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Islamophobia, Zionism and the Norway Massacre

A very well written piece from Ali Abunimah. The connection between Zionism and the rise in Islamophobia was explored by LW when we wrote an exclusive piece exposing the funding apparatus of Islamophobia, The Connection between Zionism and Organized Islamophobia–The Facts.

In the piece we elaborated on how Aubrey Chernick, a premiere funder of Islamophobes has also donated to, amongst other groups, the ADL which is quite literally taken apart in the article below.

Ali Abunimah writes,

The continued lurch towards extremism in Israel, and among many of its supporters, underscores the truth that anyone who wants to dissociate from ultranationalism, racism and Islamophobia, also has to repudiate Israel’s state ideology, Zionism.

It may not be true that Zionism needs to be absolutely repudiated for one to “dissociate from ultra-nationalism, racism and Islamophobia,” however criticism of Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism or seen as a desire to destroy Israel.

Islamophobia, Zionism and the Norway massacre

by Ali Abunimah (AlJazeeraEnglish)

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, likened the hateful ideology that inspired Anders Behring Breivik to massacre 77 innocent people in Norway to the “deadly” anti-Semitism that infected Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This is a parallel that I, and many others who have been observing with alarm the rise of anti-Muslim incitement in the US and Europe, have made frequently.

Does this mean that Foxman – head of one of the most hardline and influential pro-Israel lobby groups – has found common ground with the Palestine solidarity movement?

That would be a good thing if it helped to fight the growing scourge of racist incitement. But by criticising the ideology that inspired Breivik, and pointing the finger at a few of its purveyors, Foxman appears to be trying to obscure the key role that he and some other pro-Israel advocates have played in mainstreaming the poisonous Islamophobic rhetoric that has now – Foxman himself argues – led to bloodshed in Norway.

Pointing the finger

Foxman describes, in his Washington Post article, “a relatively new, specifically anti-Islamic ideology” which Breivik used to justify his attack. “Growing numbers of people in Europe and the United States subscribe to this belief system”, Foxman writes, “In some instances it borders on hysteria. Adherents of this ideological Islamophobia view Islam as an existential threat to the world, especially to the ‘West.'”

“Moreover”, Foxman explains, “they believe that leaders and governments in the Western world are consciously or unconsciously collaborating to allow Islam to ‘infiltrate’ and eventually conquer democratic societies.”

Just such irrational beliefs underpin the hysteria about “Creeping Sharia” – the utterly baseless claim that Muslims are engaged in a secret conspiracy to impose Islamic law on the United States. So prevalent has this delusional belief become, that legislative efforts have been mounted in about two dozen American states, and have been passed by three, to outlaw Sharia law.

Foxman points the finger – as others have rightly done – at extreme Islamophobic agitators such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, co-founders of “Stop Islamisation of America” – whose hate-filled writings Breivik cited in his manifesto.

So far, Foxman has it right. But then he drops a clue about what really frightens him:

“One bizarre twist to Breivik’s warped worldview was his pro-Zionism – his strongly expressed support for the state of Israel. It is a reminder that we must always be wary of those whose love for the Jewish people is born out of hatred of Muslims or Arabs.”

Who does Foxman think he is kidding? There is nothing “bizarre” about this at all. Indeed Foxman himself has done much to bestow credibility on extremists who have helped popularise the Islamophobic views he now condemns. And he did it all to shore up support for Israel.

After Norway, Foxman may fear that the Islamophobic genie he helped unleash is out of control, and is a dangerous liability for him and for Israel.

Zionists embrace Islamophobia after 9/11

Many American Zionists embraced Islamophobic demagoguery after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Their logic was encapsulated in then-Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s notorious assessment that the attacks – which killed almost 3,000 people – would be beneficial for Israel.

Asked what the 9/11 atrocities would mean for US-Israeli relations, Netanyahu told The New York Times, “It’s very good”, before quickly adding, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy” and would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror”.

In order for Israel and the United States to have the same enemy, the enemy could not just be the Palestinians, who never threatened the United States in any way. It had to be something bigger and even more menacing – and Islam fit the bill. The hyped-up narrative of an all-encompassing Islamic threat allowed Israel to be presented as the bastion of “western” and “Judeo-Christian” civilisation facing down encroaching Muslim barbarity. No audience was more receptive than politically influential, white, right-wing Christian evangelical pastors and their flocks.

Sermons of hate

“Since the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon, on September the 11th, American politicians have tripped over themselves to state that the vast majority of Muslims living in the United States are just ordinary people who love America and are loyal to America. Is that true? Is that really true?”

That is the question Pastor John Hagee, leader of an evangelical megachurch and founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), posed to his followers whom, he said, were becoming more concerned as “mosques appear across the nation”.

In a series of sermons soon after the 9/11 attacks which he titled “Allah and America,” Hagee began a relentless campaign of inciting his followers to fear and hate Muslims and Islam (videos of Hagee’s sermons can be found on YouTube.

Hagee has emerged over the past decade as one of the most prominent Christian Zionist supporters of Israel. His sermons are broadcast on dozens of TV channels and he influences millions of Americans.

As his “Allah and America” sermons progressed, Hagee’s answers became clear: “In the Qur’an, those who do not submit to Islam should be killed. That means death to Christians and death to Jews. Now I ask you, is that tolerant? Is that peaceful? Is that a sister faith to Christianity?”

After reading and distorting “selected verses from the Qur’an, which is the Islamic bible, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to increase our understanding of the basis of their faith,” Hagee claimed, “the Qur’an insists that no matter how mighty a nation is, it must be fought until it embraces Islam.”

And, apparently knowing that his congregation may hate and fear only taxes as much as Muslims, Hagee told them that the Qur’an’s message to Muslims is “when you get into the government, tax Christians and Jews into poverty until they submit willingly to Islam. Sounds like the IRS [Internal Revenue Service], but not faith.”

Then he offered this warning: “Politicians who are telling America that Islam and Christianity are sister faiths are lying to the people of this country. There is no relationship of any kind between Islam and Christianity. None whatever.”

At every step, Hagee exhorted the faithful that Islam and Muslims were not only a danger to the United States, but specifically to Israel – a country to which they should offer unconditional support.

This sounds a lot like the ideology of generalised fear and loathing of Muslims that Foxman condemned in the Washington Post.

Islamophobic fearmongering, demonisation and dehumanisation, from the likes of Hagee, and bellowed continuously on cable channels and radio stations across America, enabled the US government to legitimise invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and expand wars from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. These took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, under the guise of a “war on terror” – all the while as presidents hosted White House iftars.

What makes Breivik’s attack so shocking and new is that he turned the Islamophobic rhetoric against the white citizens of the Euro-American “homeland”, those whom the officially-sanctioned military slaughter of Muslims abroad was ostensibly meant to protect.

Foxman welcomes Hagee in from the fringes

While Hagee offered his zealous support to Israel (he founded CUFI in 2006), not all of Israel’s supporters returned the love. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, warned in 2007 that the pro-Israel Jewish community’s embrace of far-right ideologues would drive away young, socially-liberal Jews from supporting Israel. He feared it could endanger the bipartisan support Israel always enjoyed in the United States by identifying it with what Yoffie saw as extremist elements.

Yoffie focused his criticism on Hagee, “who is contemptuous of Muslims, dismissive of gays, possesses a truimphalist theology and opposes a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” He worried about the warm reception Hagee was receiving at conferences of Jewish Federations all over America.

One influential figure who didn’t share Yoffie’s fears about Hagee was Foxman, who told a reporter from the Religion News Service in March 2008, “I don’t have to agree with anybody 100 per cent in order to welcome their support, as long as their support is not conditioned on my agreeing with them on everything or accepting them 100 per cent.”

When it came to light during the 2008 US presidential campaign that Hagee had said in a 1999 sermon that Hitler had been sent by God to drive the Jews to Israel, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain repudiated Hagee’s endorsement. But Foxman was quick to offer Hagee absolution, issuing a statement accepting the pastor’s “apology”.

Enabling Islamophobia

Foxman’s embrace of Hagee does not even mark the lowest point of his dalliance with Islamophobic extremists. Recall last summer – in the run up to the US midterm elections – the hate campaign targeting a proposal for an Islamic community centre planned for lower Manhattan in New York City.

Dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” by its critics, it became a cause celebre for the Republican Party – and some gutless Democrats – who claimed that building the institution close to the former site of the World Trade Centre would be an insult to the memory of victims.

The hate campaign was notable for unprecedented anti-Muslim rhetoric that exceeded anything heard in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks. While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg earned plaudits for defending the right of American Muslims to build the Islamic centre where they wanted, Foxman and his Anti-Defamation League caused consternation when they backed the bigots and came out against the project.

And who was it who helped take a little-noticed plan for a community centre and turn it into “a national political spectacle?” None other than Pam Geller and Robert Spencer – as the Washington Post reported at the time- the same Islamophobic extremists whom Foxman now blames for fueling the kind of hatred that inspired Breivik to kill.

Rescuing Zionism from Islamophobia

Foxman’s claim that Breivik’s support for Israel is “bizarre” is a brazen attempt to deflect attention from the alliance that Foxman and leading Israeli politicians have made with the most racist Islamophobes – ones Foxman accurately likens to anti-Semites.

To be clear, Israel and Zionism have always been racist toward Palestinians and other non-Jews, otherwise how else could they justify the expulsion and exclusion of millions of Palestinians solely on the grounds that they are not Jews? It is the virulent, specifically anti-Muslim trend that has been particularly pronounced since 2001.

But the rot has already gone too far. As a recent article in Der Spiegel underscores, Europe’s far-right anti-Muslim demagogues have found many allies and admirers in Israel, particularly within the upper echelons of the ruling Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties.

And the feeling is mutual: European ultra-nationalists, such as Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders, have put support for Israel’s right-wing government at the centre of their politics.

Islamophobia welcome in Israel

While the world was united in horror at Breivik’s massacre, several commentators in Israel’s mainstream media were much more understanding of his motives, if not for his actions. An oped on Ynet, the website of Israel’s mass circulation Yediot Aharonot, stated that “the youth movement of the ruling Labour Party” – of which many of the youths murdered on Utoya island were members – “is an organisation of anti-Israeli hate mongers”.

An editorial in The Jerusalem Post offered sympathy for Breivik’s anti-Muslim ideology and called on Norway to act on the concerns expressed in his manifesto, while an op-ed published by the same papersaid that the youth camp Breivik attacked had been engaged in “a pro-terrorist program”.

Meanwhile, an article in the American Jewish newspaper The Forward noted that on many mainstream internet forums, Israelis expressed satisfaction with Breivik’s massacre and thought that Norway got what it deserved.

Clear warning signs

Foxman cannot claim he didn’t see any of this coming. Back in 2003, I interviewed him for an article about the inclusion of Yisrael Beitenu and other parties in Israel’s governing coalition, parties that openly advocated the expulsion of Palestinians. Foxman’s attitude was as indulgent toward those racists and would-be ethnic cleansers as he was to Hagee’s hate-mongering a few years later, and it is those same Israeli parties that have forged the closest ties with European and American anti-Muslim extremists.

The continued lurch towards extremism in Israel, and among many of its supporters, underscores the truth that anyone who wants to dissociate from ultranationalism, racism and Islamophobia, also has to repudiate Israel’s state ideology, Zionism. Universal rights and equality for all human beings are concepts that are anathema to both.

With his panicked and belated jump onto the anti-Islamophobia bandwagon, Foxman hopes we won’t notice, and that organisations like his can continue defending Israel’s racism free from the stain of the deadly anti-Muslim extremism they have done so much to promote.

Ali Abunimah is author of “One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse”, and is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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  • White House Releases “New” Counter-terrorism Strategy
    Aug 9, 2011

    Sheila Musaji

    The American Muslim has a collection of articles outlining the activities of these Islamophobes and listing direct hateful quotes by them at A Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. Actually, many non-Muslims have also provided documented information about these Islamophobes.

    Earlier this year, a Political Research Report was released. The report was titled MANUFACTURING THE MUSLIM MENACE, and subtitled: Private Firms, Public Servants, and the Threat to Rights and Security. A petition to Congress and relevant federal and local agencies to ensure that counterterrorism skills training delivered to public servants is accurate, consistent with national security policy, and respectful of constitutional rights. The report discusses the following individual “trainers” who are a serious concern: Mark A. Gabriel, Dave Gaubatz, Walid Phares, Clare M. Lopez, Tawfiq Hamid, Stephen Coughlin, Nonie Darwish, Detective Ebrahim Ashabi, and Walid Shoebat.

    The ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group.

    read more here

  • Yerushalmi’s Agenda – A $400,000 Study of Imams’ Beards Pushes Anti-Shariah Movement
    by Hena Zuberi• August 10th, 2011

    A project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars titled “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques” is being hyped as an “important study” by a lawyer, David Yerushalmi, who the ADL describes as one who has “a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.”

    The study has been strongly criticized by liberal organizations but seized upon by conservative publications, such as FrontPage Magazine and National Review Online, “as proof that Islam constitutes a grave threat to national security. Writing in National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy said the results proved that, “what we wishfully call ‘radicalism’ is in fact the Islamic mainstream.”

    read more here

  • United States: anti-Islamist activists find political support and new opposition following Norway killings

    Richard Cimino
    9 Aug 2011

    The recent killings in Norway by Anders Breivik and the attempt to explain his motivations and influences has thrust a group of American anti-Islamist activists and writers into the spotlight. This network of activists and bloggers has been increasingly influential in shaping the attitudes and discourse of Republican politicians and the conservative media in the U.S.

    read more here

  • Oslo terror: political vultures circle in

    Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Mon, 07/25/2011

    Gee, that didn’t take long. Conspiranoid cranks claim (on no evidence) that Mossad was behind the Oslo terror attacks, providing an opportunity for the right-wing Israeli press to tar “anti-Zionists” as conspiranoid cranks. Arutz Sheva, far-right organ of the settler movement, swoops in on the kneejerk spewings of two perennial faves of the conspiracy set. The first is Wayne Madsen, a self-proclaimed former US military analyst, who plays an utterly specious connect-the-dots game to link accused Oslo bomber Anders Behring Breivik to Israeli intelligence…

    The Israeli-born Gilad Atzmon is a sort of professional ex-Jew-turned-Judeophobe in exactly the same way his opposite numbers Geller and Pipes are professional Islamophobes. However, a search of AlJazeera’s website reveals that his ugly text did not appear there. In fact, it appeared on the deceptively named, a wacky, hateful conspiranoid site (despite its ironic kicker “Cross-Cultural Understanding”) that doubtless chose its name to profit from confusion with the legitimate AlJazeera. It’s hard to believe that Arutz Sheva honestly fell for the subterfuge, because not only is the real AlJazeera a .net rather than .info—but the name is spelled slightly differently, with the conspiranoid imposters adding an H at the end (probably to avoid litigation). Arutz Sheva, in its attribution, actually uses the spelling of the legitimate AlJazeera! Pretty clearly, they are hoping to tar the Arab media giant as well as “anti-Zionism” with the evil spewings of Madsen and Atzmon.

    So Madsen and Atzmon are being useful idiots for the Israeli right. Way to go, guys!

    See our last post on the Oslo affair.

    read more here

  • Islamophobia (not Islamism) behind Oslo terror

    by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 07/23/2011

    Oslo bomber’s pro-Zionism, anti-Semitism

    Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 07/23/2011 – 20:21.

    Electronic Intifada has a report on Anders Behring Breivik’s (why do assassins always get three names?) self-penned manifesto which is online at NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster, and has been put through a Google translator.

    read more here

  • The EDL watchdog reports:


    Jewish Division Endorse Norway Attacks & Denounce Victims as Scum

    The English Defence League’s Jewish Division have openly stated that they support the actions of mass murderer and EDL supporter, Anders Behring Breivik.

    In a Facebook page update, Jewish Division Leader, Robert Bartholomeus stated that the children killed were ‘scum’ for discussing Palestine two days prior to the attacks.

    Bartholomeus, a non Jewish Dutch national took over the Jewish Division after Roberta Moore left due to her views being too extreme for the English Defence League. Moore is still active within the LGBT Division.

    Since this article was written, Robert Bartholomeus provided some badly faked screenshots to try and exonerate himself.

    read more here

  • Cultivating Violence

    Monday, 08 August 2011 By Lawrence Davidson

    Israel and its “right-wing Zionists”

    Considering the fact that “far-right Zionism” has governed Israel for decades and also characterizes the behavior of most American Zionist organizations, Breivik identification with them is, as we will see, more logical than bizarre. Breivik the terrorist concludes, “let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against anti-Zionists , against all cultural Marixts/multiculturists.” The man had found an ideological home.

    The United States and its Islamophobes

    If many of Andres Behring Breivik’s Israeli allies rush to defend him, his American allies are now rushing to distance themselves from him. It is they who, as the New York Times has put it, exercised “undeniable influence”on this terrorist. It is they who helped create the atmosphere in which he felt emboldened. Of course they deny having done so. One is reminded here of the denials of Sarah Palin, who posted the names and places of residence of her Democratic opponents using gunsight cross hairs. And then, when in January of 2011 Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot by a right-wing fanatic, said that her incitement had nothing to do with the incident. Now history repeats itself. Who are these most recent deniers? Well, among others, two notables that Breivik himself sights as fellow travelers are Robert Spencer, who runs the web site, Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller, who runs the web site “Atlas Shrugged.” Both are major figures in the hate campaign now being waged against Muslims in the United States.

    Breivik was probably also influenced by another variant in this campaign, the movement against “creeping Sharia.” This is the nonsensical campaign against an alleged Islamic plot to undermine American culture by spreading the use of Sharia Law. Again, according to the New York Times, the man who has spearheaded this movement is David Yerushalmi, “a 56 year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.” Yerushalmi is also a supporter of the illegal Israeli colonization project on the Palestinian West Bank. Then there are the poisonous pronouncements continuously put forth people like fundamentalist mega-church pastor John Hagee and the multiple anti-Muslim statements of American politicians such as, among others, Peter King of Long Island and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. All of these people are part of “America’s rising tide of Islamophobia” and have actively contributed to, as Sarah Wildman has put it in the England’s Guardian newspaper, “the ideological underpinning that motivates militias and terrorists.”

    read more here

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