In the aftermath of the horrific massacre in Norway last weekend, the presumably "pro-Israel" ideology included in the professed killer's rantings makes us all cringe. But it's more than disturbing; it reflects a not-so-subtle shift in the European political landscape that we must recognize and confront.
Anders Behring Breivik is charged with detonating a car bomb outside Oslo's government headquarters that killed eight, and then opening fire at a political summer camp on the nearby Utoya island, killing at least 68 young people.
In his now notorious manifesto, titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," he purports to support "pro-Zionism/Israeli nationalism" and then proceeds to list numerous extreme-right and neo-Nazi parties as potential allies because of their anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic stance.
In contrast to not so long ago when rightists Jean-Marie Le Pen of France and Joerg Haider of Austria were blaming Jews along with Muslims for the ills of European society, there has been a marked shift in recent years. Today's rightist-populist parties increasingly have been advertising their friendship with Israel, even as they express opposition to Europe's multicultural society.
While it was no picnic being on the receiving end of Le Pen and Haider's anti-Semitism — and such sentiment still exists in places like Hungary — we can take no comfort when Israel becomes the darling of a reincarnated right-wing radicalism.
"It is a tactical viewpoint of the rising populist right wing to use this kind of identification, or forced identification, with Israel, to be accepted," Hajo Funke, a professor in Berlin who is an expert on the Holocaust and right-wing extremism in Europe, told JTA. "They say, 'Our enemies are not any more the Jew … the real enemy as you can see all over the world is Islam, and not only Islam, but the Islamic person.' This is the new, great danger."
It is wrong to blame, as some on the left are doing, the anti-Muslim forces who so clearly influenced Breivik for his murderous acts. And some far-right leaders have taken pains to condemn the insidious attacks.
But Breivik's rants — though really only a sideshow to the tragic and monumental loss of innocent lives — confirm the sad truth that for much of Europe, Israel is seen as a right-wing cause. Norway itself has been one of the most outspoken critics of Israel, reaching out to Hamas and declaring itself ready to support Palestinian statehood.
The link between far-right politics and support for Israel bodes poorly for European Jews, who in many lands already must contend with a virulently anti-Israel — and anti-Semitic — climate. It also offers little comfort to Israel and her supporters, who are increasingly isolated and stymied in their efforts to make their case in the court of European public opinion.