Last week, CBS' "60 Minutes II" reported on the popular phenomenon in Muslim countries of blaming Israel for the Sept. 11 attacks -- "the Jewish conspiracy, in which 4,000 Jewish employees at the World Trade Center were warned to stay home."
Dr. Shibley Telhami was commissioned by Gallup to analyze the findings of a public opinion poll in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. Says Telhami, "Well, if you look at the polls -- and the ones that I have done in the Arab world -- pertaining to Sept. 11, it's clear that there's almost a unanimous view that bin Laden was not responsible for Sept. 11. And that actually comes as a shock to Americans, given the evidence that is obviously out there. How could this be?"
Says CBS: "It's a perplexing question. In this information age, it may be that the Sept. 11 attack was witnessed by more people than any event in history. And there was every reason to believe and hope that a consensus would have formed around the world about what had happened and who was responsible."
Amazingly, the denial extends beyond the Muslim street and into "mainstream" Western media. Reuters still qualifies its reports by saying that "Washington HAS BLAMED the attacks on New York and Washington on Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network."
Another Reuters report gives credibility to the lie: "I have a feeling that America and Israel planned to do such things [the Sept. 11 attacks]," said Fatima, 52, an Egyptian engineer who said the United States wanted an excuse to control Middle East oil.
And this week in Fremont, California, The Argus newspaper published an op-ed by Sayed Inamdar, who says "it is impossible to believe that it was Osama bin Laden, the cave-dwelling father of 20 to 30 children, or the Madrasa-educated Taliban who planned the terrible Sept. 11 incident." He goes on to suggest the Israeli conspiracy theory: "The well-planned and coordinated event points to an established intelligence service of a more advanced and capable foreign government that has free access to American intelligence."
The article has been inexplicably removed from The Argus' online archives - http://www.theargusonline.com/
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Meanwhile, the Boston Globe vilifies Israel in a different spin on Sept. 11. Globe columnist HDS Greenway writes:
"The wily Sharon has obtained from the Bush administration a carte blanch to do whatever he likes to the Palestinians by making the false parallel between Palestinian national aspirations and Al Qaeda's nihilistic and messianic mission to remove American influence from the Muslim world."
BBC gets into the act as well, giving ink to Arafat's latest grumblings:
"He [Arafat] said he condemned the attacks on Israeli citizens, but added that Israel had shamelessly exploited the terrorist attacks of 11 September to cast Palestinian resistance as terrorism."
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Sept. 11 hit the Palestinian street hard again this year. (Recall last Sept. 11, when sweets were distributed in the streets, accompanied by posters of Bin Laden and shots fired in the air as a sign of joy.)
The Associated Press reports that the IDF has now intercepted a shipment of souvenir cigarette lighters which feature a plane crashing into the World Trade Center next to an image of Osama Bin Laden. The lighters were en route to a Palestinian dealer in the Gaza Strip, to be sold in Palestinian areas. See the AP report at:
Meanwhile, a booklet that anticipates the destruction of the United States by 2004 has become a best seller among Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. The author of the 32-page publication is Salah Eddin Abu Arafeh, a young Muslim preacher from Jerusalem, who analyzed the Koran following the WTC attacks. The booklet is entitled "The Koran Anticipates the Destruction of the US and the Sinking of the American Army." (Jerusalem Post)
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Freedom of the press continues to take a big trampling in PA areas. On Sept. 11, the PA forbade journalists and photographers from showing any Palestinians celebrating the anniversary of the WTC attacks. Some were told they would be arrested and put on trial if they defied the instructions. Last year, PA security forces confiscated tapes from cameramen who documented Palestinians celebrating on Sept. 11, 2001.
Recall that last month, the Palestinian journalists union declared that news photographers and cameramen are "absolutely forbidden" from taking pictures of Palestinian children carrying weapons or taking part in activities by terror groups. Journalists were also banned from photographing masked men. Palestinians working for foreign media were asked to ensure that foreign colleagues also respect the ban. Journalists refusing to adhere to the ban were threatened with retribution. (Associated Press)
Western news consumers often fail to appreciate the fact that freedom of the press does not exist in areas controlled by the PA. A journalist can't just walk into Gaza and begin snapping pictures. It is said that 90 percent of the photos and video images from the recent conflict have been provided by Palestinian freelancers, who are the only ones with the access to obtain these images. These crews obviously identify emotionally and politically with the intifada, and in the 'best' case, they simply don't dare film anything that could embarrass the Palestinian Authority.
For example, did your local media publish the photos of Palestinian youths aiming mock guns at a model of a Jewish settlement during a military training summer camp in the West Bank? Yasser Arafat visited the camp, which was sponsored by his own Fatah movement. See photos at:
Finally, on an “up” note, France’s news channel M6 replayed last year's footage of Palestinians celebrating the attack. Next they showed Arafat donating blood. But the message was clear: The celebration came from the heart; the solidarity was good for world opinion. (Thanks to K.V.Z. for the info.)
Monitor your local media to see how they reported Palestinian reaction to Sept. 11, and also the ongoing issue of media restrictions enforced by the PA.