In a recent lecture at the University of Oslo, Norwegian sociologist Professor Johan Galtung claimed there was a possible connection between the terrorist responsible for the massacre of youths in Norway last summer and the Mossad. “The Jews control US media, and divert for the sake of Israel,” he said. Galtung added that one of the factors behind the anti-Semitic sentiment that led to Auschwitz was the fact that Jews held influential positions in German society. He also recommended reading the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Coming from one of the founders of the discipline called “Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution,” as well as a founder of the international Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Galtung’s remarks were both shocking and depressingly familiar.
It is under the guise of peace that Galtung launched a ferocious ongoing campaign to delegitimize Israel. A neo-Marxist scholar, he has spent much of his career perpetuating the notion that Israel is a colonial state, a concept that was later adopted and popularized by the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said.
In a 1971 article “The Middle East and Theory of Conflict,” published in the Journal of Peace Research, Galtung wrote that “Israel was conceived in sin, born in sin and grew up in sin.” He described the Balfour Declaration (and the UN Partition Proposal) as one of “the most tragic mistakes of recent history,” and blamed Israel for starting and fueling the conflict. His views have not deviated from this but have only become more hostile, not to mention bizarre and conspiratorial.
History and culture matter, but Galtung demonstrates how, in the hands of intellectuals, “sin” matters more, and academic “peace studies” becomes a means to recycle anti-Semitic forgeries and conspiracies. Galtung’s approval of the Protocols is especially horrendous. Though demonstrated as a forgery almost a century ago, the book continues to circulate throughout the world and has spawned its own spin-offs of Jewish conspiracies.
As Bernard Lewis explained, the American spin-off was “specially designed for an American audience, a speech by Benjamin Franklin urging the Founding Fathers not to admit Jews to the new republic, and warning them of the dire consequences if they disregarded his words. The speech is a total fabrication, but was not without its effect. A less troublesome and widely used method was simply to assign a Jewish origin to anyone whom it was desired to discredit, and then to use that person to discredit the Jews.”
Khomeini, Hitler, pre-eminent Islamist intellectual Sayyid Qutb and Arafat all cited the Protocols as history and inspiration. Indeed, Galtung places himself in enlightened company. And his accusation that Israel may have secretly behind the terrible massacre of teenagers by a Norwegian far-right killer combines both the traditional view of Jews as conspirators with a Jewish blood libel.
Galtung’s view may be especially disturbing but evidence suggests they are far from uncommon among European academics. For example, in the past we have seen 123 academicians sign an open letter, published in Britain’s The Guardian, calling for a moratorium on all cultural links with Israel. Recently, the University of Paris 8 closed its doors for two days to avoid taking a stance against a planned conference against the Jewish State.
Harassment of Israeli speakers and Jewish supporters of Israel is spreading. Israeli historian Benny Morris was assaulted by a mob after a lecture in London. Criticism of Israel has long since turned into demonization and calls for its extinction. This unique treatment signified anti-Semitism.
Academia at large has made Jews the canary in the coal mine. If universities are indicators of social trends, and anti-Semitism is becoming more acceptable - in the guise of anti-Zionism - then there is a problem society-wide.
Asaf Romirowsky is the acting executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)