Donald Trump’s nutty/scary claim that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in Jersey City has been widely debunked in the media, but few are pointing out the story on which Trump’s claim is likely based: the arrest of five Israeli employees of a moving company who were said to have watched the towers fall from Weehawken, NJ, with jovial expressions.
In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.
Who was detained? Jim Galloway at AJC.com remembers that it was Israeli employees of a moving company:
They were Israeli and Jewish – young men making asses of themselves, as some young men are wont to do…. apparently laughing, clowning and photographing themselves
Politico has an article that mentions the Washington Post article but doesn’t tell you that the arrested men were Israelis; while Slate downplays the incident as the “strange tale of the dancing Israelis” in a piece on 9/11 legends. It says that story has taken on a life of its own among anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
Whether the Israelis were making asses of themselves or whether the story is repeated by conspiracy theorists is irrelevant. But the case was not a strange tale or a legend. The men were held by US authorities for more than two months before they were deported. This ABC News piece months later describes an investigation of suspicious behavior by the men:
Five men were arrested after they were seen filming the attack and apparently celebrating it too…
The driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the officers, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The other passengers were his brother Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari.
It was widely thought that the men were spies, ABC said:
Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the CIA who is now a consultant for ABCNEWS, said… many people in the U.S. intelligence community believed that some of the men arrested were working for Israeli intelligence. Cannistraro said there was speculation as to whether Urban Moving had been “set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an intelligence operation against radical Islamists in the area, particularly in the New Jersey-New York area.”…
Many U.S. government officials still believe that some of them were on a mission for Israeli intelligence. But the FBI told ABCNEWS, “To date, this investigation has not identified anybody who in this country had pre-knowledge of the events of 9/11.”
This piece published by the Forward (and republished at a WTC-truther site) says the five men were likely Mossad and notes that they were deported to Israel following their release.
According to one former high-ranking American intelligence official, who asked not to be named, the FBI came to the conclusion at the end of its investigation that the five Israelis arrested in New Jersey last September were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, N.J., served as a front.
After their arrest, the men were held in detention for two-and-a-half months and were deported at the end of November, officially for visa violations.
I’ve heard about the Israeli movers’ story down through the years and never been very interested in it, it’s in s being in a gray zone of unproveable assertions. But the story certainly doesn’t reflect well on Israel; and what is curious here is the media’s reticence about the Israeli movers as the basis of Trump’s lie. The rules just don’t apply when it comes to Israel; Israeli forces can do no wrong in the U.S. Consider: Last month the CIA co-hosted a conference on national security and invited officials from the blessed trinity of Britain, France and Israel. Gosh. If we had a normal relationship with Israel we might see that they have a constitutional problem — millions of Palestinians can’t vote for the Jewish state government that rules their lives — that is hurting the United States across the Middle East. We can’t. Or consider Russia’s response to Turkey’s shoot-down of its plane. BBC reported today that Russia has already begun cutting off the importation of Turkish foods in a semi-official protest of the attack. I thought of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan. Israeli forces killed these charitable American citizens under highly dubious circumstances; and there have never been consequences to Israel for its conduct. We really have no national interest when it comes to Israel; Israel’s interest is our interest. The failure to report the simple facts around Trump’s lie is yet another example.
Thanks to Peter Voskamp.