Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

On the Oslo attacks: Neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists share a worldview

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Israel's leaders certainly know where Israel sits with regard to the horrific massacre that took place in Oslo over the weekend. Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have expressed their sorrow over the tragic events and expressed Israel's empathy with the Norwegian people, given the terrorist attacks that Israel is all too used to facing. As The Jerusalem Post reports:

After sending a message of condolence to King Harald V of Norway on Saturday, President Shimon Peres on Sunday followed up with a phone call to the King to personally voice his own and the nation's condolences... Peres told the King that Israel has been closely following events in Norway since the bombing by extreme right wing Christian fundamentalist Anders Breivik, and was shocked by his callous behavior. Noting that Norway is a country that symbolizes peace and freedom, Peres said that the attack on innocent civilians was a painful, heart-breaking tragedy that touches every human being.

... Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the tragedy at the opening of Sunday's cabinet meeting, calling it a "shocking murder" and saying that "We in Israel completely identify with this disaster and declare our deepest shock over this crime."

That said, Israel is appearing in a number of other areas in the debate - not concentrating on Israel's response to the attacks, but alleging that the Jewish State had some kind of role to play in planning and executing them. For example, Harry's Place has exposed  Ellie Merton, Chair of Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a loud advocate of boycotting Israel in Britain, positing a bizarre conspiracy theory, calling the attacks an "Israeli sponsored operation".

Merton claims that Hillary Clinton was complicit in the operation and that it was in response to Norway's foreign policy being somewhat cold towards Israel:

In fact, it is not only the anti-Israel left that are jumping to blame Israel for the attacks. Harry's Place's Edmund Standing has given a number of examples of Europe's antisemitic extreme right levelling strikingly similar arguments:

It will be tempting for many to attempt to portray Breivik as a ‘far-right' neo-Nazi, in part because in so doing, his connection to the ‘anti-Islamisation' movement appears to be severed. However, the fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that Breivik was an anti-black, anti-Semitic Hitlerite of the Blood & Honour/Combat 18 ‘lone wolf' variety.

Indeed, that subculture, usually not shy about its admiration for violent terrorists (such as, for example, The Order) has been quick to condemn Breivik as a man who is a ‘race traitor' and in bed with ‘the Jews'. Here are a selection of comments from members of the Stormfront neo-Nazi forum:

Adelaar:
My best guess is that it was the Israeli MOSSAD once again.

british74:
It is very likely the MOSSAD trained him and provided him with stuff.

And yet, as Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld notes in Ynet, some finger pointing at Israel was not unexpected for those who follow Norwegian public affairs.

It was clear from the beginning that Israel would somehow be drawn into the general debate on these terror attacks. The first reason is that there is an obsession in Norway with Israel, and its mentions in the media probably exceed those of, for instance, its giant neighbor Russia whose acts are far more relevant to Norway than those of remote and small Israel.

The theory may unfortunately be fed by the bomber's own manifesto - where, as reported in The Jerusalem Post, he displayed some warped pro-Zionist views, he seemed to believe that Israel is a part of an anti-multiculturalism and anti-Islam alliance. 

Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens has grappled with these issues, noting that these responses highlight the distinction between the traditional antisemitic European neo-Nazis and the growing popularist anti-Islam far right movement:

The true "neo-Nazi" gangs in Europe have violent anti-Semitism in common with their ostensibly deadliest Islamist foes, whereas anti-immigrant populists of the Geert Wilders stripe in Holland seek respectability by standing up for Israel, very often against criticism from the multi-culti left.

Hitchens further explores the relationship between neo-Nazis and Islamists, noting that while ostensibly they are bitter enemies, they share a number of ideological parallels - particularly their views on "racial purity".

One way of phrasing the question is this: Do the extreme jihadists and their most virulent opponents really have a symbiotic relationship? In tapes and sermons from mosques in London and Hamburg, you may find whole manifestos about the need to keep women as chattel, to eradicate the disease of homosexuality, to thwart the Jewish design over international finance, and other fantasies of the Third Reich mentality. Pushed to its logical or pathological conclusion, this would involve something that Europeans and Americans have never seen before: a conflict between different forms of fascism in order to see which assault on multi-ethnic democracy was the most effective.

To further illustrate the convoluted and absurd situation of two opposing extremes working in somehow in unison, Hitchens notes that some jihadis were actually preparing to claim credit for the attacks, until it emerged that they were anti-Islam in their motivation:

It also culminates in the wretched spectacle of the jihadist websites in Oslo, which had been getting ready with their original posts of joy when they, too, thought that their own holy cause might be involved-and then ceasing and desisting when it became clear that the perpetrator was some loser who had quite different reasons for wanting to slaughter a crowd of young people that day.

Also on this point, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has written some scathing criticism of some colleagues of his, who seemed to be almost enjoying the fact that the attack was not by Islamists, jumping on the opportunity to downplay the threat of Islamist terrorism:

Another lesson, this one for the Left: It is not perverse or absurd for normal people to think of al Qaeda when they hear of acts of mass terrorism. It is logical, in fact, to suspect al Qaeda. The Norway catastrophe does not negate the fact that the majority of large-scale terrorism spectaculars by non-state actors over the past decade have been committed by Muslims. For the Right, Norway should underscore the point that Christians (and Hindus, and also Jews) are just as capable of committing murderous atrocities as Muslims.

Finally, Dr Barry Rubin has given an excellent summary of this argument, noting that a stark difference between terrorism from right-wing extremists as opposed to Islamist extremist is that the former receives widespread condemnation from their entire societies, and rightly so; however, the latter receive tacit - and sometimes explicit - support from significant elements of their civil societies and political leadership.

Indeed, that is a significant reason why more left-wing revolutionary groups in the West and Islamists in both the West and Middle East launch far more terrorist attacks. They can rationally expect that this violence will bring them political success. Any person on the other side who thinks that almost certainly must be mentally deranged or at least driven by hatred rather than political calculation.

There is no question that the terror attacks in Oslo were some of the most heinous crimes imaginable and everyone with a modicum of sensibility has rightly condemned them as such. That said, we must not allow the attacks to make us blind to the threat of terrorism from the equally reprehensible Islamist extremists. The fact that Behring Breivik was anti-Islam and pro-Israel, albeit for deranged and maniacal reasons, in no way vindicates those who hold views that, while opposing, are equally extreme.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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