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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Albert Aghazarian

September 11, 2002

Albert Aghazarian, 52, is a history lecturer at the Palestinians' largest university, Birzeit. For him, the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks was compounded by the impression that Palestinians celebrated the deadly acts. He notes that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attacks and organized candlelight vigils in support of America. But the damage was done. An Armenian Christian, Aghazarian also identifies himself as a Palestinian.

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"On the morning of Sept. 11, we received four European consuls at the university who had walked around the roadblock and come to show support for access to the school. That afternoon, I was driving in Jerusalem when the news came over my radio. It was like from another world. And then the early reports said Palestinians were involved. I saw one of the consuls [again], and he said that if it was true that Palestinians were involved, then the whole cause is lost. So in one day I went from feeling a moving moment of international support to feeling like I was in the culprit's cage.

Israel is using Sept. 11 to show that now, from their angle, the world gets a flavor of what they've been passing through.

Of course, the comparison is different, but Israel is using this. They have been associating Arafat with [Osama] bin Laden, which is absurd. Someone like Arafat is yearning for a cup of coffee in the State Department or in the White House, a smile from Washington. And Bin Laden wants something radically different--to completely undermine America. They've put Arafat and Bin Laden in the same boat. Once you do that, it's a real confusion. It only exacerbates the conflict.

Palestinians have been paying a price. Israel has used Sept. 11 to further sharpen the knife against the Palestinian people. And they get away with it. This is certainly shaking the credibility of the United States. I think the United States is contracting the disease we are suffering here. I call it security-ism: not security, but the ideology and the sanctity of security. [It's] when the obsession with security becomes paranoia, when you start having to remove your shoes at the airport to travel. Terrorism is one thing, but measures that don't work and only feed paranoia--it brings out the worst in all of us."

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As told to Tracy Wilkinson

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