December 14, 2001

Did the Israelis have advance notice of 9/11? Probably.

I couldn't help but laugh as I read the following entry in Andrew Sullivan's weblog:

"People ask why Americans tend to sympathize more with Israelis than Palestinians. It's not racism. It's a recognition that, for all their failings, the Israelis live in the same moral universe as we do. The Palestinians palpably, brazenly do not."


Sullivan is a bloated bag of wind begging to be punctured, and his delusions about Israeli benevolence certainly have been pricked by the news that the 60 or so Israelis being held by the US since 9/11 are what Fox News calls "part of a long-running effort to spy on American government officials." And that's not all: while "there is no indication the Israelis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks," we are told, "investigators suspect that they may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance and not shared it." If the Israelis had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and failed to inform us, then just what moral universe are they living in? Surely one many light-years from our own.


When the news first broke that not only Arabs are being held in the wake of 9/11, to my knowledge I was the only columnist to deal with the subject of the mysterious Israelis in custody: "Israel and  9/11 –   Feds holding 60 Israelis in connection with 9/11 – Why?" While the Washington Post assured us that the Israeli detainees were only "observing a time-honored tradition in their country – touring the world after their mandatory service in the Israeli military," I was more than a little skeptical:

"Something tells me these guys are no ordinary tourists, but since the US Government is keeping mum about everything connected with this investigation, we just don't know."


Ah, but now some government officials are talking, and we know a lot more. We know that some of the detainees have been identified as Israeli military or intelligence agents, and that some failed polygraph tests when asked whether they had engaged in covert operations "against and in the United States." We also know, courtesy of Fox News, that as many as 140 Israeli agents may have been rounded up in the US before 9/11: the extent of Israel's covert action operation is described as "sprawling."


What were they doing here? Besides infiltrating a whole laundry list of government agencies, including the DEA, the FBI, military bases, and even targeting the private homes of government officials, they were also conducting surveillance on a group of Arab immigrants in California that authorities believe have connections to the 9/11 plot. I'll admit that the following was sheer speculation on my part, but it looks like I was dead right. As I wrote in November:

"In rounding up untold hundreds of mostly Arab Muslim men, and interviewing thousands more, the Ashcroft Sweep is clearly designed to gather information that might lead them to the remaining conspirators. It could be that the Israelis, or at least some of them, fall into this category: while not being directly involved, maybe they know something."


What did they know, and when did they know it? That is the question that must now be answered, and pronto. For remember what the President said: "You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists." If the Israelis had advance notice of  9/11 – via their spy network in the US, which kept the hijackers and their associates under surveillance – then this is "harboring" terrorists, by any definition of the term. Look what happened to the Taliban when they harbored bin Laden. If Israel did indeed betray us, and let 3,500 people die at the World Trade Center, then they deserve what the Afghanis got – plus a little bit more.


At least Mullah Omar and the Taliban never made any bones about the depth of their contempt for the US. Israel, on the other hand, pretends to be our staunchest ally, more royalist than the king when it comes to confronting the declared enemies of the West. Yet an undeclared enemy, posing as a friend, is in many ways a greater potential threat – as, perhaps, we are beginning to learn.


When asked for details about the detention of the Israelis, a highly placed investigator huffed that "Evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified, I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It is classified information." Aside from affirming that such evidence exists, this same source admitted to the Los Angeles Times that there were certain "tie-ins" with 9/11. Some patriotic law enforcement officials seem to have leaked just enough information to practically confirm our worst suspicions. As Brit Hume put it in his lead-in to the first of Carl Cameron's four-part investigative report, top US law enforcement officials now believe the Israelis "may have known things they didn't tell us before September 11."


After funneling over $90 billion into the Israeli settler state, making enemies of the entire Arab world, and sticking by Israel through thick and thin, is this our reward – a stab in the back? If true, this story is a devastating blow to the Israel First crowd in the US, one from which it may never recover. Americans quickly forgot the sinking of the USS Liberty, and those who remembered were for the most part willing to forgive. The average person has probably never heard of Jonathan Pollard, the CIA agent who spied for Israel. Pollard severely compromised US intelligence sources and methods, which eventually wound up in Soviet hands – and yet our alliance with Israel survived. But this – the withholding of information that could have prevented the 9/11 mass murder  – is well nigh unforgivable.


This story is also a devastating blow to the War Party and its plans for an all-out attack on Iraq. To understand why, we have only to listen to Senator John McCain – the most belligerent and tireless of the warmongers – going up against a skeptical Chris Matthews, who wanted to know if the Senator thought we should conquer Iraq and set up a military occupation. McCain looked pained, and replied: "I don't pretend to prescribe the exact strategy." Scott McConnell captured this McCain Moment well in a column for

"Then he fell back to what he believed to be his Maginot Line, the argument that trumps all arguments. My nightmare – I have several nightmares about Saddam Hussein, but one of them is the that SCUD missile which he has. . . that's in the view of most, aimed at Israel. Aimed at Israel."

Well then, said Matthews, why doesn't Israel take them out?

McCain, stunned, hemmed and hawed for a moment, and finally said:

"Because I'm not sure we should ask the Israelis to do – to take care of a threat to the United States of America."

Matthews: "But you just said it was a threat to Israel."

McCain: "Well to world peace, I think."

Matthews: "No you said it was a threat to Israel. Why should the United States deal with a threat to Israel? Why don't we let Israel – we've been giving them $3 billion a year to defend themselves. Why don't we say, ‘Defend yourselves. You've got a clear fight. Go take Saddam out'?"

McCain: "Because I think it's our job. I think we're the world's leader and I. . ."

Matthews: "Our job is to defend Israel?"

Equating our "national interest" with the defense of Israel, McCain's answer was, essentially, yes. But no one said this was a mutual defense pact. Israel wants us to defend them: yet who, pray tell, will defend us from the Israelis?


It was Pat Buchanan, during the first Gulf war, who dared speak truth to power, and was smeared for it: the war on Iraq, he said, serves the interests of the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the US, while the US has nothing to gain. We are glad to see that Chris Matthews has finally caught on.


Back in November I made note of a rather curious news report about the arrest of five Israelis who were caught videotaping the World Trade Center as it burned, all the while laughing and joking uproariously. This odd group was turned in by suspicious neighbors, and all five were jailed for two months, then deported back to Israel. This story, when first reported, was baffling: what, I wondered, were they laughing about? Today, the likely answer seems all too horrifically clear.


If and when it comes out that the Israelis stood by and watched as the terrorists took down the twin towers and the Pentagon, they are finished as our principal ally in the Middle East. As Americans begin to realize the enormity of the Israeli betrayal, and more details of the "sprawling" Israeli spy operation are revealed, the Israeli lobby will be in roughly the same position as the Arab-American community in the wake of 9/11. The backlash will be a tidal wave of anger, and it could get ugly. The same bullies who turned on their fellow Americans of Arab descent could just as easily turn on Jewish Americans, collectively condemning them as a "fifth column" in classic anti-Semitic style – and a grave injustice will be compounded.


From all this, Americans will relearn an important lesson, one originally taught to us by George Washington in his "Farewell Address" and long since forgotten, especially where Israel is concerned:

"A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld."


Since this is one of those "don't say I didn't warn you" columns, I want to note that on the same day [December 11] the report on the Israeli spy operation came out, we also heard the news of Irv Rubin's arrest in a plot to blow up a large Los Angeles mosque and the office of Congressman Darrel Issa. Rubin is the self-styled "international chairman" of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a group of violent nutballs responsible for several bombings over the years. The JDL was founded by the infamous racist and fascist Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement is outlawed as a violent hate group in Israel.

Kahane held that the Arabs are subhuman, and therefore it's okay to expel them from the territory of a Greater Israel: indeed, for Kahane and his followers, ethnic cleansing amounts to a religious duty. When Rubin, who has been arrested more than 40 times, was touted by the Libertarian Party as its latest recruit, and a big spread boasting of this glorious achievement was featured on the front page of the Libertarian Party News, I wrote a column partially devoted to warning of the possible consequences: "This guy is a walking time bomb," I opined, "just waiting to go off."

Don't say I didn't warn you – and, remember, you read it here first….

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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