What's the story behind the 'dancing Israelis' Trump's 9/11 comments resurfaced

Published December 2nd, 2015 - 05:57 GMT
A man stands amid the rubble of NYC's World Trade Center days after the September 11 attacks in 2001. (AFP/Doug Kanter)
A man stands amid the rubble of NYC's World Trade Center days after the September 11 attacks in 2001. (AFP/Doug Kanter)

Donald Trump shot September 11 back into headlines this week after insisting he saw “thousands” of Arabs cheering and celebrating in New Jersey after the attacks.

The results have been as they seem to go with every Trump blunder—the Washington Post wrote an extensive debunking of his claims, and the rest of the Internet is now revelling in trying to debunk that debunking.

But notably less discussed is a 9/11 story that has nothing to do with Arabs or Muslims. Instead, it’s a case of 5 Israelis detained on the day of the attacks, by now dubbed the “dancing Israelis.”

Trump stated during an exchange on ABC’s “This Week” on November 22:

“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”

His claims have been widely debunked, by politicians and local residents alike. However, some are suggesting that Trump got the idea from reports of a group of men celebrating while photographing the two towers falling down.

This is where the “dancing Israelis” come in.

On the day of the 2001 attack, five individuals were detained following a worried call to police by an onlooker in New Jersey, who described the men as “happy” and “not shocked at all” as they filmed the falling towers from the top of a van.

The men were arrested at gunpoint as they drove in the van which was registered to a company called Urban Moving.

The officers found an array of suspicious things in the van, such as a “sock like sack” containing almost $5,000 in cash and box cutters. In addition to this, one of the men was carrying two passports, and all were Israeli citizens.

It is also reported that upon being arrested, one of the men said, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.”

An ABC investigation reported that the case was shifted from the FBI’s Criminal Division to the Foreign Counterintelligence Section after the FBI had reason to believe that Urban Moving was a cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.

The FBI searched the Urban Moving offices and questioned its owner. His attorney claimed that he answered all the questions posed to him, however when the FBI tried to get back in touch a few days later he was gone.

In the meantime, the five Israelis were held for overstaying their tourist visas and eventually deported, undergoing numerous lie detector tests by the FBI. As for why they were celebrating and photographing the attack, they denied the former while insisting that the latter was normal on that day—everyone was photographing what was happening.

People, including those in the intelligence community, have speculated that the Israelis were spies conducting intelligence operations against the Arab population in the New Jersey area.

Further crevices among 9/11 Truthers on the Internet hold this up as proof of Israel’s foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks, which is obviously a stretch. Still, back in 2001 it did raise important questions about the relationship between the US and Israel in the world of espionage.

Today, perhaps it serves as a friendly reminder that Arabs and Muslims were not the only ones accused of cheering on the falling of the Twin towers in New Jersey. But waiting around for Trump to mention that fact probably isn't worth anyone’s time.

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