Dear Donald: those were Israelis, not American Muslims

Screenshot-16Donald Trump has been able to manipulate the media into giving him a week of coverage by making a patently false claim: on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump insisted: “It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”

It never happened. If it had, there would be television video of the celebration he claims to have watched on television in existence, and those television images would have been burned into the collective memories of Americans on 9/11.

The fact checkers have all dismissed “The Donald’s” assertion  as  false and unsupported by any video evidence.

While Trump defames the Muslim community of New Jersey, the only confirmed case of someone celebrating the World Trade Center towers coming down on 9/11 in New Jersey were not Muslims but Israelis, and that story was widely reported at the time.

Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, What Donald Trump might have seen on 9/11. Hint: Not ‘cheering’ Arabs:

GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Sunday refused to back down from his assertion that thousands of Arabs in New Jersey celebrated as they watched the World Trade Center come down on Sept. 11, 2001. From the network website:

“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations,” he told George Stephanopoulos today on ABC’s “This Week.” “They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down, and that tells you something. It was well covered at the time.”

Here’s the thing. As the towers came down, some people indeed saw a group of five — not thousands, but five — Middle Eastern men clowning around and photographing themselves in front of the burning towers from the New Jersey waterfront. They weren’t Arabs, and they weren’t Muslims.

They were Israeli and Jewish – young men making asses of themselves, as some young men are wont to do. Perhaps not recognizing the import of what they were seeing.

How do I know this? I tracked one of their friends down to Jesus’ hometown, two months after the attack.

(Galloway reprises his reporting from 2001).

The five Israeli men were held by US authorities for more than two months before being deported. ABC News reported, Were Israelis Detained on Sept. 11 Spies?

[A] New Jersey homemaker saw something that morning that prompted an investigation into five young Israelis and their possible connection to Israeli intelligence.

* * *

She grabbed her binoculars and watched the destruction unfolding in lower Manhattan. But as she watched the disaster, something else caught her eye.

Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. “They seemed to be taking a movie,” Maria said.

The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men’s faces. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange,” she said.

She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.

The plate number was traced to a van owned by a company called Urban Moving. Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, the van was spotted on a service road off Route 3, near New Jersey’s Giants Stadium. A police officer pulled the van over, finding five men, between 22 and 27 years old, in the vehicle. The men were taken out of the van at gunpoint and handcuffed by police.

The arresting officers said they saw a lot that aroused their suspicion about the men. One of the passengers had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock. Another was carrying two foreign passports. A box cutter was found in the van. But perhaps the biggest surprise for the officers came when the five men identified themselves as Israeli citizens.

‘We Are Not Your Problem’

According to the police report, one of the passengers told the officers they had been on the West Side Highway in Manhattan “during the incident” — referring to the World Trade Center attack. 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.

When the men were transferred to jail, the case was transferred out of the FBI’s Criminal Division, and into the bureau’s Foreign Counterintelligence Section, which is responsible for espionage cases, ABCNEWS has learned.

One reason for the shift, sources told ABCNEWS, was that the FBI believed Urban Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.

After the five men were arrested, the FBI got a warrant and searched Urban Moving’s Weehawken, N.J., offices.

The FBI searched Urban Moving’s offices for several hours, removing boxes of documents and a dozen computer hard drives. The FBI also questioned Urban Moving’s owner. His attorney insists that his client answered all of the FBI’s questions. But when FBI agents tried to interview him again a few days later, he was gone.

Three months later 2020’s cameras photographed the inside of Urban Moving, and it looked as if the business had been shut down in a big hurry. Cell phones were lying around; office phones were still connected; and the property of dozens of clients remained in the warehouse.

The owner had also cleared out of his New Jersey home, put it up for sale and returned with his family to Israel.

Steven Gordon, the attorney for the five Israeli detainees, acknowledged that his clients’ actions on Sept. 11 would easily have aroused suspicions. “You got a group of guys that are taking pictures, on top of a roof, of the World Trade Center. They’re speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on ’em. One’s got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that’s a scary situation.”

But Gordon insisted that his clients were just five young men who had come to America for a vacation, ended up working for a moving company, and were taking pictures of the event.

The five Israelis were held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, ostensibly for overstaying their tourist visas and working in the United States illegally. Two weeks after their arrest, an immigration judge ordered them to be deported. But sources told ABCNEWS that FBI and CIA officials in Washington put a hold on the case.

The five men were held in detention for more than two months. Some of them were placed in solitary confinement for 40 days, and some of them were given as many as seven lie-detector tests.

Since their arrest, plenty of speculation has swirled about the case, and what the five men were doing that morning. Eventually, The Forward, a respected Jewish newspaper in New York, reported the FBI concluded that two of the men were Israeli intelligence operatives.

* * *

The men denied that they had been working for Israeli intelligence out of the New Jersey moving company, and Ram Horvitz, their Israeli attorney, dismissed the allegations as “stupid and ridiculous.”

Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, goes even further, asserting the issue was never even discussed with U.S. officials.

“These five men were not involved in any intelligence operation in the United States, and the American intelligence authorities have never raised this issue with us,” Regev said. “The story is simply false.”

* * *

As to what they were doing on the van, they say they read about the attack on the Internet, couldn’t see it from their offices and went to the parking lot for a better view. But no one has been able to find a good explanation for why they may have been smiling with the towers of the World Trade Center burning in the background. Both the lawyers for the young men and the Israeli Embassy chalk it up to immature conduct.

According to ABCNEWS sources, Israeli and U.S. government officials worked out a deal — and after 71 days, the five Israelis were taken out of jail, put on a plane, and deported back home.

While the former detainees refused to answer ABCNEWS’ questions about their detention and what they were doing on Sept. 11, several of the detainees discussed their experience in America on an Israeli talk show after their return home.

Said one of the men, denying that they were laughing or happy on the morning of Sept. 11, “The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event.”

You should ask yourself why Donald Trump is falsely claiming that he saw on television Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the World Trade Centers coming down on 9/11, when the only confirmed report of something like this happening (there is no television video) involved five Israelis.

Trump clearly is playing to the xenophobic racism and religious bigotry of GOP primary base voters. He is lying his ass off, and the worst part is that GOP primary base voters just don’t seem to care. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent explains Here’s why Donald Trump’s lies don’t matter: He’s ‘strong’:

Members of the media are wringing their hands so hard over this perplexing question that their skin is practically peeling: How is it possible for Donald Trump to tell so many blatant lies, shrug off our fact-checks, and continue rising in the polls?

Easy: Because in the minds of his supporters, Trump has converted even the simple act of dismissing pointy-headed media fact-checks into a sign of his “strength.” Trump’s big insight is not simply that the details don’t matter. It’s that getting mired in the details is itself a sign of weakness.

This dynamic is perfectly captured by a single quote from an NBC News reporter. The subject was Trump’s latest glaring falsehood: his claim that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. [The claim has been thoroughly debunked.]

But Trump’s supporters simply don’t care in the least. Here’s what NBC reporter Katy Tur, who interviewed Trump supporters at an Ohio rally, told the network’s Steve Kornacki:

“I spoke to a lot of his supporters who are waiting to come into this rally. And I asked them what they think of Donald Trump and whether or not they’re bothered by his inaccurate statements and whether they think they matter. And not a single one of them said that they thought it mattered.  They said they like him because they think he’s going to be a strong leader, and they think he’s going to bring the change to Washington that they want.

“In fact, they blame the liberal media, as they say, on perpetrating lies against Donald Trump. They repeatedly asked, why don’t you ask this about Hillary Clinton, why don’t you ask this about President Obama? So there’s definitely a party line feeling among his supporters, that it is us-versus-them. And unfortunately, the media is very much the ‘them’ in this situation.”

That’s it, in a nutshell. Trump’s supporters have been persuaded that he will be a “strong leader.” Once that decision has been made, any liberal media fact-checking of Trump’s statements, particularly criticisms that seem “politically correct,” only confirm that original impression. Trump’s willingness to “say what needs to be said,” in spite of media attacks on him, only further illustrates that he’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish whatever it is his supporters think he’s promising to accomplish when he vows to “make America great again.”

* * *

But the key point here is that it doesn’t matter whether invoking his own sources actually justifies his claims. Rather, doing that has the more important larger effect of signaling that the details are unimportant, that the larger story he’s telling is what really matters, and that the corrupt national media is trying to suppress that story. The press corps is complicit in American decline. Of course they will do all they can to prevent Trump from “making America great again.”

So Donald Trump can lie his ass off with impunity and GOP primary base voters just don’t care.

4 responses to “Dear Donald: those were Israelis, not American Muslims

  1. Trump voters seem to revel in the fact that Trump is telling lies. It makes him strong and willing to push back against the “evil liberals.” The more lies he tells, the more support he seems to coalesce.

  2. captain*arizona

    the muslims seen cheering were on the west bank and gaza.

  3. The headline on this could lead someone to an incorrect conclusion. Some Israelis are indeed Muslims! I’m not sure what the correct percentage is but we should be careful to not ignore the fact. Of course that doesn’t mean that the content and conclusions of the piece are incorrect.

    • I have clarified the caption to refer to the American Muslim community in New Jersey that Trump is defaming.