His voice sounds metallic, not human. Indeed, the tape reveals to us more about 9/11 than thousands of books and articles written on the attacks. It's the same voice recorded in a video discovered in 2006 in Afghanistan: Atta is smiling, joking and laughing to the camera.
Last week, an Israeli court sentenced Hakim Awad to five life sentences for the murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar. Ruth Fogel was in the bathroom when Awad killed her husband Udi and their three-month-old daughter Hadas, slitting their throats as they lay in bed. Awad slaughtered Ruth as she came out of the bathroom. Then he moved into a bedroom where Ruth and Udi’s sons Yoav (11) and Elad (4) were sleeping. He then slit their throats.
In court, Awad always smiled at the camera, just like Atta did. Awad said he has “no regrets” and flashed the "V" sign for victory while he was leaving the courthouse. “I am a person like you, I have no mental condition, I never had a serious illness,” Awad said to the judges. His smile was sincere.
The Fogels’ massacre in Itamar, where two Palestinians murdered babies as deliberately and unabashedly as very few other than the Nazis and Khmer Rouge ever had, has not been deciphered by our writers and intellectuals. It's because we have been told that “they hate us” is the language of xenophobes, the illiberal, the intolerant; that genocidal anti-Semitism was buried in the ashes of Auschwitz; that we have to be polite, sanitized and self-critical.
A seductive combination of post-colonial white guilt mixed with liberal condescension has dulled our moral senses and made us blind to Awad’s smile; a smirk that conveys unleashed hatred, contempt, physical aggression, the desire to expel, to destroy, and to eliminate the Jews.
Just like the 9/11 tape, Awad’s smile tells us about the obscene level of current-day anti-Jewish hatred - comparable to the worst days of the Nazis in the early 1930s - more than all the shelves of books written on the Middle East.
Awad resembles other "smiling assassins." For example, the mastermind of the Bali terrorist attacks, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, who has been called “the laughing bomber.” In 2005, a video footage was released of the Beslan school siege, showing the terrorist leader laughing as hundreds of pupils, their families and teachers were herded at gunpoint into the school gym rigged with explosives.
It's also the smile of Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief in southeastern France from 1942 to 1944, who laughed all the time when the Jewish victims described the torture at court in 1997. In 2007, a photo album containing 116 rare photographs of senior Nazi officials at the Auschwitz concentration camp was made public by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Josef Mengele, the camp doctor notorious for his medical experiments, is smiling while the gas chambers are operating in Birkenau.
Germany perpetrated the Holocaust not because it had the means to do so, but because its leaders engendered the will to do so. This totalitarian, robotic willingness also lies in Hakim Awad’s smile.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
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