“I guess we are used to it in Israel” – This is the response I got from someone here in Israel when talking about the terror attacks which occured in Norway on Friday.
Wrong answer, wrong, wrong, wrong. This is not something to get used to, and it is not something to get ironic over. It didn’t occur to many Israelis I spoke with since the attacks in Norway, that maybe I knew someone that was involved in the tragedy or that this is a personal tragedy for almost every Norwegian.
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The reactions I had from many Israelis since the attacks in Norway Friday, remind me of reactions I got in Norway after the Dolphinarium discotheque suicide bombing in South Tel Aviv in 2001.
Having spent many of my childhood summers in Israel close to the attack's site, the news about the bombing by the beach had a strong impact on me. However, none of the Norwegians surrounding me were able to show any understanding or real engagement for what happened.
I believe that both these examples illustrate how we always use our own experience and context as a scope of analysis and empathy.
As a Norwegian in Israel, I have spent my time on Facebook catching the Norwegian reactions to the attacks and reading news non-stop. I would like to refer to quotes from Norwegians on Facebook reacting to the attacks.
Demonizing Oslo gunman?
"The idea of nationhood based on distinction between what's one's 'own' and what's other/foreign met its grotesque terminal conclusion yesterday. Don't demonize the 'madman'; listen closely how some of our exasperated rhetoric echoes some of those very notions that drove him."
This quote was taken from one of my friends on Facebook after the two tragic terror attacks. It points at the internal soul searching Norway might have to do, by looking beyond the fact that this seems to be the work of an "insane" individual, and into some of the communities he has been or is affiliated with in Norway.
Right-wing extremism is growing all over Europe and in Norway as well. For some years now, Islamophobia has taken roots in Norway and fueled right winged groups as well as the common Norwegian. A fear that Islamists will hit on Norway with their terror has become the extreme right-wing movements' slogan for recruiting more citizens to their cause. A cause for a less multicultural Norway; and, sadly enough of these notions can be found among the Norwegian people – and not only among the extreme right.
Reeling (Photo: AFP)
The man behind the attacks, Anders Breivik, was apparently inspired by an internet community called “counterjihadist” which is linked to the new sense of fascism found in Europe. This new fascism is anchored in “traditional” values and distances itself from Nazism.
In a manuscript published by Breivik the same day of the attacks he writes that “Cultural Marxism” has spread popular and destructive concepts such as multiculturalism and diversity. Furthermore he states that these concepts have laid the ground for the Islamization of Europe today. Ironically enough, Breivik’s ideology has many common traits with militant Islamic movements, however with a different content.
As another Norwegian put it on Facebook, “This new ‘politically correct’ form of right-wing extremism has moved from the internet to terror... Dangerous ideas turn into dangerous actions when they meet the wrong people."
Dealing with the trauma
“It was so unbelievably silent… one could feel the grief,” a Norwegian woman wrote on Facebook. The two attacks are the biggest tragedy in Norwegian history since World War II and have left the Norwegian people feeling anger, shock, sadness and grief.
The Norwegian people and their leaders focus on the importance of supporting each other through the trauma. Instead of calling for retaliation, they want to answer the attack by continuing to focus on values of democracy, tolerance and a multicultural Norway.
What the wounds of this trauma will look like – we do not know yet. In my contact with friends and family in Norway I realize that the trauma is even bigger for Norwegians who are in Norway now where the feeling of shock is tangible.
The fact that people were brutally slaughtered by their own fellow citizen will take time to digest. It hurts, and it hurts, and it hurts. My thoughts and heart go out to my fellow Norwegians and the families of the victims.
Norway now finds itself dealing with the fact that the gunman can be crudely described as "one of us." Maybe that is how Israeli society felt after learning that Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a Jewish assassin.
Mia Habib, is a dancer and choreographer and is currently studying to receive her MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University.
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