15 September 2008

Casual Anti-Semitism Depressing Me

Today I had an encounter that really got me down.  I was sitting at my desk working when a collegue stopped by.  This collegue then proceeded to start chatting with me and after a minute or two casually mentioned that 'No Jews were killed during the World Trade Center attacks'.  My collegue continued, in the same matter-of-fact way, to inform me 'The Jews were all warned about the attack beforehand, that's why none of them came to work that day'.

Now I'd heard about this new "blood-libel" where people ignorant and/or hateful have been saying that Jews were behind the attacks, that they new about the attacks - that in some quite literal sense, I as a Jew was directly responsible for causing the death and destruction of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers.  Maybe I had been plotting, maybe it was just my people, or maybe I could have prevented it and turned a blind-eye.  I had read that these people out there, somewhere, were saying that I wanted this to happen in order to provide the pretext for an attack on Arabs and Muslims everywhere by Israel and the US.  Maybe I was even the mastermind (I mean any Jew could be right, so what better disguise than for it to be a Jew who is also a lifelong vegetarian, is known to think hard before killing a mosquito, and would vocally opposed the war in Iraq from the get-go?).

But it was another thing entirely to hear what I can only describe as a filthy lie, degrading the dignity of me and my people, pass from the lips of a co-worker at a major international research lab.  Now this co-worker isn't malicious and the statement wasn't made as an attack in an aggresive tone, nor is this co-worker one of the researchers (works in a support role).  It was simply stated as something that happened, perhaps the coworker was even curious to get my reaction.  I honestly don't think this individual had connected all the dots to conciously recognize what this simply statement implied.  But still, it hit me hard.  Hundreds of Jews perished in the attacks.  They've got names, you can visit their graves, their families still cry about it at night.  The names of the victims were published in the international press and read at the site where the Towers once stood just a couple of days ago.  I mean this only happened 7 years ago and all you need to do is simply do a quick websearch and you can read all about it.  You can even read some of their obituaries.

I'm rambling, but my point is that as far as vicious libel goes, this one is pretty easy to refute.  Official estimates are that between 10-15% of the victims of the WTC attack on 9/11 were Jews.  Jews make up 12% of the population.  You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what that means.  But people don't bother to check facts and don't bother to think much.  They will repeat something entirely unproven as fact without any reservation - even if at its root the statement they are making, leads inevitably to the conclusion that my people, and I by inclusion, are homicidal terrorists who will stop at nothing, no matter how vile, to achieve our bloodthirsty ends.  What do one do about that?

I honestly don't know, but I've attached the text of the email I wrote to this collegue shortly after our conversation (identifying information about my college removed).  This email followed my immediate reply in our converations that the statement made was completely and utterly deviod of truth.  My collegue's first reply that was to utilize the power of circular logic by explaining to me 'but the Jews must have kept from being killed because they were warned by the Israeli government to stay away, so they stayed away and didn't get killed, which proves Israel and the Jews knew about the attacks in advance' after which I again patiently explained that 'yes actually hundreds of Jews died in the attacks, no one knew, what you've been told is a complete and utter lie, just look and see' after which my collegue began listening (I think) to what I was actually saying. 

Hi [Collegue's Name Here],

Just to give you some published estimates: between 10-15% of the world trade center attacks appear to have been Jewish. 

About 12% of the New York city population is Jewish.   You can do the rest of the math.

Figures taken from link below.:



If you find the US government a less-than-trustworthy source of information here is a link to a google q&a that lists a variety of other sources, all of which provide similar figures: 


People in my community died, lost friends or relatives in the attacks – it really saddens me that there are anti-semites out there who spread lies claiming that somehow Jews knew of the attacks, or even further were somehow behind them.  I guess if people want to hate Jews they can always find some type of lie to spread about us (100 years ago it was that we liked drinking Christian baby blood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_libel_against_Jews  ) 

It also hurts that people are willing to believe and repeat these kind of vicious lies without even looking to see if they have any basis in reality.

If someone said [my collegue's ethnic/religious group here] were behind the bombings that occurred last month [in Bangalore] or knew about them and failed to warn anyone, I’d be very careful to check the basis of that claim before believing that your community was responsible and, most definitely before repeating it to others as if it were fact.


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