Thor Halvorssen responded to The Electronic Intifada’s investigation in an interview with Norway’s Klassekampen.
The public dispute comes just days after the Oslo Freedom Forum – an annual gathering promoted as the “Davos of human rights” – which had accepted $138,000 dollars in Norwegian taxpayers’ money from the ministry.
The controversial Halvorssen has also affirmed that he sees no reason to stop taking money from Islamophobes to support his Human Rights Foundation, which produces the Oslo forum.
Even more disturbing, Halvorssen casts doubt on the idea that anti-Muslim demogogues who helped radicalize mass killer Anders Behring Breivik can even be called Islamophobic at all.
Halvorssen falsely accuses Norway of funding Hamas
Halvorssen made his accusation against the Norwegian government in an interview in the 16-17 May print edition of the newspaper Klassekampen.
He attempted to explain and justify the fact – revealed in an exclusive Electronic Intifada investigation by Max Blumenthal – that the Human Rights Foundation receives major financial support from the same donors who finance the Islamophobic groups and figures who inspired Breivik.
“The Norwegian government gives money to Hamas and Cuba’s government. They also give money to Eritrea’s government, and to dictatorships. Will we take their money? Yes, because their funding is unconditional,” Halvorssen told Klassekampen.
“That is not the case. We do not give economic support to Hamas,” Imerslund told The Electronic Intifada by telephone today. “Our economic support goes through the World Bank to the Palestinian Authority and this support is explicitly supported and encouraged by the Israeli government.”
The policy described by Imerslund is consistent with Norway’s historic deference to the wishes of successive Israeli governments.
Halvorssen: no reason to stop taking Islamophobes’ money
Halvorssen told Klassekampen that he would continue to accept money from such donors as the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and Donors Capital Fund. These groups have variously been major donors to the Islamophobic film Obsession, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the David Horowitz Freedom Center which sponsors Robert Spencer.
All of these figures and groups were named in the Center of American Progress’s 2011 report “Fear, Inc.” as being key players in “the Islamophobia network in America.”
They were also heavily cited by Anders Behring Breivik in the manifesto he published on 22 July 2011, the day he set off a bomb at Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo – killing eight persons and injuring more than 200 – before proceeding to carry out a massacre of 69 persons at a youth camp of Norway’s ruling Labor Party, most of them children and youths.
Just a matter of perspective
Halvorssen even sought to minimize the extent of the Islamophobia, arguing that this was merely a matter of interpretation, as Klassekampen reports (insertion in original):
He says that he doesn’t care about who his donors support financially, and that the Human Rights Foundation will not reconsider accepting monies from organizations which also donate big sums of money to Islamophobic networks.
“First of all - this is their [emphasis here: Electronic Intifada] definition of Islamophobia,” says Halvorssen.
“As long as they give money to us, and we don’t do what they want us to do, there’s no problem here.”
Klassekampen: “But, don’t you think that some of the funding or actions by Sarah Scaife Foundation or David Horowitz Center …”
“Wait, wait, wait. I’m not going through everything my donors also give their money to, or judge to which extent this is acceptable or not,” says Halvorssen.
Halvorssen’s disturbing statements – effectively that those who massively fund the Islamophobia that helped radicalize Breivik – may not even be anti-Muslim, and that this is only a perspective of The Electronic Intifada, suggest that the extremism Halvorssen has long sought to conceal is coming to the surface.
The Norwegian government, and groups like Amnesty International Norway, which have willingly lent their names and financial support to Halvorssen and his Oslo Freedom Forum, should at last set aside their complacency and hold him and themselves accountable for giving cover to purveyors of hate.
With thanks to Roland Thele, a Berlin-based member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, for translation.
Note: An earlier version of this post had erroneously associated Frank Gaffney with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. This has been corrected.