Myth-Debunking Snopes Obscures Israel’s Role in 9/11

by Maidhc Ó Cathail / July 23rd, 2010, officially known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, has since its humble inception in 1995 come to be regarded as one of the most trusted debunkers of conspiracy theories on the internet.

Described by one of its many fans – it apparently
has over 6 million visitors per month – as “the grand-daddy of all
fact-checking sites,” Snopes is downright cavalier, however, in its
attitude to facts surrounding Israel’s role in the 9/11 attacks.

In its large section
on urban legends relating to 9/11, Snopes purports to debunk a claim
that “four thousand Israelis employed by companies housed in the World
Trade Center stayed home from work on September 11, warned in advance of
the impending attack on the World Trade Center.” A click on the link under “Israelis” brings the curious reader to an entry titled “Absent without Leave,” in which the “four thousand Israelis” have suddenly and inexplicably been replaced by “four thousand Jews.”

In “Absent without Leave,” Snopes reproduces a September 17, 2001
report by Lebanon’s al-Manar satellite television station, which claimed
that the Israelis (not “Jews”) “remained absent that day based on hints
from the Israeli General Security apparatus, the Shabak.” The Al-Manar
piece cited also refers to the five Israelis arrested hours after the attacks, after having been witnessed filming and celebrating as the Twin Towers collapsed.

Below the al-Manar article, Snopes has appended a shoddily written,
anonymous, unsourced internet piece, in which the 4,000 Israelis have
again been mysteriously transformed into 4,000 Jews. In contrast to the
al-Manar report, this diatribe includes such absurd and provocative anti-Semitic statements as “the Jews knew and were prewarned” about 9/11.

Snopes makes no distinction between the two pieces, however, lumping
them together as examples of what it calls the “plenty of anti-Semitic,
anti-Zionist, and anti-Israeli groups eager to use the horrors of
September 11 as fodder for propaganda to serve their own political
ends.” Considering its tendentious conflation of legitimate criticism of Israel – and the exclusivist ideology on which it is based – with an irrational hatred of Jews, one doubts whether Snopes would level the same accusation against Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.

How could they not have known?

Asked on the night of September 11 what the attack meant for
relations between the United States and Israel, Netanyahu replied, “It’s
very good.” Then he quickly edited himself: “Well, not very good, but
it will generate immediate sympathy.” Later that night in an appearance
on Israeli TV, the then Israeli prime minister Sharon indicated how Tel
Aviv intended to exploit that “sympathy,” when
he “repeatedly placed Israel on the same ground as the United States,
calling the assault an attack on ‘our common values’ and declaring, ‘I
believe together we can defeat these forces of evil.’”

Three of the Dancing Israelis

Instead of attempting to debunk the well-documented claims
that at least some Israelis were forewarned about the 9/11 attacks,
Snopes peremptorily dismisses them, claiming they “scarcely merit the
dignity of a rebuttal.” Yet, Haaretz reported
that two employees of Odigo, the Israeli-owned instant messaging
service, “received messages two hours before the Twin Towers attack on
September 11 predicting the attack would happen.”

Asked whether Israeli agents had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, Fox News reporter Carl Cameron quoted U.S. investigators who concluded, “How could they not have known?” And then there were those “dancing Israelis” who later claimed on an Israeli talk show that their “purpose was to document the event.”

Disregarding evidence of Israeli foreknowledge, Snopes asserts that
“no miracles, human intervention, foreknowledge, coincidence, or
vagaries of fate saved more than a few World Trade Center workers from
meeting their deaths that day.”

Lucky Larry Silverstein

One of the lucky
few (not mentioned by Snopes) was Larry Silverstein, who signed a
99-year lease on the World Trade Center six weeks before 9/11, insuring
it for $3.5 billion.

Silverstein’s wife’s insistence that he couldn’t cancel an
appointment with his dermatologist that morning ensured that he missed
his daily breakfast meeting with tenants at the Windows on the World
restaurant on the top floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

His son and daughter, who worked with him in the Twin Towers, were also fortunate to be “running late” on September 11.

Silverstein’s good fortune no doubt delighted his close friends
in Israel. Soon after the attacks, the property developer received
phone calls from no less than three Israeli prime ministers – Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon – inquiring how he was.

Seemingly puzzled by suspicions that Israelis had advance warning of
the World Trade Center attack, Snopes asks rhetorically: “Why would
Israel follow such a course of action, betray its staunchest ally, and
doom thousands of innocent Americans to death?”

One could also ask why Israeli agents planted firebombs in American installations in Egypt in 1954? Or why Israel murdered 34 U.S. servicemen in a deliberate attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967? Or why Mossad decided not to warn the United States about the October 23, 1983 attack on its Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 troops? Or why Mossad’s Operation Trojan
led Washington to believe that Libya was responsible for the April 5,
1986 Berlin disco bombing which killed two American soldiers?

To date, Snopes has yet to investigate any of these acts of betrayal by Israel of “its staunchest ally.”

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a freelance writer. His work has been published by Al Jazeera Magazine,, Dissident Voice, Khaleej Times, Palestine Chronicle and many other publications. Read other articles by Maidhc.

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