For some reason, a debate has raged over whether or not Muslims were celebrating in the streets of New Jersey after the attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001 ever since 2016 Republican hopeful Donald Trump mindlessly parroted the long-discredited internet rumors. While Trump’s assertions have not been in any way validated, the billionaire continues to stick to his story that he witnessed “thousands” of Muslims leave their homes and celebrate the attacks in the streets.
After people with more than two brain cells questioned his spurious claims, Trump asserts that:
“It did happen, I saw it with my own eyes. There were thousands of people that were cheering, on the other side of the river [in Jersey City]… I know it may not be politically correct to talk about, but there were people cheering as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
To our friends on the Right, this was all they needed. Trump and his supporters have defended the “cheering Muslim” claims by citing a 2001 Washington Post article that explains:
“Law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”
There were absolutely some Middle Eastern men who were detained, absolutely, but Trump may be dismayed to know that they were not Muslims at all. The closest verifiable incident involves the arrests of five “laughing” and “dancing” Israelis someone initially thought were Muslims:
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.
“We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems,” one of them men told arresting officers. “The Palestinians are the problem.”
The Israeli men were widely thought to be spies though this was never confirmed. They were held in detention for two months and ultimately deported. A lawyer for the men explained that the neighbor’s story was quite loaded — and that she had ignorantly assumed them to be Arabs because she heard them speaking Hebrew:
“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.”
An employee with Urban Moving confirmed that the majority of his coworkers are Israelis, and that his coworkers were joking on the day of the attacks. The unnamed employee told The Record:
“I was in tears. These guys were joking and that bothered me. These guys were like, ‘Now America knows what we go through.”
It is still widely assumed that the men were Mossad. While the men were sent home without a definitive confirmation, one thing is for certain: They were not Muslims. These men have largely served as a convenient talking point for 9/11 conspiracy theorists and white supremacists who struggle to blame 9/11 on Israel, and they are terrible people for joking about September 11, but none of this story fits Trump’s narrative. However, if he was not “remembering this story incorrectly,” The Donald truly has nothing — nothing outside of desperate conservatives on Twitter lying about seeing Muslims celebrating, that is. Realizing he is out of options, Trump liked conspiracy theorist hangout Infowars in a tweet intended to exonerate him:
The Infowars piece does nothing to help Trump’s case, but it does showcase various right-wingers desperately attempting to help Hairpiece maintain his already-nonexistent credibility:
Well, that settles it — There’s no video evidence, no reliable news reports, but a bunch of conservatives “saw” it. That’s about as reliable as anything else Trump has said. In any case, the “Urban Moving Five” would not have been anything Trump would have seen.
Trump opponent Ben Carson also made similar claims, but his campaign later released a statement explaining the neurosurgeon “doesn’t stand behind his references” — but Trump doesn’t need to rely on facts, as his supporters don’t care about the truth at all.
Trump’s campaign claims that “special interests” are censoring the footage as an attack on their candidate but, as campaign manager Corey Lewandowski says, “We know it’s true” whether there’s evidence or not.
And his supporters will continue to eat it up.