading treatment” under the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping the 37-year-old isolated from other inmates in a special three-room cell.

“There is no tradition in Norway for this type of isolation,” he told the special court that will meet until Friday in a gymnasium at Skien jail about 100 km (60 miles) south of Oslo. 

Norway rejects the charges of inhuman treatment.

“Breivik is a very dangerous man,” said Marius Emberland, the lawyer representing the state, defending Breivik's conditions.

He said Breivik had been given some opportunities for interaction with others, including meeting volunteers to play chess, but that he had declined. 

Another prisoner tried to attack Breivik last year, getting to within earshot. When stopped by guards, the man shouted: “You are a killer, a child killer … And I love my country,” Emberland said.

Storrvik told Reuters he had advised Breivik against making the salute. “He (Breivik) says he is a national socialist,” he said.

“FULL-BLOODED NAZI”

Oeystein Soerensen, a professor of history at Oslo University, said Breivik seemed to want to signal to like-minded fanatics “that he is now a full-blooded Nazi. He wasn't that in 2011.”

In 2011, for instance, a rambling manifesto written by Breivik expressed sympathy for Israel, seeing it as an ally in his hostility to Muslims. And Breivik's previous clenched fist was “a sort of home-made fascist salute,” he said.

Opinions are divided among the survivors and relatives of victims who have spoken out publicly. Some have said the lawsuit is a joke and do not want to be reminded of July 22, 2011, while one survivor said Breivik's human rights should be respected. 

“Breivik made us inhuman as victims of his actions and we're in danger of falling into the same trap as him if we take away his human rights,” survivor Bjoern Ihler told Reuters in Oslo, at a court where the case was televised.

Breivik killed eight people with a bomb in Oslo and gunned down 69 others on an island nearby, many of them teenagers. He is serving Norway's maximum sentence of 21 years, which can be extended. 

Breivik will have a chance to speak on Wednesday. The single judge – there is no jury – will issue a ruling in coming weeks. Storrvik says he may eventually appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if Breivik loses. 

Norway considered it too dangerous to hear the case in Oslo. The makeshift courtroom has walls lined with timber bars and a climbing frame as well as two basketball hoops.

Cartoon in Norwegian daily foments anti-Israel feelings, embassy diplomat says


Israel has called on a Norwegian daily newspaper to apologize  for a cartoon that equates Israel with Nazi Germany and North Korea.

The cartoon appeared on Sept. 24 in the daily newspaper Dagbladet. In a letter to the editor published on Tuesday,  Dan Poraz, first secretary at the Israeli Embassy in Oslo, called the cartoon “reprehensible and thoughtless.”

“There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech, and this cartoon crossed that line. It’s about time that editors take responsibility. An apology may be a suitable way to start,” Poraz wrote.

“This is damaging because it can incite anti-Israeli bias that can lead to violent reactions,” he said.

The cartoon was reproduced with the letter.

The cartoon shows a woman standing in front of an organic food store holding an orange and saying: “These oranges come from Israel! You are supporting murderers!”  The next panel shows her holding a box and saying: holding a carton: “This macaroni is produced in North Korea!? How did you even get a hold of these??” The final panel shows her holding a box of frozen pizza marked with a swastika, with a “Made in Nazi Germany” label, and says: “And this pizza is from N… what kind of store is this??”

Dagbladet’s editor has refused to apologize, saying Israel’s reaction is exaggerated, Ynet reported.

Cartoonist Ola Lysgaard  told The Local – Norway that people missed the point of the cartoon, but did not elaborate.

Norway passes act that enshrines brit milah


The leader of Norway’s Jewish community praised his country’s parliament for passing an act enshrining ritual circumcision for boys.

“The act changes the paradigm of the debate about ritual circumcision in Norway in a very positive way and is therefore very significant,” Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, told JTA Friday. “I am proud of my parliament and country for making the right decision, that will put norway on the path to becoming a place where neonatal circumcision is a common practice, like in the united States.”

The act was adopted last week in a vote by the Standing Committee on Health and Care Services of the Stortig, the Norwegian parliament. Submitted by Health Minister Bent Hoie amid a polarizing debate about the legal status of non-medical circumcision of boys under 18, the draft act was aimed at establishing practices that would settle the legal question around the custom, Hoie said.

The Act on Ritual Circumcision of Boys does, however, places limitations on the custom, which is known among Jews as Brith Milah and is performed on Jewish babies at the age of eight days. It stipulates that the procedure must be performed under the supervision and in the presence of a licensed physician, but it may be physically carried out by other persons.

Only two of the committee’s 20 members opposed passing the act, said Kohn, whose community has several hundred members.

Sweden, where some 20,000 Jews live, passed similar legislation in 2001.

The passage of the act comes amid a campaign by secularists and other activists in Scandinavia — including the children welfare ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — to ban ritual circumcision because they say it violates children’s rights to physical integrity and is comparable to female genital mutilation.

Far-right groups in Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia, meanwhile, oppose the custom also on the grounds that they regard it as a foreign element in Nordic societies, which they say are under threat from immigration from Muslim countries.

Judaism in Norway: The longest Shabbat


Every summer, Nikolaj Kahn faces a major Jewish problem.

“It never gets dark,” Kahn said during a walkthrough of the Jewish Museum in Trondheim, Norway, located about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. “We get desperate calls from the cruise ships asking when Shabbat starts. We just say 5:30.”

Such are the challenges of being a religious Jew in the land of the midnight sun, where it doesn’t seem to get really dark during a summer visit, even when the clock strikes midnight.

Trondheim, located on an inlet of the Norwegian Sea, is the nation’s third-largest city. It is home to Norway’s crown jewels, its national museum of popular music, as well as one of the country’s two synagogues. The other is in Norway’s capital, Oslo, and, combined, the communities of affiliated Jews only add up to somewhere around 1,000 out of a national population of 5 million.

For many Jews living here, being Jewish is about maintaining a meaningful connection to the faith, more so than adhering to halacha.

“I don’t think there’s a religious Jew in Trondheim,” Kahn said. “It’s more of a cultural identity. The religious part is fading away.”

The country’s chief rabbi, Michael Melchior, lives in Israel and only visits a few times a year; his son, also a rabbi, visits more often but is not a regular presence. Furthermore, kosher meat is hard to come by as it must be imported — ritual slaughter has been banned here since 1929, something the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center protested this past May. 

Because of the Holocaust and the presence of Nazi collaborators, even the Jews can be few and far between. In 1940, Norway was home to 2,100 Jews. By the end of the war, 1,100 had fled — mostly to neighboring Sweden — and more than 750 were deported to death camps. Of those, 34 survived.

Never forget

Perhaps that’s why the pervasive thinking today is as much “never forget” as “never again,” as this writer discovered while touring the country as a guest of Joseph Jacobs Advertising and Innovation Norway.

Just a short walk from where Kahn was speaking, a Trondheim park prominently features a statue of 13-year-old Cissi Klein, who was arrested in class and sent to her death in Auschwitz. Shown seated on a bench and clutching a small luggage piece inscribed with a Jewish star, Klein’s likeness is often adorned with flowers or wreaths by local residents.

In Oslo, a harbor city more than 300 miles south of Trondheim, there’s the Oslo Jewish Museum, a mud-red building that was once a synagogue in the city’s Hausmann quarter. Outside, bronze cobblestones are embedded in the sidewalk with the names of residents deported to Auschwitz. These stolpersteine (literally “stumbling blocks”), created by German artist Gunter Demnig, appear elsewhere in the city, as well as places where Jewish victims once lived.

Inside the museum are two main displays, one offering a general survey of Jewish holidays and customs and the other telling the very personal stories of Norwegian Jews during and leading up to World War II. The former is for educational purposes, as most of the museum’s guests are not Jewish.

“Here in Norway, they don’t know anything about the Jews,” one guide said. “It’s not like in the United States where you have Chanukah in all the department stores.”

The latter exhibition, titled “Remember Us Unto Life,” uses family histories, artifacts and black-and-white photographs of smiling men, women and children during happier times to tell the story of the nation’s Jews, who for so long wanted nothing more than to fit in with their countrymen. Among those featured is the family of Jo Benkow, the former president of parliament who died last year.

“There are no other people to hang these pictures, so we have to hang them on our wall,” said Sidsel Levin, the museum’s director. “In Norway, everyone lost someone, and some families just disappeared. There are no tracks left.”

Or, as Kahn put it a bit more bluntly: “If you stayed in Norway, you were dead.”

Surrounding this exhibition, which is provided in English, are the decorations of the old synagogue. Selections from scripture adorn the walls, as do Stars of David — all discovered in recent years under layers of paint.

A small fire in December forced the museum to close its exhibitions temporarily, but Levin said she expects most items to be back on display and open to the public by the end of March.

A park in Trondheim, Norway, features this memorial statue of 13-year-old Cissi Klein, who died in Auschwitz. Photo by Ryan E. Smith

Memory and irony

In a country that loves to fill museums with the accomplishments of its adventurous, almost legendary heroes — think the Vikings, Thor Heyerdahl (Kon-Tiki) and Roald Amundsen (first to reach the South Pole) — the Norwegian government has made a conscious effort to be part of the Jewish community’s outreach and rebuilding efforts.

In the 1990s, it made restitution payments totaling many millions of dollars to Holocaust victims or their surviving relatives, as well as the country’s two synagogues. That money also established the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Oslo, which every student in the city must visit.

The center opened in 2006 and is located — not coincidentally — in Villa Grande, the same monumental building that served as the home of Norwegian Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling during World War II. Today, there’s one major addition to the entrance: a three-story version of the form once used to determine if someone was Jewish, recreated in glass and lights.

An audio guide is available in English, but in many places it isn’t necessary, such as the room filled with drawings and cartoon propaganda depicting Jews as devils — a sharp contrast to the buildings’ romantic leaded windows and the bright greenery outside. (Even on gray, rainy days, there always seem to be 30 shades of green in Norway.)

The exhibition in the basement follows the story of the country’s victims and Holocaust perpetrators and displays a Torah found at Auschwitz. Look closely and you’ll note that it’s opened to Parsha Beshalach, where the Israelites sing to God after crossing the Red Sea. Such a reminder of the Jewish people’s survival is a welcome pick-me-up, especially when around the corner is a small, white room with the name of every Jewish Norwegian Holocaust victim inscribed on the wall.

Modern Judaism

This is not to say that everything about Norwegian Jewish life is about looking back. There are, after all, the country’s two surviving Orthodox congregations and a Chabad-Lubavitch presence that claims to be in touch with a few hundred more people as well.

In Oslo, the turreted, stucco temple from 1920, with its circular window circumscribing a Star of David, is located on a steep hill. The victim of a gunfire attack a number of years ago — pockmarks are still visible on the exterior — it is now noticeably protected by concrete barricades.

In the sanctuary, the words to “Ma Tovu” are painted in giant, arching letters over the bimah with beautifully carved woodwork throughout. The congregation may not be the most religious — “No one’s really interested. It’s more the cultural aspects,” one person there said — but members have assisted in community-wide education efforts by, for example, filming a piece about b’nai mitzvah.

Downstairs is a small kosher pantry that is open twice a week. Its offerings include challah, beef from Holland and chicken from England.

In Trondheim, the Jewish Museum and synagogue are located in a light-blue building, which was once the city’s first train station. Here, too, there is an exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust. Its basement, however, is full of artifacts that tell of the area’s first Jews, many of them peddlers from Eastern Europe who were prohibited by law from opening stores. (The constitution didn’t even allow Jews or Jesuits to enter the country until 1851.) Most exhibits are accompanied by English text.

The second-floor sanctuary has a soothing, disco-blue light emanating from the ceiling. Here, women sit with men, no one keeps kosher and there is no rabbi, Kahn said. Still, the mostly intermarried membership celebrates the holidays and organizes summer parties. 

They also take pride in their claim to be the northernmost shul in the world. There may be naysayers — that includes you, Fairbanks, Alaska! — but that doesn’t bother Kahn.

“We don’t believe them.”

Foreigners still caught in Sahara hostage crisis


More than 20 foreigners were still either being held hostage or missing inside a gas plant on Friday after Algerian forces stormed the desert complex to free hundreds of captives taken by Islamist militants.

More than a day after the Algerian army launched an assault to seize the remote desert compound, much was still unclear about the number and fate of the victims, leaving countries with citizens in harm's way struggling to find hard information.

Reports on the number of hostages killed ranged from 12 to 30, with anywhere from dozens to scores of foreigners still unaccounted for.

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, eight of whose countrymen were missing, said fighters still controlled the gas treatment plant itself, while Algerian forces now held the nearby residential compound that housed hundred of workers.

Leaders of Britain, Japan and other countries expressed frustration that the assault had been ordered without consultation. Many countries were also withholding information about their citizens to avoid helping the captors.

Night fell quietly on the village of In Amenas, the nearest settlement, some 50 km (30 miles) from the vast and remote desert plant. A military helicopter could be seen in the sky.

An Algerian security source said 30 hostages, including at least seven Westerners, had been killed during Thursday's assault, along with at least 18 of their captors. Eight of the dead hostages were Algerian, with the nationalities of the rest of the dead still unclear, he said.

Algeria's state news agency APS put the total number of dead hostages at 12, including both foreigners and locals.

Norway's Stoltenberg said some of those killed in vehicles blasted by the army could not be identified. “We must be prepared for bad news this weekend but we still have hope.”

Northern Irish engineer Stephen McFaul, who survived, said he saw four trucks full of hostages blown up by Algerian troops.

The attack has plunged international capitals into crisis mode and is a serious escalation of unrest in northwestern Africa, where French forces have been in Mali since last week fighting an Islamist takeover of Timbuktu and other towns.

“We are still dealing with a fluid and dangerous situation where a part of the terrorist threat has been eliminated in one part of the site, but there still remains a threat in another part,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told his parliament.

A local Algerian source said 100 of 132 foreign hostages had been freed from the facility. However, other estimates of the number of unaccounted-for foreigners were higher. Earlier the same source said 60 were still missing. Some may be held hostage; others may still be hiding in the sprawling compound.

Two Japanese, two Britons and a French national were among the seven foreigners confirmed dead in the army's storming, the Algerian security source told Reuters. One British citizen was killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.

Those still unaccounted for on Friday included 10 from Japan and eight Norwegians, according to their employers, and a number of Britons which Cameron put at “significantly” less than 30

France said it had no information on two Frenchmen who may have been at the site and Washington has said a number of Americans were among the hostages, without giving details. The local source said a U.S. aircraft landed nearby on Friday.

The attackers had initially claimed to be holding 41 Western hostages. Some Westerners were able to evade capture by hiding.

They lived among hundreds of Algerian employees on the compound. The state news agency said the army had rescued 650 hostages in total, 573 of whom were Algerians.

“(The army) is still trying to achieve a 'peaceful outcome' before neutralising the terrorist group that is holed up in the (facility) and freeing a group of hostages that is still being held,” it said, quoting a security source.

MULTINATIONAL INSURGENCY

Algerian commanders said they moved in on Thursday about 30 hours after the siege began, because the gunmen had demanded to be allowed to take their captives abroad.

A French hostage employed by a French catering company said he had hidden in his room for 40 hours under the bed, relying on Algerian employees to smuggle him food with a password.

“I put boards up pretty much all round,” Alexandre Berceaux told Europe 1 radio. “I didn't know how long I was going to stay there … I was afraid. I could see myself already ending up in a pine box.”

The captors said their attack was a response to a French military offensive in neighbouring Mali. However, some U.S. and European officials say the elaborate raid probably required too much planning to have been organised from scratch in the single week since France first launched its strikes.

Paris says the incident proves that its decision to fight Islamists in neighbouring Mali was necessary.

Security in the half-dozen countries around the Sahara desert has long been a pre-occupation of the West. Smugglers and militants have earned millions in ransom from kidnappings.

The most powerful Islamist groups in the Sahara were severely weakened by Algeria's secularist military in a civil war in the 1990s. But in the past two years the regional wing of Al Qaeda gained fighters and arms as a result of the civil war in Libya, when arsenals were looted from Muammar Gaddafi's army.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters, many with roots in Algeria and Libya, took control of northern Mali last year, prompting the French intervention in that poor African former colony.

The Algerian security source said only two of 11 militants whose bodies were found on Thursday were Algerian, including the squad's leader. The others comprised three Egyptians, two Tunisians, two Libyans, a Malian and a Frenchman, he said.

The plant was heavily fortified, with security, controlled access and an army camp with hundreds of armed personnel between the accommodation and processing plant, Andy Coward Honeywell, who worked there in 2009, told the BBC.

The apparent ease with which the fighters swooped in from the dunes to take control of an important energy facility, which produces some 10 percent of the natural gas on which Algeria depends for its export income, has raised questions over the value of outwardly tough security measures.

Algerian officials said the attackers may have had inside help from among the hundreds of Algerians employed at the site. The attackers benefitted from bases and staging grounds across the nearby border in Libya's desert, Algerian officials said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said those respsonsible would be hunted down: “Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere…. Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide.”

WARNING OF MORE ATTACKS

The kidnappers threatened more attacks and warned Algerians to stay away from foreign companies' installations, according to Mauritania's news agency ANI, which maintained contact with the group during the siege.

Hundreds of workers from international oil companies were evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and many more will follow, said BP, which jointly ran the gas plant with Norway's Statoil and the Algerian state oil firm.

The overall commander of the kidnappers, Algerian officials said, was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran of Afghanistan in the 1980s and Algeria's bloody civil war of the 1990s. He appears not to have been present.

Algerian security specialist Anis Rahmani, author of several books on terrorism and editor of Ennahar daily, told Reuters about 70 militants were involved from two groups, Belmokhtar's “Those who sign in blood”, who travelled from Libya, and the lesser known “Movement of the Islamic Youth in the South”.

Britain's Cameron, who warned people to prepare for bad news and who cancelled a major policy speech on Friday to deal with the situation, said he would have liked Algeria to have consulted before the raid. Japan made similar complaints.

U.S. officials had no clear information on the fate of Americans. Washington, like its European allies, has endorsed France's military intervention in Mali.

Norwegian Police apologize for deporting Jews to Auschwitz


The Norwegian Police for the first time have apologized for rounding up Jews and sending them to their deaths during the Holocaust.

“On behalf of the Norwegian police and those involved in the deportation of Norwegian Jews to concentration camps, I wish to express regret,” Norway’s newly appointed police commissioner, Odd Reidar Humlegard, told the newspaper Dagsavisen.

Humlegard said about 300 police officers handled the deportation of 772 Jews to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland. Only a handful survived.

His interview with Dagsavisen appeared on the 70th anniversary of the main deportation, when more than 500 Jews were loaded aboard an eastbound ship at the port of Oslo.

The Oslo Jewish Museum opened an exhibition on the deportation at 2:55 p.m. Monday, the ship’s exact time of departure. In total, 40 percent of Norwegian Jewry was deported; only a handful survived, according to the museum. The remaining 60 percent fled to neutral Sweden.

The exhibition focuses on the deportation itself, which was conducted by Norwegian police and militia members, according to Mats Tangestuen, the museum’s historian, and includes video interviews with 21 survivors.

A small part of the exhibition examines the life of about 900 Norwegian Jews who lived in exile in Sweden.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg formally apologized for his country’s role in the Nazi persecution of Jews.

Norwegian youth leader seen encouraging anti-Semitic speech


Aspiring Norwegian politician Khalid Haji Ahmed said he was only joking when he wished “best of luck eight times over” to activists who wrote on Facebook that they wished Adolf Hitler could kill more Jews.

Screen shots made by Hamar Arbeiderblad, a local newspaper, show Ahmed responding on Facebook to a post that read “Damn Jew whores, wish Hitler could come back and shower you some more.”

The Facebook conversation took place last week between members of the Workers' Youth League, Norway’s largest youth movement, which is affiliated with the country’s ruling Labor Party.

Ahmed, the youth movement’s regional secretary in southeast Norway, is quoted as telling the news site Nettavisen that his comment was “ironic.”

Ahmed, whose family came to Norway from Yemen, is quoted as telling The New York Times last year that he decided to join the youth movement and become politically active to “fight racism” after his brother, also a member of the youth movement, was killed in 2001 by Anders Behring Breivik on the island of Utoya.

Breivik, an ultranationalist who is believed to have acted alone, arrived by boat to the campsite of members of the Workers' Youth League and gunned down 69 people. Another eight people died of gunshot wounds he caused.

Report: Anti-Israel attitudes fueling anti-Semitism in Norway


Anti-Israel attitudes in Norway may be fueling anti-Semitism there, the international security organization OSCE warned.

The warning came in a report on Norway compiled by members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the daily Aftenposten reported, adding that the report called the trend “disturbing.”

The report also called for the abolition of a ban on Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, that has been in place in Norway since 1929. Abolishing the ban would be “an important symbolic gesture,” the report said, according to Aftenposten.

The OSCE report points to a survey conducted last year by TNS Gallup for the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities. Thirty-eight percent of the survey’s 1,522 respondents said that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is comparable to the actions of the Nazis. Some 12 percent expressed strong anti-Jewish attitudes.

The delegates also called Norway “an exemplary state when it comes to human rights and equality,” but called on police to do more to confront hate crimes.

“The foreign minister should promote a civilized discussion about the Middle East conflict, and to react when the state of Israel is demonized in public discourse,” Aftenposten quoted the report as saying.

The OSCE delegation to Norway was comprised of Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs for the American Jewish Committee; Adil Akhmetov, a Kazakhstani diplomat; and Catherine McGuinness, a retired Supreme Court judge from Ireland.

Swedish flotilla ship heading for Gaza sails from Italy


A Swedish ship carrying human rights activists attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza left from Italy.

The Estelle, carrying 17 activists from countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel  and the United States, sailed from the port at Naples on Saturday. The vessel, part of the Freedom Flotilla movement that included the ill-fated Mavi Marmara, reportedly is carrying humanitarian goods.

It will take about two weeks to reach Gaza's territorial waters, according to the French news agency AFP.

The Freedom Flotilla's first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel's naval blockade of the coastal strip.

A spokeswoman for the movement, Ann Ighe, told AFP that the Estelle “is a peaceful ship.”

The Estelle began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving last week in the Gulf of Naples.

Norwegian official: Jews, Muslims should replace circumcision with ‘symbolic’ ritual


Norway’s ombudsman for children’s rights has proposed that Jews and Muslim replace male circumcision with a symbolic, nonsurgical ritual.

Dr. Anne Lindboe told the newspaper Vart Land last month that circumcision in boys was a violation of a person’s right to decide over his own body.

“Muslim and Jewish children are entitled to the same protection as all other children,“ she said, adding that the practice caused unnecessary pain and was medically unbeneficial.

Lindboe, a pediatrician, was appointed ombudsman in June. Her predecessor, Reidar Hjermann, proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for circumcision. According to Jewish religious law, Jewish babies must be circumcised when they are eight days old.

The children’s ombudsman is an independent governmental institution entrusted with safeguarding the rights of minors.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, said that Norwegian Jews “will not be able to live in a society where circumcision is forbidden.” He noted that the mandate of Norway’s children’s ombudsman did not extend to devising Jewish rituals. Norway has a Jewish community of about 700.

In June, a spokesperson for Norway’s Centre Party, which has 11 out of 169 seats in parliament, proposed a ban on circumcising babies.

Norwegian gov’t coalition partner seeking to outlaw circumcision


A Norwegian political party said it will seek to outlaw circumcision in Norway.

“Circumcision on religious grounds should be a criminal offense,” Jenny Klinge, a spokesperson for Norway’s Centre Party, said in an interview earlier this month with the newspaper Dagbladet.

Klinge added that “Fortunately, circumcision is already illegal in females. The time has come for boys to receive the same legal protection.”

The Centre Party, a member of the Norwegian coalition, occupies 11 seats out of the 169 in parliament.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, told JTA that he considers the issue “an existential matter” for the community.

“Banning circumcision would send a loud message that the Jewish minority is not wanted here,” he said. Norway has a Jewish community of about 700.

Last year, the government offered the Jewish community a compromise to regulate circumcision that requires the presence of medical personnel during the procedure. Kohn said the community found the requirement acceptable. The government’s preoccupation with the issue started last year, after Norway’s Children’s Ombudsman proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for ritual male circumcision.

“In the aftermath of discussions, several parties have come to oppose circumcision altogether,” Kohn said. “Now we are seeing an escalation in the debate over the issue.”

A spokesman for the ruling Labor Party told Dagbladet that his party has yet to formulate a stand on the issue. The Centre Party has four government portfolios.

Norway is among a handful of European countries where the kosher slaughter of animals is prohibited.

Anti-Semitism limited in Norway, survey shows


More than a third of Norwegians believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to how Nazis treated Jews, according to a survey of attitudes toward Jews in Norway.

The recent survey found that 38 percent of Norwegians feel that way about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. It also indicates that 25 percent of Norwegians believe Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust to their own advantage and 26 percent think Jews “consider themselves better than others.”

Some 12 percent of the Norwegian population “can be considered significantly prejudiced against Jews,” according to the survey, which was published last month by the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities. The survey said the prevalence of anti-Semitic notions in Norway is limited and comparable to that of Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

TNS Gallup collected data from 1,522 respondents last November for the survey.

Seventy-six percent of those who demonstrated anti-Jewish attitudes in the survey displayed similar attitudes toward Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday urged the Norwegian Justice Ministry to “protect threatened children” in Norway’s school system following an unconfirmed report about alleged schoolyard abuse against a Jewish teenager in Oslo. The report, which appeared on the blog Norway Israel and the Jews, said a classmate of the 16-year-old Jewish boy branded him by placing a hot coin on his neck. The blog said the boy’s father was Israeli.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told JTA that he had not heard about the incident prior to the blog posting. Øivind Kopperud, a researcher at the Oslo-based Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, said his watchdog organization was unaware of the attack.

After Norway and before 9/11 anniversary, U.S. answers questions about homegrown threats


With the Norway attacks fresh in mind and the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks fast approaching, are U.S. authorities paying attention to the right kinds of threats?

The fear is that with polarization intensifying in America, extremists might mark the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 with a major attack, said Heidi Beirich, the research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremists in the United States.

And Beirich said the July 22 mass killing of 77 people by Anders Behring Breivik, an anti-Muslim extremist in Norway, “raises considerable fears that something similar could happen here in the United States.”

Asked about homegrown threats, an FBI spokeswoman pointed JTA to an April 14 speech by Mark Giuliano, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In his speech, Giuliano outlined four areas of focus. Three have to do with Muslim terrorism or its potential: al-Qaeda, homegrown Islamists and the changes roiling the Arab world. The fourth was identified as domestic terrorism.

“The FBI continues to maintain a robust effort against domestic terrorism,” Giuliano said in the speech. “The domestic terrorism movement continues to remain active, and several recent domestic terrorism incidents demonstrate the scope of the threat.”

Giuliano cited as examples three recent successes for the FBI: the March 2010 indictment of nine members of a Michigan militia who planned to kill police; a pipe bomb found before it exploded at a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., this year and the arrest of a suspect; and the arrests of three suspects in Fairbanks, Alaska, on weapons charges.

After the attacks in Norway, U.S. officials offered assurances that they are paying close attention to the homegrown potential for violence, including from white extremists.

A White House strategy published Aug. 3 on encouraging authorities to use community outreach to prevent terrorism recruitment focused mostly on the Islamist threat, but made clear that anti-government extremists still posed a danger.

“In recent history, our country has faced plots by neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups,” it said, “and since the September 11 attacks, we have faced an expanded range of plots and attacks in the United States inspired or directed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents as well as other violent extremists.”

In an interview with JTA, the FBI spokeswoman would not comment on whether the United States has seen an extremism or if there was a focus on particular regions of the country.

Matthew Levitt, the Washington Institute’s senior fellow analyzing counterterrorism who hosted Giuliano, said the U.S. government has been concerned about the possibility of an increase in violence from extremists since the election of Barack Obama as president.

“It was the first time an African American was elected president, and it was a shot in the arm” to white supremacist extremists, he said.

Levitt, who was a counterterrorism analyst for the U.S. Treasury in the mid-2000s, said the FBI’s focus is still on Islamist terror, but that it’s not neglecting homegrown threats.

“They are focusing on jihadi networks, which are by any measure the major threat,” Levitt said, but noting that Giuliano at the April 16 meeting at the institute “made it a point that the bureau stills has an independent section focused on domestic terrorism.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the attention paid to domestic terrorism is inadequate.

“Are we safe from the threat of right-wing terrorism?” Mark Potok, the director of publications for the center, rhetorically asks in the latest issue of Intelligence Report, its signature publication. “As the Patriot movement that wreaked so much havoc in the 1990s comes roaring back and hate groups soar to record levels, is the American population being protected adequately?”

To underscore the threat, the law center ran an accompanying list of planned and successful homegrown terrorist attacks since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that is top-heavy with events since June 2008, when Obama emerged as the presidential front-runner. Of the 31 events listed since June ‘08, only one is by a purely indigenous Muslim group. The rest were carried out by an array of militias and lone wolves seemingly motivated by anti-government, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim and racist rhetoric.

Some of the attacks had an anti-Semitic component, including the 2009 slaying of three Pittsburgh policemen by an extremist obsessed with the notion of a “cabal” of Jews running the United States, and the fatal shooting that same year at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Left off the law center’s list are recent planned attacks by groups or individuals backed by overseas Islamists—for instance, the 2010 Times Square bombing attempt. Pakistani extremists might have funded that attempt, authorities have said.

The group listed 23 attacks from Sept. 11, 2001 until Obama’s emergence as the likely president.

Other groups that track extremists say it doesn’t help much to track one extreme separately from another; a holistic strategy is required.

“We have extremists across the ideological spectrum in this country,” said Oren Segal, the co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “To describe one threat as more dangerous than another is not a luxury we have.”

Levitt of the Washington Institute agreed.

“A lot of the efforts the bureau and others have done have been efforts to constrict the environment whatever the ideology,” he said, citing as an example tracking the sale of quantities of fertilizer that could be used to build a large bomb.

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. Loonwatch.com, 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 RealClearPolitics.com, 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.

Norway and multiculturalism


In a recent New York Times article, Scott Shane describes how the violence in Norway emerged from a distinct rhetorical and ideological context, and perhaps the left appropriately will admonish the right for the vitriol of its tirades against multiculturalism. If so, however, it is also incumbent upon progressives — and Jewish progressives in particular — to take this moment to articulate a serious, affirmative vision for a successful multicultural future.

First of all, the progressive position is rooted in an undisputed fact: We live in a multicultural society.

Second, progressivism generally welcomes this fact as a source of societal enrichment rather than cultural dilution or endangerment.

Third, American liberalism does not propose the laissez-faire cultural autonomy that is attributed to some European nations. Though conservatives sometimes depict liberalism as so much relativism run amok, this is an inapposite caricature. Progressivism does not seek to abolish the reasonable limits imposed by the ethical and legal norms of mainstream society.

American Jews have a particular stake in this progressive position. We are the direct beneficiaries of it, and we have much to teach about striking the balance between committed citizenship on the one hand, and unapologetic difference on the other.

Having enshrined the religious principle that “the law of the land is law,” we have at the same time vigorously promoted our distinct religious and ethnic culture. We know from experience that this can be a delicate negotiation and sometimes a costly one. But the Jewish community, including progressives, does not shy from it, nor does it exempt other minorities from it.

Where Jewish progressivism is classically liberal is in its expectation that, within those limits, mainstream society makes room for, and even allows itself to be queried by, minority values, attitudes and aesthetics.

The success of the American Jewish experience has, by and large, vindicated this perspective. Judaism inherently challenges Christianity, and yet we American Jews will not accede to a vision of Americanism that relegates us to the merely tolerated. We cite, with vigor and pride, Article VI of the Constitution, the First Amendment and George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue, rejecting the notion of toleration, “as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States … requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

“Demean” is a helpful word because, though archaic in usage, it captures the fact that civic participation necessitates some degree of self-abnegation. Once established as the bounds of cultural and religious expression, however, good citizenship also protects it and, by extension, legitimates it.

Jewish liberalism celebrates both sides of this equation, especially their mutual promotion such as the Jewish community has, in significant measure, achieved.

It is high time that the cultural debate about multiculturalism, which the Norwegian tragedy now risks polarizing, recognize the nuance of this posture, which is the dominant liberal one in this county and which the Jewish community has, in its majority, historically espoused.

Letters to the Editor: Norway, Jacob Dayan, Redistricting


Christian Hate Claims Jewish Roots

While Rob Eshman makes an important and necessary argument in his editorial, he misses a serious point (“Web of Evil,” July 29). Fundamentalist, right-wing Christian extremists can claim brotherhood with Zionist Jews because their perception — sadly correct often enough — is that regardless of population demographics, regardless of the laws of Torah and the basic laws of Israel, regardless of our well-documented activities promoting tolerance and understanding, there are serious and continual examples of discrimination against the Israeli Arab population and a visceral antipathy among a significant portion of the in-and-out-of-Israel Jewish population for Arabs and Muslims. Where have I heard, “The only good Arab is a dead Arab”? From local Israelis. Where have I heard, “They’re all liars and can’t be trusted”? From American-born Jews.

Ironically (though they don’t see it this way), the defensive, underdog position defenders of Israel have been forced into has led them to embrace an Evangelical Christian right that, while professing fervent support of Israel, teaches in its dogma an ultimate Armageddon that leaves Israel with, at best, a caliphate-level Jewish population (separate and unequal) or, at worst, Judenrein. It is inherently anti-Semitic.

Yes, the Jewish community must do everything possible to distance itself from the malignant hate seething from an Anders Breivik and his ilk (Pat Buchanan?), but we must also face honestly the extent to which we fertilize the ground he walks on.

Mitch Paradise
Los Angeles


Praise for Jacob Dayan

Thank you for your articles about departing consul general Jacob Dayan and his wife, Galit (“A Diplomatic Partnership,” July 29). The Dayan family have been a perfect representation to Angelenos of the very best that Israel has to offer. Yaki has been a passionate and tireless advocate for the state of Israel at a time when the Jewish state has been under constant attack, both at home and abroad. He has also been an inspiration and source of strength and support to the local Israeli community.

It has been an honor and a pleasure to have hosted Yaki at our synagogue, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

I am confident that we will be hearing much more in the years to come about this very special man and his exceptional family.

Tzetchem B’shalom. L’hitraot.

Rabbi Jay Shasho Levy
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel


Another View of the Redistricting Issue

The fundamental premise — that Jewish political power increases when we’re clumped into a single district — is flawed (“Berman vs. Sherman?” July 22). It is equally likely that when a Jewish neighborhood is split into two or more political districts, two or more politicians can be made to pay attention to our concerns. That doesn’t dilute our political clout, it strengthens it.

Remember, Republicans enthusiastically embraced “majority-minority” districting in the South because, while it increased the number of black representatives, it decreased the total number of Democratic representatives. How? By bunching blacks, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, into fewer districts, thereby creating more majority Republican districts.

When it comes to political influence, building relationships with officeholders and coalitions with other voters is a better strategy than huddling together.

Paul Kujawsky
Valley Village


Circumcision’s Other Health Advantages

The article on the San Francisco circumcision ban by Jonah Lowenfeld (“The Great California Foreskin Fight of 2011,” June 24) thoroughly covered the characters co-sponsoring the anti-circumcision bill, but it failed to emphasize the multiple proven scientific lifetime preventive health advantages of newborn circumcision. During infancy and childhood, uncircumcised infants have a tenfold increased risk of getting severe kidney infections as well as being uniquely susceptible to foreskin infections, retraction problems (phimosis) and difficulties with genital hygiene. In young adults, circumcision helps prevent HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, HPV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as cervical cancer in female partners. In old age, penile cancer and difficulty maintaining genital cleanliness are foreskin-related problems. Emphasizing these proven lifetime benefits is more important than getting out the anectdotal anti-circumcision party line.

Edgar Schoen
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus
University of California, San Francisco


The Arab Mentality

Rabbi Laura Geller, in her Torah Portion column, speaks out against an e-mail, “The Arab Mentality,” about a Palestinian woman arrested as a suicide bomber even though, after checking the story, she found the story to be true (“Silence Is Consent,” July 22). One objection was that the author was a member of a right-wing party. If the story came from a left-wing party member, would the story be OK? The author of the article ascribes a characteristic to a whole group (Arabs) and Rabbi Geller ascribes a characteristic to a whole group (right wing parties, not to be trusted even if what they say is true). What’s the difference between saying “The Arab Mentality” and “The Right Wing Mentality”?

Rabbi Geller is correct that we must speak out against something that is wrong, even if it comes from a rabbi.

Bill Azerrad
Los Angeles

Security experts: To prevent extremist violence, look at behavior, not ideology


Focus on behaviors common to all extremists: That’s the advice security experts are offering in the wake of the recent attacks in Norway by a perpetrator who appeared to be anti-Muslim rather than an Islamist.

In the United States, the attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utoya are prompting government officials and those advising the Jewish community on security to look for lessons that can be applied to America.

The Secure Community Network, known as SCN and funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, set up a conference call this week for Jewish summer camp officials with a top Homeland Security Department official. Most of the 77 people killed in Norway died in a shooting attack at a youth camp on Utoya.

SCN in its notice to camp officials said the call, scheduled for Wednesday, was to “discuss planning, mitigation and response policies and procedures camps can implement to address the risk, threat and impact of active shooter and other events.”

Anders Behring Breivik has claimed responsibility for the Norway attacks but has pleaded not guilty, saying the killings were justified.

Whether one is a right-wing or Islamic extremist, the telltale signs of a possible attack in the works may be the same, a senior Homeland Security official told JTA.

The likely attacker is “an individual becoming increasingly vocal and visible in their anti-American, anti-Jewish community, anti-government rhetoric”—whatever the provenance of their beliefs, said the official, who spoke on condition of not being named.

That was true, the official noted, of Faisal Shahzad, the Islamist convicted of attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010, as it was of Richard Poplawski, the white supremacist on death row for killing three Pittsburgh policemen in 2009.

Past and current U.S. government security officials laid out three interlocking strategies for prevention: Getting family and acquaintances to report such behavioral changes; getting others in the community to note suspicious behavior around likely targets; and making sure such reports are streamlined so that local and federal authorities are able to coordinate a response.

“We seek through intelligence and information-sharing to better inform local authorities and community members to recognize the behaviors associated with violence,” the Homeland Security official said.

In reports after the Pittsburgh shootings, friends and family of Poplawski said they had noted, but not made an issue of, his legal weapons purchases as well as his propensity for anti-government, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The Homeland Security official said the department was examining the Norway attacks and assessing the information, just as it had previous attacks.

After an attack, the official said, “we look at events that occurred, what people had observed, whether community members, family members saw something that was present that would have forewarned” of an attack. Those reports are then forwarded to local authorities so “they’re more sensitized to it.”

Another element is educating the target community, said SCN director Paul Goldenberg. The Homeland Security Department’s recently launched “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign in the Jewish community is critical, he said.

Goldenberg said that potential assailants tend to look at previous attacks for inspiration, which is what made Breivik’s assault on the Labor Party youth camp so exceptional. Some of his victims were as young as 14.

“What’s remarkable is that this individual sought to kill children, and that is a wake-up call for our community and any other community to do all they can to ensure that wherever our children gather and congregate would be a potential location for someone who wants to cause direct harm to the hearts and souls of the Jewish community,” Goldenberg said.

The Homeland Security official identified patterns of behavior around synagogues and other Jewish community buildings that merit reporting to the authorities: “multiple instances of appearances” by a stranger “in an entrance or exit area, parked cars that are in places that unusual—places that people walk past as they enter a JCC, an individual trying to monitor activities, maybe photographing security personnel, photographing the building in a way that doesn’t seem typical of someone who’s interested in architecture.”

It is also critical to train staff to know what to do in case of an attack, Goldenberg said. SCN has trained Jewish summer camp personnel to have planned safety routes in the event of an incident, and walkie-talkies planted in strategic places for effective communication.

“Sending our children to camps and overseas and to Israel—that should never stop,” said Goldenberg, a former counterterrorism adviser to New Jersey’s state government, “but we need to be more vigilant and train those who are responsible and accompanying our children.”

So-called lone wolves are an increasing concern for law-enforcement authorities because advance detection of a plot through wiretapping and similar measures is not possible.

“Some people recognize that based on a lot of the plotters and conspiracies that have been foiled, it is more likely you’re going to get caught if you have conspirators,” said Oren Segal, the co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “Lone wolf attacks are most concerning, as they don’t fall into one or another movement.”

Groups like the ADL track extremism, particularly on the Internet, which has facilitated the empowerment and exchange of extremist ideas.

“The fact that people are reading ideologies and being influenced online poses a serious threat,” Segal said. “Extremist movements tend to ebb and flow. There have been spikes by those motivated by militant Islam; at other times we’ve seen spikes in anti-government types.”

Breivik’s anti-Muslim extremism “seems to represent a developing ideology,” he said. “It’s not isolated.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center along with Daryl Johnson, a former Homeland Security official, has accused the Obama and George W. Bush administrations of not aggressively tracking right-wing extremism and instead focusing more on Islamic extremists.

Johnson left Homeland Security after conservatives assailed as an attack on free speech a 2009 report he authored on the increased likelihood of attacks in the wake of the election of the first black president. The department squelched the report and shut down Johnson’s unit.

Heidi Beirich, the research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Breivik was influenced by the online writings of Americans such as Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, who see Islam generally, and not an extremist offshoot, as a threat to democracy and freedom.

“We’re concerned that as the Sept. 11 10th anniversary comes up, someone may attack government buildings or Muslims,” Beirich said. “We understand the threat from Islamists, but there is also a threat from people motivated by anti-government beliefs.”

The Homeland Security official told JTA that the department had not dropped its tracking of right-wing extremists in the wake of the shutdown of Johnson’s unit, and that such monitoring had been incorporated into other departments.

Michael German, the American Civil Liberties Union’s counsel on security and a former FBI agent who infiltrated neo-Nazi and skinhead groups from 1988 to 2004, said that Johnson’s report was useful in many respects, but committed the flaw of tracking ideology instead of extremist activity.

“The way you go about it,” German said, “is focusing on illegal behavior rather than people’s beliefs or ideologies.”

German interior minister warns of threat of far-right violence


In the wake of the recent bombing and massacre in Norway, Germany’s interior minister warned that there are far-right groups in his country that could commit violent attacks.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Rheinische Post, Hans-Peter Friedrich noted that while the number of far-right extremists in Germany has dropped in recent years, the core of extremely violent neo-Nazis and “nationalist anarchists” has risen to about 1,000 individuals. Friedrich described the latter group as primarily young neo-Nazis who model themselves on left-wing anarchists.

“Even if we monitor the scene intensively, it cannot be ruled out that individuals have secretly become radicalized,” Friedrich, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union, told the daily newspaper.

He said that those who have gone underground cannot be monitored easily.

“The problem is not the ones we can watch but those who radicalize in hiding,” he said.,

Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the bombing and shooting in Norway that killed 76, reportedly sent his manifesto of more than 1,500 pages to German neo-Nazi groups.

But Breivik writes in his manifesto that he had actually distanced himself from neo-Nazis and was banned by the Stormfront white supremacist website for promoting the view that Israel could be an ally against Islam.

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. Islamversuseurope.blogspot.com (“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 al-Arabiya.com. “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.

Envoy compares terror in Israel, Norway


Norway’s ambassador to Israel drew distinctions between the Oslo and Utoeya massacres and Palestinian terrorism.

Svein Sevje said in an Israeli newspaper interview Tuesday that while the Norwergian bomb and gun rampages that killed 76 people and Palestinian attacks should both be considered morally unacceptable, he wanted to “outline the similarity and the difference in the two cases.”

Palestinians, the ambassador told Maariv, “are doing this because of a defined goal that is related to the Israeli occupation. There are elements of revenge against Israel and hatred of Israel. To this you can add the religious element to their actions.”

“In the case of the terror attack in Norway, the murderer had an ideology that says that Norway, particularly the Labor Party, is forgoing Norwegian culture,” Sevje said, referring to suspect Anders Breivik, a Christian nativist who is opently anti-Islam and anti-immigration.

Unlike European Union states, Norway has engaged Hamas and often been fiercely critical of Israel, to Jerusalem’s dismay.

While Sevje voiced sympathy for Israeli terror victims, having experienced “the inferno” of such attacks during his posting, he saw little chance of Norway reviewing its Middle East policies.

“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.”

He added, “Can Israel and the Palestinians solve the problems without Hamas? I don’t think so.”

Norway attacks spotlight far-right outreach to Jews, Israel


For decades after World War II, far-right political movements in Europe stirred up for Jews images of skinheads and Nazi storm troopers marching across the continent.

But in recent years, as European xenophobia has focused on the exploding growth of Muslims on the continent, right-wing anti-Semitism has been replaced in some corners by outreach to Jews and Israel. It’s part of an effort in far-right movements to gain broader, mainstream support for an anti-Muslim alliance opposed to the notion of a multicultural Europe.

Indeed, in the anti-Muslim manifesto attributed to Anders Behring Breivik, the accused perpetrator of the July 22 deadly attacks in Oslo and the nearby Norwegian island of Utoya, the pseudonymous author expresses sympathy for Israel’s plight and cites numerous critiques of the Palestinians.

“Aided by a pre-existing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, European media have been willing to demonise the United States and Israel while remaining largely silent on the topic Eurabia,” the author writes in his manifesto, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.”

Later, he lists four potential political allies among Israel’s political parties: Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and National Union.

Breivik’s apparent proto-Zionist viewpoint is shared by a number of far-right leaders around Europe.

“The Arab-Israeli conflict illustrates the struggle between Western culture and radical Islam,” Filip Dewinter, the head of Belgium’s far-right, anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang Party, said last December during a visit to Tel Aviv.

“Israel is of central importance to us,” German Freedom Party head Rene Stadtkewitz told JTA last year. What Israelis do to fight terrorism, he said, “is what we would have to be doing here. And I am very thankful that they are doing it.”

But after the deadly attacks in Norway, which authorities say left at least 76 people dead, the dangers of making common cause with movements where extremists like Breivik can find an ideological home and where some supporters are known for being violent is all too clear, some Jewish figures are saying.

“A large-scale hate crime attack such as the one in Norway demonstrates the clear and present danger of incitement against political, ethnic and religious groups,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “Hate crimes are among the most insidious of dangers to democracy.”

To be sure, Breivik is an extreme example of the anti-multicultural tide rising in Europe, and far-right leaders say they eschew the killing of innocents in their crusade to restore Europe to its pre-heterogeneous state. But some watchdog groups say that European far-right movements provided the ideological underpinnings to Breivik’s attack and they must be held to account.

“Breivik was clearly influenced by an ideological movement both in the United States and Europe that is rousing public fear by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith,” warned the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman.

The fact that Breivik attacked those he viewed as collaborators with Muslims rather than Muslims themselves shows just how dangerous extremist ideology can be, the ADL suggested in a statement.

Jewish leaders in Europe, who in recent days have taken pains to distance themselves from Breivik’s proto-Zionism, long have warned that even far rightists who do not espouse anti-Semitism are dangerous for the Jews.

Far rightists “want a Sweden for the Swedes, France for the French and Jews to Israel,” Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, told JTA last October.

“Islamism certainly is a danger to the Jews and to Western democracy,” Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA last year. “The way to fight [Islamists] is not, however, to demonize and ostracize all Muslims.”

Not all Jews have gotten the memo, however. Polls show that a small minority of European Jews supports some far-right parties, and a few far-right figures have gained a certain measure of respectability among some Jews.

When firebrand Geert Wilders, the leader of Holland’s Freedom Party, spoke at an event in Berlin last year, former Israeli Knesset member Eli Cohen of the Yisrael Beiteinu party was one of the featured speakers.

Wilders also has his Jewish fans in America. One is Daniel Pipes, a columnist and director of a think tank that warns of the dangers of domination by radical Muslims, or Islamists.

In a column last year for The National Review titled “Why I Stand with Geert Wilders,” Pipes called the controversial Dutch political figure “the most important European alive today” and the man “best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.”

Pipes’ writing was quoted extensively in Breivik’s manifesto. Reached this week by JTA, Pipes declined to comment for this story.

As for Wilders, he was quick to condemn last Friday’s attacks in Norway.

“That the fight against Islam is conducted by a violent psychopath is disgusting and a slap to the face of the global anti-Islamic movement,” Wilders said in a statement. “It fills me with disgust that the perpetrator refers to the [ Freedom Party] and me in his manifesto. … We fight for a democratic and nonviolent means against the further Islamization of society and will continue to do so.”

Of course, not all far-right parties in Europe are trying to make common cause with Jews. Many, like Jobbik, a far-right movement in Hungary, lump Jews with Gypsies, Muslims and others as undesirables.

Far-right parties in Europe have varying degrees of support, but polls show their political backing is rising across the continent. In Norway, the anti-immigrant Progress Party is now the second-largest in parliament. In Hungary, Jobbik won nearly 17 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last year, making it the country’s third-largest party.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s sagging popularity and the collapse of the anticipated presidential candidacy of Dominique Strauss-Khan following rape charges were filed against him in New York gave Marine Le Pen—leader of the anti-immigrant National Front party and daughter of Holocaust-minimizer Jean-Marie Le Pen—a lead in some polls of French presidential contenders.

In June 2009, far-right parties across Europe captured a sizable share of seats in the European Parliament, a development attributed to rising xenophobic sentiment fueled by the global economic downturn. Among the winners were the neo-fascist British National Party and the Austrian Freedom Party, which campaigned with posters reading “FPO veto for Turkey and Israel in the EU.”

The appeal of far-right political positions is not relegated to the political fringes. Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stances have permeated mainstream political discourse and influenced government policies.

In Switzerland, the far-right Swiss People’s Party is the largest party in the National Council, one of two federal legislatures. Two years ago the party helped spearhead a national referendum that succeeded in outlawing the construction of minarets on newly built mosques.

Earlier this year, France outlawed the wearing of the niqab, the Muslim full-face veil. Last summer, Sarkozy launched a campaign to strip French nationality from foreign-born individuals who attacked police officers and started a program to rapidly deport Gypsy—or Roma—migrants to Romania and Bulgaria.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last fall that Germany’s experiment with multiculturalism had failed.

It’s still not clear how the deadly attack in Norway will impact Norwegian politics, much less the rest of the continent. That will depend on how well far-right parties are able to draw a sharp distinction between Breivik’s violent attacks against multiculturalists and their own opposition to immigrants, Muslims and multiculturalism.

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.”

Norway massacre suspect pleads not guilty in court


The man who has confessed to carrying out a bombing and shooting spree that left 76 people dead in Norway will be held for at least eight weeks, half of that in complete isolation, after a closed hearing in which he said his terror network had two other cells.

Anders Behring Breivik pleaded not guilty to one of the deadliest modern mass killings in peacetime, saying he wanted to save Norway and Europe from a Muslim takeover and send a strong signal, but was not trying to kill as many as possible, Judge Kim Heger said after a closed court hearing.

Nowegian police on Monday revised down the death toll from Friday’s bomb and shooting attack to 76 people from a previous estimate of 93, citing difficulties in gathering information at Utoeya island, where the shooting spree occured.

Breivik could tamper with evidence if released, and will be held for at least another two months without access to visitors, mail or media, the judge said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Beck likens Norway victims to Hitler Youth [AUDIO]


Talk-show host Glenn Beck on his radio show likened the victims of the shooting at a Norwegian summer camp to young members of the Nazi Party.

In the seven-minute segment Monday morning, Beck described the attack “as a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth. I mean who sends their kids to a political camp?”

At least 85 people, some as young as 16, were killed in the second attack allegedly by Anders Behring Breivik at a summer camp that draws young members and children of the governing Labor Party.

Breivik, who adhered to radical right-wing theories about Islam and multiculturalism, was disguised in a police uniform when he carried out the attack on Utoyoa Island. He allegedly had set off a bomb in Oslo outside a government building, killing at least seven, before making his way to the island by ferry.

The Hitler Youth to which Beck referred was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party comprised of teens and preteens that existed from 1922 to 1945.

LISTEN HERE:

Norway killer espoused right-wing philosophy


The confessed perpetrator in the attack in Norway that killed at least 76 people espoused a right-wing philosophy against Islam that also purports to be pro-Zionist.

Anders Behring Breivik is charged with detonating a car bomb outside Oslo’s government headquarters, which houses the office of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, that killed eight people and of shooting and killing at least 68 mostly young people at a political summer camp on nearby Utoya Island. The July 22 massacre reportedly was the the worst attack in Norway since the end of World War II.

In numerous online postings, including a manifesto published on the day of the attacks, Breivik promoted the Vienna School or Crusader Nationalism philosophy, a mishmash of anti-modern principles that also calls for “the deportation of all Muslims from Europe” as well as from “the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

According to the manifesto, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” and published under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, the Vienna School supports “pro-Zionism/Israeli nationalism.”

Breivik listed numerous European Freedom Parties and neo-Nazi parties as potential allies because of their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim stance, and mentioned that right-wing populists like Dutch politician Geert Wilders “have to condemn us at this point which is fine. It is after all essential that they protect their reputational shields.”

Among the potential allies he listed for Germany were the three largest neo-Nazi parties—the National Democratic Party, Deutsche Volksunion and Republikaner. In Holland, Wilders’ Freedom Party topped the list, and the British National Party topped a long list of potential supporters in the United Kingdom.

European right-populist parties increasingly have been waving the flag of friendship with Israel, as well as expressing vehement opposition to Europe’s multicultural society.

Last month, after it emerged that German-Swedish far-right politician Patrik Brinkmann had met in Berlin with Israeli Likud Party lawmaker Ayoub Kara, who is deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that Kara be prevented from making further trips abroad. According to Ynet, Lieberman accused Kara of meeting with neo-Nazis and causing damage to Israel’s image. Brinkman said he had reached out to Israeli rightists hoping to build a coalition against Islam.

In postings on the website Document.no that appear to be by Breivik, the poster pondered whether one could “accept the moderate Nazis as long as they distance themselves” from the extermination of the Jews.

The words of right-wing populist politicians “are dangerous, it allows them to radicalize,” Hajo Funke, an expert on right-wing extremism in Europe and the Holocaust at Touro College Berlin and the Free University Berlin, told JTA in a phone interview.

“It is a tactical viewpoint of the rising populist right-wing to use this kind of identification, or forced identification with Israel, to be accepted,” he said. “They say, ‘Our enemies are not any more the Jew … the real enemy as you can see all over the world is Islam, and not only Islam, but the Islamic person.’ This is the new, great danger.”

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA that “in the recent years we have witnessed the phenomenon of radical rightists proclaiming their sympathy for Jews and their support for Israel, also in Germany,” adding that “In many cases, it is clear that this is no more than a PR maneuver to create an air of respectability.”

“Whatever ‘support’ for Israel Anders Behring Breivik may have had in his abominable mind, it is not any kind of support we want,” Kramer said.

One day after the attack, members of Norway’s small Jewish community gathered at the Synagogue of Oslo to pray for the survivors.

“We also pray that the authorities will be less naive on security issues and threats,” businessman Erwin Kohn, newly elected head of the 750-member Jewish community, said in a telephone interview from Oslo.

Kohn added that it appeared that no one in the Jewish community was injured or killed in the attack, but “we are affected just the same as the Norwegian society in general.”

On the reports about Breivik’s online postings, he offered his concerns.

“You have many others who are in the same ballpark, being scared of multiculturalism,” Kohn said, adding that Breivik’s alleged pro-Zionism is a sham. “We don’t need such friends, we don’t need such friends.”

Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, in a call from France said that Breivik “is not pro-Israel—he is anti-Muslim.

“It is a national catastrophe,” he said, “and we share the sadness of the sorrow of the families.”

German journalist Ulrich Sahm reported on the pro-Israel Israelnetz.com website that many of the youths who survived the massacre said they thought the killer, dressed as a police officer, was simulating Israeli crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories. They believed that “the cruelty of the Israeli occupation” was being demonstrated to them, Sahm wrote.

Meanwhile, Israel on Saturday night condemned the attacks in Oslo.

“Nothing at all can justify such wanton violence, and we condemn this brutal action with the utmost gravity,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with the people and government of Norway in this hour of trial, and trust Norwegian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous crime.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres called the king of Norway, Harald V, to express condolences. “Your country is a symbol of peace and freedom. In Israel we followed the events over the weekend in Norway and the attack on innocent civilians broke our hearts. It is a painful tragedy that touches every human being. We send our condolences to the families that lost their loved ones and a speedy recovery to the wounded. Israel is willing to assist in whatever is needed,” Peres said, according to his office.

The king thanked Peres for his phone call and for the expression of Israeli solidarity.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Norway last week and was told that Oslo will recognize Palestine, but not immediately.

While much attention in Norway has been focused on the threat of Muslim extremism, the threat from the far right was generally considered to have abated.

Kohn noted that anti-Semitism in the country remains a serious problem. A recent study of 7,000 Norwegian teens showed that more than half of youth of all backgrounds, whether Christian or Muslim, use the word “Jew” as an expletive.

Anecdotally, Kohn said, “one-third of the Jewish kids in our schools have experienced harassment … but not from one specific group.”

At least 87 dead in double Norway terror attack


A gunman dressed in police uniform opened fire at a youth camp of Norway’s ruling political party on Friday, killing at least 80 people, hours after a bomb killed seven in the government district in the capital Oslo.

Witnesses said the gunman, identified by police as a 32-year-old Norwegian, moved across the small, wooded Utoeya holiday island firing at random as young people scattered in fear. Norwegian television TV2 said the gunman detained by police was described as tall and blond and had links to right-wing extremism.

“We had all gathered in the main house to talk about what had happened in Oslo. Suddenly we heard shots. First we thought it was nonsense. Then everyone started running,” a survivor, 16—year-old called Hana told Norway’s Aftenposten.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

 

Norway’s Jews oppose circumcision law amendment


The umbrella organization for Jews in Norway is opposing a proposed amendment that would ban ritual circumcision on boys younger than 15.

The Mosaic Religious Community, the umbrella for Norway’s Jewish community and Jewish organizations, has sent a letter to Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Justice Minister Knut Storberget outlining its opposition to the amendment proposed by the country’s state ombudsman for children, the English-language website News and Views from Norway reported.

The age limit would be part of a proposed change in the law made last week that would allow ritual circumcision in public hospitals, which is currently banned. Under the proposed change, parents could either have only a doctor present or have religious circumcisers present to carry out the procedure under the observation of medical professionals, the website reported.

Jewish boys are circumcised on the eighth day of life. Muslim boys are usually circumcised sometime before their 15th birthday.

“This suggestion is going to go to Jewish media all over the world and support the idea that Norway is a ‘Jew-hating country,’ ” Mosaic Religious Community’s letter reportedly said. “And we agree—this will in practice mean that ‘Jews don’t have access to the kingdom’ again.”

Better late than never, Theodor Herzl, children reunited in death; Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Isra


Theodor Herzl, Children Reunited in Death
 
Two of Theodor Herzl’s children were reinterred in Jerusalem after decades of debate. Hans and Pauline Herzl, who died in 1930 and were buried in France, were laid to final rest alongside the Zionist visionary at the cemetery that carries his name in Israel’s capital. Theodor Herzl, who launched the modern Zionist movement and wrote “The Jewish State” a few years before dying in 1904, had expressed the wish to be buried next to his children. But Israeli authorities, after reinterring Herzl himself in 1949, were reluctant to do the same for Hans and Pauline given the controversy over their deaths. Pauline died of a drug overdose in what might have been a suicide, prompting her brother to shoot himself. Hans’ conversion to Christianity shortly before his death further stoked religious opposition to his burial in Israel. But rabbis recently ruled that Hans had disavowed Christianity before dying, and that Pauline’s demise was a result of mental disturbance.
 
“Having brought in the remains of Pauline and Hans, we are completing the mission and achieving historical closure,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the burial ceremony.
 
Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Israeli ‘Lover’ Denounces Book
 
An Israeli who was James McGreevey’s declared love interest attacked the former New Jersey governor’s memoir. McGreevey, who stepped down in 2004 after declaring he was gay, published a memoir this month titled, “The Confession.” In it, he details an affair he said he had with Golan Cipel, an Israeli whose appointment to serve as homeland security adviser in New Jersey raised eyebrows. But Cipel, who says he is straight and suffered sexual harassment by McGreevey, issued a statement attacking the book as a “pack of lies.”
 
Cipel said: “I strongly hope that the gay community rejects this obvious and shameless ploy from a man who has engaged in acts of deception, sexual violence and intimidation.”
 
Latino Jews React to Miami Radio Caricature
 
Hispanic Jews in Miami formed a group to monitor Spanish-language media for anti-Semitism. The establishment of the Hispanic Jewish Initiative comes after Jews said they were offended by Goldstein, a Jewish character on the top-rated 95.7 FM show, known in English as “The Morning Hijinks,” local media reported. A Web page, until recently linked to the show, depicts a black character, Al Jackson, with the mug shot of a man whose lips balloon from his face. In place of a photo for Goldstein is a Nazi eagle and swastika.
 
The group, created under the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, will monitor and address other concerns of Florida’s Spanish-speaking Jewish population.
 
Israel Unmoved by Irish Boycott Call
 
Israel’s education minister downplayed an Irish call for Israeli academics to be boycotted. In an open letter published by the Irish Times newspaper earlier this month, 61 local academics urged their country, as well as the European Union, to impose a moratorium on ties with Israeli educational institutions until Israel “ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
 
The letter also deplored Israel’s “aggression against the people of Lebanon” during the recent war against Hezbollah. Israel’s education minister, Yuli Tamir, said she would meet the Irish ambassador to discuss the boycott call but played down its importance.
 
“At this time, I don’t see a real danger to Israel’s academic ties, though any boycott is despicable and we have to make sure it is lifted,” she told Army Radio.
 
Four Men Charged In Norway Synagogue Attack
 
Norwegian police charged four men in the shooting attack on an Oslo synagogue. The men were initially charged with vandalism Sept. 21, but the charge was upgraded to organizing an act of terrorism, an offense punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Police said one suspect was Norwegian, and the others had different backgrounds. They declined to provide more information about the suspects. However, Norwegian news outlets have reported that one suspect was a 29-year-old Norwegian of Pakistani origin who had been held briefly in Germany in June on suspicion of planning an act of terrorism against the soccer World Cup. No one was hurt in the Sept. 17 incident.
 
Czechs on Security Alert During High Holidays
 
The Czech Republic went on high alert for a terrorist attack during the High Holidays. The government announced the alert in the early hours Saturday and said it would continue for some time, with no specifics given. Czech officials noted that the Czech alliance with the United States in its war on terror might have made it a target, but there was also media speculation that an attack was planned to coincide with Rosh Hashanah. A government spokesman reportedly hinted that the alert was connected to the arrest of four men charged with shooting at an Oslo synagogue last weekend. Norwegian authorities have said the men were plotting to blow up U.S. and Israeli embassies in other cities. Thousands of additional police are present in the streets of Prague and are particularly noticeable near Jewish sites, such as synagogues and the Jewish community headquarters.
 
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.