Tag Archives: 9/11

If you want to call it Gaza’s 9/11…

When Israel bombed a few high-rise buildings in Gaza shortly before Hamas finally accepted the ceasefire that had been offered for weeks, anti-Israel activists took to comparing what happened in Gaza to the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11. Writing at his Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah claimed that “the overall death toll in Gaza since Israel’s bombardment began on 7 July proportionately far exceeds those attacks” and – on the basis of whatever mathematical exercises he was doing – he concluded that “Gaza has experienced about 125 ‘9/11s’ since 7 July” because “Israel has dropped the equivalent of an atomic bomb on Gaza.”

Gaza 9 11

In a second piece on the same subject, Abunimah presented an “infographic” entitled “The Five Stages of Grief” that supposedly “reflects on the shared experiences of grief of Americans [after 9/11] and Palestinians in Gaza, while contrasting the stages of healing and recovery.”

If so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists have the chutzpah to make this comparison, it’s only fair to recall that the Palestinians were among those who cheered and celebrated on 9/11. While there were later attempts to claim that this was not true and while the Palestinian Authority made every effort to suppress reports of Palestinian jubilation, the respected Pew Research Center monitored Muslim public opinion about Al Qaeda and bin Laden for a decade after 9/11, and the survey results document that throughout this decade, Palestinians remained bin Laden’s most ardent admirers.

Pals for bin Laden1

These results are all the more shocking in view of the fact that participants in the survey were asked if they had “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs.” Appallingly, in 2003, almost three out of every four Palestinians expressed “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs” and every third Palestinian would still feel this way shortly before bin Laden’s death in 2011.

Pew surveys also show that Palestinians have long been the most extremist Muslim public when it comes to support for terrorism and suicide bombings. As noted in the relevant survey published exactly a year ago:

“Support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets is most widespread in the Palestinian territories, with 62% of Muslims saying that such attacks are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Support is strong both in Hamas-ruled Gaza (64%) and the Fatah-governed West Bank (60%).”

Pals for terrorism

This puts the results of a recently published survey of Palestinian public opinion in perspective. While the survey documents a dramatic spike in support for Hamas, many other results simply reflect the always high support for terrorism among Palestinians. Thus, the survey shows not only overwhelming support for the launching of rockets from Gaza, but also widespread support for the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens that preceded the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel. According to the poll,

“57% of the public say that they supported the June 2014 kidnapping of the three Israelis in the West Bank when that incident took place. Support for the kidnapping reached 67% in the Gaza Strip and only 45% in the West Bank.

Similarly, a majority of 54% supported the killing of the three kidnapped Israelis and 42% opposed it. Support for the killing reached 69% in the Gaza Strip and only 42% in the West Bank. 52% of the West Bankers opposed the killing of the three kidnapped Israelis.”  

But the poll also shows that Palestinians feel they should be allowed to engage in terrorism, kidnappings and killings without having to face the repercussions: fully 79 percent of Palestinians “believe Israel was responsible for the eruption of the Gaza war.”

Unsurprisingly, anti-Israel activists like Abunimah push the same ludicrous notions. The “infographic” posted at Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada that suggests that New Yorkers fared incomparably better after 9/11 than Gazan’s after their many “9/11s” includes the complaint that “Palestinians are stuck in a repeating cycle, they cannot heal, nor can they accept the continuation of Israeli violence and blockade.”  The statement that “Palestinians are stuck in a repeating cycle” is actually one of the few true pieces of information conveyed in this graphic, but as so many surveys show, this vicious cycle is entirely the Palestinians’ own making. When almost three quarters of a population have confidence that Osama bin Laden would “do the right thing in world affairs” and almost 80 percent believe a war that resulted in more than 2000 dead, more than 10 000 injured and considerable destruction was a “victory” for the terrorist organization that started it, there is unfortunately no basis for any constructive development.  

Visualizing Palestine [updated]

*First published at The Algemeiner on March 6*

Last Sunday, Al Arabiya reported with much anticipation that an “advertising drive is expected to take Washington D.C by storm on Monday as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine call on the United States to halt $30 billion of military aid to the Jewish state.”

The advertisements targeted the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Al Arabiya featured one poster that suggests US taxpayer-funded weapons are used by Israel to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

The text on the poster claims that between 2000 and 2009, Israel’s military “killed at least 2960 unarmed Palestinians.” Unsurprisingly, it turns out that presenting Palestinians as the innocent victims of Israeli brutality and evil is the basic formula of the work put out by the “Visualizing Palestine” project.

This is probably a promising strategy, since many people who see a poster claiming that Israel killed almost 3000 innocent Palestinians between 2000 and 2009 will not necessarily recall what else happened in these years: In response to being offered a state of their own in the summer of 2000, the Palestinians launched a brutal war of terror against Israel;  and in response to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinians elected the terror group Hamas  and subjected Israel to relentless attacks with thousands of rockets. In 2008, the Palestinians were once again offered a state including the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem, but once again they chose not to respond positively.

When I checked out the work of “Visualizing Palestine,” I couldn’t help imagining how different their output would look if – instead of presenting Palestinians as hapless and helpless victims of Israel – mainstream views and attitudes of Palestinians were “visualized.”

So let’s give it a try and visualize Palestinian reactions to the aid they receive from the US.

For many years, the US has provided millions of dollars in bilateral annual aid to the Palestinians; in addition, the US is the largest single-state donor to UNRWA – the UN agency that works exclusively for the roughly 5 million Palestinians who claim (inherited) refugee status.

Yet, as documented by Pew surveys, Palestinians were always the most ardent admirers of Osama bin Laden. In 2003, 72 percent of Palestinians had “a lot” or “some confidence” that bin Laden would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Visualizing this fact could get us an image like this:

Pal visuals2

There is plenty of additional material. While the US pushed for the negotiations that resulted in the 2008 offer for a Palestinian state that I just mentioned, Palestinian “confidence” in bin Laden eroded only slowly: by 2009, 52 percent of Palestinians still trusted the Al-Qaeda leader to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” and by 2011, when he was killed by US Special Forces in his hide-out in Pakistan, fully a third of Palestinians still held bin Laden in high regard. Indeed, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned bin Laden’s assassination and deplored “the killing of an Arab holy warrior.”

Visualizing similar support for terrorism, extremism and Jew-hatred among Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim publics would perhaps be very useful for helping people understand why the Jewish state remains a small threatened island in a dysfunctional and volatile neighborhood.

Update:

BBC Watch recently had a post on Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. Atwan was born in Egypt-controlled Gaza, studied at Cairo University and has lived since the late 1970s in London. On his own website, Atwan (rightly) boasts that his “often controversial opinions are frequently sought by print and broadcast journalists the world over.”

There is no doubt that Atwan is a highly influential opinion-shaper, and as BBC Watch notes, his “controversial opinions” include “endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis” and the declaration “that he would ‘dance with delight’ in Trafalgar Square were Iranian missiles to hit Tel Aviv.”

Unsurprisingly, Atwan also considers Osama bin Laden a “great man,” because – as he explained on BBC Arabic – the “fact is that no one has caused more damage to the US than Al-Qaeda.”

9/11 Ten years on: A decade of divisive debate

Note: This essay was posted at my JPost blog on September 11, 2011, and cross-posted on Harry’s Place

Looking back at the decade that has passed since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, it is perhaps easy to forget that in the immediate aftermath of this day of horror, Europe was swept by a wave of spontaneous solidarity that was most memorably expressed in Le Monde’s much-quoted headline “Nous sommes tous Américains” – “We are all Americans.”

But while the headline became famous – and was soon marshaled to argue that America had only itself to blame for Europe’s quickly fading sympathy few seemed to bother with the related article by Le Monde’s editor Jean-Marie Colombani, whose commentary provided a rather accurate preview of the controversies that would come to dominate the political discourse in the decade after 9/11.

Reflecting the wide-spread sense that the attacks marked an ominous turning point that ushered in a dangerous “new age”, Colombani contrasted the prevalent sense of gloom with “the promise of another historic day, Nov. 9, 1989, and a somewhat euphoric year, 2000, which we thought might conclude with peace in the Middle East.”

However, Colombani regarded the promise associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 as unfulfilled. The end of the Cold War had left America as the sole superpower, and in his view, the result was “a world with no counterbalance, physically destabilized, and thus more dangerous since there is no multipolar balance.”

Colombani suggested that America was by no means blameless, because as the sole superpower, the US had become an arrogant actor in global politics. Perhaps the hate that brought out “rejoicing crowds in Nablus and Cairo” was therefore not entirely undeserved? Colombani also reminded his readers that bin Laden had once been trained by the CIA to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan – was he thus not just a creation of cynical American Cold War policies? And what about the Gulf War, or the use of American F-16s by the Israeli army against the Palestinians?

While the issues and questions raised by Colombani did not necessarily add up to a well-argued editorial, in retrospect, there is no denying that he anticipated some of the major debates that would soon come to divide the West, and particularly the left. Continue reading