Anders Breivik’s embrace of Israel is the latest sign of a shift among reactionaries in Europe—with fascism and Zionism going hand in hand, fueled by Islamophobia, says Michelle Goldberg.
Jul 25, 2011 9:44 PM EDT
Anders Breivik is a Christian nationalist terrorist obsessed with preserving the “Nordic/Germanic” people. He is also an ardent Zionist. Though he finds elements of Nazi ideology appealing, his 1,500-page manifesto condemns anti-Semitism. He argues that Hitler should have used his “military capabilities…to liberate Jerusalem and the nearby provinces from Islamic occupation” and give them to the Jews. Breivik calls on his imaginary comrades: “So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.”
Coming from a Scandinavian fascist, this is a remarkable sentiment. The European far right has long been rooted in Nazism, and for decades, anti-Semitism was its hallmark. But Breivik’s embrace of Israel, far from being unique, is just the latest sign of a great shift among the continent’s reactionaries. Indeed, in European politics, fascism and an aggressive sort of Zionism increasingly go together.
You can see it in country after country. While Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s ultraright Front National, is a Holocaust denier, his daughter and successor, Marine Le Pen, is working to cleanse the party of its reputation for Jew hatred, telling the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that it “has always been Zionistic.” In the early 1990s, the British National Party organized a violent neo-Nazi gang called Combat 18. In 2009, the party’s leader, Nick Griffin, boasted that his was the only British party to support Israel’s war “against the terrorists” in Gaza.
Anders Behring Breivik, left, the suspect in the mass killing in Oslo on July 22, sits in an armored police vehicle after leaving the courthouse following a hearing on July 25., Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen, Aftenposten / AP Photo
Earlier this year, Newsweek ran a story about this phenomenon titled “Europe’s Extreme Righteous: Far-right European politicians find love—and common cause—in Israel.” It opened with three politicians, “a Belgian politician known for his contacts with SS veterans, an Austrian with neo-Nazi ties, and a Swede whose political party has deep roots in Swedish fascism,” visiting the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. They met with members of the Knesset and signed something called the Jerusalem declaration, which affirmed, “We stand at the vanguard in the fight for the Western, democratic community” against the “totalitarian threat” of Islamic fundamentalism.
Obviously, Islamophobia is responsible for the bizarre alliance between Israel and European white nationalists. Muslims have come to occupy the place Jews once held in the reactionary European imagination; they’re seen as agents of an apocalyptic conspiracy that threatens Europe’s very survival. The specter of the coming caliphate has crowded out the old myth of the scheming elders of Zion. Naturally, the self-described agents of the counter-jihad see the enemy of their enemy as an ally. It’s the inverse of the anti-Semitic alliance between Hitler and Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.
The specter of the coming caliphate has crowded out the old myth of the scheming elders of Zion.
But alliances are necessarily two-way. If the European far right is increasingly cozy with Israel, it’s in part because Israel itself has lurched to the right and now shows increasing tolerance for fascism. Israeli politicians warmly welcomed the delegation that signed the Jerusalem Declaration. Last year, MK Aryeh Eldad of the far-right National Union party invited the Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders, who lived in Israel as a teenager, back to the country. While there, he gave a speech urging Jews to take over all of Palestine and had a friendly meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. And, of course, Glenn Beck, who has a history of both anti-Semitism and wild anti-Muslim demagoguery, received a rapturous reception when he addressed the Israeli Knesset in June and is planning a huge rally in Jerusalem in August. (Incidentally, on his radio show on Monday, Beck compared Breivik’s victims to “Hitler youth.”)
There are even hints that some Israelis sympathize with Breivik. Wrote J.J. Goldberg in The Forward on Monday, “Judging by the comments sections on the main Hebrew websites, the main questions under debate seem to be whether Norwegians deserve any sympathy from Israelis given the country’s pro-Palestinian policies, whether the killer deserves any sympathy given his self-declared intention of fighting Islamic extremism and, perhaps ironically, whether calling attention to this debate is in itself an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic act.”
In response to the massacre, the Jerusalem Post ran a shocking column urging Norway to take the murder’s demands seriously. “Perhaps Breivik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere,” it said. “While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.”
Like most of Israel’s new far-right friends, Breivik has nothing but contempt for the majority of Jewish people, who tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. Addressing his fellow violent European nationalists, he urges, “[P]lease learn the difference between a nation-wrecking multiculturalist Jew and a conservative Jew…Never target a Jew because he is a Jew, but rather because he is a category A or B traitor.” Nevertheless, he’s very clear that he views the Jewish right as a partner. “We expect the support of all cultural conservative Jews in our future consolidation efforts,” he writes. It’s not hard to see where he got this idea, or to suspect that the loss of the hatred of a man like Breivik is something to mourn.
Michelle Goldberg is a senior contributing writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, winner of the 2008 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. Goldberg’s work has appeared in Glamour, Rolling Stone, The Nation, New York magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic. Her third book, about the world-traveling adventuress, actress, and yoga evangelist Indra Devi, will be published by Knopf in 2012.
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