My Turn: Threatened by West's commercial values

Posted: Monday, October 01, 2001

I am writing in response to the letter of Lisle Hebert which appeared as a My Turn on Sept. 26. In his letter Mr. Hebert identifies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the basis for the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. He suggests that we cut off aid to Israel to force a solution, believing that, "the Palestinian issue has long been the fire that keeps Arabia boiling... ." While I believe there are several factual errors in Mr. Lisle's letter, space doesn't allow me to list and respond to them. I will, however, deal with his primary point.

Mr. Hebert suggested that we read a book, "The Palestinian Problem and United States Policy," a book of articles, to obtain information justifying his opinions. However, I would only point out that there are at least a thousand books written on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and probably more than 10,000 articles in the past 30 or 40 years. To rely upon one source of information to form an opinion on such a complex issue could never begin to do it the justice it deserves.

If the Israeli-Palestinian issue was the central reason for the hijackings on Sept. 11, then wouldn't it be reasonable to expect that the aggrieved Palestinians would likely have been the perpetrators? And yet, suspicion falls upon militant southern Saudis and Egyptians as the hijacking pilots. No Palestinians seem to be directly involved. You must ask yourself why that would be. The Saudis appear to be of the Wahhabi belief, a "...rigid, puritanical version of Islam" (Newsweek, Oct. 1, quoting an article by Fareed Zakaria). Their beliefs are similar to the Taliban in wanting to turn the Western clock of change back many generations, to the point that the Taliban, a similar sect, neither allows women education nor the opportunity to work. These people are opposed to what they call the godless commercialism of the West to the point that even in Saudi Arabia CD's are disallowed. They believe that in the West the young are more concerned about the latest clothing and shoe styles and what Britney Speares is wearing or not wearing than their own immortal souls.

I find it instructive that the hijackers hit the World Trade Center and not the Statue of Liberty. If they wanted to attack America wouldn't the statue make more sense? What does the WTC represent that the statue does not? For one, world commercial interests; international corporate power. It is just this version of international commercialism that I believe the hijackers struck at. It was America's version of world trade. Isn't it interesting that this has happened at a time when we have a president who probably owes his election to the support of corporate interests. But nevertheless, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is, I believe, only an excuse for their actions. The Gulf War didn't involve the Palestinians. The revolution in Iran and subsequent year-long hostage situation didn't involve the Palestinians. Yet each of these has been suggested as a reason for the Sept. 11 atrocity. The Palestinian conflict is only one of the excuses for their actions. Their primary purpose is to defeat the West's version of "progress".

Don't get me wrong. I truly wish that the Israelis and Palestinians would find an amicable solution to their differences and begin working toward peace. But I believe that their conflict provides only an excuse to the deeper differences the hijackers perceived between their puritanical version of reality and that of the West. They would have done what they did even if the Israelis and Palestinians embraced each other just as Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachim Begin did at Camp David. Consider that at least some of the hijackers appear to have lived in the U.S. for several years. And yet they resisted the enticements of the sort of pleasure-seeking lifestyle most Americans are accustomed to. They kept their rigid, puritanical version of Islam and their primary mission in front of them despite the many temptations to do otherwise they must have encountered.

I submit that these people see their version of Islam as diametrically opposed to and threatened by the commercial values of the West and they chose the WTC as the ultimate symbol of international commercial corporate power.


Steven Wolf of Juneau is a retired teacher.

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