Anders Behring Breivik – A murderer’s profile and motives


    Only a couple of days have passed since the horrific massacre of innocent people, mainly teenagers, in Norway and already the picture is starting to get a little clearer about the motives behind the killing. At first this incident didn’t seem relevant to the Middle East, but as it turns out, the Middle East and Muslims have a lot to do with this case.

    When the first report came in, it was east to assume that this is again the doing of a deranged individual in an all too well known format, which includes taking a weapon, going on a killing spree and eventually getting caught and turning the gun on himself. However this case is notably different. Since the murderer is still alive, the number of dead is significantly higher than normal, the attack includes a separate car bomb and the planning as it turns out was meticulously done.

    Before looking at the reasons of why this was done and tying it into a global event, it is important to reiterate the obvious, which is that targeting of non-combatant civilians could never be justified. The killer acted wrongly and should be persecuted according to the local law. Moreover, the law enforcement organizations need to asses, whether this was a one off event and if not, invest resources in ensuring this does not happen again.

    Anders Behring Breivik is a 32 year old Norwegian. He has spent the last 9 years of his life plotting this event, as part of an organization called the Knights Templar. During his preparation regime he has carefully documented his every move, which gives insight to his background and beliefs in a 1500 page document.  Breivik comes from an affluent family and is also a self-made millioner according to his document.  In his writing Breivik displays great intelligent capacity and even more determination. The document talks about the relationship Breivik has with his family and friends, it goes into details about his strict training and steroid regime and his hatred to the left party that has dominated Norway for over 100 years. From the document it becomes very apparent that Breivik is creative, well educated, confident and has the ability to appear as an average person in order not to arouse suspicion.

    As with most cases of massacre the media and public are trying to put Breivik in a category, which would give an insight to why he committed this massacre. However, in this case it is not easy to map him to a sect. While his ideology is Christian, he clearly has not based his massacre on Christianity scripture nor did it stem from a messianic mission. It is more accurate to state that Breivik based his ideology on European history and culture, which happens to be Christian.

    Breivik mostly opposes the left party, which has a very lenient attitude towards immigration into Norway. It is very hard to get exact statistics about immigration as some of the information such as country of origin is bundled as well as the fact that the question of religion observance is not asked. However from what is available, it could be observed that as of January 2010, Norway’s population was 4.8 million and around 826,000 people had an immigration background (either them or their parents immigrated to Norway). The exact number is 17% immigrants of the total population, however, most of these are from neighboring countries or Eastern Europe, to which Breivik seems indifferent. When looking specifically at the Muslim population, which Breivik went against in his manifesto, the recorded number is about 100000, which is only about 2% of the population.

    If the numbers are so low, then why does Breivik oppose Muslims so much?

    Reportedly in 1980, there were only about 1000 Muslims in Norway, this number multiplied by 100 in only 30 years. In a country with a small population, this number is quite significant. For example, the UK has about the same percentage of Muslims, however in the UK the total population is 60 million, therefore, despite the higher Muslim birth rate, the overtime percentage impact on the demography is much smaller. Also, regarding the concentration of Muslims, most of the immigrants have settled in Copenhagen, which consists of 7.5% Muslims. For Copenhagen residents this may distort the percentage of Muslims actually living in Norway. As to the impact of Muslims in everyday life, it is next to impossible to get any reliable statistics, which has a breakdown by religion or ethnicity, for example crime.  However based on media reports, it could be deducted that even if not the reality, at least the perception is that most of the country’s rape reports describe the assailant as Muslim and the victim as Norwegian, also the majority of inmates in Norwegian prisons are Muslim. In Brievik’s mind the calculation is simple, more Muslims, more crime as well as change of European status quo. This calculation of course assumes that every Muslim would always follow its religion and propagate the values that Breivik opposes, this assumption is perhaps the biggest point of contention in the ideology between Breivik and the leftists in Norway.

    According to Breivik’s theory the only time that action was taken against Muslims in Europe was during the civil war in Yugoslavia, which ended prematurely in his opinion. He goes on to complain the fact that his government is responsible for giving Yasser Arafat, a terrorist in his mind, a noble price for peace and especially the politically correct stance, which was highlighted in Norway’s government’s apology about the Cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. In his manifesto, Breivik shows a complete disregard to the people he thinks are bringing the demise of Norway.

    The most shocking aspect of the attack to the Norwegians is possibly not the fact that someone is anti-Islam and has committed a massacre, rather that he targeted the government and the left party’s next generation, rather than Muslims themselves. This fact shows again that this was not purely a personal hate vendetta against another race, but a calculated politically motivated attack, which originated from racist sentiments.

    While Norway licks its wounds and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, the main concern around the world is whether this was a one off incident, or whether we are likely to see terrorism of a new kind. Possibly this could have been the high profile event for the Knights Templar’s, which could kick-start their activity, in a similar way that 9/11 was for Al Qaeda, or this could be an inspiration for copycat cases, however in the latter, it is hard to assume that it would be executed in the same percision and reach the same death toll.

    What is clear is that this event was a game changer for Western society. Despite the fact the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who also opposes the Muslim immigration and status quo change in Europe, has condemned this act and no other person, religion or country has openly supported it, Europe has to deal with the fact that political terror has come from one of its own. The murderer was an educated, patriotic, intelligent and economically successful  individual, which has defied the behaviour the world has come to expect from someone in that position. As the trial takes place, it is apparent that Breivik is intent as using it as a stage to publicize his ideology, whether the Norwegians manage to prevent that or not, he has already won, since his story and ideology are on every front page and headline and tomorrow no doubt, while most would want to believe that the innocent did not die in vain, the topic of discussion will be Muslim immigration to Europe.

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All Is Not Well – According To The Poll


    Anyone following the situation in the Middle East would have probably seen the articles around the poll conducted by Stanley Greenberg, issued by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion as well as the Israeli Project. Although this poll was not sponsored by right wing Zionists rather a Palestinian center and an allegedly peace promoting organisation (the essence of the name and cast of the board should make anyone a little doubtful about the neutrality, even if it isn’t justified), the results were quite damaging for the Palestinians.

    The survey itself was conducted in a controlled manner, personally interviewing 1010 Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza. The interviews targeted a variety of people and the results are set to have a 3.1% error margin.

    Possibly the most worrying result for Israel was the approval rate of 73% of people questioned of the Hamas Charter, which calls for the killing of all Jews. Also 80% agreed that it is a Muslim duty to participate in Jihad to eliminate Israel.

    Some authors, typically sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, have argued that there is a difference between what the Palestinians want as opposed to what they would accept. However when 61% of people questioned said that they disagree with the negotiations basis, i.e. 1967 borders with land swaps and 34% rejecting outright the idea of a Jewish and Palestinian state coexisting, it is hard to put a positive spin on the prospects of peace. A question that played straight into the Israeli right wing parties hand was whether Palestinians supported the Gradual Approach, in which the Palestinians should reach an agreement for two states in stage one with the intention of establishing one state with a Muslim majority of the entire land of Israel in the second stage. This was ratified with the support of 66% of people who participated.

    Some comfort could be found in the fact that only 22% supported the continuing rocket attack and 60% preferred diplomatic solution. Also it was made clear that highest priority for Abbas was to create Jobs, which was supported by 83%, although that came of the expense of people believing he should spend his time negotiating with Israel, which only received 2% support.

    However, while the results are and will continue to be manipulated to fit different agendas as well as the pollster and sponsors would be celebrated or slated accordingly, it is important to consider the results against a comparable source, which is the results of the same survey done by the same people a year before. In October 2010 a survey was conducted by the same pollster Stanley Greenberg, in that survey 854 people respondent and while some questions differed, many of the questions remained the same, although the answers differed significantly.

    For example while only 20% prefer violence over talks and 60% prefer talks in the recent survey, last year 58% favoured armed struggle and only 36% preferred diplomacy. Also the numbers for accepting a two state solution were flipped as 60% accepted the two state solution and only 36% rejected it. The answer that has stayed quite constant, which is the one of the sticking points between leftists and rightists in Israel is the gradual solution, in which the agreements today are only signed, in order to gain ground and gradually move onto the entire land of Israel, the result was 66% in both surveys.

    A few observations that could e made on the two surveys should be very worrying. If the polls are taken as a reliable source of insight into the Palestinian street, then Israelis shouldn’t expect the security to improve after making more concessions and signing a peace agreement, since both poll indicated that the majority of people see the solution as a stepping stone. Another observation that could be made is that the number Palestinians favouring armed struggle has declined, but the number of Palestinians rejecting the peace process increased significantly.

    The analysis of the results could be interpreted to fit more than one narrative. On the one hand Israelis could claim that the cooperation between IDF and the PA and the targeting of Hamas militants has had success, which caused Palestinians to move away from violence, however the same data could be interpreted claiming that the Palestinians have realized that delegitimizing Israel in the world arena for events such as Flotilla, Cast Lead and the humanitarian crisis, would do a lot more towards achieving their goal than firing rockets.

    Whichever interpretation a reader would like to give the data, some things cannot be debated, if one were to believe the survey results. The peace negotiation frame put forward by the American government, which has been dicussed since Oslo in the 90s and partially implemented is completely rejected by the Palestinian majority. Even the ones that agree to it, see it as a temporary measure. Also, every Palestinian civilian that dies from the conflict or any hardship inflicted upon the Palestinians increases the animosity towards Israel from the Palestinians as well as the rest of the world, however, the education the Palestinians give their children in particular in Gaza and the culture ideology is anti-Israeli, justifying killing Israelis, and promoting the idea that one day the entire land of Israel would be taken back. This educating process taking place in mosques, schools and national TV has been going on for a long time and has resulted in an entire generation growing up on hatred, which is partially responsible for the survey results. While the same could be said about the far right Israelis typically the settlers, they are still a minority in Israel and they have not penetrated the national curriculum or national TV, in fact in Israel, it is very much the case that the left wing ideology is supported in universities and the mainstream media.

    Anyone that is hoping to see a solution, in which two states are peacefully living side by side, should be very disappointed from these results. Since as things stand, even if a peace agreement would be signed, it wouldn’t reflect the true opinion of the Palestinian people, which could make as shaky and non relevant as the Fatah-Hamas agreement.

    Perhaps a more practical approach needs to be implemented, in which the situation is analyzed and international actions are taken such as to remove incitement on both sides, international enforcement of no violence and smuggling and in return a significant bettering of the conditions of the Palestinians and opening the region to trade. The difference of this approach from before would be for the International to shift to an active role rather than the passive one today. However, in the political climate, where Iran is still a driving force of anti-Israel sentiment, Russia is a growing global power sheltering Syria, which is its one true foothold in the Middle East and China, which disagrees to take any active part in aligning its economic policies to political trends and/or abiding by international sanctions, this is very unlikely to happen and we are likely to see a lot more of the same.

Flotilla 2 – Why the sequel is rarely as good as the original


    In May last year the entire media was dominated by news of the Flotilla clash with the Israeli navy. As with many evolving stories, the first eyewitness accounts talked about a big number of dead as a result of a massacre committed by the Israeli Army. These news reports prompted immediate condemnations from many countries around the world. However, as time progressed and more light was shed, it became apparent that the number of casualties was much lower than first reported. Later on it was apparent that while it could be debated whether Israel used too much force, it was clear that it was engaged in combat and did not open fire on unarmed people practising passive resistance.

    Perhaps learning the lessons from the Goldstone report Israel agreed to cooperate with a UN committee to investigate the events. It is very likely that the cooperation also stemmed from the fact that this committee was commissioned by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, rather than by the Human Rights Council, which Israel deems biased against it (a claim also made by Judge Richard Goldstone in his Op-Ed).  The committee headed by Geoffrey Palmer the former prime-minister of New Zealand, which also bears his name, includes both Israeli and Turkish members. Although the report has not yet been published, it has been leaked that the report suggests on the one hand that Israel’s blockade was legal although too much force was used too soon and on the other hand that the Turkish government was wrong to back the IHH Flotilla.

    However the Palmer report has failed to make big news outside of Israel and it is still to be seen whether it will after it is published. However even if the report does make main headlines, last year’s flotilla could still be held as an enormous PR success to the organizers, as yet it again it put the Gaza issue on the top of the agenda, while supporting the theory of an over-aggressive Israel.

    Based on the success of the first Flotilla, the organizers decided to use the momentum created and organize a repeat of the events. Initially this was a foolproof plan, as the journalists were already on their side after the previous year, many members wish to take part, including American Jews that wished to show solidarity, therefore in essence, the main task was to simply sail the boats and exposure would be gained even if there is no deadly confrontation with the Israeli army.

    However several circumstances changed and failing to spot those led to a disaster for the organizers.

     At First, weeks before the Flotilla was due, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement, which resulted in Egypt opening the Rafah border. While this didn’t deter the members of the flotilla, it did start eating away at the public support for the legitimacy of this venture.

    The second factor to change was the Turkish government’s stance. The Turkish government suffered a blow as they aligned themselves alongside Asad, who was killing civilian protestors, which was perceived badly around the world and resulted in a flux of refugees fleeing to Turkey. Also, the AKP had just won the elections, so it decided to tune down the anti-Israel attitude to ensure it does not impact the economy by damaging its relationship with the US.  It is also likely that they knew that the Palmer report was also going to shine some negative light on its conduct. As a result the IHH was pressured by the government to pull out of the flotilla.

    The third factor that changed in 2011 was the killing of civilians in both Syria and Libya. It has been reported that over 1500 civilians were killed in Syria and somewhere between 2000 and 10000 were killed in Libya. This fact again was chipping away at the public interest and support.

    The fourth factor to change was the shift in the Greek government’s policy towards Israel. In the past Greece was known to support the Palestinian cause and criticize Israel. This position was mainly due to Israeli  cooperation with Turkey, with whom Greece was in conflict over North Cyprus. However, with the Israeli and Turkish relations drifting apart in the past year, Greece has spotted an opportunity to tighten its relations with Israel, which has managed to stay stable throughout the economic crisis. The flotilla organizers missed this development and misjudged Greece’s willingness to take their side/ As a result they were surprised to find the Greek government’s refusal to give them permits to sail as well as the Greek Coast Guard enforcing the law by bringing back any ship that tried to sail unlawfully.

    As a result of all the above factors, the flotilla boats stayed moored and the number of participants decreased as time passed. During the mooring period some protesters tried to make headlines by accusing Israel of sabotage of the mooring boats as well as blackmailing the economically weak Greek government. Another course of action was protesting outside of the embassies. A small group of Spanish protestors even managed to enter the Spanish embassy and fly the Palestinian flag form the window. Although some of these actions were reported in the media, it failed to reignite public interest as it did a year before.

    While some protestors gave up and headed back, others decide to turn their attention to the Air effort. This was an effort planned previously, in which some protesters would fly in by air and as well as organize demonstrations in the airport, they would visit the Palestinian areas. However, Israel managed to predict this move and stop the protesters either in their country of origin or upon landing. The coverage so far has been minimal and included mainly Israeli protesters, who made their way from Tel-Aviv to show solidarity and were arrested by airport security shortly for an illegal demonstration and disrupting the peace.

    While Israel could be pleased with the success of stopping another PR fiasco, it laments the fact that the demonstrations are taking needless resources and more importantly taking the attention away from issues they deem urgent such as the Iranian nuclear plan, which unlike the flotilla and protests is causing Israel genuine concern.