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January 06, 2015

Report: Top Israeli Politician Naftali Bennett Played Key Role in 1996 Massacre That Motivated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to Attack U.S. on 9/11


Naftali Bennett is Israel's Minister of the Economy and leader of the ultra-right wing religious party Jewish Home. He's also a leading candidate to be Israel's next Defense Minister, and as the New Yorker describes it, his ambition to one day become Prime Minister is "as plump and glaring as a harvest moon."

Now the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth is reporting that Bennett bears significant responsibility for Israel's 1996 massacre of 106 civilians taking shelter at a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Bennett – then an officer in an IDF commando unit – had contempt for his superiors' purported timidity in Israel's Operation Grapes of Wrath, and ignored orders in order to move more aggressively into Lebanon. His unit was then attacked by Hezbollah, and when Bennett called for help, the IDF responded with the shelling of the UN compound.

Members of the artillery battery itself said "no one spoke about it as if it were a mistake. We did our job...A few 'arabushim' [slur for Arabs] die, there is no harm in that." An Amnesty International investigation found that "the IDF intentionally attacked the UN compound, although the motives for doing so remain unclear." Human Rights Watch reported that Israel had an "appalling willingness to conduct military operations in which civilians would bear the brunt of the suffering" and that its "claims that it had no knowledge that hundreds of civilians were sheltered at the Qana base are simply not credible." And the UN found "it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors." (The U.S. was infuriated that Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then-Secretary General of the UN, published the UN investigation. Subsequently the UN Security Council voted 14-1 to appoint Boutros-Ghali to a second term; the one no vote was a veto from the U.S.)

But the Qana massacre got barely any attention from Americans, and to whatever degree anyone noticed it, they quickly forgot it had ever happened.

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Not everyone forgot, however.

In Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war upon the U.S., he specifically cited Qana as part of his motivation:

It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance...The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory.

Bin Laden cited Qana at least four more times: in a July, 1996 interview with Robert Fisk; a November, 1996 interview with a London newspaper; a 1999 interview with al Jazeera; and an October, 2001 online interview. He specifically said his goal was to make Americans "taste what we tasted."

In addition, Mohammed Atta signed a will at the beginning of Operation Grapes of Wrath. In Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower, he writes that "According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response."

Coincidentally, Naftali Bennett spent many years in living in the U.S. between his military service and the beginning of his Israeli political career. In 2000 he moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to work as as a software engineer and so his wife could work as a pastry chef making creme brûlée. Bennett apparently was living in New York on September 11, 2001.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at January 6, 2015 10:51 AM

A man stands by his wife's culinary aspirations and all you can do Jon is dredge up the past.

Posted by: Lewis at January 6, 2015 12:16 PM

Robert Fisk has NEVER been shy about describing the gruesome details of HORRORS of war.... and he is not here either....


To read the eyewitness account made me feel sick... the images on line are soul shattering...HOW COULD, the people to whom this was done, EVER forget??? It is only the POWERFUL who have short makes their lives less complicated and less inconvenient....

For the Israeli govt and some Israelis, this massacre, Sabra/Shatila, Cast Lead, Protective Edge are just "projects".... for the rest of us, it a period of "Death of Humanity"...humanity, as it is supposed to be.

Thank you Jon for bringing it back from the recesses of our "hidden from sight, forgotten by 'OVERWHELMED by unbelievable acts of cruelty, one against the other', minds"

Posted by: rupa at January 6, 2015 12:23 PM

Tried four times to link the URL.. did not work... will try one more tome..


Posted by: rupa at January 6, 2015 12:35 PM

Only in THESE TIMES can those who have committed atrocities against human kind can thrive... in more than one ways... they are too many to list...

Posted by: rupa at January 6, 2015 06:30 PM

Thanks for this, Jon. Some people I know have been citing the African Christian militias committing ethnic cleansing as counterexamples of religious extremism. I've mostly been citing the vastly larger massacres committed by the US as counterexamples of religious moderation, but the massacre at Qana will be useful too.

Posted by: Duncan at January 12, 2015 08:46 PM