The despicable massacres perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya have prompted a chaotic and often ferocious international debate. It covers a considerable number of issues and simultaneously offers important insights into the various mindsets of Western societies.
To better follow this debate in the future, one has to identify its main initial threads. One is the massive mainstream media attention focusing on Breivik’s writings. Psychiatrists believe that such extensive dissemination of his manifesto could lead to copycat attacks. A second issue is the opinions of psychiatrists and psychologists struggling to comprehend the pathways from political radicalism to murder.
A major part of the debate focuses on who bears responsibility for Breivik’s acts, besides himself. Rational arguments only play a minor role here. The debate mainly consists of mudslinging and striving to outshout one’s opponents.
The attackers in the debate mainly belong to the Left. One of their major themes is that while initially Muslims were accused, the bullets came from the Right. They therefore conclude that the radical and populist Right quoted in Breivik’s writings is partly responsible for his actions.
Almost all those quoted, however, have strongly condemned Breivik. Populist parties such as Geert Wilders’ PVV in the Netherlands and extreme Right parties such as the Front National in France denounced the murders. Very few figures in parliamentarian parties identified with him.
Italian Europarliamentarian Mario Borghezio of the separatist Northern League said Breivik’s ideas were very good and Christian Europe must defend itself against Muslim immigration. Minister Calderoli from his party clarified that Borghezio spoke only for himself. A local French politician from the National Front, Jacques Coutela, called Breivik a visionary confronting the rise of Islam in Europe. Coutela was thereafter suspended by his party. Erik Hellsborn, a local politician of the extreme Right Sweden Democrats, blamed multiculturalism for the murders. He removed his blog after he was criticized by the party leader Jimmie Ǻkesson.
The loudest shout so far comes from US broadcaster Glenn Beck. He stated on his syndicated radio show: “There was a shooting at a political camp which sounds a little like you know, the Hitler youth. I mean who does a camp for youth that’s all about politics?”
The debate on who shares blame for the acts by the loner Breivik is largely futile. No other violent hatred can compete with the worldview of al-Qaeda, which is shared globally by at least 150 million Muslims. Furthermore, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yussuf Al-Qaradawi, supports suicide bombing. And in a number of Muslim countries, political and religious murders are ongoing and numerous. And yet, they do not receive similar attention to the attacks in Norway.
It would indeed be beneficial if the populist Right were more specific in its claims against Islamic movements, rather than generalizing and exaggerating accusations. The same goes for the Left. If one points a finger at others for Breivik’s acts, why are those who recognize Hamas not considered accessories to Hamas’ genocidal plans?
Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli elements are also appearing as secondary threads in this debate. Hezbollah condemned the attack and called it “proof of the racism of Zionist culture.” Khaled Mouammar, the outgoing President of the Canadian Arab Federation, wrote that it looks increasingly that Mossad’s finger prints are all over the Norway killings.” There are also the classic anti-Israel hate bloggers who are promoting conspiracy theories against Israel.
Meanwhile, Norwegian society is reacting differently than nations elsewhere. There is major confusion, questions about how “one of their own” could be capable of such horrific, “un-Norwegian” acts, as well as observations that Norway will never be the same again. What changes will take place in the Norwegian self-perception and worldview remains unclear.
One person who already put his foot in his mouth was Norway’s ambassador to Israel. He found it necessary to explain the similarities and differences between the terror attacks executed by Palestinians and Breivik’s acts. This is another Norwegian provocation. The Israeli government has shown great empathy with Norway and so have many Israelis. I would guess that those with Norwegian friends have expressed their condolences to them, as I did.
The ambassador’s inappropriate statements will not alter the Israeli opinion that terror must be totally condemned. On a radically different level, his words remind us that the AUF, the youth movement of the ruling Labor Party, is an organization of anti-Israeli hate mongers. Their youth camp at Utoya was indoctrinating against Israel. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere spoke there and said that Israel should demolish the “security barrier.” It was an indirect pro-terror remark.
Stoere knows well that the fence was erected in response to the many murderous Palestinian attacks against civilians. Pictures of AUF youngsters playing Gaza flotilla “games” on Utoya, and of the poster there calling to boycott Israel, will be reprinted many times in the future.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Two of these address Norwegian anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism