The Holocaust Religion’s New Offshoot
To considerable media fanfare, the National September 11 Memorial Museum held a dedication ceremony on Thursday, May 15 and plans to open its doors to the general public this coming Wednesday, May 21.
The new museum pledges itself to “demonstrating the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and its impact on communities at the local, national, and international levels”—and if 9/11 hasn’t already been elevated to the status of a full-blown religion in America, this should do it once and for all.
The new 9/11 religion will be devoted to endlessly remembering the events of 9/11 (“Never forget!”), and its main center of worship will be—where else?—“Ground Zero.” Ah, but the vast majority of the museum is not above ground, but rather below it. This was done so that visitors may “be in the very space where the Twin Towers once stood,” and also “because federal preservation law mandated that those remnants be publicly accessible.”
In some respects you could think of the new religion as an offshoot of the holocaust religion, and should you doubt the analogy, consider that the museum houses a 2,500 square foot repository in which are now stored the unidentified human remains—mostly bags of pulverized bone—of more than a thousand 9/11 victims…or…that no less than the president of the United States, along with the mayor of New York, have pronounced the ground upon which the museum sits to be “sacred.”
“A lot of family members have agreed that this is the right approach,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, referring to the decision to store human remains on the site. “I’m confident this is being done respectfully after a lot of consultation with family members, and in a way that really dignifies this moment and the sacred ground we’re discussing.”
Consider also that, according to the museum’s website, “The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has partnered with the New York City Department of Education and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education to develop a robust set of 9/11 lessons for K-12 classrooms.” It sounds almost like they’re planning to teach the kids the holocaust and 9/11 in the same lesson.
Built at a cost of $700 million, the museum features two “core” exhibition areas, both underground and located at the “archaeological heart of the World Trade Center site.” The exhibition halls are in proximity to what are known as the “Survivors’ Stairs,” and are packed with exhibits, including “artifacts, photographs, audio and video tapes” and much, much more.
But the possibility that Israel may have been one of the principle perpetrators behind the 9/11 attack doesn’t seem to be in the mix anywhere. At least there’s no mention of it on the official website, so if you do plan to visit the museum (admission $24), I wouldn’t count on seeing any exhibits on the luck of Larry Silverstein, the five dancing Israelis, Urban Moving Systems or its activities as a Mossad front operation, or a vast body of other evidence pointing to Israeli involvement in the attacks.
You will, however, should you show up on May 25—that’s four days after the main opening—get to attend a program entitled “9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Why They Exist and What Role They Play in Society,” featuring talks by Kathryn Olmstead and Michael Barkun. Both are noted academics, and both have authored books on the subject of conspiracy theories.
In fact, the 9/11 religion, as a main tenet of its faith, seems very much devoted to espousing the grandest conspiracy theory of them all—i.e. the official government narrative as determined by the 9/11 Commission, whose executive director, Philip Zelikow, is reportedly an Israeli/US dual citizen.
In that narrative, of course, we have 19 hijackers outwitting the intelligence agencies of the West, winging past NORAD defenses, ramming planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and accomplishing all this with relatively little flight training. And in case you should happen to forget, the 9/11 Museum seems quite intent on reminding you—these people were Muslims. One of the museum exhibits is to be a film entitled “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” which has set off a controversy (more about which below).
The 9/11 Memorial Museum consists of both the museum itself, as well as the 9/11 Memorial. The latter is located on the grounds above and around the museum, and its prominent features are two cascading reflection pools, each nearly an acre in size, bordering which the names of 9/11 victims are set in bronze.
The director of the museum is Alice Greenwald, while the CEO of the nonprofit overseeing both the museum and the memorial is Joseph Daniels. And then there is Clifford Chanin, who serves as the museum’s education director. Together the trio seems to be heavily involved in the day-to-day administration of the enterprise, and further they seem to be the three officials most often mentioned or quoted by the media.
In addition, all three—Chanin, Greenwald, and Daniels—are listed as having helped host a conference of the Council of American Jewish Museums that took place in March of 2013, while Chanin himself participated in one of the event’s panel discussions—entitled “Handle With Care: Sensitive Issues Surrounding Cultural Property”—along with Gabriel Goldstein, of Yeshiva University Museum, and Richard Freund, of the University of Hartford.
Chanin, by the way has also served as curator of the Legacy of Absence collection for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and reportedly also founded the Legacy Project, described as a nonprofit group “dedicated to documenting contemporary responses—in visual art, literature, film and public debates about memory—to historical traumas around the world.”
As you may imagine, obsessing over the holocaust— “in visual art, literature, film…” etc.—is a central preoccupation of the Legacy Project, but it seems Chanin has carried the same template into his work with the 9/11 Museum. On the official museum website, you can find an artists registry featuring a variety of artwork—from music and poetry to visual arts—with a 9/11 theme, plus information about the artists who created them.
One artist so featured is Lana Sokolov, an Israeli vocalist, choir conductor, and composer, who has a CD out entitled “Jewish Love Songs.” Ms. Sokolov is described as having been “active on the music scenes of Israel, Russia, and the US for the last 17 years,” and you can click here to watch a music video of her 9/11 song, “On That Day.”
Is there a continuum through all this? If Israelis were behind, or had a hand in, the destruction of the Twin Towers, then would it perhaps stand to reason that Israelis would also be behind (and profit from) the construction of the memorial built upon the same spot in their place?
The architect who designed the 9/11 Memorial, including its two pools, is Michael Arad, an Israeli/US dual national who previously served in the Israeli military. Reportedly Arad was chosen on the basis of having entered a competition, held back in 2003, in which contestants were invited to submit their designs for a 9/11 memorial. His design was selected out of a total of 5,201 entries, it was divulged.
“When I was in the Army, the unit I served in, you could never stop,” said Arad, speaking of his time served in the Israeli Army, which was during the first Intifada. “It was a volunteer unit, and there was a fairly high rate of attrition. The people stayed through are the people who were either great at it or the people who just didn’t know how to stop. And I fell into that second category.”
By all counts, Arad has an explosive temper, and he frequently clashed not only with other architects on the project, but also with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the government agency overseeing the task. Especially rocky, it seems, was his relationship with architect Daniel Libeskind, who is also Jewish.
Libeskind drew up what has been referred to as the “ground zero master plan,” and it seems an habitual source of friction between the two men was Arad’s “significant departures,” in his own design for the memorial, from Libeskind’s overall master plan for the entire 16-acre site. (Two other architectural firms also involved in the project were Davis Brody Bond and Snøhetta, and reportedly there was considerable bickering between Arad and the rest).
“I will fight this!” Libeskind reportedly railed at one point. “I am the people’s architect!”
Perhaps the old adage about “two Jews and three opinions” is applicable here. But whatever the case, it seems the national memorial to the events of September 11 has been “hijacked,” in a manner of speaking, apparently in an effort to shape national perceptions—not only as they pertain to the substance and meaning of the tragic episode (tragic for the entire world), but also as to the character and distinctive traits of those purportedly behind the attacks.
As mentioned above, one of the museum exhibits is a film entitled “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” a short documentary—less than seven minutes long—but one over which there has been considerable controversy.
While it has not yet been made available to the general public, the video, narrated by NBC anchor Brian Willams, was screened before an interfaith advisory group, whose members have criticized it as inflammatory toward Muslims.
Their reactions are reported in an April 23, 2014 New York Times article, while two members of the group also registered their concerns in a letter to Greenwald, a letter which can be accessed in PDF form here.
As you know, many members of the Interfaith Advisory Group have expressed reservations about the narrative script for the documentary. Following our group’s request for a second viewing of the documentary and for a meeting with you, we expressed our concerns that, given the content of the video, museum visitors who do not have a very sophisticated understanding of the issues could easily come away equating al-Qaeda with Islam generally. We continue to posit that the video may very well leave viewers with the impression that all Muslims bear some collective guilt or responsibility for the actions of al-Qaeda, or even misinterpret its content to justify bigotry or even violence toward Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim (e.g., Sikhs). Equally troubling is Brian William’s narrative juxtaposed to the English translations. All American sources, news quotations and narrative are recorded in “Media English”, whereas translations from Middle Eastern sources were recorded in English or broken English with a heavy Middle Eastern accent.
The writers of the above are Peter Gudaitis, of New York Disaster Interfaith Services, and the Rev. Chloe Breyer, of the Interfaith Center of New York. According to the Times, they and other members of the group had been invited to take a pre-opening tour of the museum, to walk through and view its exhibits, and for the most part, says the Times, their impressions were favorable—that is, until they saw the film.
“As soon as it was over, everyone was just like, wow, you guys have got to be kidding me,” Gudaitis said.
Objections centered around the film’s use of such words as “Islamist” and “jihadist” without sufficient elaboration, possibly leaving the impression that Muslims in general condone terrorism. It was at this point that Gudaitis and Breyer wrote their letter to Greenwald—and yes, they did receive a reply from museum officials, but according to the Times, it was an unintentional one:
The response from the museum was immediate, though accidental: Clifford Chanin, the education director, inadvertently sent the group an email intended solely for the museum’s senior directors, indicating he was not overly concerned.
“I don’t see this as difficult to respond to, if any response is even needed,” he wrote.
A Muslim member of the interfaith group was so incensed over the matter he resigned from the panel.
“The screening of this film in its present state would greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum,” said Shiekh Mostafa Elazabawy, imam of Masjid Manhattan. “Unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam, leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believers near the site.”
But the film has also been defended by Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, who supposedly “vetted” the script.
“The critics who are going to say, ‘Let’s not talk about it as an Islamic or Islamist movement,’ could end up not telling the story at all, or diluting it so much that you wonder where Al Qaeda comes from,” said Haykel, whose father is a Lebanese Christian and whose mother is Jewish.
Gudaitis and Breyer, in their letter, suggested some re-editing prior to the museum’s opening, or, should that not be possible, a disclaimer, placed either at the front of the film or in the room where it is shown, reading:
“This video in no way intends to imply that the vast majority of Muslims agree with or support the attacks perpetrated by the members of al-Qaeda. Most Muslim leaders and Muslim organizations worldwide have disavowed the ideology and actions of Al Qaeda. The Museum’s documentation of Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism should not be mistaken for any implicit or explicit justification for racial, religious or ethnic profiling.”
But their suggestion was rejected. You can go here to watch a video of Chanin interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News and insisting that, “The film will be shown as we’ve developed it.”
The issue of the storage of human remains at the museum has also stirred up a controversy. Museum officials assert that the decision was made in conjunction with the family members of 9/11 victims, and that it was handled respectfully… but not all the families are in agreement on that matter.
On Saturday, May 10, in a ceremony that had all the flavor of a religious rite, the remains were transported from the medical examiner’s office, where they were stored in the past, to the museum, to be housed in the special, 2,500 foot repository. Accompanied by blinking red lights, the procession was a solemn one, with more than 7,900 bags of bones and other remnants of the deceased victims being carried in three large, flag-draped containers.
According to one report, officials have stressed that “the remains will not be part of the museum’s exhibit and that their lost relatives’ bones will not be subjected to ghoulish gawking by strangers.” Nonetheless, the procession was met with a protest by a group of family members, many of them wearing black ribbons tied around their mouths. One of the protesters, Jim Riches, is quoted at length in a report at Voice of Russia.
“He was the hero before 9/11 and he was the hero after 9/11,” said Riches, speaking of his son, a 29-year-old firefighter who died in the attack and whose remains are among those that have yet to be positively identified by DNA sample.
Riches said the families were never polled to find out what they thought about the placement of the remains. He said many families wanted the remains above ground in a place that could be visited at any time, not one that closes at night like the museum will. “People have to pay 24-dollars to go pay their respects; it’s ridiculous”, he said.
Riches called the museum “a cash cow”. He said the nonprofit that runs the museum has paid their top executive and director close to half-a-million dollars a year. He said he thinks it’s “double what people from the National Park Service would bring in to do the same job at other national memorials like Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg and Shankesville.
“These guys are thinking of this as a revenue generating tourist attraction rather than being a memorial to our loved ones that would tell the story of what happened that day. We’re outraged,” he said.
You can also go here to access a website put up by the family members.
The dedication ceremony, held last Thursday, was attended in the main by dignitaries, family members (though presumably not the same ones protesting), and the media. On hand to deliver a speech was Obama, who at one point referred to the museum as a “sacred place of healing and of hope.”
But is it really? What are we to make of this museum, its architectural finesses, and its $700 million aggrandizement of a national tragedy? How do we interpret the stubborn refusal to change the “Rise of Al Qaeda” video or to at least put up the altogether reasonable disclaimer requested by the interfaith group? The museum seems very much to have been built, at least in part, with the intention of buttressing the official 9/11 narrative.
“In the battle for the American mind, reinforcements are often needed to stem the tide of truth,” writes Kenny, of the blog Kenney’s Sideshow, in a post on the museum put up on the day of the dedication ceremony.
And that may be an apt way of looking at it. The official 9/11 narrative is unraveling. Increasing numbers of people all over the world, including here in the US, have come to realize that it simply does not hold water. Perhaps, then, “reinforcements” were put in place, $700 million worth, in an effort to keep the whole artifice from falling apart at the seams.
The events of 9/11 gave birth to something truly monstrous. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day in New York, but it is a number relatively miniscule compared to the millions who perished in the wars which were fought afterward and which still go on to this day. At this point perhaps all one might do is ask the perennial question: Who benefited? The official mission of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, as defined on its website, is to “bear solemn witness” to the attacks, and also to “honor” the victims. Yet I wonder if this man…
…would feel himself so honored had he known that one day, in his memory, rising up in place of the building from which he plummeted, would arrive what could perhaps be thought of as a festival of the victorious posing itself as a canto to the dead. They say that in such moments as this, captured in the frame above, your whole life passes in front of your eyes. And truly I can only believe that at some point on the way down, free-falling past the office windows one by one, there came over him a sense of heightened consciousness, a moment of consummate awareness, of celestial, perhaps even omniscient realization, when the question mark in his mind turned into… an exclamation point!