Politics & Policy

Denial Is a River…

Egypt commemorates September 11.

Despite being the U.S.’s closest Arab ally, for the past three years Egypt’s government-controlled media has been unremittingly antagonistic in its reporting about September 11. Setting the tone was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a conspiracy-filled interview in the leading Egyptian daily Al-Ahram on October 25, 2001: “I find it hard to believe that people who were learning to fly in Florida could, within a year and a half, fly large commercial airlines and hit with accuracy the towers of the World Trade Center which would appear, to the pilot from the air, the size of a pencil. Only a professional pilot could carry out this mission.”

This past year alone, there has been a consistent stream of Egyptian conspiracy theories, primarily stating that Arabs or Muslims were not involved in September 11, and that the U.S. government or Jews/Israel is the true culprit. During this period, one of the most popular songs in Egypt praised the events that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. The beloved Egyptian singer Sha’ban Abd Al-Rahim’s song “Kharittat Al Tariq” (Road Map) states that the U.S. is the perpetrator of the attacks: “Hey people, it was only a tower and I swear by Allah that they [the U.S.] are the ones who pulled it down.”

Prominent members of Egyptian academia have also been teaching this year that America is “100 percent behind September 11.” The former dean of humanities at ‘Ein Shams University, Mustafa Shak’a, was interviewed by Saudi Iqra TV on June 16 and said: “To this day, we don’t know who attacked the U.S. on September 11. Why is the attack attributed to bin Laden although it has not been proven that he was involved in the operation?… The operation was 100 percent American…” Another Egyptian professor, Galal Amin of the American University wrote an article for Al-Ahram in April that stated: “There is still doubt that the September [11] attacks were the outcome of Arab and Islamic terror. No conclusive proof to this effect is yet available. Many writers, American and European, as well as Arab, suspect that the attacks were carried out by Americans…”

Leading Egyptian journalists have also written conspiracy theories about September 11 this year. On August 9, the editor of the prestigious Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, Galal Dweidar, wrote an article about the U.S. titled “Barbarian Imperialist Occupation,” which questioned who was really behind the attacks: “…There are strong doubts regarding the identity of those who schemed the terrorist action that targeted the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York…” The deputy editor of the daily Al-Gumhouriyya, Abd Al-Wahhab ‘Adas, wrote an article on April 23 accusing Jews of perpetrating September 11: “Actually, it is they who are behind the events of September 11. Proof of this is what was broadcast by the Canadian news agency on September 17…that prior to the events the CIA had received a report that the Mossad would carry out an attack operation on American territory… Further [proof] of this is the news in the American papers at that time, that 4,000 Jews of American origin who worked at the World Trade Center received instructions from the Mossad not to go to work that day…”

This has become a bit of an annual trend. To commemorate the attacks, Al-Arabiyya TV conducted an interview with the Egyptian father of Muhammad Atta on September 11, 2003. He too characterized September 11 as, “100 percent made-in-America. All the facts that have been verified and published in the press, on television, and in the statements of officials in the U.S. and abroad prove definitively that this even is an American product, as I said on Egyptian television 72 hours after the event… The subject [at hand] is not my son; it is more general. Is my son or any of the other 19 young men–four of whom died over a year before the event… [Moreover], the FBI announced it had recorded two telephone calls on the 11th made by two congressmen at the Capitol to two American newspapers, in which they said, ‘The zero hour has come, and the competition begins tomorrow.’”

Leading Egyptian strategic planners have also espoused conspiracy theories about September 11. For its September 10, 2003, edition, the Akher Sa’a weekly interviewed several experts for articles commemorating the attacks. Among them was General Mahmoud Khalaf, who said: “What took place on September 11 was a conspiratorial plan by the U.S. to justify invading Afghanistan and later Iraq. In 1999, books were published exposing a plan by far right-wing American hawks to fulfill the dream of a large empire, and there was an opportunity [for this] on September 11…” Also interviewed was General Ali Hafzi, governor of the northern Sinai district of Egypt, who stated: “The September 11, 2001 event was meant to determine and direct the events of the 21st century in order to force American hegemony on the world and to enable it to be the sole superpower in the world…”

Since September 11, 2001 many have asked “Why do they hate us?” The answer that is almost always overlooked is that the Arab media, along with schoolbooks and sermons, espouses never-ending incitement of and lies about America.

Steven Stalinsky is executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

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