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Newly released FBI docs shed light on apparent Mossad foreknowledge of 9/11 attacks

New information released by the FBI has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
 
by Whitney Webb 

Part 1

For nearly two decades, one of the most overlooked and little known arrests made in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks was that of the so-called “High Fivers,” or the “Dancing Israelis.” However, new information released by the FBI on May 7 has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Shortly after 8:46 a.m. on the day of the attacks, just minutes after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, five men — later revealed to be Israeli nationals — had positioned themselves in the parking lot of the Doric Apartment Complex in Union City, New Jersey, where they were seen taking pictures and filming the attacks while also celebrating the destruction of the towers and “high fiving” each other. At least one eyewitness interviewed by the FBI had seen the Israelis’ van in the parking lot as early as 8:00 a.m. that day, more than 40 minutes prior to the attack. The story received coverage in U.S. mainstream media at the time but has since been largely forgotten.

The men — Sivan Kurzberg, Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Yaron Shimuel and Omar Marmari — were subsequently apprehended by law enforcement and claimed to be Israeli tourists on a “working holiday” in the United States where they were employed by a moving company, Urban Moving Systems. Upon his arrest, Sivan Kurzberg told the arresting officer, “We are Israeli; we are not your problem. Your problems are our problems, The Palestinians are the problem.

For years, the official story has been that these individuals, while they had engaged in “immature” behavior by celebrating and being “visibly happy” in their documenting of the attacks, had no prior knowledge of the attack. However, newly released FBI copies of the photos taken by the five Israelis strongly suggest that these individuals had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The copies of the photos were obtained via a FOIA request made by a private citizen.

According to a former high-ranking American intelligence official who spoke to the Jewish Daily Forward in 2002, the FBI concluded in its investigation that the five Israelis arrested “were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, NJ, served as a front.” At least two of the men arrested were determined to have direct links to the Mossad after their names appeared in a CIA-FBI database of foreign intelligence operatives. According to one of their lawyers, one of the men, Paul Kurzberg, had previously worked for the Mossad in another country prior to arriving in the United States. Another of those arrested, Oded Ellner, subsequently stated on Israeli TV that the five Israelis had been in New York at the time “to document the event,” meaning the attack on the World Trade Center.

The FOIA release of the photos is notable because responses to prior FOIA requests to the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, had previously claimed that all of the photos taken by the Israeli nationals had been destroyed in January 2014. The photos themselves are heavily redacted, making it impossible to see the Israelis’ facial expressions. However, previously declassified yet heavily redacted FBI reports state that the Israelis are “visibly happy” in nearly every photo, even when the burning towers are in the background. The photos released are also not original copies and instead appear to be photocopies of photocopies of the original pictures. In addition, of the original 76 pictures developed by authorities from the camera in the Israelis’ possession, only 14 were released.

However, three of these photos — despite the heavy redaction and poor quality — are damning. Since 2001, even though the photos were never released until now, it had been known that one of the Israelis arrested — Sivan Kurzberg — was seen in a photo “holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the smoldering wreckage [of the twin towers] in the background,” according to Steven Noah Gordon, then-lawyer for the five Israelis, as cited in a New York Times report from November 2001.

The picture of Kurzberg with the lit lighter appears to be photo #5 in the new FOIA release. Yet, the picture released includes a visible date of September 10, 2001, the day before the attacks, as do two other photos — images #7 and #8 in the collection — whereas all other photos with dates show only the month and the year (9 ‘01). The FOIA release did not provide any information as to the apparent discrepancy in dates.

While this could be explained away as the camera in question being programmed with a slightly inaccurate date, that doesn’t seem to be the case for two reasons. First, only two out of the 14 pictures carry that date and, second, previously declassified FBI reports report an eyewitness adamantly stating that Sivan Kurzberg had visited the Doric Apartments on September 10, 2001 at around 3 p.m. with at least one other man, with whom he was conversing in a foreign language, and had identified himself as a “construction worker” to a tenant (page 61 of declassified FBI report). 

In addition, the FBI report noted that a van from Urban Moving Systems, the company that employed the five Israelis at the time of their arrest, was present and was involved in moving a tenant out of the complex on September 10 and that the movers all had foreign accents. Thus, images 5, 7 and 8 strongly appear to have been taken at the same complex a day before the attacks. Kurzberg is seen in both images that display the visible date of September 10, 2001.

This raises two possibilities. First, that there are two images of Kurzberg with a lit lighter in front of the towers, one taken before the attack and one taken at the time of the attack, and that the FBI released only one of them. Second, that Kurzberg took the picture with the lighter only the day before the attack and his lawyer misrepresented the contents of the photo to the New York Times. Given that the background of the photo — particularly the state of the towers — is indiscernible in the recently released photo, it is difficult to determine which is the case.

Yet, in either scenario, Kurzberg had simulated the burning of the World Trade Center the day before the attacks took place. That the FBI concluded that Kurzberg was party to a Mossad surveillance operation at the time of his arrest would then suggest that Israeli intelligence also had foreknowledge of the attacks.

Notably, the relevant section of the FBI report that asks “1. Did the Israeli nationals have foreknowledge of the events at WTC and were they filming the events prior to and in anticipation of the explosion?” is redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

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