Palestinians were not immune from the fallout of the 9/11 attacks in New York. They were among those who paid a high price and continue to do so, even though they had no direct involvement in the attacks.
On 11 September 2001, Palestinians were preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the Second Palestinian Intifada. The uprising against the Israeli occupation broke out on 28 September 2000 following the provocative visit by Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. When the 9/11 attacks happened, the intifada was at its peak. But, it was suddenly forgotten as the media turned their attention to the explosive events taking place in New York and Washington.
The intifada did not last for much longer. Israel exploited the ‘war on terror’ in order to portray the Palestinian resistance movements as equivalent to al-Qaeda.
The US did not need Israeli incitement against the Palestinians. Under George W. Bush, the Zionist-Christian right dominated the politics of the US administration. As soon as he got into office, Bush disengaged from the ‘peace process,’ which had been a priority during the previous eight years of Bill Clinton’s administration.
After the 9/11 attacks, Bush adopted Sharon’s view that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a terrorist and could not be a partner in the negotiations. This is despite the fact that Arafat was quick to announce his solidarity with the Americans, even donating blood to the victims of the attacks. This did not stop Bush from giving Israel the green light to go after Arafat. Washington cut off all contacts with the Palestinian leader and Arab allies of the US soon followed suit.
After a suicide attack in March 2002 that killed 30 Israelis, Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield on the West Bank, reoccupying areas under Palestinian control and surrounding Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. The siege ended when Arafat’s health deteriorated quickly and he had to be flown to France for treatment, where he died under mysterious circumstances. Many suspect he was poisoned.
Arafat’s death gave the Bush administration an opportunity to install a new leadership at the helm of the Palestinian Authority, one which Washington could influence. Ten years after the events of 9/11, the new leadership continues to act against the interest of the Palestinians while the US continues to label the Palestinian resistance as terrorist and gives Israel a free hand in waging its ‘war on terror’ against them.
This article is translated from the Arabic Edition.