Aiton Birnbaum

October 7 is Israel’s 9/11, up close and personal

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Trigger warnings (second half of post): murder, rape, torture

As an American now living in Israel, I can’t help but compare the USA’s September 11, 2001 and Israel’s October 7, 2023. Both were pre-meditated, well-planned, horrible terror attacks.  Both required long-term preparation and training, and were funded and carried out by fundamentalist Muslim extremists, who murdered thousands of innocent civilians.

Of course, the attackers did not, and Jihadists today still do not, see their victims as innocent.  As a morally stunted UN official might quip, neither 9/11 nor 10/7 occurred in a vacuum.  Jihadists saw and still see the USA as a Satanic oppressor that must be overthrown on the way to Moslem global domination.  That is why many fundamentalist Palestinians celebrated the news of 9/11.  Surveys have shown significant numbers of Muslims still feel that 9/11 was partially or totally justified.  Similar fanatic views of Israel along with an unhealthy dose of Jew-hatred apparently underlie 10/7, and global reactions to it.

So October 7 has been called Israel’s September 11.  Going even further, based on the number of casualties relative to the total population, Israel’s PM has stated that for Israel, 10/7 is like twenty 9/11’s.  (It’s not a competition, of course, but just for perspective.)  I checked the numbers, and taking into account the total number of casualties relative to the population, the quantitative comparison holds water (or should one say blood?).

On a symbolic level, 9/11 struck at symbols of Western civilization, at the heart of its leading nation, the USA.  The World Trade Center in New York City, center of American and international commerce, and the Pentagon in America’s capital, center of its military force.  At first glance, Israel’s 10/7 may appear different in this regard, but this is not necessarily so.

Israel’s 10/7 was also a strike at the heart, at various levels.  Following the Holocaust, the Jewish State avowed “Never Again” – yet here once more, Jews were slaughtered by the hundreds, and made to hide from maniacal murderers.  Israel’s border obstacles, IDF intelligence and the IDF itself, formerly a proud symbol of Israel’s strength, were put to shame (despite numerous examples of amazing courage in the face of overwhelming numbers).  The public’s trust in both the military and political leadership was shaken to the core.  And many Israelis’ hopes for eventual peace with our Palestinian neighbors, were shattered.  Moreover, basic trust in fellow human beings cannot stand in the face of the utterly cruel sadism displayed en masse by the Hamas terrorists and Palestinian civilians in the 10/7 massacre.

The blows of 9/11 were struck in quick succession: In the span of just 90 minutes, 19 Jihadists crashed all four hijacked aircraft, the Pentagon was aflame and both towers had collapsed.  Who can forget the images of those planes crashing into the WTC?   What moral human was not horrified at seeing the WTC buildings collapse, was not shocked and outraged at the resulting loss of life?  The rest was a nightmarish clean-up, uncertainty and sorrow for the bereaved family and friends, and a country and world traumatized, but also galvanized into action.

Israel’s 10/7 was a more protracted ordeal, lasting most of the day, and for some, especially the hostages and their families, even longer.  And perhaps most shocking of all, the terrible assault was much more up close and personal.  To put the comparison with 9/11 in context, especially for people living outside Israel, I would say this:  Try to imagine that 9/11 happened somewhat differently.  Imagine similar attacks in 20 cities at once, including your city or a city near you.  Imagine that thousands of armed Jihadists stormed numerous buildings and neighborhoods in each location, going from home to home and office to office, shooting unarmed civilians, raping women before dismembering and killing them, filming and streaming everything to Hamas and ISIS social media outlets, with shouts of glee, taking special pleasure in finding child-care facilities where they creatively behead children in front of their parents, rape girls, torture and mutilate and burn babies alive.  Then they set fire to the buildings and leave each site, kidnapping hundreds of hostages, including dozens of young children.  And some of your family and friends are among the victims.

If you can imagine this, you will no doubt understand three things:  First, the current extent of Israel’s individual and collective trauma, which like 9/11 has shocked and galvanized Israeli society into unified action.  Second, Israel’s current and future response to Hamas.  And finally, why any moral human being concerned with the long-term survival of Western civilization must support Israel in the wake of 10/7.

For the ensuing battle against Hamas and ISIS, and the parallel battle for the hearts and minds of people everywhere, may decide nothing less than the future of the human race.

About the Author
Aiton Birnbaum is originally from NY, and studied at UCLA and Rutgers. He now resides in Israel, and is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of trauma, using methods such as EMDR. He co-founded "Divorcing Peacefully" and Israel's National Organization for Collaborative Divorce, and trains lawyers and therapists in this approach. He has published a number of articles on psychology, history and the Bible. He also writes music, sings with the Zayit ensemble, and combines therapy with the outdoors.