IN DEPTH: Conspiracy theories about the “Islamization” of Europe helped inspire Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, so it’s only natural his elaborate attack would set off a new round of theorizing by conspiracists. Their focal point, as usual, is the state of Israel.
The Norwegian police, the Oslo District Court and most outside observers have concluded that Anders Behring Breivik acted alone when he shot and killed 69 youths at Utøya island after detonating a homemade bomb at the national government headquarters in Oslo on 22 July 2011.
The killer himself strained credulity by claiming to be part of a neo-Knights Templar group of Christian crusaders. Yet within days of the attack some theorists claimed to detect a still larger conspiracy. It was lurking, they said, behind the terrorist’s support for the state of Israel in his manifesto “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence”. Their conspiracy claims, now publicized on a number of websites, come in what may be described as “soft” and “hard” versions. But the culprit is the same in both: Israel.
The soft version – Breivik the “Zionist”
According to the softer claims, the Norwegian terrorist may have acted on his own, but he did so out of allegiance to Israel. This interpretation diverges from the mainstream understanding of Breivik’s attack by viewing his support for Israel against its hostile Muslim neighbours as a primary motive rather than a consequence of his basic opposition to Islam.
Similarly, the soft version paints “counterjihadist” authors like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and others quoted in Breivik’s manifesto as “Zionists” who are primarily concerned with defending the state of Israel, not with opposing Islam. A reading of Breivik’s manifesto shows this interpretation to be rather fanciful at best. Breivik in fact devotes little attention to Israel in his compendium-style manifesto. When he does mention the country, it is usually in the context of the Lebanese civil war, which, unsurprisingly, he blames on Muslims. Moreover, Breivik writes of the “Holocaust religion” as part of Europe’s ruling “cultural Marxist” ideology, and blames it for fostering an attitude of cultural self-hatred. Most notably, Breivik recently announced in a letter to media organizations that he views Israel primarily as a place to exile “disloyal Jews”.
In comparison, Russia and Serbia are each mentioned more than 200 times in the manifesto, often in the context of Russian and Serbian resistance to Turkish-Islamic expansion and oppression. By that measure it would be more accurate to categorize Breivik as pro-Serbian or pan-Slavic than as a Zionist.
The first to hint at a “Zionist” connection seems to have been the Swedish-Russian author Jöran Jermas, better known under the name Israel Shamir. Shamir is a controversial figure who first achieved attention in the early 2000s when he claimed to be a leading Israeli intellectual criticizing Israel’s occupation policy and advocating a one-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories. While he does appear to be of Jewish descent, Shamir has since 2004 repeatedly been exposed as an advocate for classic anti-Semitic arguments. He even wrote the preface to a 2008 edition of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion published by the Holocaust-denialist Institute for Historical Review.
According to Shamir, mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is “anti-racist, pro-homosexual and pro-Israel” and represents a European right-wing that has abandoned its traditional ethno-nationalism – including, it must be assumed, anti-Semitism – for a “philo-semitic”, non-racist approach concerned with Muslim immigration. This right-wing includes, according to Shamir, parties like Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid), the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) and, in Norway, the website Document.no and its editor Hans Rustad, described by Shamir as “pro-Zionist”.
Shamir’s claims were voiced in an article published on the Hungarian website Kuruc.info, which is affiliated with the neo-fascist, anti-Semitic and antiziganist Jobbik party. While Shamir seems to have been the first to voice this soft interpretation of Israel’s role in Breivik’s attack, it has since been repeated by others, including the Norwegian version of the extreme right-wing “identitarian” website Metapedia, the pagan Neo-Nazi and black metal musician Varg Vikernes and the British-Israeli musician and writer Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon in fact characterized Breivik as a “Sabbath Goy” performing Israel’s dirty work – thus uniting the ultra-far right with voices usually associated with left-wing “anti-Zionism”.
The “hard” version: Mossad and the Deep State
While Gilad Atzmon admitted that Breivik “might have acted voluntarily”, he also hinted at the possible involvement of intelligence services, thus moving towards the theories of “hard” involvement by Israel in the 22 July 2011 bomb-and-massacre attack. The hard version differs from the soft by venturing beyond Breivik’s possible motives and into the realm of conspiracy theory. According to some proponents, Breivik was following orders from Israeli secret services, while others assume the involvement of hidden structures in Norwegian society including a “deep state” with connections to police and intelligence services.
The hard version seems to have originated on the website www.salem-news.com at approximately the same time as Shamir’s article. This website presents itself as an online local newspaper for Salem, Oregon, but includes a lot of articles on national and international issues. It appears particularly concerned with military issues like veterans’ rights as well as with the Middle East, about which it takes a strong anti-Israel stance that often turns into anti-Semitic harangues about the powerful “Israel lobby”.
Its owner and editor Tim King, a former US marine, is also a frequent contributor to Veterans Today, a “military veterans and foreign affairs journal” with ties to the militia movement as well as to the Iranian government-financed broadcaster Press TV. Veterans Today‘s editor is Gordon Duff, a Vietnam veteran and holocaust revisionist with a fascination for UFOs. Veterans Today and Salem-News share many of the same contributors. Both also share a tendency to blame Israel for everything from the 9/11 attacks and the 2005 London bombings to the Sandy Hook shootings.
According to Tim King, there was reason to believe that Breivik’s terrorist attack could have been “timed” to coincide with the 65th anniversary of an attack by the militant Zionist underground organization Irgun on Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, then the headquarters of the British administration. King also drew attention to various pro-Israeli Internet debaters who cited an alleged “pattern” in which countries displaying anti-Jewish behavior tended to be hit by disasters that might or might not be caused by “black ops” operations. The anti-Jewish behavior displayed by Norway consisted, according to King, of calls by the Labour Party’s youth wing for a boycott of Israeli goods as well as support for a Palestinian state and backing of Norwegian director Vibeke Løkkeberg’s documentary Tears of Gaza.
While Tim King and Salem-News stopped short of actually blaming Israelis or others, Veterans Today editor Gordon Duff claimed the same day that the attack carried “the signature of an intelligence agency”, and that the lone wolf profile of the killer made him easy prey for such agencies in need of someone “to pull out of their bag of tricks when needed”. After all, Duff claimed, the chances of an individual pulling off a stunt like Breivik’s attack on Oslo and Utøya was about as likely as someone managing to fly a plane into the Pentagon “without touching a blade of grass”.
Duff’s primary suspect, like King’s, was Israel, although Duff was open to the possibility that Libya’s colonel Gaddafi might have been behind the attack – albeit in close concert with Israel. Israel, he claimed, had reasons to send a warning to Norway, “government to government”.
Within hours, the speculations by King and Duff were taken up and elaborated upon by Dean Henderson and his website Left Hook. Henderson, a self-described revolutionary fighting “the global oligarchy”, claims on his website to have been a co-founder of the Green Party of Montana and a former Democratic congressional candidate. Like Duff and King, he is a staunch critic of Israel, its supposed backers among the financial elite and the “Zionists” he sees controlling US media and politics. But compared to Duff and King, Henderson is more of a traditional conspiracy theorist. Among his inspirations are Milton William Cooper, who sees Zionism as an ideology created by the Priory of Zion, a supposed offshoot of the medieval Knights Templars whose members have used treasure looted by the Templars in Palestine to build a power base, and as affiliated with the Illuminati.
According to Dean Henderson, who used Tim King’s article as his main source, the “bloodbath” attributed to Breivik “bore the markings of an Israeli Mossad false flag terror attack” to punish Norway for plans of boycott or recognition of a Palestinian state. Henderson also drew attention to Breivik’s membership in a Masonic lodge, an organization that Henderson has on other occasions described as connected to the Rothschild banking family and thus both to the “Zionists” and the financial elite. Henderson also appears to have been the first to voice the claim that there was more than one shooter at Utøya, a theory that seems to be inspired by the differing descriptions of the killer originally given by surviving witnesses.
The Israeli government of course is used to finding itself at the centre of conspiratorial storms, most prominently in connection with the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Israeli agents were even accused of gunning down 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the United States in December 2012, and setting up a troubled local teen to take the blame. In neither case have the claims achieved mainstream credibility.
Aside from the Israel angle, some speculators have sought to connect the shootings to elements inside Norway itself. One such theorist is Peter Dale Scott, a retired professor of English literature and a critic of the US establishment since the days of the Vietnam War. Scott seems to have made his conspiracy debut in the early 1970s by speculating about the JFK murder, and has spent several decades claiming the existence of a “deep state” composed of elements in the intelligence services, armed forces and organized crime whose interests lie in generating social tension to discredit opposition forces and justify increases to their own budgets. According to Scott, there is reason to believe that the Norwegian bombing and shooting was a “deep event” operation, seemingly perpetrated by an isolated loner similar to Timothy McVeigh but in reality “intersecting with large and powerful but covert forces having the power and the intent to influence history”. In particular, Scott raised the possibility of involvement by the Stay Behind, a secret, anticommunist network established in several western European countries after World War II and meant to function as the core of a new resistance movement in case of Soviet occupation.
Scott’s speculations – which included little in the way of possible motives – have been taken up by various bloggers, some of whom have combined the “deep state” hypothesis with theories about Mossad involvement and claimed that elements in the Norwegian police deliberately sabotaged or delayed police action on the fateful day, thus allowing Breivik to fulfill his “mission” before the police arrived on Utøya. The ideas have also been taken up by the neo-fascist Webster Tarpley, a former associate of Lyndon LaRouche, and – strikingly – by the Swedish-Norwegian peace researcher Ola Tunander, who initially compared the terrorist attack with events in Italy and Turkey before eventually retracting his support for the “deep state” hypothesis.
Other classical conspiracy theories have arisen as well, including one presented by conspiracy shock-jock Alex Jones. According to Jones, the terror attack was most likely staged by the globalist elite in order to discredit all “patriots” opposed to globalization.
Straddling the line between left and right
A closer look at how these theories originated and spread reveal some interesting facts. With the possible exception of Alex Jones, all the sources are so interconnected that they can be seen to some extent as belonging to the same milieu. They quote one another and often share a previous publication history.
Tim King’s Salem -News article seems to have been written at approximately at the same time as Israel Shamir’s Kuruc piece, and while King does not mention Shamir as a source or link to his article, it should be noted that both Salem-News and Veterans Today have previously carried articles by –and even interviews with – Shamir and Gilad Atzmon. Shamir, Atzmon, Henderson, Scott and Duff are all active contributors to the website Transcend Media Service (TMS), affiliated with Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung’s Transcend network. And, finally, both Duff and Henderson are frequent commentators for the Iranian news service Press TV, known for purveying anti-Israeli conspiracy theories.
What unites these authors is a strong dislike for Israel and opposition to US foreign policy that frequently crosses the line to anti-Semitism and conspiracy theorizing. In many ways, they bridge the traditional left and ultra-right by combining left-wing positions like opposition to US interventions abroad, particularly in the Middle East, with right-wing-style distrust of big bankers.
Their theories can best be seen as a result of a general movement towards conspiracism in parts of the left since the Kennedy murders, a tendency strengthened by the Iran-Contras scandal disclosures of the 1980s. Conspiracy theories originating on the far right started to enter the American left around the time of the first Gulf war in 1991. Many entered through the writings of right-wing networks run by American neo-Nazi Willis Carto, who since the 1970s has been weaving references to “Zionists” and “dual loyalists” – code words for Jews – into anti-CIA conspiracy theories. Indeed, several of the writers referred to in this article have ties to American Free Press, a weekly newspaper founded by Carto and claiming to have a nationalist and populist agenda while pushing Holocaust denial and other anti-Semitic propaganda. Both AFP and its predecessor, Spotlight Magazine, have long been known for their inroads into left-wing and anti-war circles, even being quoted as a source in William Blum’s influential book Killing Hope.