ANALYSIS: Why the Palestinians were initially blamed after 9/11
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Analysis

ANALYSIS: Why the Palestinians were initially blamed after 9/11

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, some looked to the ticking time bomb of the Middle East for answers as to why the illusion of post-Cold War peace was broken

Michael Daventry

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Family members gather for the annual 9/11 Memorial and Museum anniversary ceremony in New York, NY on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Photo by Ben Hider, 9/11 Memorial
Family members gather for the annual 9/11 Memorial and Museum anniversary ceremony in New York, NY on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Photo by Ben Hider, 9/11 Memorial

Even as the world watched the television pictures of an airliner flying into one of New York’s iconic Twin Towers, the finger-pointing had begun.

It would be clear within days responsibility lay with Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network.

They planned the attacks that killed so many and shattered the post-Cold War illusion of a peaceful world.

But in the immediate aftermath some were pointed to the Palestinians.

Speaking over live pictures of a smouldering Manhattan barely three hours after the first plane struck, NBC anchor Katie Couric told viewers: “The US government has become increasingly unpopular, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as Palestinians feel the US government has sided with Israel.”

Her colleague Tom Brokaw said: “Everyone thought the bomb was ticking in the Middle East. No one expected anything of these kinds of consequences to be visited upon this country in this horrific way.”

That ticking bomb was the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israel that had been raging for nearly a year by 11 September 2001.

There were frequent clashes across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, suicide bombings striking civilians within Israel and regular military incursions. Even as America’s morning of terror began to unfold, the Israel Defense Forces had surrounded the West Bank town of Jenin and gun battles were raging. And as pictures of the collapsing Twin Towers were relayed around the world, news agencies were distributing footage of ordinary Palestinians on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, apparently celebrating the news.

But much like others, most Palestinians were stunned by what they saw on their televisions. Then Palestian Authority president Yasser Arafat was quick to condemn what he saw as international terrorism. This was a devastating attack on the world’s only superpower.

For anyone who did not make clear which side they were on, the repercussions were sure to be withering.

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