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Us versus Them

Abrahamian (2003) opposed not an “us/them” mentality, but the reasons that have been used to explain the attack of September 11, 2001. His own belief was that the one true reason for “9/11” was that American Palestinian foreign policy was biased in favor of Israel. He reported that this reason was ignored or denied by American journalists and government spokespersons.

The theme of this paper is that had the American media agreed with Abrahamian, the result would have been to elevate American and Israeli Jews to a higher level of “them” status, without affecting the perception of American and other Muslims as “them,” despite Abrahamson’s contrary implication (p. 538). Accusations Require Evidence What Abrahamson provided as “evidence” in support of his belief was that “leading journalists in Europe” (p. 537) agreed with him (he used as an example of good journalism an excerpt from an article about “34 years of Israel’s brutal occupation of Arab land,” p.

537), providing no information about what sources or documentation these journalists may or may not have provided, and that “bin Laden [supposedly] told Al-Jazeera” (p. 536) that the 19 hijackers’ reason was “the ‘eighty-year war’ being waged in the Middle East . . . ” (p. 536). Similarly, he mixed admittedly obvious nonsense (e. g. , the Reverend Franklin Graham’s statement that “Islam is a very evil and wicked religion,” p. 538) with plausible statements that he expected readers to somehow recognize were false (e. g.

, resentment of “US support for repressive regimes,” p. 537). Of course, one reason we have been disliked in many Arab countries for over half a century is the perception of bias in favor of Israel, but Abrahamian rejected other regularly made accusations against the United States as possible contributors to “9/11,” such as “globalisation, American omnipotence, Third World pauperisation, Vietnam, Cuba, Lumumba, Chile, the struggle for oil . . . “(p. 537). Abrahamian very plausibly argued that “governments pursue state and national interests” (p.

530), but failed to use this reasoning which leads directly to the conclusion that when United States foreign policy is supportive of Israel, the motivation is national interest – not a fondness for Jews or Judaism. Is Anti-Semitism a Legitimate Concern? Abrahamian’s explanation for the American media avoiding mention of Palestine (“the dreaded P word,” p. 535) was concern about anti-Semitism (p. 536). Is it possible that he believes anti-Semitism isn’t a problem in America?

He apparently believes that “Americans of African and Spanish origins” do not feel excluded from “Western civilisation” (p. 530) and that after the nineteenth century, there was an end to seeing “race as determining intelligence, income, power . . . ” (p. 539). He might learn something about racism and anti-Semitism among more than a few organized groups in the United States if he googled the names of prominent African-Americans and Jews. Abrahamian’s article contained statements that left me wondering why he made them.

For example, with no apparent context, he said that “the editors [of the New York Times] admitted for the first time that during World War II that they had made the conscious decision to bury information about concentration camps” (p. 535). The statement is all he says about keeping the public uninformed about concentration camps. Does he believe that it isn’t even worth discussing the belief that support for United States involvement in World War II would have declined if the public (mistakenly) concluded the reason for our involvement was the experience of Jews during the Holocaust?

What was Abrahamian implying when he reported the “intended effects” (p. 538) of media coverage of “9/11” were successful: “Immediately after September 11, 68% of the American public felt that US ties to Israel were a major reason for the attack. By late October, this had fallen to 22%” (p. 538)? Is he suggesting that those polled immediately after September 11 supported the 19 hijackers? He does believe that it was media coverage of “9/11,” as opposed to the highjacking itself, that “unleashed a backlash against the US Muslim community” (p.

538), but why is he displeased that public blame of Israel declined? Does he believe that Americans (as well as citizens elsewhere) are incapable of having more than a single prejudice? As Abrahamian noted, the Islamic religion should not be blamed for “9/11” or disparaged as inferior. “Citing the Koran on violence” (Cahill, 2002, as cited in Abrahamian, p. 532) most certainly can be considered an attack on Islam – unless one simultaneously noted that one also could similarly cite sections of both the Old and New Testaments.

Interestingly, Abrahamian failed to note the belief he rejected, that Muslim anti-Americanism is “because we Americans lack religious zeal, separate church from state, privatize belief . . . ” (p. 533), also is a belief expressed by American Evangelical Christians about non-Evangelical Christians as much as about those of other religions or no religion who oppose legalizing prayer in public schools, as well as other aspects of the Evangelical Christian agenda supposedly rooted in the Bible. Being “evangelical” should not be equated with interpreting the Old or New Testaments – or the Koran – literally.

Both fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews – and most probably some who are Islamic – personally believe in literal interpretations, but do not believe others should be forced to share their beliefs. Conclusion Without concluding that Abrahamian is – or is not – anti-Semitic, I think it would be fair to conclude that those who are anti-Semitic would have a favorable reaction to his article and would be able to use it to increase perceptions of Jews as “them. ”


Abrahamian, E. (2003). The US media, Huntington and September 11. Third World Quarterly, 24, 529-544.

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