The Day that Didn’t Change a Thing: Breivik, Values and U2

Michael Robeson – via Shamireaders September 2012

Are Norwegians weird, or what? Seventy-seven of them get massacred by a killer who gets a prison term of only 21 years and they don’t take to the streets in protest, especially when their President, without a drop of machismo, says: “The bomb and bullets were aimed at changing Norway. The Norwegian people responded by embracing our values. The killer failed, the people won.” What kind of boring values do Norwegians share? And what do they have against change?
Seventy-seven Norwegians may sound like chump change compared to the almost 3,000 Americans that died on the day that changed everything forever and ever Amen. But for Norway’s seven million people, last year’s attacks killed proportionately more of them than the number of Americans killed on September 11. Norwegian politicians are not climbing over themselves demanding stricter National Security measures and citizens have not been Tea Partying in the streets crying for vengeance and clamoring for the death penalty. Those long winters must bleed the hot bloodedness out of them.
In American, change was the codeword of that day in 2001 and has become a political mantra ever since. Ehud Barak, the then former Prime Minister of Israel, got the ball rolling that morning when, interviewed on BBC, he announced “The world will not be the same from today on….This is the time to deploy a globally concerted effort… against all sources of terror, consistently along six or ten years….Iran, Iraq, Libya.” It is not for us to discuss if Barak was an all-seeing prophet, or an all-powerful proponent. George W. Bush, with his ear to the ground, followed up on his advice and kept to the message of change is good, apart from encouraging Americans not to lose sight of their values, which involved his telling them to keep shopping. Some things just can’t be changed; and Mr. Obama’s presidency, promoted by his catchy campaign slogan, shows that the more things change, the more they remain insane.
Though apparently not in Norway. Anders Breivik, the terrorist killer of 77 people, 69 of them teenagers, was found by court physicians to be legally sane, a title that Messers Bush and Obama can also give claim to. Unlike them, Mr. Breivik was given by his captors his day in court, something the citadel of democratic values did not see fit to give Mr. Bin Laden and his alleged associates. Unlike Bin Laden, though, Breivik is a citizen of Norway and retains certain rights despite being an enemy of its values. One cannot expect all Western nations to accord such niceties to citizens considered to be enemies, such as the Moslem American teenage who was droned by President Obama in Pakistan earlier this year. But we are not here concerned about things like values in the context of politics, especially not in an election year when Americans have so much to worry about with the decline of their property values.
A few days after the Breivik verdict, an Israeli religious leader arrived at his own verdict regarding his nation’s “Islamofacist” enemies. Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called on Jews to pray for the destruction of Iran – “When we say ‘may our enemies be struck down’ on Rosh Hashana, it shall be directed at Iran, the evil ones who threaten Israel. God shall strike them down and kill them.” Haaretz reports that the Rabbi had earlier been visited by senior Israeli defense officials, persuading him to support a possible attack on Iran. No verdict has yet been reached by the Rabbi, though, on that week’s attack by a gang of over one hundred Israelis on four Arab youths in broad daylight in downtown Jerusalem. The Jewish media strangely referred to it as an “attempted lynching,” anything to avoid a more fitting term – “pogrom”, and this in a country that has seen scores of “settler” attacks on Palestinians in the past year and calling them “payback,” payback against them in retaliation for Israeli government actions against the “settlers.” Can anyone say “Ebreofacism?”
Considering that Israel’s population is only slightly smaller than that of Norway and that no Israelis have yet been killed by Iranians, should one wonder why Norwegian leaders have not requested their religious colleagues to pray that God should strike down Breivik? Yet that would not be a fair analogy, for Norwegians are famously non-churchgoing and obviously do not worship the same God. But would an American political leader have stood up a year after September 11 and proclaimed that America’s response to the attack would be “More democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivety.” Well that is what the Norwegian President did on the anniversary of the Oslo massacre. How weird is that?
Flushed down the memory hole is the fact that, immediately following Breivik’s Oslo attack, the media, as well as President Obama, blamed the massacre on “terrorists” with all of that word’s cultural connotations and with headlines blaring the event as ‘Norway’s 9-11’. When it emerged that the terrorist was no Arab, the spin machine whirred into high gear. Stealing from the media playbook for Timothy McVeigh, the ever-useful word “terrorism” was suddenly found politically inappropriate. Other nomenclature was utilized – “far right”, “white supremacist”, “madman”, to explain to sensitive ears a bombing and mass killing perpetrated by a white male (whose appearance is not terribly dissimilar to many fine, young American servicemen) and aimed primarily at a white, youth group that is famously supportive of Palestinian rights. Terrorism, after all, can only involve acts of violence committed by people who don’t look and dress the way we do and be committed against people whose ideologies are friendly to the US government and its friends, no matter how unfriendly they might often be.
But the biggest wrinkle in the Breivik saga involved his pro-Zionist, pro-Israel beliefs.
In his online manifesto he revealingly wrote, “So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists….” Considering that he bombed the center of Norway’s government, which has been highly critical of the Israeli occupation, and that he targeted for his massacre a political youth group that actively promotes an economic boycott of Israel and that was, on the day of the massacre, hosting the nation’s Foreign Minister to persuade him of their views, should raise red flags when looking for Breivik’s ideological motives. Mad it may be, but it is hardly White Supremacy; otherwise he would have simply killed lots of the dark skinned immigrants he claims to despise. This is a feeling, by the way, that he shares with all too many Israeli “settlers” who are inspired, in part, by the early Zionist theoretician Vladmir Jabotinsky. Breivik’s manifesto was littered with quotations from respectable, hard line pro-Israelis, including one who was a foreign policy advisor to the then presidential candidate and obsequiously pro-Israel Michelle Bachmann. So the wrinkle of Breivik’s allegiance to the very principle of the existence of the Zionist state of Israel, something that George W. Bush and Barak Obama along with the majority of the US Congress and Senate have pledged allegiance to, was never ironed out, it was simply ignored. If that allegiance includes a US military performing daily acts of violence in non-white nations (that are not fighting together for Israel) and doing so if without Breivik’s single-minded purpose then with no less a systematic result, it would be best to ignore that too.
The two words that strenuously avoided in media discussion about Breivik are – Christian Zionism, with the emphasis not on the adjective, but on the noun. Breivik, in his single mindedness, represents a very awkward honesty rarely found among those he counts himself to stand shoulder to shoulder with. From the hard-line pro-Israeli columnists like Michelle Phillips, Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney who he favorably quoted in his manifesto, to the Republican and Democratic politicians regularly pledging militant fealty to AIPAC and Israel, to the tens of millions of bible thumping Americans sending their dollars to James Hagee and the other televangelists, to the Likudniks in Israel who invite them to Tel Aviv and gleefully accept those dollars, the cement that binds them together is a biblical belief that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews and not to anyone else. None of them, of course, would publicly espouse Breivik’s method to achieve their ends and only the least educated of them would admit to being a Fundamentalist with all that entails. But their overall support of the US and NATO and Israeli militancy of the past eleven years shows that, like Breivik, they are fundamentally at one in promoting a Zionist expansionist agenda, justified by Old Testament scripture. All of their “humanitarian” posturing about spreading democracy in the Middle East and protecting civilians from medieval tyrants is the tallith for promoting a highly neanderthalic agenda, one that Breivik, with his knuckles dragging only slightly more on the ground than his mentors, disputes merely in terms of tactics.
September 11 was, perhaps, America’s last chance for a political discourse involving the question: What have we done to them that they would do this to us? Breivik’s attacks, may be the world community’s first opportunity to ask an altogether different question: If he did this to them, what are those he is fighting for planning to do to us?
Many observers believe that the American character has dramatically changed since September 11. They are wrong; it has simply evolved: Victories in two World Wars solidified American leader’s hunger for world dominance – an appetite acquired during a century of land thefts of the indigenous tribes and the theft of the old Spanish Empire. Fear and hatred of Communism, decades of living under the threat of nuclear war, living in the shadow of the Cold War spy scandals, imaginations filled with the violent imagery of film and television, all accentuated American’s Westward Ho insolence toward “the other” and exacerbated the historical racism that the Civil Right’s Movement failed to eradicate, as shown by the upside down racism of Obama supporters who label even serious criticism of him as racist/hate speech. The scourge of AIDs, the cycles of sexual abuse scandals – a large proportion of them hoaxes or bizarre exaggerations, made Americans more gullible in believing all sorts of media spun horror stories, and far more worried about the value of engaging in emotional, interpersonal relationships. With the ratcheting up of fears, it is little wonder that Americans are highly susceptible to believing in the myth of personal victimhood and its accompanying faith in personal innocence, this while demanding zero tolerance for all wrongdoers, except their exceptional selves.
Decades before September 11 the conviction “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” morphed into the maxim “You can never be too safe.” Liberals and Conservatives, rich and poor, the length and breadth of American society instinctively believes that they are somehow always in danger. Psychologists would label this paranoia, Theologians, would call it a guilty conscience. Regardless, this general sense of personal insecurity, something that only a Big Brother or a Sugar Daddy could offer protection from, is fertile ground for the general acceptance of ham fisted Homeland Security actions and legalized Patriot Act tyrannies. The fall of the twin towers didn’t collapse Americans into themselves and dramatically change anymore than Breivik dramatically changed the Norwegians. Both events brought out the best and the darkest of both societies. But in one of them, the latter was already winning out.
Yet let us not be too harsh in light of what harshness has passed. In admiration for America’s collective genius in being able to make lemonade when given a lemon, we offer here a September 11 factoid that has never before been mentioned: Three months after the attacks during the Super Bowl halftime show commemoration of the attacks, the rock group U2 performed before two tower-like curtains inscribed with the names of those killed. At the act’s finale, as the stadium rocked with applause, the curtains were made to suddenly crash to the ground. A heartrending spectacle. With just one glitch, apart from the ill-timed applause – On the curtains were inscribed 6,000 names, one for each of the six thousand people who had been murdered that day by Osama bin Laden. Six thousand, not three. There is no need to wonder if the producers of the show ever corrected their mistake or apologized to the 3,000 Americans whose names were exploited for the purposes of show business.  Like those names, most Americans understand very well that winning and losing are only the measure of having played the game, of being in the show. We know what counts and we are in this together. Just don’t ask us what kind of show we’ve gotten ourselves into. Especially not in an election year.   

Courtesy Israel Shamir

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