Julian Schvindlerman

The Palestinians and 9/11: A Reminder to Columbia U. Anti-Israel Students

An anti-Israel protester on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz / AFP).
An anti-Israel protester on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz / AFP).

“Revolution until victory” reads one of the banners carried by the crowd on the campus of Columbia University in New York. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” proclaims another. Keffyes, masks and Palestinian flags abound. American students march side by side with fellow Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, united by a shared fury against the Jewish state. Do young Americans know that these romantic phrases are actually maximalist historical slogans of Palestinian nationalism? Do they understand that these are euphemisms for the destruction of Israel? Do they even have the slightest idea the company they are keeping as they play revolutionaries, sheltered in the comfort of their universities?

Forget the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let us recall just one episode of the not-so-distant past common to the United States and the Palestinians. In this sense, it will be pertinent to review how a part of the Palestinian people responded to the 9/11 attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda almost 23 years ago. Were American students to pay attention to recent history, they should flee from these demonstrations at speedlight.

On the same day of the attack that killed almost three thousand Americans in a few hours, live images of Palestinians celebrating the terrorist attacks were broadcast on FOX News, MSNBC and CNN. A Fox News anchor reported on the jubilee in East Jerusalem: “Look at this, we’re seeing people applauding, clapping, smiling, happy to know that thousands of Americans have died in this attack, and now we see a V sign held up to the camera”. An MSNBC journalist commented: “We have some video tapes, I understand that we are going to show you from the West Bank, these are Palestinian celebrations in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attack in the United States. Apparently, Palestinians took to the streets […] people were distributing candy to passers-by” and quoted a Palestinian woman who said that she was “happy” because “America is the head of the snake.” A CNN journalist reported: “One youth was quoted as saying as he received a sweet, sweet handed around in celebration, ‘this is a sweet from Osama Bin Laden,’ he said.”

Noting the political impact of these images, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat ordered that no one show signs of jubilation, warned Palestinian journalists (including those working for Western media outlets) not to cover the celebrations, and ordered his security forces to repress them.

Were the woke students reluctant to trust the established press of their homeland (although the testimonies are visual), I suppose they would believe an academic publication from the same university where they study. Cameron Brown, then assistant editor of the Columbia University journal The Middle East Review of International Affairs, published an essay in December 2001 documenting official and popular reactions to 9/11 in the Arab and Islamic world. It also contained information about the attitude of the Palestinian people.

“While some would later try to downplay these celebrations as having included but a handful of people”, he wrote, “multiple news sources reported roughly 3,000 people pouring into the streets of Nablus alone, distributing sweets to passers-by (a traditional gesture of celebration), chanting ´God is Great,´ honking horns, flashing the victory sign, carrying Palestinian flags, and shooting in the air. Similar, though in some cases much smaller, celebrations were also reported in Gaza, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, as well as the Palestinian refugee camps of Balata, Ayn al-Hilwe and Rashidiyeh. In addition, he provided the testimony of a 24-year-old Palestinian named Mustafa, who told a Reuters journalist, “I feel I am in a dream. I never believed that one day the United States would come to pay a price for its support to Israel.”

The Islamist movements were exultant, Brown observed. Three days after the attacks on American soil, around 1,500 Palestinians, mainly Hamas supporters, marched in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip carrying a huge poster of Osama bin Laden. A member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Abdullah Shami, declared: “What happened in the United States made us extremely happy.” In the Hamas Movement newspaper published in Gaza, al-Risala, Atallah Abu al-Subh, wrote: “We stand in line and beg Allah to give you to drink from the cup of humiliation –and behold, heaven has answered.”

The author cited a survey of Palestinian public opinion conducted by Bir Zeit University about three weeks after the attacks. “If it is proven that the party responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington is of Arab-Islamic descent, should these groups be seen as representing Arabs and Muslims as a whole?” the pollster consulted. It found that 50% of Palestinians answered yes, 43% thought that the attacks were “consistent with Arab interests,” and 26% of respondents believed the attack was consistent with Islamic law.

Brown made it clear that the reaction of the Palestinian government was different. Yasser Arafat told a group of Western journalists: “We are completely shocked. It’s unbelievable… We completely condemn this very dangerous attack.” In an ostentatious act of public relations, Arafat made sure to be photographed in a Gaza hospital donating blood for wounded Americans. In the afternoon, the Palestinian Authority organized a candlelight procession to the US consulate in East Jerusalem, and called for a midnight Christian-Muslim mass in Bethlehem to pray for the victims. A few days later, all Palestinian students observed five minutes of silence in schools. We are familiar with the legendary duplicity of the infamous Palestinian leader. Until the day of his death he would continue to praise bloodthirsty terrorists.

Why is it relevant to remember all this now? Well, we are seeing disconcerting scenes at Columbia and other US college campuses where Palestinian fanatics are accusing Israel of being genocidal while calling for genocide against Israelis, and we are seeing them angrily denouncing Israel for being apartheid while seeking to segregate Jews from the universities and Israel from the family of nations. At a time when Palestinian activists -and their Western henchmen- are distorting the present, it is timely to remind them of their past. This will matter little to the pro-Hamas Palestinian, Arab and Islamic radicals who are filling the American campuses with hate, but it should concern the Western useful idiots who support them. They ignore history at their own peril.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the editor of Coloquio, the flagship publication of the Latin American Jewish Congress. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.