This question was the subject of a 16 minute story broadcast on the PRI
program This American Life
, episode 196, "Rashomon
The story was titled "1001 Arabian Nightly Newscasts," and was compiled by Julie Snyder.
Julie is friends with a first generation Palastinian family, specifically their daughter, Rawa. Rawa is a Chicagoan, a college freshman, and a student of computer science. Rawa's family watches satellite tv broadcasts from the Middle East. Not surprisingly, these newscasts claim a lack of evidence pointing to Osama bin Laden, and the existance of evidence pointing to American militia groups wanting revenge for the execution of Timothy McVeigh.
Where did these ideas come from? Why is Israel, a tiny state surrounded by hostile neighbors, supposedly the center of a vast Zionist conspiracy?
Think of it this way: go all the way back to the creation of Israel after World War II. In the West, this was seen as a great event: a long displaced people who had just been nearly obliterated in the Holocaust finally getting a state of their own. In the Arab world, Snyder reports, this was seen as the world's Jews coming in and occupying land, kicking out the Muslims who lived there, and then convincing the rest of the civilized world that they hadn't done anything. If Israel was capable of this fundamental instance, what couldn't they do?
Until now, supposedly, the problems in the Middle East had always been between Israel and Muslims, but now, the Muslims fear, the United States will feel forced to involve itself in these conflicts, creating a war between the United States and Islamic nations. This, they claim, is what Israel has wanted all along, and it is why Israel would attack the United States, and frame the Arabs.
Besides, Rawa notes, Muslims couldn't have done it, because it would violate the Koran.
In a way, this "Israeli Boogeyman" is similar to the current fears of Osama bin Laden in the US. How can a tiny nation-state cause so much trouble for the world's fastest growing religion? How can a guy with a couple million dollars catch the world's most powerful nation completely by surprise? They must have tentacles everywhere!
It's an incredibly interesting story, and it gave me a deeper understanding of the fallout of the attacks on the US. Personally, I look foward to many years from now having my grand children come visit me, and tell me what they learned in history class about the Fall of 2001. Maybe by then, we'll finally have an answer to what really happened?
A RealAudio encoded version of this episode of This American Life can be found at: http://www.thislife.org/ra/196.ram