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In the recent years, the renowned peace professor has repeatedly made repeated statements which come dangerously close to classical antisemitism. Here he is at the World Humanist Congress 2011 in Oslo.
 Foto: Reidar Thorsen

In the recent years, the renowned peace professor has repeatedly made repeated statements which come dangerously close to classical antisemitism. Here he is at the World Humanist Congress 2011 in Oslo. Foto: Reidar Thorsen

Johan Galtung and antisemitism

Renowned peace researcher Johan Galtung has long been disseminating antisemitic ideas, but many seem to be turning a blind eye to it. When he turned 90 in October, the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK even aired a repeat of an hour-long celebratory documentary from 2010 without so much of a mention of the controversy.


Sist oppdatert: 13.11.2020 kl 16:34 Norwegian social scientist Johan Galtung (born 1930) is often seen as the founder of peace studies. Galtung has received a number of awards, and holds an impressive number of honorary doctorates worldwide.

In recent years, however, another side of Galtung has become increasingly visible: The peace professor has repeatedly made statements which come dangerously close to classic antisemitism, while citing well-known antisemites and neo-Nazis as sources.

Galtung himself has denied being antisemitic, pointing to the work he has carried out for the American Anti-Defamation League, and to what he claims is a long-standing defense of the state of Israel in its conflict with the Arab world. He has defended his use of disreputable sources by saying that he does not typically examine a person’s political stances before citing their work.

At best, Galtung's statements and use of sources reveal a professor with a very limited knowledge when it comes to choosing and credibility-checking his sources, and one who even refers to sources he has never read. At worst, he has become part of a milieu in which antisemitism and conspiracy theories abound.

Anders Behring Breivik and «artificial Jews»

There were indications of Galtung’s unhealthy preoccupation with Jews as early as thirty years ago, when he spoke about the then-current war with Iraq. According to an eyewitness who wrote about this in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten («Kort sagt Fredsforsker Galtung?» by J. Hercz, 12.11.1990), Galtung claimed that Schwartzkopf – the name of the American general leading the operation – was a Jewish name, and that this explained why the general wanted to kill and hurt Iraqis. To clarify, Norman Schwartzkopf – who died in 2012 – was not Jewish, and the surname is originally German.

However, Galtung's flirtation with antisemitic ideas first became visible to the general public after a lecture at the University of Oslo on 30 September 2011, shortly after the 22/07/2011 terrorist attacks in Oslo and on Utøya. In the lecture, Galtung argued that one should take a closer look at the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's membership of the Freemasonic Lodge. According to Galtung, freemasonry had «a clear Jewish connection», and its members were «artificial Jews» who had undergone a symbolic circumcision. This is an idea that seems to have originated in the writings of the German general, proto-Nazi, and antisemite Erich von Ludendorff, particularly The Destruction of Freemasonry Through Revelation of Their Secrets (1927).

As sources of information about Freemasonry, Galtung recommended the writings of two Norwegian authors: Per-Aslak Ertresvåg and Erik Rudstrøm. While Ertresvåg is a disseminator of American conspiracy theories from «chemtrails» to Satanic rock music, Rudstrøm is the author of a two-volume work, Frimureriet og de skjulte makteliter (Freemasonry and the hidden ruling elites) that is probably among the most explicit examples of Norwegian antisemitic literature written after World War II. Rudstrøm claims that synagogues have been involved in drug dealing, that the Holocaust is a fabricated story, and that several people who have tried to reveal this have been killed by Jews. Rudstrøm also claims that the Norwegian labor movement is based upon plans laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In reality, the so-called protocols are a forgery possibly produced by Czarist secret police in pre-revolutionary Russia, while claiming to be the minutiae from a meeting of Jewish leaders.

This was the first, but not the last, time that Galtung indirectly referred to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact, he has repeatedly referred to them in the years since, and has even claimed that the Protocols are something one needs to read to understand antisemitism. At other times he has spoken of them as a good commentary on today's interest- and debt-based economy, or on the role of the American investment bank Goldman Sachs. The latter is a bank that, due to its Jewish-sounding name, often figures in modern antisemitic conspiracy theories.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a guide to our world

Galtung’s response to the criticism was an editorial published in November of the same year. Here Galtung continued to suggest that the Masonic order could have been involved in the Oslo terror attack through «ties of loyalty that constituted a collectivity of solidarity, support, and perhaps also cooperation on that day of his atrocious attack on categories of people (…)». Galtung also defended Rudstrøm's reference to the words of Zion's sages: «Read them as a guide to our world and judge for yourself.»

In April 2012, Galtung followed this with a clarification in the magazine Humanist: «I wonder how many of those people who have such definite views on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, have actually read them? It's impossible to read them today without thinking about Goldman Sachs. And here I agree with Erik Rudstrøm: It is hard to believe that the Russian secret police were capable of writing this kind of analysis.» At the same time, Galtung claimed that a large part of the media in the United States and the rest of the world was owned by Jews, adding that this did not necessarily have to be negative, but could also guarantee quality.

Jews control the world media

As evidence of Jewish dominance of the media, Galtung referred to an article entitled «Six Jewish companies own 96 % of world media».

To claim that Jews control 96% of the world's media as the article does is, of course, nonsense. The fact that a large part is owned by states like China, Russia and Qatar is enough to prove that. Nor, obviously, is it the case that all Jews have a shared agenda, either politically or otherwise.

The article was illustrated with a drawing in which an octopus with the Star of David wrapped its tentacles around the world. It contained formulations such as «By permitting the Jews to control our news and entertainment media, we are doing more than merely giving them a decisive influence on our political system and virtual control of our government; we also are giving them control of the minds and souls of our children, whose attitudes and ideas are shaped more by Jewish television and Jewish films than by their parents, their schools, or any other influence.»

The website Galtung referred to is no longer online, but both the article and the illustration can be found elsewhere on the internet, such as here. It should be noted especially that the mentioned article did not claim that the alleged Jewish ownership affected the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something which might have attracted the peace researcher Galtung. Instead it claimed that Jewish ownership caused the media to feed children and young people with entertainment consisting of sex and violence, and that the same media urged Black youths to commit acts of violence against Whites by marketing violent gangster rap.

As if this was not enough, the editor of Humanist – who in an attached statement strongly dissociated himself and the magazine from Galtung's claims – showed that the article to which Galtung referred was an abridged version of a pamphlet entitled Who rules America, written by William Pierce. Pierce is known as the founder of the National Alliance, perhaps the most important neo-Nazi organization in the post-war United States. He is even better known as the author of the novel The Turner Diaries, which is effectively a manual for the genocide of Jews, Blacks, and other «racial enemies». It is something of a Bible for neo-nazis everywhere, and has inspired several terrorists, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Galtung's defense of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and references to William Pierce attracted quite a bit of attention in Norway and elsewhere. The professor’s response to the criticism was to call it «drivel», and a symptom of a provincial Norwegian debate culture. «This is one of the reasons why I left Norway,» he said to the newspaper Verdens Gang. In an interview with the national broadcaster NRK he stated the following about Pierce:

– I don’t know who wrote the article I am referring to, but that is not the point here. I've never heard of William Pierce, but I have no reason to believe that what appears in this article is wrong. I am not in the habit of examining ideology when I look at an author.

As for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion he added:

– I notice that there are those who try to set limits for what to read. There is much interesting in the Protocols, including the topic of control through debt, which is directly transferable to the current situation between the United States and China. I don’t have the slightest idea of who wrote it, and it is of no importance.

«Judea declares war on Germany»

The references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Erik Rudstrøm, and William Pierce are not the only examples of how Galtung has repeated and restated well-known antisemitic tropes. In the book 50 Years - 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives (2008), Galtung attempts to contextualize the Nazi persecution of Jews by referring to «the Zionist declaration of war against Germany». The implication is that the Nazi persecutions were really part of a conflict between Jews and Germans.

The idea of a «declaration of war» is often used by Nazi apologists and holocaust deniers. It is based on an article printed in the newspaper Daily Express on March 13th, 1933, under the headline «Judea declares war on Germany». The headline is misleading in several ways: neither then nor since has a political entity by the name of Judea existed. Nor was there any central Jewish leadership at the time which could possibly have issued such a declaration of war. The article was about a group of Jewish leaders and organizations outside of Germany, who called for a boycott of German goods after Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor. The reasons were that Hitler already had a long history of anti-Jewish agitation, and that Nazi stormtroopers already had carried out several attacks on Jewish individuals and on Jewish-owned businesses.

The allegations of a «declaration of war» are usually made by those who want to portray Nazi policy towards Jews as a «defensive struggle» against Jewish «warfare» on Germany. It has appeared on the webpages of several Nazi and far-right groups, including the Nordic Resistance Movement.

Galtung repeated the allegations of a Jewish declaration of war in a lecture in January 2018. In the same lecture he also repeated his claims about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Goldman-Sachs, while stating that in order to avoid causing prejudice, Jews should try not to act them out. A way to do so would be to admit non-Jews onto boards.

«A network for peace and development»

In addition to his role as a researcher, Galtung is a long-time board member of the organization Transcend International, which he also co-founded in 1993. Transcend describes itself as «a network for peace and development» and an organization that wants to create a more peaceful world through action, education, and research. The organization's website includes the news service Transcend Media Service (TMS). Galtung himself is not the editor of this, but writes weekly editorials, meaning that he should at least be somewhat aware of what goes on there.

Several articles on the site are strongly conspiratorial. For instance, it is claimed that the Ebola epidemic was actually the result of US bioweapons research and later spread through vaccinations. It is also claimed that a war will soon break out between the United States and Iran because Jewish bankers want to secure control of Iranian banks. At least one article, written by British-Israeli jazz musician and activist Gilad Atzmon, questions the Holocaust. There are also endorsements of American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones by TMS editor Antonio C. S. Rosa.

Several of the writers active on TMS have also played a central role in spreading the conspiracy theory that the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was actually a «Zionist», or Israeli agent. According to this theory, the terror attacks on Utøya and in Oslo would be a punishment or a «warning» to Norway and the Labor Party not to recognize a Palestinian state or otherwise support Israeli critics, a theory that may also have been reflected in Galtung's call to investigate Breivik's membership in the Masonic Order, and his claims that Freemasons are «artificial Jews».

A spreader of antisemitism

Despite all this, Galtung still regularly appears as a lecturer, a guest on Norwegian radio and television, and a guest of honor at various events. In February 2017 he received another honorary doctorate from the University of Madrid.

Although Galtung will deny that he is an antisemite, there is no doubt that he is today an important conveyor and disseminator of antisemitic ideas, who uses his academic position to give them credibility.

This article is a translated and updated version of a text published in March 2018 on the website of the Swedish committee against antisemitism. It should be noted that while the author has been engaged in a debate with Galtung since 2011, most of the article’s claims are independently verifiable.

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