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Israel's 9/11: Counting the Ways
Examining the connections between 9/11 and the events of the past weekend in Palestine/Israel is like peeling an onion with infinite layers.
As soon as it became clear that hundreds of Israeli civilians had been killed in the Hamas attacks launched from the other side of Israel's walled ghetto over the weekend, the Israeli and western media was ringing with the words uttered by most every Israeli politician who spoke into a microphone that day: "this is our 9/11."
On the face of it, in terms of the fact that those carrying out this horrific mission knew they wouldn't survive it, and their victims were overwhelmingly civilians, it seems like an apt comparison.
But there are other connections with 9/11 that many of those highlighting this similarity are trying to make: that the atrocity justifies a "total war" against the enemy, whoever they may be. And just looking at the numbers of schools, hospitals, refugee camps, UN compounds, ambulances, mosques, houses, and apartment blocks that have been targeted and destroyed by aerial bombardment over the past 24 hours or so, combined with the inability of the people to have any safe place to go, and with the complete embargo of food, water, medicine, and fuel, what we are witnessing is a genocidal slaughter of the people of the Gaza Strip.
It is an aerial slaughter that, in fact, bears no shortage of resemblance to the slaughter carried out by the US military over the course of the decades of war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere that both preceded and followed 9/11, which has directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in those countries since the turn of the century.
There are so many connections between events unfolding now in the Middle East and the events that led up to and followed 9/11, that are so vital to understand -- which we can be sure none of the Israeli politicians or their supporters in the west making the 9/11 comparison want to discuss.
I was born in Manhattan, and grew up in the New York suburbs, in Connecticut. In the town where I grew up, at the time I was growing up in Wilton, of the kids I knew, mostly their mothers were homemakers and their fathers drove their cars each morning to the train station in New Canaan, from which they took a train to Wall Street or somewhere around there to work in a bank or an insurance company. Four of those guys who commuted from Wilton worked in the upper floors of the World Trade Center, and never returned to their cars left parked at the New Canaan train station on the evening of September 11th, 2001. Lots of others who didn't return to their cars were from other nearby suburbs.
I was about to do a bunch more gigs in the midwestern US when the planes hit the towers. As I was seeing the upcoming gigs get canceled and making plans to head back to where I was then living, near New York City, in New Haven, Connecticut, I remember my first four thoughts like it was yesterday. They all came at once. One was wow, what an absolutely massive and deadly stunt for a whole lot of basically unarmed people ready to die and capable of conspiring together and apparently maintaining operational security to pull off. Another was about how horrible it would be to die that way, in those planes and in those buildings. A third was how many innocent people are going to be killed throughout the Muslim world in retaliation for these attacks. The fourth was why did it take this long for someone to attack the US like this?
Unlike most of the population of the US, consuming the US media, I was aware of the recent history of the US-funded war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and the CIA's role in creating and funding Al-Qaeda. I was also aware of the widespread resentment across the Muslim world and beyond of what outside of the west is viewed as a settler-colonial apartheid regime, Israel, and of the widespread resentment against the US-led, UN-imposed sanctions that had so destroyed or taken the lives of so many Iraqis during the 1990's, including half a million children, according to the UN's own statistics. I can't say that I was expecting an event as impressively catastrophic as 9/11 to take place when it did, but I was not surprised that the UN building in Baghdad soon became another target of such a suicide mission.
The history of Al-Qaeda first being spawned by the CIA as an Islamist ally in the proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and then later changing their focus to those the leadership grew to see as the as their bigger enemies, those occupying or supporting the occupation of Palestine, those imposing the sanctions on Iraq, and those building military bases in Saudi Arabia, has a real parallel with Hamas, and its history with the Israeli occupiers of Palestine. Its growth was originally facilitated by Israel in order to have an Islamist opposition to Fatah within the Palestinian community, but the folks in Hamas got wise to this and evolved, becoming the popular group that got elected to power in 2006.
The idea that the US leadership wanted to stamp out terrorism by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians in countless different mostly Muslim countries is, of course, preposterous. They know as well as you or I do that the bombing campaigns like those carried out regularly by the US Air Force are meant to cow a population into submission in order to rule them, and they know that some elements of the population will not submit, but will seek revenge. As with the bombing campaigns carried out by the US against Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or, for that matter, the Japanese Empire's bombing campaigns in China, or Nazi Germany's bombing campaigns over the skies of the UK and so many other countries, the point of such bombing campaigns is to be genocidal in nature, to be indiscriminate, to strike terror into the hearts of the general population in order to rob most of them of any will or even ability to resist. While at the same time those committing the atrocities know full well that some of their victims will, instead of being cowed, organize a violent resistance. And then this violent resistance will itself work wonders to give the occupiers justification for why these people must be occupied -- look, they're very violent.
The US leadership sought to remake the Muslim world in its own capitalist image by seizing the opportunity presented by 9/11. They succeeded in killing countless numbers of people, and destabilizing and immiserating entire societies. But now Afghanistan is still run by the Taleban, and Iraq is run by a government that is allied with one of the US's many declared enemies, Iran. The empire-builders in Washington tried hard, though, as evidenced by all the dead and the torture victims they left in their wake, along with the radioactive, poisoned landscape.
Similarly, the far right regime in Israel is talking genocide and carrying it out, with the aim, it seems, of literally this time driving all of the Palestinians out of historic Palestine, of those who survive the relentless bombardment and embargo. This is their version of taking advantage of the opportunity presented to them by over a thousand of their citizens being treated with the same kind of savagery and inhumanity that Israel's victims have been treated with for so long.
As with 9/11, we are also hearing stories now about warnings from other countries' intelligence agencies that were ignored by the Israeli government, which itself was in a state of complete disarray, with massive internal opposition. To whatever extent 9/11 or 10/7 involved intelligence failures, incompetence, or corruption on the part of those supposed to be maintaining security in the countries attacked, there's no doubt that there are very real people in the world who are plenty angry enough and organized enough to carry out such actions, without any help from outside. Decades of Israeli and US policies have absolutely guaranteed that this is the case.
I find myself glued to any relevant media coverage I can find, as I was after 9/11, spending most of my waking hours reading, listening, watching, trying to figure out what's happening. As with the aftermath of 9/11 and the bombing of wedding parties and random villages in Afghanistan, Israel's ongoing, genocidal bombing campaign of Gaza is just a headline along with other international headlines. Only by not really covering the bombing can they portray it as something other than a genocidal campaign of aerial slaughter. As with the bombardments of Afghanistan and Iraq, if you want any reliable coverage of what's going on, for the most part you have to look for sources outside of the west, like Al-Jazeera, whose offices the US Air Force bombed, intentionally killing disagreeable journalists just like Israel regularly does.
As I was driving from Indiana back towards Connecticut on the eleventh and twelfth of September, 2001, with each passing hour I was at least slightly relieved that there was no news of the US dropping a nuclear bomb on anyone. I was also relieved that it seemed there were not going to be any pogroms against Muslims in the US like there have been against various groups in the US in the past, during similar periods of war and intense propaganda. I was relieved when President Bush talked about Islam being a religion of peace, and called on Americans not to seek revenge on their Muslim neighbors. For all his many, many faults, that was a good and timely speech. And also very distinct from the genocide talk coming out of the mouths of the leaders of Israel over recent days, and over recent years as well, as the power structure there has moved further and further towards being openly fascist.
The Twin Towers were still smoldering in the distance, visible as I drove over the George Washington Bridge in upper Manhattan, towards Connecticut. Friends with medical training from New Haven had gone to Manhattan, hoping to help, but were met only with death and destruction. There were very few wounded, amid the thousands crushed or incinerated. You either lived or you didn't.
My friend Rich and I had gotten into Connecticut, and we stopped at a service area to fill up the tank. At the gas pump we were approached by a brown-skinned man who was looking for a ride. He said he had been at the service area for 24 hours, and no one would give him a ride. He looked Arab, so under the circumstances, not entirely surprising that no one wanted to give him a ride, especially given that hitch-hiking on i-95 just outside of New York City is just not something people do, regardless of what you look like.
We gave him a lift, and found out he was Israeli. I remember asking him who he thought had carried out the terrorist attacks in New York the other day. He said he didn't know, but that the US authorities had better be sure they knew who did it before they went and started destroying some country to punish the supposed perpetrators. He was being careful about what he said, it seemed to me, but still, wise words.
It did seem like an odd coincidence to pick up an Israeli hitch-hiker just outside of New York City the day after 9/11, but eventually I forgot about it. I only remembered about it again, though it's probably unrelated, when I heard from a friend who had gone into hiding for years, and resurfaced, with stories about how he had gone underground because he was afraid for his life, since he had regularly shared cigarettes in the smoking area outside of the building in Hollywood, Florida, where he had an office, with Mohamed Atta, along with a whole bunch of Israelis who appeared to him to be intelligence operatives, who weren't trying very hard to hide this fact.
The day after 9/11, Mohamed Atta was nowhere to be seen, because he was one of the 19 hijackers who died that day, along with their thousands of victims. The day after 9/11, all the Israelis and their massive amounts of IT equipment were gone from the building in which my friend had an office, without a trace. Another coincidence, perhaps, one of so many, that come to my mind when I hear Israeli politicians talking about 9/11. I would still like to know who these people in Florida were, and why they left in such a hurry.
Conspiracies exist -- the 19 people who hijacked those planes carried out a successful conspiracy, as did the hundreds of Hamas operatives who carried out the slaughter of Israeli civilians over the past several days in southern Israel. Whether any intelligence agencies or other actors were involved with facilitating these terrorist conspiracies, both events have been or are being used to further goals that long predated them, such as regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the case of 9/11, or the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip today. And both of these attacks were carried out by members of organizations that were directly created by decades of US and Israeli policies, both initially by design, both later finding their new anti-western orientation as a consequence of US and Israeli slaughter, brutality, torture, mass incarceration, drone strikes, and sanctions of every description.
Whether people are aware of the reality or not, whether they believe the propaganda from the mainstream, liberal, or conservative press about Israel being a law-abiding democracy, rather than a settler-colonial regime bent on continuing what has been a century-long history of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes, the killing of them in and around their homes, and the bulldozing of their homes; whether or not people are aware that Israel is a democracy only to the extent that ancient Rome was a democracy, with most of the population being under martial law all of the time; the reality is what it is, and as with any other place in the world now or historically where people are so oppressed, the resistance will inevitably continue, unless the occupied population is no longer treated as such. Or perhaps the resistance will stop when those under occupation are completely or almost completely eliminated. That method also has a proven track record of working.
The Israeli regime knows about these options too, and they seem to have come to the conclusion, according to both their words and their actions, that they have decided in favor of elimination. Meanwhile, the western politicians and their media mouthpieces cheer on the air strikes of justice, and ignore the corpses of the children, as they always do, when those being eliminated are Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Vietnamese, or so many others.
When a war is declared on a walled ghetto that has no army, navy, air force, or even an airport, and is not actually in any normal sense a country upon which war might be declared, this can only be done in response to an appropriately horrible atrocity, presumably. If you're going to mobilize 300,000 people to go to war against their neighbors, you need to give the soldiers sufficient justification. This is historically the case, whether we're talking about Nazi Germany's rationalizations for each of their invasions, or the US's story about each of the wars the country has gotten involved with, pretty much all of which involve a victim narrative.
The US, despite the fact that it's the richest and one of the biggest and certainly most powerful nations on Earth, has, according to the official high school AP history textbook narrative, almost always been the victim of an attack of some sort, which prompted the country to go to war. Look up the Battleship Maine, the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident for a few good examples of attacks that were completely manufactured. With a record of lying about what prompted wars such as the US invasions of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, which took the lives of millions of people in southeast Asia, we should be very skeptical of any claims made about any event that supposedly was the event that prompted a genocidal bombing campaign of an entire civilian population, whether in Vietnam or Gaza or anywhere else.
The one thing that people who engage in suicide bombings or other martyrdom operations like these mass killings in New York or Israel have in common, studies have indicated, is personal loss, like their parents were killed by occupation forces, that sort of thing. Israeli forces have killed many thousands of Palestinian civilians over the past decade, mostly arbitrarily, including so many children, and Israeli forces have detained without trial and tortured many thousands more. It can obviously be a terrible, terrible thing to reap what you sow, and so many innocent people pay the price for the crimes of their leaders. But when you treat an occupied people with generations of inhumanity, eventually you'll create the conditions for people to respond to savagery in kind.
It's heartening to hear the voices of the Israelis related to those killed and abducted over the past few days calling out for an end to the cycle of violence. One of so many indications that even in the darkest times, there's the possibility of hope, at least for those who live to see the future.
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