[R-G] "4,000 Jews, 1 Lie"
mstainsby at tao.ca
Mon Oct 8 20:23:43 MDT 2001
Any comments on this?
4,000 Jews, 1 Lie
Tracking an Internet hoax.
By Bryan Curtis
Posted Friday, Oct. 5, 2001, at 9:30 a.m. PT
It is an article of faith in many Muslim countries that Israel was behind
the attack on the World Trade Center, with many citing as their evidence
a "news report" that 4,000 Israelis called in sick from their jobs at the
World Trade Center on Sept. 11. The allegation has now appeared on scores
of Web sites and bulletin boards, has been reproduced in e-mails too
numerous to count, and has run as fact in newspapers and news broadcasts
in the Middle East. Where did this charge originate, and what path did it
take around the world?
First, a question begs: Where did the precise figure of 4,000 Israelis
come from? According to the Anti-Defamation League's Web site, on Sept.
11, the Israeli Embassy released a statement expressing concern about the
4,000 Israeli nationals living in New York City-few of whom actually worked in
the World Trade Center. At press time, the embassy couldn't confirm this
According to Nexis and the Google search engine, the first mention of
Israeli involvement in the attacks came in a Sept. 17 report on Lebanon's
Al-Manar Television. The Los Angeles Times reports that the terrorist
group Hezbollah has free access to Al-Manar's airwaves, and the station's
Web site claims that the station exists to "stage an effective psychological
warfare with the Zionist enemy."
The next day at 6:26 a.m., the American Web site Information Times
published an article headlined "4,000 Jews Did Not Go To Work At WTC On
Sept. 11," and credited it to an "AL-MANAR Television Special
Investigative Report." This was not the first time that Information Times
had pointed the finger at Israel. The day after the attacks, it warned in an
article that the "terrorist government of Israel . cannot be ruled out" as a
suspect. Information Times purports to be edited by Syed Adeeb from
the eighth floor of the National Press Club at 549 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC, 20045. The Press Club says it has no such tenant and
repeated messages sent to the e-mail address for Syed Abeed listed on
the site bounce back as undeliverable. Directory assistance for Washington,
D.C., has no listing for Information Times.
The "4,000 Jews" page is easily forwarded as e-mail, and this may explain
the message's rapid dissemination.
The Information Times article makes three charges:
1) Citing the Jordanian newspaper Al-Watan, it alleges that "Israelis
remained absent [on Sept. 11] based on hints from the Israeli General
Security Apparatus, the Shabak." No media source except Al-Manar claims
to have actually seen the editorial in Al-Watan, which the Jordanian
Embassy's information bureau describes as an obscure newspaper with
a low circulation. Al-Watan's source? Unnamed "Arab diplomatic
sources." (A few newspapers called Al-Watan have Web sites-click here,
here, and here to visit them-though none seem to be based in Jordan.)
2) Citing the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, it alleges that Israeli
secret police prevented Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from traveling to New
York City on Sept. 11.
3) Citing the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, it alleges that the FBI
arrested five Israelis who were caught filming the WTC's smoking rubble
from their office building roof. (They were being held on the charge of
No other media outlet that can be searched through Nexis or Google has
confirmed the Information Times claims about Sharon and the five
Within days, the story appeared in newspapers around the world. A
remarkably similar version appeared under the byline of Irina Malenko in
Russia's Pravda on Sept. 21. Pravda removed the article from its Web site
a few hours after posting, calling it a "great and foolish mistake," but it
can still be accessed here. On Sept. 21, the Chicago Tribune reported
that a Pakistani paper, which it did not name, had published a similar
In his Sept. 23 Slate "Dispatch" from Islamabad, Peter Maass reported
that a local pro-Taliban politician repeated the 4,000 Jews claim at an
anti-U.S. rally. On Sept. 26, Pakistan's Business Recorder printed the
story about 4,000 Jews in language almost identical to the original
Al-Manar article as a letter to the editor under the name "Hakeem." The
same day, the New York Times reported that the allegation had appeared in
a newsletter published by an Islamic charity and in lesson plans prepared
by Egyptian middle-school teachers. On Oct. 4, the Chicago Tribune spotted
the allegation in a Saudi paper, which it did not name. In the Oct. 8 issue
of Time, Tim McGirk reported from Pakistan that the story had swept through
the country's mosques and Urdu newspapers.
On Sept. 28, USA Today repeated the claim in the context that "Muslims
the world over" had tried to pin the attack on Israel. USA Today did not
explain the origin of the charge. The Village Voice did the same on Oct.
The hoax-debunking site Snopes.com assailed the story, as well. With the
Web as a weapon, a lie spreads quickly and easily. With the Web as a
corrective tool, the same lie becomes much easier to bat away.
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