Islamophobia – the new anti-semitism
The New Anti-Semitism
Uri Avnery, Palestine Chronicle
The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, calls his boss, Adolf Hitler, by hell-phone.
‘Mein Führer,’ he exclaims excitedly. ‘News from the world. It seems we were on the right track, after all. Anti-Semitism is conquering Europe!’
“Good!” the Führer says, “That will be the end of the Jews!”
“Hmmm…well…not exactly, mein Führer. It looks as though we chose the wrong Semites. Our heirs, the new Nazis, are going to annihilate the Arabs and all the other Muslims in Europe.” Then, with a chuckle, “After all, there are many more Muslims than Jews to exterminate.”
“But what about the Jews?” Hitler insists.
“You won’t believe this: the new Nazis love Israel, the Jewish State – and Israel loves them!”
The atrocity committed this week by the Norwegian neo-Nazi – is it an isolated incident? Right-wing extremists all over Europe and the US are already declaiming in unison: “He does not belong to us! He is just a lone individual with a deranged mind! There are crazy people everywhere! You cannot condemn a whole political camp for the deeds of one single person!”
Sounds familiar. Where did we hear this before?
Of course, after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
There is no connection between the Oslo mass-murder and the assassination in Tel Aviv. Or is there?
During the months leading up to Rabin’s murder, a growing hate campaign was orchestrated against him. Almost all the Israeli right-wing groups were competing among themselves to see who could demonize him most effectively.
In one demonstration, a photo-montage of Rabin in the uniform of an  SS officer was paraded around. On the balcony overlooking this demonstration, Binyamin Netanyahu could be seen applauding wildly, while a coffin marked “Rabin” was paraded below. Religious groups staged a medieval, kabbalistic ceremony, in which Rabin was condemned to death. Senior rabbis took part in the campaign. No right-wing or religious voices were raised in warning.
The actual murder was indeed carried out by a single individual, Yigal Amir, a former settler, the student of a religious university. It is generally assumed that before the deed he consulted with at least one senior rabbi. Like Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo murderer, he planned his deed carefully, over a long time, and executed it cold-bloodedly. He had no accomplices.
Or had he? Were not all the inciters his accomplices? Does not the responsibility rest with all the shameless demagogues, like Netanyahu, who hoped to ride to power on the wave of hatred, fears and prejudice?
As it turned out, their calculations were confirmed. Less than a year after the assassination, Netanyahu indeed came to power. Now the right-wing is ruling Israel, becoming more radical from year to year, and, lately, it seems, from week to week. Outright Fascists now play leading roles in the Knesset.
All this – the result of three shots by a single fanatic, for whom the words of the cynical demagogues were deadly serious.
The latest proposal of our fascists, straight from the mouth of Avigdor Lieberman, is to abrogate Rabin’s crowning achievement: the Oslo agreements. So we come back to Oslo.
When I first heard the news about the Oslo outrage, I was afraid that the perpetrators might be some crazy Muslims. The repercussions would have been terrible. Indeed, within minutes, one stupid Muslim group already boasted that they had carried out this glorious feat. Fortunately, the actual mass-murderer surrendered at the scene of the crime.
He is the prototype of a Nazi anti-Semite of the new wave. His creed consists of white supremacy, Christian fundamentalism, hatred of democracy and European chauvinism, mixed with a virulent hatred of Muslims.
This creed is now sprouting offshoots all over Europe. Small radical groups of the ultra-Right are turning into dynamic political parties, take their seats in Parliaments and even become kingmakers here and there. Countries which always seemed to be models of political sanity suddenly produce fascist rabble-rousers of the most disgusting kind, even worse than the US Tea Party, another offspring of this new Zeitgeist. Avigdor Lieberman is our contribution to this illustrious world-wide league.
One thing almost all these European and American ultra-Rightist groups have in common is their admiration for Israel. In his 1500 page political manifesto, on which he had been working for a long time, the Oslo murderer devoted an entire section to this. He proposed an alliance of the European extreme Right and Israel. For him, Israel is an outpost of Western Civilization in the mortal struggle with barbaric Islam. (Somewhat reminiscent of Theodor Herzl’s promise that the future Jewish State would be an “outpost of Western culture against Asiatic barbarism”?)
Part of the professed philo-Zionism of these Islamophobic groups is, of course, pure make-believe, designed to disguise their neo-Nazi character. If you love Jews, or the Jewish State, you can’t be a Fascist, right? You bet you can! However, I believe that the major part of this adoration of Israel is entirely sincere.
Right-wing Israelis, who are courted by these groups, argue that it is not their fault that all these hate-mongers are attracted to them. On the face of it, that is of course true. Yet one cannot but ask oneself: why are they so attracted? Wherein lies this attraction? Does this not warrant some serious soul-searching?
I first became aware of the gravity of the situation when a friend drew my attention to some German anti-Islamic blogs.
I was shocked to the core. These outpourings are almost verbatim copies of the diatribes of Joseph Goebbels. The same rabble-rousing slogans. The same base allegations. The same demonization. With one little difference: instead of Jews, this time it is Arabs who are undermining Western Civilization, seducing Christian maids, plotting to dominate the world. The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.
A day after the Oslo events I happened to be watching Aljazeera’s English TV network, one of the best in the world, and saw an interesting program. For a whole hour, the reporter interviewed Italian people in the street about Muslims. The answers were shocking.
Mosques should be forbidden. They are places where Muslims plot to commit crimes. Actually, they don’t need mosques at all – they need only a rug to pray. Muslims come to Italy to destroy Italian culture. They are parasites, spreading drugs, crime and disease. They must be kicked out, to the last man, woman and child.
I always considered Italians easygoing, loveable people. Even during the Holocaust, they behaved better than most other European peoples. Benito Mussolini became a rabid anti-Semite only during the last stages, when he had become totally dependent on Hitler.
Yet here we are, barely 66 years after Italian partisans hanged Mussolini’s body by his feet in a public place in Milan – and a much worse form of anti-Semitism is rampant in the streets of Italy, as in most [or “many”?] other European countries.
Of course, there is a real problem. Muslims are not free of blame for the situation. Their own behavior makes them easy targets. Like the Jews in their time.
Europe is in a quandary. They need the “foreigners” – Muslims and all – to work for them, keep their economy going, pay for the pensions of the old people. If all Muslims were to leave Europe tomorrow morning, the fabric of society in Germany, France, Italy and many other countries would break down.
Yet many Europeans are dismayed when they see these “foreigners”, with their strange languages, mannerisms and clothes crowding their streets, changing the character of many neighborhoods, opening shops, marrying their daughters, competing with them in many ways. It hurts. As a German minister once said: “We brought here workers, and found out that we had brought human beings!”
One can understand these Europeans, up to a point. Immigration causes real problems. The migration from the poor South to the rich North is a phenomenon of the 21st century, a result of the crying inequality among nations. It needs an all-European immigration policy, a dialogue with the minorities about integration or multiculturalism. It won’t be easy.
But this tidal wave of Islamophobia goes far beyond that. Like a Tsunami, it can result in devastation.
Many of the Islamophobic parties and groups remind one of the atmosphere of Germany in the early 1920s, when “völkisch” groups and militias were spreading their hateful poison, and an army spy called Adolf Hitler was earning his first laurels as an anti-Semitic orator. They looked unimportant, marginal, even crazy. Many laughed at this man Hitler, the Chaplinesque mustachioed clown.
But the abortive Nazi putsch of 1923 was followed by 1933, when the Nazis took power, and 1939, when Hitler started World War II, and 1942, when the gas chambers were brought into operation.
It is the beginnings which are critical, when political opportunists realize that arousing fear and hatred is the easiest way to fortune and power, when social misfits become nationalist and religious fanatics, when attacking helpless minorities becomes acceptable as legitimate politics, when funny little men turn into monsters.
Is that Dr. Goebbels I hear laughing in hell?
Palestinian civil society stands in solidarity with Norway
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) released the following statement today in the wake of last week’s horrific attacks in Norway.
The full statement follows:
Palestinian civil society, as broadly represented within the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), wishes to express its sincere condolences to and deep solidarity with the people of Norway and to Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), the Norwegian labour youth party, in particular after the massacre of last Friday committed by a far right fanatic.
Palestinians stand with the people of Norway as they mourn the victims, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have died.
This horrendous massacre serves as a grave reminder of the dangers posed by racism, hatred and intolerance. We are confident that Norway’s long tradition of peace loving, respecting diversity and upholding human rights anywhere in the world will stand up to this ugly test of fundamentalism and hate; we trust that the Norwegian people’s determination to fight xenophobia and its resultant disregard for equal human rights will be further strengthened.
These violent and horrific attacks cannot be viewed in isolation. There is a growing wave of officially sanctioned Islamophobia in several western countries, driven by misinformation, intolerance and right-wing Zionism, with strong links to Israel. Tragically, this racist and extreme rhetoric has been put into action with many Norwegians paying the price with their lives. The murderer, by his own admission, drew his motivation for this heinous crime from the by now widespread anti-Arab/Muslim discourse that dwells on a perceived “clash of civilizations” and a blind support for Israel and its crimes against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians deeply empathize and stand with Norwegians as fellow humans and as a people that has its own long experience of pain and grief. In Israel’s Gaza massacre alone, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, lost their lives. Homes, schools, UN shelters, university buildings, civilian infrastructure, hospitals, ambulances, sewage systems, power stations and more were ruthlessly decimated by Israel’s state terrorism in its assault on Gaza 2008-09. The noble humanitarian work and moving testimonies of the prominent Norwegian physician, Dr. Mads Gilbert, attest to the scale of the crime Israel has committed in Gaza and continues to commit on a daily basis with its illegal and immoral siege of 1.5 million Palestinians. It is often in times of great suffering, however, that human compassion and solidarity shine brightest.
We believe that these despicable crimes in Norway will only strengthen the resolve of all people of conscience around the world to pursue freedom, justice and equality and to join hands in combating racism in all forms.
We appreciate greatly the support for Palestinian rights and, specifically, for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as shown by members of the AUF summer camp. We deeply appreciate the support for a boycott of Israel from LO, the Norwegian labor federation, and from close to half the people of Norway, as shown in polls following Israel’s bloody flotilla attack last summer. We salute the Norwegian pension fund for divesting from three Israeli companies implicated in Israel’s occupation and colonization. We are proud of the brave decision taken by Norway to ban testing submarines destined to Israel and to support a military embargo on Israel. We stand by the friends and families of all victims at this difficult time.
We hope to honour their memory by working more closely together with the AUF and other partners in Norwegian civil society towards a more just world where there is no place for racism and hatred.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Anders Behring Breivik had no legitimate grievance
Politicians should not use the Norway attacks to drag the idea of multicultural failure into mainstream acceptability
Gavan Titley and Alana Lentin, Comment, Guardian.co.uk
Despite the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was not permitted to publicly justify his actions in public on Monday, a scrambling defence of his repertoire of prejudice is already in full swing. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bruce Bawer, who is quoted by Breivik in his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, emphasises his repeated warnings that a rightwing extremist may use violence to address “legitimate concerns about genuine problems”. Bawer blames mainstream politics for failing to address the corrosion of Europe by Islamicisation and multiculturalism, meanwhile The Jerusalem Post cautions that “Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism”.
Racism is often justified as an aberrant reaction to understandable provocation; the focus on “multiculturalism” in the aftermath of the Oslo tragedy draws attention to contemporary racism’s most elastic alibi. The “failure of multiculturalism” is an article of faith in European politics and, like all acts of faith, it depends on the acceptance of an underlying mystery. Despite the denunciations of this “failed experiment”, there has never been a time in Europe where multiculturalism was the dominant ideology. As Ralph Grillo has argued, state practices, in the few countries that have adopted them, are characterised by a “weak” patchwork of policy initiatives and aspirational rhetoric. Yet critics have consistently assumed the damaging existence of a coherent “strong” form, which is always “unbridled”.
Multiculturalism has historically been accompanied by accusations of “reverse racism” and “unfairness to whites”. Since 9/11, politicians and commentators have held it responsible for an extraordinary range of social and political problems. The overwhelming power attributed to this semi-fictional project, and the fact that it is often criticised in countries with small immigrant populations, with no real history of multiculturalism in practice, should give pause for thought.
It is widely recognised that racism underwent a change in the post-war period, shifting from being an ideology of racial hierarchy to one of “natural” cultural incompatibility. The so-called “new racism” of far-right parties during the 1980s and 1990s ingested the language and logic of multiculturalism, and portrayed ordinary – white – people as victims of an elite imposition, hypocritically denied their “right to culture”. These ideas are pressed into service in the emerging defence of Breivik’s political despair. In extreme versions, multiculturalism is regarded as self-hatred, in more nuanced attacks as a laudable experiment that foundered on the rocks of their difference and “our” naive generosity. Both versions portray “multiculturalists” and “immigrants” as an internal threat to a given national culture, and an otherwise pristine state of social cohesion.
The vision of multiculturalism as a conspiratorial alliance between varieties of leftists and “Islamists” is a staple of the Islamophobic blogosphere. In his analysis of Breivik’s document, Doug Sanders points to the influence of “Eurabian” writers such as Bawer, Mark Steyn, Melanie Phillips and Robert Spencer in agitating for a millenarian vision of a civilisation under attack. This début-de-siècle genre mirrors the fin-de-siècle European obsession with decadence and moral decay, the difference being that it is now Muslims, rather than Jews, that threaten to devour their tolerant hosts.
What makes the narrative of multicultural failure toxic, however, is its mainstream acceptability. There is no cordon sanitaire between the out-and-out Islamophobes and the political mainstream, and the past decade has proved that the traffic of ideas goes both ways. The myth of excessive generosity allows for tighter migration regimes, compulsory integration projects and neo-nationalist politics to be presented as nothing more than rehabilitation.
Recent recitations of the comforting narrative by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, garnered significant publicity. More attention needs to be paid to the mainstream racism it has given legitimacy to elsewhere in Europe. The former Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk proposed a system of “integration badges” for immigrants. The former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared a “battle of culture” against multiculturalism and Islam, and his culture minister, Brian Mikkelsen, explicitly targeted a “medieval Muslim culture” in Denmark. Päivi Räsänen, the new Finnish interior minister, proposed prioritising in the interests of cohesion and to “prevent discrimination”. While these examples are drawn from contexts now associated with far-right electoral successes, they illustrate how the alibi of an “utterly failed” multiculturalism has provided political capital to centrists and liberals for quite some time.
The political class should reflect before responding to the tragedy in Norway, particularly when “austerity” politics may make the scapegoating of immigrant-descended and Muslim groups worse. No easy connections can be made between the recorded thoughts of a killer and the complex circulation of political ideas. However, writers who have consistently warned of the need to defend an ailing civilisation have questions to answer when a massacre is explicitly justified in their terms. And mainstream politicians, content to lazily peddle an exaggerated story of multicultural excess and Muslim difference are not exempt from this criticism.