Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Al-Qaida to Ahmadinejad: enough with the 9/11 conspiracy theories

From the Guardian:

Al--Qaida has sent a message to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asking him to stop spreading conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Iranian media on Wednesday reported quotes from what appears to be an article published in the latest issue of the al-Qaida English language magazine, Inspire, which described Ahmadinejad's remarks over the 11 September attacks as "ridiculous".

In his UN general assembly speech last week, Ahmadinejad cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks.

"The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al-Qaida was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government," the article said, according to Iranian media. "So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?"

Ahmadinejad said in New York that the "mysterious September 11 incident" had been used as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. He had also previously expressed scepticism at the US version of events.

"By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions," said Ahmadinejad.
The al-Qaida article insisted it had been behind the attacks and criticised the Iranian president for discrediting the terrorist group.

"For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world," said the article published in the Inspire magazine. "Al-Qaida … succeeded in what Iran couldn't. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mearsheimer continues to defend the anti-Jewish author Gilad Atzmon

In recent days, several blogs (including this one) have reported that John Mearsheimer, a senior professor of political science at University of Chicago, endorsed a grossly bigoted book with a generous blurb. Mearsheimer has now issued a rebuttal to that charge in a column published on the blog his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt maintains at the Foreign Policy magazine website. (Read here.)

Walt frames Mearsheimer's defense as a counterattack against columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, ignoring similar criticism Mearsheimer received from many others, including those who in the past defended his work and that of his co-author. (According to Andrew Sullivan: "Both David Bernstein and Pejman Yousefzadeh feel compelled to walk back their defenses of Mearsheimer.")

The substance of Mearsheimer's defense consists of contradictory claims that a) Atzmon is not a Holocaust denier or bigot, and b) the troubling comments to the contrary which Goldberg quoted appeared not in the book Mearsheimer endorsed, but in Atzmon's other writings.

Mearsheimer is simply wrong when he writes that none of the offensive quotes Goldberg cited appear in the Atzmon book.  The longest quote cited by Goldberg, is from page 175 of Atzmon's book.

I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. We should strip the holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place.

Sixty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz we should reclaim our history and ask why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their next door neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in their troubled history? If they genuinely planned to do so, as the early Zionists claimed, why did they fail? Why did America tighten its immigration laws amid the growing danger to European Jews? We should also ask for what purpose do the holocaust denial laws serve? What is the holocaust religion there to conceal? As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionists and their Neocons agents' plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering. We will maintain our complicity in Western imperialist crimes against humanity...

In his column on Walt's blog, Mearsheimer falsely claims that this quote and all of the others cited by Goldberg do not appear in the book he recommended.  He further falsely denies that this or any of Atzmon's other arguments constitute Holocaust denial, but they clearly do.  In that brief quote, Atzmon argues: 1) that the Holocaust has not been the subject of free scholarly inquiry, 2) that "conclusive historical evidence" that the Holocaust occurred has not been published,  3) that belief that the Holocaust occurred is "religious", 4) that belief that the Holocaust occurred is rooted in anti-Gentile bias and is cynically motivated by a desire to manipulate Gentiles.  Moreover, that quote from Atzmon's book goes on to imply that hatred of Jews, whether in 1930s and 1940s Europe or in the contemporary world, is justified.  That Mearsheimer could either defend such an argument or not consider it noteworthy is inexcusable.

Ludicrously, Mearsheimer attempts to defend such statements as merely "provocative" and written in "overly hot language".  Mearsheimer writes:

The book, as my blurb makes clear, is an extended meditation on Jewish identity in the Diaspora and how it relates to the Holocaust, Israel, and Zionism. There is no question that the book is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book -- what blurber does? -- but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.


Goldberg’s charge that Atzman is a Holocaust denier or an apologist for Hitler is baseless. Nor is Atzmon an anti-Semite. He has controversial views for sure and he sometimes employs overly provocative language. But there is no question in my mind that he has written a fascinating book that, as I said in my blurb, “should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.” Regarding Goldberg’s insinuation that I have any sympathy for Holocaust denial and am an anti-Semite, it is just another attempt in his longstanding effort to smear Steve Walt and me.

Mearsheimer, defending himself against a charge no one has made, goes on to point out that anyone who had heard him lecture would know that he is not a Holocaust denier.  That is undoubtedly true, but in defending Atzmon from this charge Mearsheimer demonstrates that he cannot recognize Holocaust denial when he sees it.  Moreover, he unfairly condemns in extremely harsh terms those who can see it and object to it.  So while Mearsheimer himself is in no way a Holocaust denier, he is very comfortable providing cover for those who are.

The strangest thing about Mearsheimer's very strange defense of Atzmon against charges that Atzmon is anti-Jewish is that it runs counter to Atzmon's own statements about himself.  Atzmon actually calls himself a "proud self-hating Jew".

Such ideas, and far worse, appear throughout Atzmon's writings and interviews.  Joseph W, writing at Harry Place, points to a recent interview in which Atzmon made the following astounding declaration of anti-Jewish sentiment:

Interviewer: I tell people we are almost getting into a Weimar situation, do you see that happening?

Atzmon: Absolutely. It is very tragic to say, but I can see it. And the only thing that can save the Jews from themselves is if we, the goyim, let’s say --

Interviewer: I heard you joined the goyim a few years ago, you are on the goyim team now.

Atzmon: Yes -- if the goyim, the gentiles, basically -- find within ourselves the powers to contain this sinister ideological collective.

(Listen below at 56:55.)

In his Foreign Policy column, Mearsheimer himself quotes Atzmon as follows, but apparently fails to absorb the meaning of what he quotes:

It was actually the internalization of the meaning of the Holocaust that transformed me into a strong opponent of Israel and Jewish-ness.

If an opponent of Jewishness is not, by definition, an anti-Semite, then such words have no meaning. Maybe that, after all, is both Atzmon's and Mearsheimer's point.

Watch this space and Harry's Place for much more about this.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

John Mearsheimer supports anti-Semitic author

"We have heard the comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. I don't like this comparison because I really think that Israel is far worse than Nazi Germany."

Those are the words of Gilad Atzmon, a little known expatriate Israeli who divides his time between working as a jazz musician and campaigning against the Jewish community in all its manifestations. He has written that he not only opposes Israel and Zionism, but any Jewish collective enterprise, including even "Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist networks". In fact, he describes himself as someone who is proud of being a "self-hating Jew".

History teaches us that the most universally inspiring Jews, I mean, those who contributed something to humanity rather than merely to their own people or even just themselves, were motivated by some form of self hate. The first names that come to mind are Christ, Spinoza and Marx.

Of the Holocaust, Atzmon has written that he not only doubts it occurred as historians and survivors describe, he thinks that what did occur was justified.

It took me years to accept that the Holocaust narrative, in its current form, doesn’t make any historical sense. Here is just one little anecdote to elaborate on: If, for instance, the Nazis wanted the Jews out of their Reich (Judenrein - free of Jews), or even dead, as the Zionist narrative insists, how come they marched hundreds of thousands of them back into the Reich at the end of the war?

. . . (I)f the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war? Why didn’t the Jews wait for their Red liberators?

I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. We should strip the holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place

65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz we should reclaim our history and ask why? Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their next door neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in their troubled history? If they genuinely planned to do so, as the early Zionists claimed, why did they fail? Why did America tighten its immigration laws amid the growing danger to European Jews? We should also ask for what purpose do the holocaust denial laws serve? What is the holocaust religion there to conceal? As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionists and their Neocons agents’ plots.

He not only doubts that the Holocaust actually occurred, and thinks that whatever did happen to the Jews of Europe was justified, he goes on to argue that opposition to those who think like him is the manifestation of an irrational intolerance of non-Jews which is at the core of the Jewish identity. (Read here.) Elsewhere, Atzmon has described the Nazi's treatment of Jews as an understandable response to Jewish aggression against Germany.   (Read here.)

In spite of all this, Atzmon objects to describing his views as Holocaust denial, not because he believes what historians say about the subject, but because he dismisses the idea itself.

I ... find the notion of ‘holocaust denial’ to be meaningless, and on the verge of idiotic.

When put on the spot in an interview, Atzmon has said that he cannot be sure the Holocaust occurred because he "is not a historian".

Atzmon distinguishes himself from most anti-Zionists in that he admits that anti-Zionism is motivated by hatred of Jews, which he rationalizes in the following manner:

Unlike Uri Avnery and Norman Finkelstein who . . . argue that anti-Semitism is exaggerated, I actually believe that resentment towards Jewish politics is rising rapidly and constantly. However, I do differentiate between the Judeo-centric notion of anti-Semitism and political resentment towards Jewish ideology. I do not regard anti-Jewish activity as a form of anti-Semitism or racial hatred because Jews are neither Semites nor do they form a racial continuum whatsoever. The rise of hatred towards any form of Jewish politics and Jewish lobbies is a reaction towards a tribal, chauvinist and supremacist ideology.

Thus Atzmon argues that he and others like him cannot be bigoted against Jews because the belief in Jewish ethnicity itself is a manifestation of Jewish racism. By this twisted logic, Jews are inherently racist and those who hate them are inherently anti-racist.

Atzmon has also written at length that he believes anti-Semitic stereotypes to be accurate reflections of essential truths about the nature of Jews, even while disparaging the importance of real history.  He writes:

Fagin is the ultimate plunderer, a child exploiter and usurer. Shylock is the blood-thirsty merchant. With Fagin and Shylock in mind Israeli barbarism and organ trafficking seem to be just other events in an endless hellish continuum. However, it is also obvious why the HET [British Holocaust Education Trust] is so thrilled by Anne Frank. On the face of it, and for obvious reasons, Frank is there to convey an image of innocence. And indeed not a single moral system could ever justify the ordeal this young girl went through along with many others. Yet, Anne Frank wasn’t exactly a literary genius. Her diary is not a valuable piece of literature. She wasn’t an exceptionally clever either. [sic]

In that spirit of valuing bigoted myths over historical facts, Atzmon actually goes so far as to defend the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as revealing essential truths about the Jews. (Read here.)

You may be wondering why I am boring you with a detailed examination of the thoughts of an obvious crank who would only find support for his deranged and cynical bigotry among others of similarly fringe views. You may be interested to learn that among Atzmon's supporters is Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago's Program on International Security Policy. Mearsheimer provided the following blurb for the back cover of Atzmon's most recent book, the contents of which are reportedly consistent with his previous hateful work:

‘Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.’

When I read that quote on the website of Atzmon's literary agent, I doubted it's veracity.  I had trouble believing that a distinguished professor at one of the world's greatest universities would link himself to a hatemonger like Atzmon.  So I sent Professor Mearsheimer an email quoting the blurb and asking him to verify it's accuracy.  I also gave him an opportunity to amend it or add to it.  Here's what he wrote back:

The blurb below is the one I wrote for "The Wandering Who" and I have no reason to amend it or embellish it, as it accurately reflects my view of the book. 

Professor Mearsheimer has certainly reached the heights of achievement in his field and respect for this would be appropriate, regardless of whether one agrees with his opinions.  Moreover, this world is increasingly filled with gratuitous ad hominem attacks, arbitrarily flung at ideological adversaries to divert attention from substantive arguments.  In this instance, however, Mearsheimer is using his authority as an expert in his field to promote the work of a flagrant bigot and distorter of history.  If denunciation in the strongest terms is not appropriate in response to this grossly misguided act, when would it be?  Mearsheimer, in praising Atzmon, lends his name and that of his university to the promotion of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.  That is simply inexcusable.

John Pilger fights Israeli commando incursion into London's East End

Pilger in New Statesman blames "former Israeli commando" for building a purportedly evil shopping mall

John Pilger is not one to miss an opportunity to point an accusing finger at Israel, regardless of the wrong he's addressing. Pilger has a column in today's New Statesman which focuses on a newly opened shopping mall in London's East End to decry consumerism, ill-treatment of workers, and bad shopping mall design. He's also upset that he couldn't find a bookstore that he was looking for.  Pilger chose to headline this column:

"War and shopping – the extremism that never speaks its name: The Westfield Stratford centre, backed by a former Israeli commando and touted as the future face of London by the likes of Boris Johnson, makes a mockery of the East End’s history of productive work."

Apropos of nothing else in the column (other than that headline), he includes the following paragraph, focusing for some reason on one of several co-founders, whom Pilger oddly calls "the" co-founder.

The co-founder of Westfield is Frank Lowy, an Australian-Israeli billionaire who is to shopping what Rupert Murdoch is to media. Westfield owns or has an interest in more than 120 malls worldwide. Lowy, a former Israeli commando, gives millions to Israel, and in 2003 set up the "independent" Lowy Institute for International Affairs which promotes Israel and US foreign policy.

Pilger may feel strongly about protecting the rights of workers and raising the standards for the design of shopping malls, or he may merely be using those good causes as an excuse to bash Israel on the most tenuous of bases. You be the judge.

From Wikipedia (grain of salt alert) I reprint the following thumbnail sketch of Frank Lowy's early life:

Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia, and lived in Budapest, Hungary during World War II. He made his way to France in 1946, where he left on the ship Yagur, but was caught en route to British Mandate of Palestine by the British and deported to the detention camp in Cyprus. After a few months, Lowy was allowed into Palestine and was brought to the Atlit detainee camp. Lowy then moved to Sde Yaakov a small yeshiva school [sic] near Qiryat Tivon [and] eventually joined the Haganah and then the Golani Brigade, fighting during the Arab–Israeli War in the Galilee and in Gaza.

Those who oppose Israel's existence, as does Pilger, view the role played by the Golani Brigade in repelling the Arab invasion of the newly formed state to be an evil one. That a brave young man who barely escaped the death camps of Europe and survived British "Displaced Persons" detention camps in Cyprus and Palestine would choose to defend his new homeland from aggression should, in Pilger's view, forever ban him from the development of shopping malls in London. Pilger, forever the would-be freedom fighter, would have it that a small part of London's East End is now Zionist occupied territory and the workers there are Britain's Palestinians. If Pilger was standing on a soapbox at the Westfield shopping mall spouting this rubbish he would be regarded by most passersby to be a madman. Because he instead publishes it in the New Statesman, he's considered a pundit.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

9/11 commemoration: Innocent woman taken from plane, detained, strip-searched and humiliated.

Racists complain that women don't like them

In May, a member of the racist website Stormfront who writes under the pseudonym "sourthernwhiteknight" posted a comment asking why so many "white nationalists" are single. This question has elicited nearly 1,000 replies comprising 99 webpages which are at the same time comically self-revelatory and pathetic.  The fact that racists have this problem will come as a surprise to no one, but I do find it interesting that they admit it so freely and have such angry public disagreements among themselves as they look for ways to blame their usual scapegoats.  They veer from blaming the influence of "Zionists" to calling white women "bisexual race-mixing whores".  (Not a one takes any responsibility for their having this difficulty, however.  They agree on that.)

Why are so many White Nationalist men single? - Stormfront

Ron Paul endorsement

No, not from me. From this guy:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Salon's conspiracy theory

Salon has published  an allegedly anti-conspiracy-theory column by Alexander Cockburn (read here) in which he hypocritically promotes the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories: that Franklin Roosevelt knew about the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor and deliberately allowed it to happen in order to provide an excuse for the U.S. to enter World War II.

With unintended irony, Cockburn gives his column the headline "The end of evidence". In it he writes:

I think there is strong evidence that FDR did have knowledge that a Japanese naval force in the north Pacific was going to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor. It's quite possible Roosevelt thought it would be a relatively mild assault and thought it would be the final green light to get the U.S. into the war.

That's all he writes about FDR's purported culpability for Pearl Harbor.  While Cockburn "think(s) there is strong evidence", he does not provide any of it. Considering the seriousness of the charge, his offhanded assessment of the truthiness of this implausible conspiracy defies logic. That he makes this unsupported assertion in the context of criticizing the fact-free arguments of the 9/11 truth movement highlights the flawed logic of both.  Cockburn and Salon apparently believe that it's wrong to argue without citing evidence that world events are controlled by massive conspiracies, except when they feel like doing so themselves.

Even Cockburn's condemnation of the conspiracy theories of 9/11 truthers themselves only goes so far. He implies that believes in some of them himself.  He writes:

It's entirely plausible to assume that the FBI, U.S. military intelligence, and the CIA -- as has just been rather convincingly claimed again in the latter instance -- had penetrated the al-Qaida team planning the 9/11 attacks; intelligence reports piled up in various Washington bureaucracies pointing to the impending onslaught and even the manner in which it might be carried out. 
The history of intelligence operations is profuse with example of successful intelligence collection, but also fatal slowness to act on the intelligence, along with eagerness not to compromise the security and future usefulness of the informant, who has to prove his own credentials by even pressing for prompt action by the plotters. Sometime an undercover agent will actually propose an action, either to deflect efforts away from some graver threat, or to put the plotters in a position where they can be caught red-handed.

Again, he offers no evidence for this 9/11 conspiracy theory. He merely deems it "plausible" because, he says, some unspecified similar things have happened in the past.

When Cockburn set out to write about "the end of evidence", did he intend to argue against that loss or to provide examples of it?

Cockburn goes on in the column to helpfully debunk the idiotic truther claims that the twin towers couldn't have been destroyed by the plane crashes alone; that they must have been brought down by explosives planted within them.  Considering how obviously flawed those truther arguments are, I have found them useful in the sense that any alleged expert who makes such foolish claims automatically impeaches his own expertise.  An alleged expert who fails to understand how the twin towers came down is by definition incompetent to offer an opinion on the subject.

Here, as a public service, is what Cockburn's expert has to say:

"The towers were basically tubes, essentially hollow. Tubes can be very efficient structures, strong and economical. The Trade Center tubes effectively resisted vertical loads, wind loads and vibrations and could probably have done very well against earthquakes. However, the relatively thin skin of the hollow tube must be braced at intervals to prevent local buckling of the skin under various possible loads, otherwise the tube itself can go out of shape and lose its strength.

"For their interior bracing, the thin-walled tubes of the Trade Center towers depended primarily on the interior floors being tied to the outer wall shells. These floor beam structures were basically open web joists, adequate for the floor loads normally to be expected. These joist ends rested on steel angle clips attached to the outer walls.

"As the floors at the level of airplane impact caught fire, the open web joists, which could not be expected to resist such fires, softened under the heat, sagged and pulled away from their attachments to the walls. Their weight, and the loads they were carrying, caused them to drop onto the next lower floor, which was then carrying double loads also becoming exposed to the heat. Then that floor collapsed, and so it went. But as the floors dropped, they no longer served as bracing for the thin-walled main tubes.

This loss of bracing permitted the walls to buckle outward in successive sections and thus the house of cards effect."

High-grade steel can bend disastrously under extreme heat. The types of steel used in the WTC Towers (plain carbon, and vanadium) lose half their strength when heated to about 570 C , and even more as temperatures rise, as they did in WTC 1 and 2, to 1100 C.

I am sure that the editors of Salon published Cockburn's column for its debunking of the 9/11 truth movement and not for its promotion of Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories. The absurdity of old conspiracy theories made in passing just doesn't have the impact of the madness of the truthers. It's possible Salon's editors didn't read the column closely and just missed Cockburn's Pearl Harbor comment. Regardless, they owe their readers an apology and an explanation. At the very least, if they want to publish columns decrying the death of evidence, they owe their readers the evidence.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 (#2)

[Second of a series. Part 1 here.]

My connections to 9/11 are many.  In the 1980s and early 90s, I lived in the Jersey City neighborhood which was home to the al-Qaeda cell of Sheik Rahman, although I didn't know that at the time.  His Masjid al-Salaam occupied the second floor above a storefront in Journal Square two blocks from my home, next to the A&P where I sometimes bought my groceries.  I walked by that mosque every day to get to and from the PATH train via which I traveled to New York.  In my naivite, I used to look up through the windows at the ceiling fans of the "mosque of peace" and imagine pious worshipers below them meditating and praying.  The idea that they were planning mass murder was the farthest thing from my mind.

I later found out that the small grocery store on Sip Ave. -- the store where I bought pita bread and olives and where I discussed with the owner the difference between the regular feta and the triple cream -- was likely a focal point of that al-Qaeda cell.  I discovered that in increments.  First, during the news coverage of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing when the man with whom I had discussed the finer points of feta cheese was pictured in the local news at the right hand of the white-bearded, white-robed and Rayban-wearing blind sheik, escorting him to some public event.  I more fully made this connection after 9/11 when local newspapers reported that the apartments in the building in which the grocery store was located had almost completely emptied out after 9/11, with dozens of residents mysteriously departing leaving behind furniture and positions.

I had noticed some odd things about that grocery for years -- things which I explained in ways familiar to a third generation Jersey City native.  To be specific, the grocery was located a half-block from the building where I lived and was visible from the front of my building.  I very frequently saw drivers pull up in front of the store, park illegally, and run inside for transactions which took seconds to complete.  My assumption, as a resident of that notoriously mobbed up community, was that the store was running a numbers racket, selling drugs, or both.  I've come to believe that it was instead a transit point for information about al-Qaeda activities, or the site of a hawala banking operation, or both.

There were other signs.  Rahman's gang that couldn't bomb straight got caught because they incredibly tried to collect the deposit they had put on the van they blew up with a homemade bomb in the WTC basement parking garage.  That act of criminal genius resulted in the gang, including it's leader, getting busted.  Immediately after Rahman's arrest, his followers organized a massive demonstration outside the Masjid al-Salaam, closing off my entire neighborhood to traffic, and filling it with angry, shouting faces.  I remember walking on my block that day, and coming face to face with a bearded man who looked at me with a rage I can scarcely describe other than to say that he had murder in his eyes.  How accurate that observation was would become clearer eight years later.

And there were other signs.  There was the summer day when, as I walked by the window of a ground floor apartment on my block, a breeze gently blew aside a curtain and revealed a poster showing a masked jihadi brandishing an assault rifle.  Around the corner, on Kennedy Boulevard, there was the store featuring racks bearing Arabic magazines with grossly anti-Semitic cover art.  There were also the warnings of my Egyptian and Lebanese friends in the neighborhood that there were dangerous people living among us.  I wrongly took their lack of more specific information to be evidence that their concerns were not well-founded.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  They knew more about that neighborhood than I did.

It hadn't always been so.  Jersey City had been very familiar territory.  It was the place of my birth and early years, the home of my grandparents.  Journal Square was the site of my earliest movies and restaurant meals, departure point of my trips to the New York of my early childhood back in the mid-60s.  It was where my dad and my grandfather had their offices.  I thought that I knew the place. In 1981, after college, I moved to the Journal Square neighborhood because it was familiar, very convenient to New York City, and cheap.  Since the time of my childhood, the skyline of Manhattan had been permanently changed (or so we thought) by the two huge towers which were visible even from the other side of Kennedy Boulevard, well over the crest of the hill on which Journal Square sits.  Those towers dominated the skyline of that neighborhood. The neighborhood's residents had changed too, from Italians and Irish, to Arabs and  South Asians.  For a very small group of those new residents, those twin towers came to represent something the rest of us living there couldn't begin to imagine: a target of their rage at the non-Muslim world.

For about a year in the mid-80s I worked in the then still somewhat gritty neighborhood which had just been renamed by the real estate industry as Tribeca. Before that, it had been known as Washington Market, and was the home to countless print shops and warehouses most of which looked like they had been built in the Civil war era.  My work hours generally ended at 9 PM, so the view of the illuminated and cloud shrouded towers as I walked to the PATH train station became my nightly beacon.  In that year, I became increasingly familiar with the towers and began to associate them with something good -- my trip home after a work day.

One of my coworkers at that time worshiped at the Tribeca sufi mosque and meditation center started by Lex Hixon.  I call it a mosque, but it would better be described as a meditation or even yoga center, at least to create the proper image of what the place looked like. It was a clean, simply but brightly decorated place with a bookstore/entrance area in front and a large room without furniture in the back.  A friendly young woman with a clipboard checked in members as they came for worship or meditation.  Later I would buy Lex's great book Heart of the Koran at his mosque's bookstore. That congregation morphed into the congregation that was slated to fill move into the Islamic cultural center planned for two blocks north of the World Trade Center.  (In case there is any doubt about this, let me make clear that, whereas that congregation was part of that neighborhood for more than a decade, its bigoted opponents were not.)

Later, I worked for more than a decade just a block away from the towers. I bought my morning papers and coffee there.  I frequently ate lunch, and shopped for books and clothing there.  I bought the guide books and maps that my wife and I used on our honeymoon in August 2001 at the Borders there.  The arcade level of the World Trade Center became a very familiar part of my daily and even my nightly landscape.  In the aftermath of 9/11, I had nightly dreams that I was in a ghostly version of that arcade, walking with ghosts among the empty stores in a state of mind I can only describe as silent terror.  I woke up from those terrible dreams wet with tears and sweat.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about my some of my experiences on 9/11. I think I only got to the point when the towers collapsed, at which point I was near Canal Street, escaping from disaster with two other evacuees: a coworker and friend who has a crippled hip and who can only walk half-step by half-step, and another coworker who had a child in the daycare center at the World Trade Center, and who had not yet located her child.  We were unable to travel to our homes because the subways to Brooklyn had stopped running.  On our journey walking north away from the smoke and toward subways we thought might be running, we saw some incredible things I'd like to share with you sometime soon.  I hope you won't be too bored by 9/11 by that time.

I'm writing these posts on the fly with little time to reflect.  I think that's better because over-thinking will just stop me from posting them.  Reader feedback would be appreciated.


adamhollandblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com