As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack approaches, it seems an appropriate time to address one of the many conspiracy theories that arose in the wake of the destruction. Everyone has heard the inexplicable argument that steel doesn’t melt, but there are others with equally rabid proponents. The controlled demolition of building 7. The missile attack on the Pentagon. The empty plane theory.
And, of course, the Jews. For those who haven’t heard this particular theory, it was quite popular immediately following the attack and continues to have strong adherents to this day.
The conspiracy can be summed up in the poem of the NJ poet laureate of the time, Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones). NPR referenced it in its piece upon his death, where they described his legacy as “both controversial and achingly beautiful).
Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombedSomebody Blew Up America
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Who? Who? Who?
The answer, simply, is: nobody. (And, for the record, as a former NJ resident, I thought Baraka was a terrible poet, not merely for his choice of topics but simply for his derivative construction, structural incompetence and facile word selection. But I digress.)
It’s incredibly easy, on the surface, to debunk. One needs only go to places where there are memorials to the Jews who died in the attack. Alternately, a casual analysis of the reported dead in the attack reveals that about 10% of the victims whose religion was known were Jewish. That effectively mirrors the religious affiliation of New York workers.
Or one can shift gears and consider the mechanics of the project: contacting thousands of people and asking them to stay away from the World Trade Centers and assuming that not one of them would pass along the word to a non-Jewish close friend or relative who also worked there. That none of the survivors would ever break from the guilt and talk about “the call”. To believe that indicates a belief in a monolithic Jewish philosophy… which is something that nobody familiar with Jewish culture and history could ever believe. “Ask two Jews, get three opinions” is a famed adage in Judiasm.
The real question in all of this is why anyone would believe such an obvious and irrational lie in the first place, and the answers are twofold: antisemitism.
“Twofold” isn’t an error, because there are two distinct flavors of antisemitism at play, here. The first is the style that makes this theory prevalent throughout many parts of the Middle East, which is simple, old-fashioned antisemitism, as demonstrated by Louis Farrakhan.
Spreading one of the more common — needless to say false — 9/11 conspiracy theories, Farrakhan claimed that “many Jews received a text message not to go to work on September 11th. Who sent that message that kept them from showing up?” he asked rhetorically.Times of Israel
The second group is equally perfidious; those are the racists who have become the prime movers of a wing of the nationalist movements in countries throughout the world. These people hate the Jews, yes, but they do not single Jewish people out for sole attack. Members of this group are just as likely to promote the false claim that thousands and thousands of Muslims were dancing on rooftops of Jersey City.
Multiple investigations by professional journalists failed to turn up evidence of that claim, until a NJ.com reporter bothered to talk to some police in the area. From those discussions, they were able to track down two instances which provided a total of up to 38 people, all apparent Muslims, in two groups who were seen to be celebratory at the fall of the towers.
38 people joyful at the death and destruction of that day who are gathering to celebrate is disturbing and worth investigating, particularly when one of the groups formed at the mosque where the original WTC bomber had attended services. It’s a strong reminder that there are many people in the Islamic community who want Americans dead, for the simple crime of being Americans.
But math matters. According to demographic analysis, 3.4% of Jersey City residents are Muslim. More than 200,000 people lived in Jersey City at the time. That would equate to 6800 Muslims. That means that roughly half of one percent of them were seen to being in support of the attacks.
That’s a large enough portion of a population to deserve attention and even monitoring. That’s not enough to warrant grouping all of them together. And there’s never enough of a group to validate outright lies.
Lies are the stock in trade of the racist, though, as those insisting that the Jews were warned – either strain of the antisemitic conspiracy mongers – make clear.