Jews rather than Muslims would have been the focus of Anders Behring Breivik’s hatred had he lived seven decades ago.
Mr. Breivik’s choices would have been easier than. The young Norwegian with the good Aryan looks would have probably joined Adolf Hitler’s SS, the elite units who played a key role in attempting to exterminate the Jews.
In an ironic twist of history, the very people Mr. Breivik’s ideological ancestors sought to eradicate are the ones who in his and those that share his views stand on the front line of civilization’s battle against Islam’s creeping annexation of Europe.
And in an equally ironic twist, some members of the very Israeli and Jewish groups Mr. Breivik and other representatives of Europe’s extreme right wing see as their potential allies believe there is virtue in an association with racist and often latently anti-Semitic groups who support Israel on the basis of questionable political and Christian beliefs.
Mr. Breivick identifies in his manifesto four Israeli political parties as potential allies, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.
To be sure, Messrs. Netanyahu and Lieberman as well as mainstream Jewish leaders in Europe and the United States have expressed horror at Mr. Breivik’s killing of 76 innocent people and distanced themselves from his racist ideology.
Nonetheless, they have yet to take a stand against individual members of their parties who have welcomed feelers from Europe’s extreme right wing such as Ayoob Kara, a Druze who is a Likud member of parliament and deputy minister of development for the Negev and Galilee, and Eliezer Cohen, a decorated Israeli war here and former Yisrael Beiteinu parliamentarian.
The Israeli press and European Jewish leaders have taken Mr. Netanyahu to task for failing to censor Mr. Kara for his repeated contacts with extreme right-wing European politicians some of whom papers like Yediot Ahranot have labelled as neo-Nazis.
Comments on Israeli news Websites, including Yediot Ahranot’s Ynet however suggest that a number of Israelis value the sympathy for Israel of Mr. Breivik and the extreme European right and share their concern about increasing Muslim influence in Europe. “Actually he has something there,” wrote one commentator. “The ideas are good. Too bad he implemented them the way he did,” said another.
Just how widespread such empathy for European right wing racism is, is hard to gauge. Several Hebrew-language Websites rival Mr. Breivik’s racism but attract no more than a few thousand hits.
The Oslo attacks have nonetheless fuelled Israeli and Jewish criticism of increasing links between Israeli and European extreme right wingers as well as Jewish groups such as Daniel Pipes’ Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum that like Mr. Cohen supports the likes of Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who owes his rise to his virulent opposition to Islam.
In a column published last year in The National Review under the title “Why I Stand with Geert Wilders,” Mr. Pipes described the controversial Dutch politicians as “the most important European alive today … best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.”
No doubt, Mr. Pipes, Mr. Wilders and Israelis who share Mr. Breivik’s fear of Islam draw a line when it comes to the slaughter of innocent people. “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 … We fight for a democratic and nonviolent means against the further Islamization of society and will continue to do so,” Mr. Wilders said in a statement immediately after the Oslo attacks.
The problem is that they contribute to the ideological underpinnings as well as an environment of prejudice and hatred of political and ethnic groups that emboldens fringe radicals like Mr. Breivik in much the same way that certain Islamic clerics and intellectuals nurtured a feeding ground for groups like Al Qaeda.
Europe’s genocide against millions of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals served for much of the second half of the 20th century as a living warning of the danger that racial and religious prejudice poses. It’s a lesson that Israelis and Jews could long argue had been lost on many in the Arab and Muslim world. Jewish leaders and many Israelis fear that it’s a lesson that is now being set aside by some of their own.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer)