The cold-blooded calculation of the Norway tragedy boggles the mind. For over an
hour, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, dressed as a police officer and armed with a
rifle and a hand gun, prowled Utoeya, a tiny forested holiday island a few dozen
kilometers from Oslo, calmly massacring teenagers.
The youngsters had
been attending the annual summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s ruling
With no one armed to confront Breivik, escape from the
island by water was the only avenue to safety.
When he finally was forced
to put down his weapons by a police team that reportedly took 40 minutes to
respond, at least 86 were dead and many more were wounded.
before Breivik, a former member of a populist anti-immigration party who wrote
blogs attacking multiculturalism and Islam, had detonated a bomb in Oslo’s
government district that killed seven.
The attacks, which targeted a
government known for its embrace of multiculturalist policies, are being billed
as the worst incident of bloodshed on Norwegian soil since World War
As Israelis, a people that is sadly all too familiar with the horrors
of indiscriminate, murderous terrorism, our hearts go out with empathy to the
Norwegian people, who perhaps more than any other nation symbolize the
unswerving – and sometimes naïve – pursuit of peace.
Oslo is the namesake
of one of the most ambitious – and misguided – attempts by Israel, under the
mediation of the Norwegians, to reach a peace accord with our Palestinian
Norway’s capital is where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented
annually. And though Norway has troops in Afghanistan to bolster the allied
forces there, the basically peaceful nature of Norwegians goes a long way to
explaining the utter shock that has gripped the nation in the wake of the
tragedy and the blatant incongruity of the conspicuous deployment of security
forces in city centers to safeguard citizens.
Now along with their dogged
pursuit of peace, the Norwegians are also coming to grips with the reality of
evil in their midst. It would be wrongheaded, however, to allow the fact that
this terrible tragedy was perpetrated by a right-wing extremist to detract
attention from the underlying problems faced not only by Norway, but by many
Western European nations.
Undoubtedly, there will be those – particularly
on the Left – who will extrapolate out from Breivik’s horrific act that the real
danger facing contemporary Europe is rightwing extremism and that criticism of
multiculturalism is nothing more than so much Islamophobia.
While it is
still too early to determine definitively Breivik’s precise motives, it could
very well be that the attack was more pernicious – and more widespread – than
the isolated act of a lunatic. Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious
terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the
extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an
opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway
and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of
heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with
multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed
as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor
Angela Merkel have both recently lamented the “failure of multiculturalism” in
their respective countries.
Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize laureate
for welfare economics from India, has noted how terribly impractical it is to
believe that the coexistence of an array of cultures in close proximity will
lead to peace. Without a shared cultural foundation, no meaningful communication
among diverse groups is possible, Sen has argued.
Norway, a country so
oriented toward promoting peace, where the Muslim population is forecast to
increase from 3 percent to 6.5% of the population by 2030, should heed Sen’s
The challenge for Norway in particular and for Europe
as a whole, where the Muslim population is expected to account for 8% of the
population by 2030 according to a Pew Research Center, is to strike the right
balance. Fostering an open society untainted by xenophobia or racism should go
hand in hand with protection of unique European culture and
Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to
society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated
by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism.The editor-in-chief adds:
As a newspaper, The Jerusalem Post
strongly denounces all acts of violence against innocent civilians. This editorial is not aimed at deflecting attention from the horrific massacre perpetuated in Norway, nor the need to take greater precautions against extremists from all sides.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!