There are many claims of 9/11 foreknowledge, but perhaps the most widespread concerns the so-called "Dancing Israelis":
...a group (perhaps multiple groups) of young Israeli men, in which some where found out to be Mossad agents, were filming the Twin Towers on 9/11 before the attack and then were celebrating and taking pictures of themselves with the burning WTC in the background... http://killtown.blogspot.com/2005/11/dancing-israelis-on-911.html
This Fox News article is one of the most quoted sources of the foreknowledge claim:
Friday, September 14, 2001
"The New York Times reported Thursday that a group of five men had set up video cameras aimed at the Twin Towers prior to the attack on Tuesday, and were seen congratulating one another afterwards." - FOX http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,34250,00.html
This is referring to another article, though. We browsed the New York Times archive and believe this is what Fox were talking about:
Separately, officials said a group of about five men were now under investigation in Union City, suspected of assisting the hijackers. In addition, the officials said the men had apparently set up cameras near the Hudson River and fixed them on the World Trade Center. They photographed the attacks and were said to have congratulated each other afterward, officials said.
AFTER THE ATTACKS: THE INVESTIGATION; BIN LADEN TIE CITED
By DAVID JOHNSTON AND JAMES RISEN
Published: September 13, 2001
New York Times
The setting up of the cameras “prior to the attacks” is an inference from the phrase “they photographed the attacks” in this report. It’s a reasonable literal interpretation, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Anyone who took photos of what happened on 9/11 may well say they "photographed the attacks" without meaning that they recorded both plane impacts, for instance. Here are a couple of examples:
The origins of the project began in New York City on September 11, 2001. Like many New Yorkers, I photographed the attacks and the city’s response in the days that followed. http://medhum.med.nyu.edu/blog/?p=76
Associated Press news photographer Richard Drew photographed the attacks on New York's World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Drew focussed on the horrific sight of people leaping to their deaths from the top of the towers. "Photography", John Ingledew
Even if the unnamed officials were saying the cameras were set up before the attack, these may be reports of the allegations they are investigating. The report does talk of the men “apparently” setting up cameras near the Hudson River, for instance, and that they said “said” to have congratulated each other afterwards. The report itself is very early, published on the 13th, perhaps written less than 24 hours after they were arrested, so it would be surprising if these officials had reached definitive conclusions.
Document the event
Of course it’s difficult to form meaningful conclusions by simply analysing one or two words. That is demonstrated more than adequately here:
Several of the detainees discussed their experience in America on an Israeli talk show after their return home. Said one of the men, denying that they were laughing or happy on the morning of Sept. 11, "The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event."
How did they know there would be an event to document on 9/11? http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/fiveisraelis.html
Here it’s suggested that saying “our purpose was to document the event” is in itself somehow suspicious, that it indicates foreknowledge. Why? We’ve no idea. Here's a Florida blogger talking about a meteor strike on his property, for instance:
Yesterday a small meteorite struck the back forty of PFHQ!!!
By now you may have already heard about this on CNN or MSNBC as they both sent representatives out to our little "starstruck" bit of Florida. We are quite the celebrities ... after all, how many people have meteorites strike their property?
I have 3 videos, that I shot yesterday. They are a little long and I apologize for the loading time, but I wanted to document the event and share it with the world.
Does saying "I wanted to document the event" mean the blogger knew beforehand that the meteor was about to strike? Of course not. It simply means he wanted to record what had happened by taking videos afterwards.
We ran a Google News search for the phrase "document the event", and on the very first page found this reference:
Must "document the event" here refer to photos showing the bomb being dropped, or the moment of the explosion? Absurd. Plainly photographs of the aftermath are also documenting the event.
And equally, every single person who pointed a camera at the WTC on 9/11 did so because they wanted to “document the event”. The phrase does not in any sense imply that they knew what was going to happen.
This is also the opinion of Marc Levin, the director of "Protocols of Zion". His clip of the Israelis on the talk show is the one that most commonly appears on YouTube videos as "proof" of foreknowledge, yet here's how he saw it:
I talked to witnesses who saw the 5 Israelis and the NJ police officer who stopped their van. They were taken into custody, questioned and held for 10 weeks. They were eventually cleared by the FBI of any involvement in 9/11 and deported back to Israeli on immigration violations. On Israeli TV, they claimed they were merely taking pictures of a historic event. I included this sequence in the movie because I wanted to show how a real incident that raised legitimate questions could quickly mutate into so called “evidence” that the Israelis were behind the attack and not Al Qaeda. There were even some claiming the 5 Israelis were controlling the planes by remote control from New Jersey. http://thinkfilm.blogs.com/protocols_of_zion
Let’s abandon the second-hand reports, then, and look at what the witness to this filming actually said. This ABC article crops up a lot:
Maria, who asked us not to use her last name, had a view of the World Trade Center from her New Jersey apartment building. She remembers a neighbor calling her shortly after the first plane hit the towers. She grabbed her binoculars and watched the destruction unfolding in lower Manhattan. But as she watched the disaster, something else caught her eye.
Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. "They seemed to be taking a movie," Maria said.
The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men's faces. "They were like happy, you know … They didn't look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange," she said.
She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.
The plate number was traced to a van owned by a company called Urban Moving. Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, the van was spotted on a service road off Route 3, near New Jersey's Giants Stadium. A police officer pulled the van over, finding five men, between 22 and 27 years old, in the vehicle. The men were taken out of the van at gunpoint and handcuffed by police. (ABC source)
There’s nothing here to support the foreknowledge claim. The time frame as to when she noticed them is vague, but it definitely came after the call from a neighbour, which itself followed the first plane hitting the towers.
What’s more, if you look at the full 20/20 transcript from which this story is derived, you find that Maria says she saw the van park after she’d been watching the WTC for a few minutes. And so they did not film the first impact (or ar least, not from here). The report also talks about other issues involved with this story, so we’re reproducing the whole piece:
Copyright 2002 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
SHOW: 20/20 (10:00 PM ET) - ABC
June 21, 2002 Friday
HEADLINE: Five Israeli men arrested soon after 9/11 might have been working for Israeli intelligence, but likely did not know beforehand about the attacks
ANCHORS: BARBARA WALTERS; JOHN MILLER
Announcer: From Times Square in New York, Barbara Walters and John Miller.
BARBARA WALTERS, co-host:
Good evening, and welcome to 20/20.
Tonight, a very important 20/20 investigation into a very ugly story that's made its way around the world since September 11th. The story is that Israel knew more than it would like to admit about the terrorist attack in this coun-try. It's a rumor, but in some Arab countries--including Saudi Arabia, which I visited earlier this year--even educated people told me that they believe it is absolutely true. So how could such a rumor take hold?
And John, I know that you have been looking into this now for months.
JOHN MILLER, co-host:
We have. And when you try to trace the roots of this rumor, all roads seem to lead to the arrest of of group of Israeli men on the very day of the attacks, men who seemed coincidentally to be in the right place at the right time, and behaving strangely. Why did they become the focus of months of investigation by the FBI and the CIA? Why were they repeatedly asked by the FBI if they had any advance knowledge of the attacks, and in fact, did they? Surprisingly, the tip that led to the arrests of these five men did not come from a spy satellite, it came from a New Jersey housewife.
(VO) On the morning of September 11th, Maria--who asked us not to use her last name--was home preparing for her day, when she got a call from a friend who lived upstairs in the same New Jersey high-rise.
MARIA: She was sitting when she heard a noise, at the same time she felt like it--it shook--like the building shook, she said. She called me immediately. She said, 'You know, there's--there's something wrong, look at your window by the twin towers.' So I grab my binoculars and I could see the towers from my window.
And this is where I, you know, I'm looking. I saw the smoke from the top, just from the top of the towers.
MILLER: (VO) After watching for a little while, something caught Maria's at-tention in the parking lot below her window.
MARIA: Like a few minutes must have gone on, and all of a sudden down there I see this van park. And I see three guys on top of the van, and I'm trying, you know, to look at the building but what caught my attention, they seemed to be taking a movie.
MILLER: (VO) Maria says the three young men were kneeling on the roof of a white van. It was parked right here. They were taking pictures of each other with the World Trade Center burning in the background.
MARIA: And I could see that they were, like, happy, you know? They--they--they weren't--they didn't look shocked to me, you know? They didn't look shocked. I thought it was very strange.
MILLER: (VO) Maria found the behavior so suspicious she wrote down the li-cense plate number. She and her husband, Pat, called the police. Soon police and the FBI were on the scene. The license plate was traced to a van owned by a company called Urban Moving. A state-wide alarm was transmitted over the police radio.
Deputy Chief ROBERT DEL PRIORE (Weehawken Police Department): It stated in--in effect, to be on the lookout for an Urban Movers van with a license plate number that was given out.
MILLER: (VO) Around 4 PM that day, this white Chevy van was stopped by police near Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Inside it were five men, all in their 20s. These grainy photos of the event were taken by a man who witnessed the scene from a nearby hotel.
(OC) The van was stopped right here. Police pulled the five men out at gun point and handcuffed them. And almost immediately, police say, there was plenty to be suspicious of. One of the men had $4700 in cash hidden in his sock. An-other was carrying two foreign passports. A box cutter was found in the van. But perhaps the biggest surprise for police was when the five men identified themselves as being Israeli.
(VO) According to Officer Scott DeCarlo's police report, one of the passen-gers told him, "We were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the in-cident," not behind Maria's apartment building in New Jersey. The driver told them, 'We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.'
The men ranged in age from 22 to 27. The driver was Sivan Kurzberg. The other passengers included his brother, Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari. The men, who all said they worked for Urban Moving, were taken to this new Jersey State Police Station and questioned by the FBI.
(OC) ABC News has learned that after the five men were taken to jail, the en-tire case was transferred out of FBI's criminal division and into its foreign counterintelligence section, which is responsible for espionage cases. One rea-son for the shift, according to our sources, is that the FBI believed Urban Mov-ing may have provided a cover for agents of Israeli intelligence. Urban Moving is owned by Dominic Suter (ph), an Israeli businessman. After the five men were arrested in one of his vans, the FBI got a warrant and searched the company's offices.
Ms. PAULINE STEPKOVICH: (ph) The FBI was here hours. Hours.
MILLER: (VO) Pauline Stepkovich, who lives right across the street from Urban Moving, watched as federal investigators went in and out of the building.
Ms. STEPKOVICH: Two SUVs were filled up with between nine and 12 boxes and computers.
MILLER: (VO) Dominic Suter's attorney confirms that the FBI removed boxes of documents and a dozen computer hard drives from Urban Moving. He insists his client answered all of the FBI's questions. But a few days later, when the FBI wanted to interview Mr. Suter again, he was gone.
Our 20/20 cameras took these pictures inside Urban Moving some three months later. And as you can see, it looked like Suter shut down the business in a big hurry. Cell phones and personal effects were lying around Suter's office, the phones were still connected with hundreds of messages waiting. There were job applications to be processed, and the property of dozens of families packed in the warehouse. Dominic Suter's company closed down in such a hurry, some of their customers, like Frank Crisp (ph), were left hanging.
Mr. FRANK CRISP: They were--they were really short on the--on the phone, and it was like they wanted to get off and--and get out.
MILLER: (VO) Dominic Suter cleared out of his New Jersey home, too, and he'd put it up for sale. Suter and his family had returned to Israel. We called him there, but he refused to talk to us about Urban Moving.
Was Israeli intelligence using Urban Moving as a cover?
(OC) And if not, why did the company suddenly shut down after the five em-ployees arrested? Why did the owner abruptly leave the country, leaving behind a significant investment, a thriving business, and a lot of unhappy customers? The FBI needed answers to three important questions: Who were these men? What brought them to that parking lot on the morning of September 11th? And did they have any advanced knowledge of what was going to happen that day?
Mr. STEVE GORDON: So you got a group of guys that are taking pictures on top of a roof, of the World Trade Center, they're speaking a foreign language, they got two passports on them, one's got a wad of cash on him and they've got box cutters. Now that's a scary situation.
MILLER: (VO) Steve Gordon was the attorney for the five Israeli detainees. We interviewed him back in October, shortly after 20/20 began investigating this incident.
(OC) So who are these kids, and how did they get entangled in this?
Mr. GORDON: They're five young kids who--who left Israel, tried to leave a war zone, if you so will. They came to America. They came here, initially, for a vacation. They came here to work and they started work for a moving company.
MILLER: Now, the witness that we interviewed said that they were acting very strangely.
Mr. GORDON: If her story is to be believed, then of course I don't believe I nor anybody else would--would condone any type of behavior.
MARIA: You know, they're laughing. They're laughing. One of them, I no-ticed, distinctively, put his hand on top of the other guy why they're filming, on top of his shoulder.
Mr. GORDON: Indeed, I did ask them about that, and they denied celebrating, they denied rejoicing.
MILLER: So were they horsing around?
Mr. GORDON: They were not horsing around. And the very first question that I asked Mr. Ellner was, 'Tell me what--what happened.' He said, 'We were taking pictures.' Were they smiling in those photographs? Perhaps they were smiling.
MILLER: (VO) Sources tell 20/20 the FBI developed film from a camera taken from the Israelis, and that it shows the three on top of the white van were smiling and appeared to be clowning around. The five Israelis were held at this federal jail for allegedly overstaying their visas.
(OC) In fact, within two weeks, an immigration judge routinely ordered them deported. But that is when, according to sources who spoke to 20/20, the FBI and CIA put a hold on the case. And over the next two months, some of the men were held in solitary confinement, questioned repeatedly and some of them were given up to seven lie detector tests. Clearly this was more than your average immigration case.
(OC) So when they were being questioned and when they were being polygraphed, what were the questions they were being asked?
Mr. GORDON: I believe the questions surrounded what they were doing in Amer-ica, what were they--were doing on September 11th with regard to whether or not they actually had any involvement in the World Trade Center incident. They were asked questions if they had ever been approached by or hired by any non-United States intelligence community.
MILLER: (VO) Since their arrest, there has been plenty of speculation and ru-mor about who these men were and what they were doing that morning. Eventually The Forward, a respected Jewish newspaper in New York, reported that the FBI concluded that at least two of them were Mossad operatives. That is, agents of Israeli intelligence.
Mr. VINCE CANNISTRARO: When the federal investigators checked the names of the people who had been arrested through a national intelligence database, some of the names came up as hits.
MILLER: (VO) Vince Cannistraro is a former chief of operations for counter-terrorism with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now he's a consultant with ABC News. He says many in the US intelligence community believe that some of the men arrested in the white van were in the US working for Israeli intelligence. They speculate that Urban Moving was being used by Israel as an intelligence front.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: ...set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an op-eration, an intelligence operation, against radical Islamics in the area, par-ticularly in the New Jersey/New York area.
MILLER: (VO) Under the scenario, the spying operation was not aimed against the United States, but at penetrating or monitoring radical fund-raising and support networks in Muslim communities like Patterson, New Jersey, which was one of the places where several of the hijackers lived in the months prior to 9/11.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: Israeli government has been concerned about activity of radical Islamic groups in the United States. There could be a support apparatus to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two groups which are conducting the majority of the suicide bombings in Israel.
MILLER: (VO) The suspicion that some of the young men might be with Israeli intelligence, coupled with the account of their odd behavior on the van, raised serious questions for investigators.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: The fear of some of the FBI investigators in this particular case was that this group had some advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9/11. And once they understood that there was an Israeli connection--an Is-raeli intelligence connection--they became very disturbed, because the implica-tion was that the Israelis may have had some advanced knowledge of the events of 9/11 and hadn't told us.
MILLER: (VO) For the FBI, deciphering the truth about the five Israelis proved to be difficult. One of them, Paul Kurzberg, refused to take a lie de-tector test. But after 10 weeks in jail he did take the polygraph and failed it. One of his lawyers later told us Kurzberg had been reluctant to take the test because he had once work for Israeli intelligence in another country. Later, he took a second polygraph test. His lawyer says the results were more favorable.
Sources tell 20/20, after high-level negotiations between Israeli and US gov-ernment officials, a settlement was worked out. And after 71 days, the five Is-raelis were taken out of jail, put on a plane and deported back home. 20/20 traveled to Israel to try and meet the five young men and ask them, were they part of an Israeli intelligence operation in the United States. We went to a small town outside of Jerusalem to meet Paul Kurzberg.
Mr. PAUL KURZBERG: (Through translator) I went to work over there because, I don't know, the situation here is not the best.
MILLER: (VO) This is Kurzberg's younger brother, Sivan, who was one of the three men on top of the van that morning.
Mr. SIVAN KURZBERG: (Through translator) They took away two months of my life. During that time I was supposed to be on a trip that I had planned when I started my military service.
MILLER: (VO) Although Paul and Sivan would not talk with us about the inci-dent, Sivan and two of the other detainees did go on an Israeli talk show after their return. Oded Ellner denied they were laughing or happy that today.
Mr. ODED ELLNER: (Through translator, from Israeli talk show) Nothing of the kind, the fact of the matter is, we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event.
MILLER: (VO) Ellner also complained that they had been mistreated and sub-jected to repeated interrogations.
Mr. ELLNER: (Through translator, from Israeli talk show) And at that point, we were taken for another round of questioning, this time related to our alleg-edly being members of Mossad.
MILLER: (VO) Their attorney in Israel is Ram Horvitz.
Mr. RAM HORVITZ: This story about the five boys being connected with Israeli intelligence is the most stupid and ridiculous story that I ever heard, and it is nonsense. I don't know who invented this story.
Mr. MARK REGAV: These men were not involved in any way in any intelligence operation in the United States.
MILLER: (VO) Mark Regav, the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, goes even further to say the issue was never even discussed with the US offi-cials.
Mr. REGAV: These five Israelis were not involved in any intelligence opera-tion in the United States. And the Americans, the American intelligence au-thorities, have never raised this issue with us. The story is simply false.
MILLER: (VO) Source tell 20/20 there is still debate within the FBI over whether or not the young men were spies. But many in the US intelligence commu-nity believe that some of the men were engaged in espionage for Israel. However, sources also tell us, even if they were spies, there was no evidence to conclude they had advanced knowledge of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: The investigation, at the end of the day, after all of the polygraphs, all of the field work, all of the cross-checking, the intelligence work, concluded that they probably did not have advanced knowledge of 9/11.
WALTERS: John, so the FBI has concluded that these men did not have any ad-vanced knowledge of the attack on the Trade Center.
MILLER: And they seem to be comfort with that conclusion.
WALTERS: OK. Then what were they doing looking at the World Trade Center then?
MILLER: They say that they read about the attack on the Internet, went to the roof of the moving company, couldn't really see it, and then went to the higher ground to get a better view and to take pictures.
WALTERS: Well, all right, but why were they smiling?
MILLER: Well, that's been the most difficult question. And the only explana-tions we've had, both from the lawyer and from the Israeli government, is chalk-ing that up just to immature conduct.
WALTERS: But the bottom line is, that there is no evidence that these men knew about the attacks in advance.
MILLER: No. And I think the FBI and the CIA spent a great deal of time try-ing to drill down to that answer and found no proof of that.
WALTERS: Well, I hope that we have put this rumor to rest once and for all.
MILLER: We've certainly tried.
WALTERS: We'll be right back.
Maria speaks with a strong accent, so it might be possible to argue that she meant to say that she saw the van "parked", rather than park. Of course, even then, Maria's statement says she doesn't see them until some time after the initial attack, so there's nothing here to say that they were set up filming beforehand. And as further evidence, there are additional reports of complaints about them celebrating the attacks in other locations, before reaching Maria's parking lot:
Their lawyer said:
On the day of the disaster, three of the five boys went up on the roof of the building where the company office is located," said Gordon. "I'm not sure if they saw the twin towers collapse, but, in any event, they photographed the ruins right afterwards. One of the neighbors who saw them called the police and claimed they were posing, dancing and laughing, against the background of the burning towers. The five denied dancing. I presume the neighbor was not near them and does not understand Hebrew. Furthermore, the neighbor complained that the cheerful gang on the roof spoke Arabic. As far as I understand it, that neighbor has had previous problems with the company, and she could have been waiting for an opportunity to avenge the owners.
Anyhow, the three left the roof, took an Urban truck, and drove to a parking lot, located about a five-minute drive from the offices. They parked, stood on the roof of the truck to get a better view of the destroyed towers and took photographs. A woman who was in the building above the lot testified that she saw them smiling and exchanging high-fives. She and another neighbor called the police and reported on Middle-Eastern looking people dancing on the truck. They copied and reported the license plates. http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/02/03/WTC/spies10.html
And here's a 9/11 truth-supporting source:
Witnesses saw them jumping for joy in Liberty State Park after the initial impact (5). Later on, other witnesses saw them celebrating on a roof in Weehawken, and still more witnesses later saw them celebrating with high fives in a Jersey City parking lot. http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/fiveisraelis.html
If the Urban Moving five were supposedly "celebrating" the attacks before they reached the parking lot, then Maria's testimony about seeing them there cannot demonstrate foreknowledge. For that we'd need to find some incriminating detail in the earlier police reports, or perhaps get a look at the photos they took, but until that happens there is nothing to show that they were set up and filming before the attacks occurred.
But why would the Urban Moving five be "celebrating"?
They denied that they were, however an Urban Moving employee gave more details of the response of others within the company:
An employee of Urban Moving Systems, who would not give his name, said the majority of his co-workers are Israelis and were joking on the day of the attacks.
"I was in tears," the man said. "These guys were joking and that bothered me. These guys were like, 'Now America knows what we go through." FIVE HIJACK SUSPECTS HAD LINKS TO N.J.; 'MATERIAL WITNESS IN CUSTODY IN N.Y.C.; THE INVESTIGATION The Record (Bergen County, NJ), September 15, 2001
They were "joking", something that disturbed this witness, but if he felt that meant they were involved then he didn't mention it here.
And if they were joking because they knew about the attacks in advance, why do this in front of witnesses at all?
The reality is that people react to situations in different ways. Israelis and others in the Middle East didn't all see 9/11 in the same way as Americans. And even in the US, the NORAD tapes have several examples of NEADS staff joking around. Around 9:00, for instance, they believed the World Trade Centre had been hit by a plane, were assuming it was Flight 11, and had just heard of a second hijack from the same airport, yet still found time for humour ("supposed to be on the same plane, they just got mixed up"):
Inappropriate? Absolutely, and anyone watching those men at that moment would probably have seen them smiling, laughing, apparently light-hearted. That kind of black humour to break tension in a group isn't at all unusual, though, and it doesn't in any way mean we should be suspicious of the officers involved. And it's extremely weak evidence against the Urban Moving five for the very same reason.
The 9-11 Conspiracies
Channel 4 in the UK interviewed Maria, three of the Israelis and others involved for their documentary "The 9/11 Conspiracies". They reported receiving information that Urban Moving was a front for Israeli intelligence, but repeated the Israeli's story that they didn't arrive and begin filming until after the attacks had begun.
FBI and police documents
Police and FBI documents on the Urban Moving employees were made available online in 2011.
This page is intended to focus solely on the foreknowledge issue, but plainly (as you can see above) there are other considerations, too. By all means read the Killtown article, WhatReallyHappened page and anything else you can find for more on these, but be sure you check sources carefully. We’ve seen this story used as evidence that the Israelis’ van contained explosives, for instance:
Three arrested with van full of explosives
Reports from New York are saying three people have been arrested with a van of explosives.
The van was stopped along the New Jersey turn-pike near the George Washington Bridge.
Question everything you read, then (even here). And we may return to this topic at a future date.
One curious footnote to this story appeared three years later, when four of the Israelis filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice:
September 14, 2004
Four young Israelis who were arrested by American federal agents on 9/11 have filed a law suit against the Department of Justice in the United States District Court in New York.
The law suit alleges that law enforcement officers and officials of the Bureau of Prisons unlawfully incarcerated them for an extended period of time and violated their civil rights during their more than two month imprisonment in the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in 2001. The four plaintiffs claim that they were held incommunicado without access to attorneys or family, subjected to rough interrogations, physically assaulted, deprived of sleep and subjected to racists taunting by guards.
The law suit seeks millions of dollars in compensation.
The four plaintiffs are represented by Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq. and New York attorney Robert Tolchin, Esq.
The Israelis were working for a New Jersey moving company when their truck was stopped by police near the George Washington Bridge. When it was discovered that they possessed foreign drivers licenses, the nervous officers placed them under arrest as suspects in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They were handed over to federal agents for weeks of interrogations.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, conspiracy theorists in the Arab and Islamic world spread reports that Israel was behind the terrorist atrocities. Islamic and neo-Nazi groups pointed to the arrests of the Israelis as "proof" that the Mossad and Israel had perpetrated the attack on the World Trade Center. Hate groups around the world posted hundreds of stories centering on the arrests of the Israelis and their alleged role in the 9/11 attacks. The fact that the four were eventually cleared of all suspicions and released did not put the libels to rest and stories about the Israelis are still regularly appearing on the internet.
American human rights groups have charged that the Bureau of Prisons violated the civil liberties of those detained by the United States following 9/11. Following an internal investigation the Department of Justice released a report in June 2003 which, in part, found:
"the evidence indicates a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by some correctional officers at the MDC against some September 11 detainees, particularly during the first months after the attack."
According to the plaintiffs' Israeli counsel Nitsana Darshan-Leitner: "The infamous arrest of these young Israelis on 9/11 has been used by anti-Semites worldwide as `proof' of Israel's involvement in the World Trade Center attack. Our clients are seeking compensation for the harm they suffered in the MDC by prison officials. In addition, the law suit will serve as an important public forum to debunk the lie that Israel or the Mossad was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It will show that there was no Jewish conspiracy as the Arab world continues to claim and put an end to this racist blood libel." http://web.archive.org/web/20091223103838/http://www.kokhavivpublications.com/2004/israel/09/0409141656.html
September 14, 2004
Four Israelis arrested in the United States on September 11, 2001, have filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit in the US District Court in New York against United States Attorney-General John Ashcroft and wardens of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The suit, filed Monday, alleges that their two-month detention was illegal and that during that time they were physically abused and their civil rights were violated.
The Attorney General's Office said it would only comment on the case in court.
According to their Israeli attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Israelis Yaron Shmuel, Omer Gavriel Marmari, and Silvan and Paul Kurzberg were working for a New Jersey moving company when their truck was stopped by police near the George Washington Bridge. Upon seeing that they held foreign driver's licenses, the officer arrested them as suspects in the September 11 attack.
"The four plaintiffs claim that they were held incommunicado without access to attorneys or family, subjected to rough interrogations, physically assaulted, deprived of sleep and subjected to racist taunting by guards," said Darshan-Leitner.
In the post-September 11 panic, their basic rights were ignored even though they signed papers agreeing to immediate deportation and had plane tickets, said New York attorney Robert Tolchin. According to the complaint, some 1,200 men from the Middle East, South Asia and elsewhere who were not US citizens and who appeared to be Arab or Muslim were held on suspicion of being terrorist.
Their detention was "often based on vague suspicions rooted in racial, religious, ethnic, and/or national origin stereotypes rather than in hard facts," according to the complaint. Non-Muslim or non-Israeli detainees were not treated so harshly.
"They were never charged with a crime, they were detained so that the FBI could investigate whether maybe they had done something," said Tolchin.
Four pages of the complaint list the abuses the four Israelis suffered in detention, including failure to be provided with adequate food, medical attention and toiletries. They were held in solitary confinement and denied religious expression.
"Plaintiffs were disciplined for attempting to pray in their cells. Plaintiff Yaron Shmuel was forced out of his cell, thrown against walls and placed in a cell without a mattress, sheets or blanket as a punishment for having prayed out loud," alleged the complaint.
"One of the defendant guards told the plaintiff Yaron Shmuel that he should commit suicide because 'we need to kill all the Jews.'
"The plaintiffs were often beaten by the defendant guards, including cuffing hands behind the plaintiff's backs, twisting arms, kicks to the ribs, and sitting on the plaintiffs while they lay on a metal bed," alleged the complaint.
"The plaintiffs were subjected to a game that the defendant guards called 'Ping Pong,' in which the guards would throw inmates between each other and against walls."
In this case, "the abuse started from the top," said Tolchin.
The suit blames Ashcroft for authorizing and condoning "the unreasonable and excessively harsh conditions under which the plaintiffs were detained" in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
According to the suit, the four should not have been held because Israel is a close ally of the United States. "As Israelis and as Jews, plaintiffs themselves are sworn enemies of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden."
A similar suit in the same court has been filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Ibrahim Turkmen and other Muslim men similarly held. Tolchin said their case is likely to be viewed in light of decisions made in the Turkmen case. Jerusalem Post source
Paul Kurzberg, an Israeli from Pardess Hanna, was in the office of his New Jersey moving company on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
Like many Israeli movers in the New York area, Kurzberg, who was in his late 20s, was not legally authorized to work in the United States.
But on Sept. 11, that thought was distant from his mind as he and his friends piled into a company van after the second plane hit the World Trade Center to find a better vantage point to photograph the historic terrorist attack.
It proved to be a critical mistake.
Caught in a traffic jam near the George Washington Bridge, which connects northern New Jersey to Manhattan, the Israelis hailed a police officer to ask directions to Brooklyn. The cops pulled the five Israelis from the vehicle, drew their guns and ordered the men to lie on the ground, according to the Israelis’ account.
It was the beginning of a nearly two-month ordeal, the Israelis said, that landed them first in a local jail and then in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn prison, subjected them to physical and verbal abuse and ended in their deportation to Israel.
Now four of the Israelis are suing, demanding justice and compensation in a lawsuit filed Monday, Sept. 13, against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a host of wardens, police officers and corrections officers involved in their arrest and imprisonment.
“The infamous arrest of these young Israelis on 9/11 has been used by anti-Semites worldwide as ‘proof’ of Israel’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israeli lawyer representing the four Israeli plaintiffs.
“Our clients are seeking compensation for the harm they suffered in the Metropolitan Detention Center by prison officials,” she said.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, alleges that the Israelis were arrested without probable cause; subjected to harsh and unreasonable conditions; penalized for trying to observe Jewish traditions and were held far longer than necessary.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice, Charles Miller, declined to comment, saying, “Our response would be filed in court.”
We've not yet discovered what happened to the case, and the lack of information suggests it never reached court. Still, bringing the case at all is hardly what you'd expect if these really were Mossad agents somehow connected to 9/11. Surely three years on they'd want to keep their heads down, not re-open the whole affair?