Conspiracy theories about Sept. 11 abound in Arab and Muslim nations. The pernicious lie that continues to resonate, one that has been gaining ground among some Muslims in the United States, is that Israel somehow was directly involved.
This dangerous blame game is a rebirth of the big lie, and, sadly, not nearly enough is being done to halt the rise of this ugly, historic phenomenon.
As recently as last week, a Taliban security chief in Spin Buldak, Afghanistan, told four American journalists it was common knowledge that 4,000 Jews working at the World Trade Center took Sept. 11 off. He asked them why the U.S. was bombing his country when Jews were responsible for the attack.
Jews have been scapegoated and libeled throughout history. Since the attacks, the conspiracy-mongers of the Arab world, including leaders of nations like Syria, have taken anti-Israel propaganda to a new level. The message, aimed primarily at the street, is that Israel or the Mossad helped to coordinate the attacks to create a backlash against Arabs, Islam and Palestinians.
Major regional newspapers go so far as to attribute this conspiracy theory and other anti-Israel statements to former and current U.S. leaders and American sources. The Frontier Post of Peshawar, Pakistan, recently reported that it obtained information from a "U.S. intelligence source" confirming that an internal intelligence memo "pointed to the threat of a covert Israeli operation on U.S. soil."
Others manufacture statements. The Tehran Times reported that former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had told the TV network Al Jazeera, "Currently, there are two sorts of terrorism in the world. First, state-sponsored terrorism, the best example of which in the world is the Zionist regime, which is supported by the U.S. and the U.K." According to Brzezinski, this and other remarks attributed to him were "a total fabrication."
Syria's ambassador to Tehran, Tarky Muhammad Saqer, claimed that Syria has "documented evidence" of Israel's involvement. "Zionists pursued certain goals by conducting the attacks," Saqer reportedly told Iran's Foreign Affairs Ministry. Those "goals" included turning attention away from the UN World Conference Against Racism.
This continual news feed of anti-American and anti-Israel coverage must change. Those in power in the Arab world must lead the way.
As we have witnessed time and again, such charged rhetoric invites extremists to step in with incitement. Incitement creates an environment conducive to, and accepting of, terrorism.
As the U.S. and other nations join in the battle against worldwide terrorism, there must be renewed vigilance against purveyors of anti-Semitism and hatred.
The battle will not be won until we can change the minds and hearts of those leaders who permit anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda to proceed.
This originally appeared as op-ed in the New York Daily News, Nov. 27, 2001.