My Word: 9/11 - Then and now, here and there

The world changed on September 11, 2001. It has yet to understand exactly what hit it. Bin Laden is dead. The forces of evil, however, are not.

September 10, 2011 23:52
Liat Collins

liat collins 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It is a date so monumental that it doesn’t need a year to qualify it.

9/11. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the day the world changed. We might not remember what we were doing this time last week, but we can’t forget where we were when heard The News a decade ago.

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I was tending my newborn. So much for my promise never to watch news programs while feeding him. I sat in a rocking chair in my Jerusalem living-room and watched the New York skyline – and the geo-political map – being forever brutally redrawn.

My mother’s reaction is etched in my memory. As she saw the footage of the Twin Towers collapsing on the TV screen, she announced – partly to me and partly to determine a course of action: “I think I’ll go and collect the baby’s gas mask tomorrow.”

She had instinctively realized something that many experts had yet to take in: This was war.

It was a very Israeli response, but by September 2001, we were ourselves involved in a war of terror.

It was the height of the second intifada. Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood just up the road to mine, was under missile fire from Bethlehem and Beit Jala – places Israel had handed over to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords. There were terror ambushes. Above all, there were suicide bombers.

These homicidal terrorists have provided the soundtrack to the decade that passed. Britain, for instance, cannot forget 7/7, the day six years ago when 52 people were killed in dastardly attacks on London’s trains and buses.

HOW DO you fight an enemy whose aim is to die a martyr along with as many people as possible? It’s a question even more pertinent these days in the unpredictable aftermath of the Arab Spring. We have seen the devastation and tragedy wrought by individual bombers.

What happens if unconventional weapons end up in the hands of terrorists for whom the cult of martyrdom is, perversely, a way of life? What will deter a country like Iran from using nuclear weapons if its leaders believe that those of its own citizens killed in a second strike will go straight to shahid heaven to be served by an apparently never-ending supply of celestial virgins? If nuclear weapons are obtained by Islamist fanatics – be they in Libya, Pakistan, or even one of the Muslim states bordering on Russia – what’s left of the world will witness the biggest terror attack of all time.

I doubt many people in Israel will be around to watch the news broadcasts.

The world barely noticed the 100-orso missiles that sent a million Israelis into shelters one particularly hot weekend last month, but they should be a warning to all. Those who provided the weapons to the terrorists in Gaza do not harbor any sympathy for other Western nations. This is not about the Jews of Beersheba, a “settlement” put on the map by Abraham 4,000 years ago. It is about what Bernard Lewis famously called “the clash of civilizations.”

September 11, 2001, was not the start of World War III; it was a Pearl Harbor – an event that changed the course of history and a wake-up call for the United States.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs four months ago, my first reaction was “Good riddance.”

My second? “Thank heavens Israel didn’t do it.”

I could only imagine what the moral chorus would have said had Israeli commandos carried out a targeted killing in the sovereign territory of an ostensible ally.

WE ALL remember what we were doing on 9/11 2001, but what were we doing the previous day? I looked in the Jerusalem Post archives to see what had concerned us before the attacks.

The main Page 1 photograph of the 9/11 issue showed a woman at an improvised memorial at the railway station in Nahariya where three people had been killed in a terror attack two days before (two other people had been killed in attacks elsewhere in the country the same day). That was no surprise: As I’ve already noted, it was a period in which terror attacks were “routine” in Israel.

What was unexpected, however, was the headline of a Reuters story: “US and British planes strike Iraq.”

According to Iraqi sources, eight civilians were killed and three wounded when Western planes attacked an area 170 km. southeast of Baghdad on September 9, 2001. The Pentagon, denying that the dead were civilians, said that US and British warplanes had attacked three surface-to-air missile sites in Iraq’s southern “no-fly” zone as part of a campaign to disable Baghdad’s air defenses. The Reuters report said: “Four previous attacks have been launched against air defenses in southern Iraq since August 25 in response to increasing attempts by the Iraqi military to shoot down the patrolling aircraft.”

I admit I hadn’t remembered that Britain and the US were already involved in hostilities in Iraq.

I also discovered another surprise Page 1 headline – one that seems particularly noteworthy at the moment: “Turkish FM: We want to improve ties with Israel.”

In a special Jerusalem Post report from Ankara, Metehan Demir wrote: “Turkey will not change its policy regarding Israel just because Arab countries want it to, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday.

He added that Ankara is determined to improve its ties with Israel.”

Ah, those were the days...

If Turkey, under Recep Tayyib Erdogan, has since decided to look instead to Iran and (until recently) Syria, it can be counted as a victory for terror.

The same ideology that fuels al-Qaida is seen in the Gazan leadership that Turkey now so strongly protects, even as Hamas still denies Israel’s right to exist and makes its point clear with incessant shelling and attacks.

Earlier in September 2001, Israel was particularly preoccupied with the first Durban Conference. The full name of this UN-sponsored festival of anti- Semitism (for that’s what the venomous anti-Israel gathering turned into) was, ironically, the World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

The Durban Conference is getting ready to mark its 10th anniversary. It’s still, apparently, OK to hate Jews, as long as you call them Israelis or Zionists.

In fact in some circles, ranging from the left-wing Reds in Europe to the Islamist Greens in the Muslim world, it is de rigueur. These strange bedfellows are willing to overlook each other’s faults as long as they can agree on Israel’s perceived evils.

Too often in the past 10 years Israel warned the world of the nature of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s intentions in Iran and the madness of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and yet each were feted on the international stage, and traveled freely to New York for UN meetings.

Israeli leaders cannot enter the UK for fear of being arrested for “war crimes” – the crime of fighting back at the missile-launchers – yet Gaddafi’s Libya sat on the UN Human Rights Council and was almost replaced there by Syria.

The world changed on September 11, 2001. It has yet to understand exactly what hit it. Bin Laden is dead.

The forces of evil, however, are not.

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