July 2011, Week 4


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Wed, 27 Jul 2011 21:16:03 -0400
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Marxist-Multiculturalists for BDS

Palestine's Norwegians

July 25, 2011

Sitting on an Amtrak train from New Haven to Washington,
DC on Friday, I was enjoying my thriller, Kjell Ola Dahl's
The Man in the Window. Dahl's police procedural novels are
set in Oslo, Norway, where the remarkable detectives Frank
Frølich and Gunnarstranda confront the heart of modern
evil: Property is often the hub of the conflict, but so
too is the ineluctable history of Nazism and the Second
World War. Abrave history of pacifism, partly contained in
the Norwegian Labour Party, kept the country out of World
War I. Its ports and a direct route to Swedish iron ore
made it irresistible to the Nazis, whose forces invaded a
largely unprotected Norway in 1940.

To run the country, the Nazis turned to the leader of the
Norwegian Nasjonal Samling, the local Nazi Party, Vidkun
Quisling (from whom we get the noun for traitor). It was
the Quisling era (replete with concentration camps) that
planted the tree of Nazism in Norwegian soil. The remnants
of Scandinavian Nazis regrouped after World War II, but
they remained small and obscure.

Scandinavian social democracy stumbled by the 1980s as the
economic benefits of its welfare state were reduced.
Anti-immigrant and anti-left sentiment grew amongst
sections of the dispossessed working-class and
middle-class, whose more militant element formed the
Skinheads. They were the rump of the revival of neo-Nazism
in the 1990s. It was as a consequence of this emergence
that in 1995 the Swedish left created Expo, the
anti-racist magazine edited by Stieg Larsson. It is also
the reason why Scandinavian police procedural novels and
thrillers are so very good (from Henning Mankell to
Larsson to Jo Nesbø): they produce superb artfrom the
hypocritical bourgeois denial of the existence of Nazism,
and how it is the soft-Right of the "moderates" that
tolerates and encourages the far-Right.

In Norway, the Skinheads morphed into groups such as the
Boot Boys, who spent their time trolling the streets
seeking out those who appear to be migrants. In 2002,
three of the Boot Boys killed a fifteen year old, Benjamin
Hermansen. When this incident occurred, the newspaper
Dagsavisen wrote, "This must open the eyes of the
authorities and all those who don't want to acknowledge
the existence of Nazism and racism in Norway." On February
1, 2002, 40,000 of the 4.4 million Norwegians gathered in
Oslo to demonstrate against this murder. The crowds
included Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Crown Prince
Haakon. The Centre Against Racism in Oslo notes that since
the late 1980s, there have been almost two thousand
incidents of racism in the country, some of it enhanced by
the rhetoric of the so-called Progress Party and of course
the Nazi sects.

My I-Phone pinged, and news came of the bombing in Oslo
and the massacre on Utøya Island. The dead at the latter
were from the Workers' Youth League (AUF), linked to the
Norwegian Labour Party, but with roots in the Communist
and Socialist movements of the 1920s. The current Prime
Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, was once leader of
the AUF. The initial reaction in the West was that the
attacks had been conducted by Muslim jihadis. This has
become a habit – after the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City,
CBS's Jim Stewart said, "The betting here is on Middle
East terrorists." Of course this was more Mid-West than
Mid-East, but there was no apology from the media to the
Muslims in America.

The first reports from the New York Times suggested that
the Oslo bomber was a jihadi (Professor Will McCants
tweeted that the perp was Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami,
something repeated by the Times, who later said that "the
group was previously unknown and might not even exist").
When the fog of Islamaphobia partly cleared, and the
Norwegian police was allowed its moment, they revealed
that the actual killer was a Nazi, Anders Behring Breivik,
who could very well have been a character from a Dahl

A few hours later, Breivik's manifesto began to appear on
various websites. Here Breivik fulminated against
"Marxist-Multiculturalists." This has become a familiar
refrain among the defenders of Fortress Europe: they want
to secure their continent from the re-conquest of the
Moors. The tendency is hateful toward immigrants and
Islam. But these are not marginal socio-paths. Their views
flow down the center of the stream of European
conservatism. InOctober of last year, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism "has utterly
failed." Immigrants needed to be force-marched into German
culture, and if this is not possible, they should not be
allowed to enter the country.

In February of this year, Britain's Cameron and France's
Sarkozy followed Merkel's lead. Cameron blamed the
"doctrine of state multiculturalism" for encouraging
migrants to "live separate lives, apart from each other
and the mainstream." France's Sarkozy gave a bitter speech
against multiculturalism and then told the MPs of his
"Union for a Popular Movement" party that he wanted laws
to rein in Islam. Electorally, Sarkozy wanted to outflank
the increased popularity of Martine Le Pen's National
Front. "We had a debate on the burqa," he said, "now we
should have a debate on street preachers." This is less a
debate and more a vitriolic campaign against Islam and
those who look like Muslims.

European Conservatism takes a harsh position vis-à-vis its
African and Asian migrants. There is not much that
separates these sophisticated leaders from their
antecedents (namely, Enoch Powell and his 1968 "rivers of
blood" speech) and the neo-Nazis (namely, Breivik). This
strand of Conservatism hates difference and diversity, and
promotes mono-cultures in social life. It cannot fathom
that human beings are able to live convivial lives with
those who are different. It would like to blame society's
problems on difference. The last thing imaginable is to
put the onus on the hierarchies of property, power and
propriety, all of whom are generally alien to the
commonplace conviviality of everyday people.

When Breivik writes that "indigenous Europeans" are
committing "cultural suicide" by accommodating these
migrants, he displays the typical ignorance of Nazism –
they have no sense of the long centuries of interaction
across the continents, of the mechanisms of colonial
ideology that continued those interactions amidst the
growth of a toxic racism, and of the recent histories of
polycultural social life that has become so important to
the lives of people in his own Europe. Watching television
footage from Utøya, one could see that the Labour youth
had among them children of migrants from Sri Lanka and
North Africa. Their Norway was not Breivik's Norway.


On July 20, days before the shooting, the leader of the
AUF Eskil Pederson gave an interview to the tabloid
Dagbladet. The AUF had held a rally for the boycott of
Israel at Utøya Island, and it had strengthened its
position vis-à-vis the BDS campaign
(Boycott-Divest-Sanctions). Pederson told the tabloid that
he believed that"the time has come for more drastic
measures against Israel." He wanted the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry to impose an economic boycott against Israel. "We
in the Labour Youth will have a unilateral economic
embargo of Israel from theNorwegian side."

Norway has a very advanced position on the international
campaign against the Occupation of the Palestinian people.
The Norwegian trade union federation (LO), which includes
a fifth of the country's population, divested from a
series of Israeli firms, such as Africa Israel
Investments,Danya Cebus, and Elbit Systems. This is one of
the largest sovereign funds in the world, and its move
puts pressure on other funds. Norway also has an arms ban
on Israel. Norwegian civil society has been very active in
pushing for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel
(support comes from 42% of the population, including the
Norwegian soccer coach Egil 'Drillo' Olsen, who is a
member of the Norwegian Worker Communist Party). Last
year, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry refused to allow the
Germans to test submarines that are slated for sale to
Israel in Norwegian waters. A few days before the
shooting, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
visited the AUF youth, who told him that they wanted the
boycott strengthened. A picture of Støre at the AUF camp
walking past a sign that said "Boikott Israel" ran in the

Støre's visit to the AUF camp came just after he met with
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas to reaffirm
Norway's support of the Palestinian bid for statehood at
the United Nations later this year. It is significant that
Oslo was the home to the Israel-Palestinian peace accords
in 1993. Israel's obduracy since then has changed the
equation. "I don't think that any Palestinians or anybody
around the world are in doubt that Norway supports
Palestinians' right to statehood," Støre said. Støre is
also a great supporter of diversity in Norway; he often
uses the expression "the New We" to refer to Norwegian
society. His "we" includes the asylum seekers and
migrants, the Muslims and the Jews.

Above my desk I have a poster from a demonstration led the
Anti-Fascistik Aktion in Copenhagen in June 1995. "No
Fucking Fascists," it says. That is the sentiment of the
more than ninety young people of the AUF killed last week.
Breivik was certainly a right-wing militant, and without a
doubt inspired by the Euro-fascism of
Merkel-Sarkozy-Cameron. The press might be obsessed by
their "lone gun-man" theory. They see things in the
police's terms, which is to say, in terms of who actually
acted, and who provided material support for the action.
The action in Utøya was not the act of a madman, and it
was not a human tragedy. It was an act of political murder
against people who had committed themselves to a convivial
world not only for their beloved Norway, but also for
those who live under Occupation elsewhere.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of
South Asian History and Director of International Studies
at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book, The
Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, won
the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. He can be reached
at: [log in to unmask]


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