Western media – and many Western governments – largely have ignored the pernicious smears that have proliferated in the last eight years in the Arab world about 9/11 (calling them “conspiracy theories” gives them more credence than they deserve). Prime among them are that the Jews and Israelis knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in advance, did not show up to their jobs that day at the World Trade Center, and even perpetrated or orchestrated the attacks.
So it was interesting to see The New York Times take up the subject in a piece Tuesday by Michael Slackman about what in Cairo has become “conventional wisdom” about the attacks. After briefly reviewing the lies, Slackman writes:
It is easy for Americans to dismiss such thinking as bizarre. But that would miss a point that people in this part of the world think Western leaders, especially in Washington, need to understand: That such ideas persist represents the first failure in the fight against terrorism — the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims.
It goes beyond that, however. Smears and conspiracy theories about the West long preceded the 9/11 attacks, and they have followed on unrelated and more recent subjects. Arabs commonly believe Israel infected Egyptian children with AIDS, that the two bars on the Israeli flag represent the goal of Jewish dominion over all the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers, and that Jewish interest in the genocide in Darfur is part of a plan to occupy Sudan and, eventually, the entire Arab world.
It’s important not to let such attitudes go unheeded, because they are a sign of how disconnected from reality much of the Arab world is and how much needs to be done in order to lay the groundwork for peace, particular between the Arab world and Israel. Pretending such attitudes do not exist only set the peacemakers up for failure, partly by ignoring the factors that drive so many Arabs to embrace the radical and rejectionist ideologies of Hamas, Hezbollah and others.
On a semi-related note, here’s what Jeffrey Goldberg is thinking about 9/11: The next mega-attack in America will be a dirty bomb, and Barack Obama and John McCain had better focus much more attention on deterring this nuclear attack.
The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary.