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Norwegian massacre exposes prejudices of pro-Israel apologists

One week after the horrific massacre in Norway two parallel debates have opened up. Inevitably, one is dominated by security concerns. The other equally important discussion examines the role of the right-wing media. Writing in the Financial Times, Norwegian journalist Petter Nome noted that many of the ideas articulated by the mass-murderer Anders Breivik were not 'obscure nonsense' in the mind of a "deranged loner" but part of popular discourse in the European mainstream, including political quarters.

Shamefully, in the aftermath of the massacre, there has been little restraint shown by commentators with right-wing, pro-Israel tendencies. Glenn Beck, an American talk show host, revealed the darker side of media output when he compared Breivik's young victims at the Norwegian summer camp with members of the Hitler Youth. This appalling insensitivity prompted Torbjorn Eriksen, a press secretary to Norway's prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, to conclude that this marked 'a new low' in public decorum and decency.


Beck's notoriety and infamy stem from his shows on Fox News, the Rupert Murdoch-owned US franchise. Amazingly, even though he has a predilection for racist outbursts, including open anti-Semitism, he received resounding rounds of applause during a recent address to Israel's parliament.

Although he has yet to make an appearance in Westminster, concerns have already been raised about his unsavoury remarks. On 20 January 2011, Tom Watson MP (Labour, West Bromwich East) told a House of Commons meeting on anti-Semitism: "I want to talk about specific examples of anti-Semitism in the media, particularly an ongoing problem with Fox News, which is also broadcast in the United Kingdom. I shall focus in particular on the show hosted by Glenn Beck, who has been broadcasting anti-Semitic messages for a number of months."

Mr Watson reminded fellow members that Fox News is duty bound by Britain's broadcasting code. "People tell me that Fox News is positive about Israel but negative about Jews," he added.

As it transpired, that assertion was not entirely correct. Last week more than 5,000 Evangelical Christians gathered at the Convention Centre in Washington for the annual conference of Christians United For Israel (CUFI). Glenn Beck told the audience that Israel cannot cede the occupied territories it controls, and urged the Zionist state to declare that they "are Jewish".

While Watson may have missed some of the finer details, the general thrust of his argument was hugely significant. "The reason why I am so concerned is that Rupert Murdoch has claimed that Sky News would be much more popular if it were more like Fox News. I do not want that to become a reality in the United Kingdom."

A quick review of Beck's portfolio of outrageous statements explains why his rhetoric is a threat to the public good. For example, "When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up', I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining." (The Glenn Beck Programme, Sept 9, 2005) Or how about this: "The only [Hurricane Katrina victims] we're seeing on television are the scumbags."

Like Breivik, Beck should not be dismissed as a lone right-wing, pro-Israel wolf. Others include Bernard Lewis, a scholar of the Middle East and Islam and thus a well-used media "expert" who told the Jerusalem Post in February 2007 that Muslims "seem to be about to take over Europe", which has "given up" efforts to maintain its culture. He claimed that the only important question regarding Europe's future will soon be, "Will it be an Islamised Europe or Europeanised Islam?"

Melanie Phillips, the Daily Mail and former Spectator columnist quoted approvingly by Breivik in his crazed "manifesto", praised Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year when his attack on multiculturalism was, in reality, an assault on Islam and Muslims: "…we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie," Cameron told an audience in Munich. "That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism."

In response, arch-Zionist Phillips told readers of the Spectator that "Islamist extremism" is not a "warped perversion" of Islam. "It is," she asserted, "rooted in authentic Islamic theology and history."

Fellow Zionist traveller Geoffrey Alderman used his column in the Jewish Chronicle to praise Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders, whose record is the most bellicose on the anti-Muslim far-right. That fact notwithstanding, according to Alderman, "In the cause of freedom the interventions of Dutch politician Geert Wilders are both a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing not merely on account of Wilders' own support for Israel, but because he has been absolutely unrepentant – and unrelenting – in his insistence on telling the truth about militant Islam." However, continued Alderman, the downside is that Wilders and his party also oppose the production of kosher meat in Holland. It's in order for Wilders to be staunchly anti-Islam and anti-Muslim, but what a shame that he also is against Jewish religious slaughter, laments Alderman. The duplicity of commentators like the Jewish Chronicle columnist is not lost on reasonable observers.

All of these right-wingers share a love for an increasingly far-right, racist Israeli state. Beck says Israel should not hand illegally-occupied territory back to the Palestinians. Wilders believes that Jordan is Palestine, thus advocating tacitly the further ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine. Phillips is, well, just Melanie Phillips; enough said.

And yet, the discourse of the populist parties and the so-called mainstream remains blurred. Petter Nome says they all foster hatred and hostility toward people they hardly know, often making it possible for such feelings, when voiced, to mutate into violence.

Somewhat perversely, we await the day that Glenn Beck is invited to the United Kingdom to see if the Community Security Trust of Britain's Jews, which lobbied the British government to detain and deport Palestinian leader (and Israeli passport holder) Raed Saleh, will recall the American's anti-Semitic rants and call for his exclusion. Failure to do so will not only expose the CST's hypocrisy but also illustrate how far to the political right supporters of Israel have moved.

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Commentary & AnalysisEurope & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastPalestine
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