American Jewish Group Debunks Conspiracy Theories Against Israel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism worldwide, has set out to debunk conspiracy theories and criticism of Israel that sprang up in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

Within 24 hours of hijacked airplanes hitting the Pentagon and World Trade Center, some Arab and Islamic organizations had already started blaming Israel.

Those accusations have continued in a more subtle form in the weeks since then, with Arab media outlets charging that America's perceived support for Israel was a main reason for the attacks and that such policies could threaten the U.S. anti-terrorism coalition.

The ADL has undertaken to rebut what it calls "conspiracy theories and criticism of Israel" as part of its ongoing policy of "setting the record straight."

"There are a lot of questions being asked by people," said ADL Associate National Director Ken Jacobson.

Issues such as America's support for Israel and its affect on the anti-terror coalition are being discussed in the media, he added.

"There are enough of these charges around to rebut them in a clear way," Jacobson said in a telephone interview from New York.

One charge that is resonating in the media is not a direct accusation against Israel, but suggestions that its behavior threatens the American-led coalition against terrorism, which is currently bombing Afghanistan in an effort to smoke out Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, accused of being behind the September 11 outrage.

For weeks, the U.S. has urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet despite continuing violence, in an effort to produce some semblance of calm. But after the meeting finally took place in late September, an Israeli minister was assassinated, prompting Israel to take up positions in PA-controlled cities.

Nevertheless, Jacobson said, this claim fails to take into consideration the background behind the Arab and Islamic partners, which the West is trying hard to gain the support of in its battle against terrorism.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who made a lightening tour of several Middle Eastern countries this week, said on Thursday, that he had found "understanding" for the U.S. bombing campaign against the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan, but he did not describe it as support.

"Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are all dominated by their own internal needs. There is a limit to the aid they can give [the U.S.]," Jacobson said.

They are nervous about the reaction of their own Islamic fundamentalists, but the last thing they want is for bin Laden to win, he added.

Both Egypt and Jordan, which have a problem with Islamic fundamentalism, have condemned the terrorism against the U.S. but have stopped short of offering their support.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a strictly Islamic regime, has been America's staunchest Gulf ally since the 1991 Gulf war, but refused to allow American planes to use its airstrips to carry out bombing raids on Afghanistan.

Iran and Syria are strange partners in a coalition to fight terrorism since both are housing terrorists. To suggest that Iran will be a buddy to the U.S. if Washington will only put more pressure on Israel is ludicrous, Jacobson said.

Another charge, that Osama bin Laden was moved to carry out the attacks on the U.S. because Washington is seen to favor Israel in the Middle East conflict is also invalid, the ADL charges.

"Bin Laden despises everything America stands for: democracy, modernism, freedom, globalism. It is as much what America is, as what it does, that infuriates him," the ADL argued in a press release coinciding with its annual National Commission, which opened on Thursday.

According to most experts, Bin Laden was already planning the attack for one to two years before it actually took place, meaning that it was in the making at the height of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

If Israel and the Palestinians would reach an agreement that would only infuriate bin Laden, Jacobson said. He does not want there to be peace, he added.

(Even the Palestinians have distanced themselves from bin Laden's verbal support of the Palestinians and rejected what they call his attempts to hijack their cause.)

The most "outrageous and absurd" of the theories is that Israel actually committed the acts of terrorism in the U.S. on September 11, the ADL statement said. For the most part this accusation has already been dismissed as untrue.

Despite the conspiracy theories, ADL noted that the findings of several recent polls indicated that Americans believe the U.S. should continue its support of Israel.

A Newsweek survey found that 58 percent of Americans believe that U.S. support for Israel played a part in bin Laden's decision to strike the U.S., but the same survey indicated that 60 percent of Americans believe U.S. Middle East policy should remain unchanged.

A later poll sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times showed that 62 percent of Americans believe that pressuring Israel to cede territory would only encourage terrorism, while 9.7 percent believe that urging Israel to do so would put an end to terrorism.

While the ADL is the largest organization worldwide combating anti-Semitism, in the aftermath of the attacks, it issued a statement expressing its concern about hate crimes against Arab American and Islamic institutions.

Just days after the attack, U.S., National Director Abraham Foxman, called on Americans to maintain national unity and urged that "no one be singled out for hatred, prejudice or blame based on their ethnicity or religion."