Osama bin Laden Killed: Local reaction Date: 5/4/2011
Thursday, 05 May 2011 by Andrea Jacobs
WHEN President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces on Sunday, May 1, cheers rang like clamoring bells throughout the country. Ground Zero, revered as hallowed ground, attracted a victorious tide of New Yorkers waving American flags and honking their horns.
In front of the White House, thousands of people representing diverse age groups and political orientations gathered to roar their approval.
Shouts of “USA,” “USA,” “USA” reverberated in baseball stadiums from coast to coast. Players added their proud voices to the din.
Nine-and-a-half years after Sept. 11 — an eternity to survivors and families of the victims — the bearded fanatic who masterminded the attacks is dead.
The vast majority of US citizens view bin Laden’s violent end as a just act that might lead to some kind of emotional closure but not necessarily enhanced global security.
The news of his assassination in a luxurious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, elicited plaudits for a besieged administration and a nation in fiscal doubt.
Network and cable stations immediately lined up their talking heads.
Al Qaida is facing its death knell, one declared.
We have killed the man but not the idea he symbolizes, warned another.
Many commentators stood at Ground Zero, site of the much anticipated memorial that should be completed within a few months.
Young trees sprout green leaves, visible metaphors for life renewing itself.
But as pundits analyzed bin Laden’s assassination and explored its broader implications, images from that crisp September morning in 2001 riveted us to the split screen.
Bin Laden’s death brought it all back — those disintegrating towers, the unimaginable suffering of the victims, the magnitude of our private and collective loss.
Remember how the Palestinians’ rejoiced over America’s tragedy, dancing wildly in the streets and handing out candy to delighted children?
Surely our joyous eruptions are qualitatively different. Americans have every right to publicly celebrate the death of bin Laden, a tyrant cloaked in religious garb.
Or do we?
FOR Don Schlesinger, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, the memory of Palestinians jumping up and down on Sept. 11 sticks in his mind.
“A decade ago, terrorist organizations like Hamas and their adherents celebrated al Qaida’s brutal murder of thousands of innocent civilians of many races, nationalities and religions,” he says.
“It is barbaric to celebrate the loss of civilian lives.
“The demise of the mastermind behind those horrendous attacks, and the resulting blow to global terrorism, is welcome news that is worthy of celebration,” he affirms.
Jason Snyder, a history teacher at Denver Jewish Day School, feels that America’s jubilation over the killing of bin Laden is justified, while the Palestinian reaction to Sept. 11 can never be excused.
“A primary difference is that most rational people view Osama bin Laden as a military combatant who actively engaged the US in a military conflict,” he says.
“The 3,000-plus individuals killed on Sept. 11 were innocent victims.
“Therefore, celebrating the death of bin Laden, while seemingly crass and insensitive, marks the end of the conflict he inflicted.
“Celebrating the deaths of innocent people can only be seen as lacking respect for life.”
George Gumbiner, president of Marathon Investments, laughingly calls himself “your local hardliner.”
But when he compares the US response to killing a mass murderer and Palestinian exultation over 3,000 murdered Americans, he’s dead serious.
“One’s evil, one’s not,” he says simply. “When the Israelites escaped Egypt, we rejoiced over the death of a rasha — and we were commanded to do so.
“Bin Laden was killed. We should celebrate. He was evil, and we should always celebrate victory over evil.”
“DING-DONG! The witch is dead. The wicked old witch is dead.” Go online and you will find Harold Arlen’s lyrics from “The Wizard of Oz” prefacing countless blogs and posts.
But now what?
Either bin Laden’s death will cripple al Qaida’s ability to fulfill its terrorist aspirations, or it will further inflame and empower the network.
Schlesinger shuns the crystal ball approach.
“We can’t predict the future of the al Qaida network absent its longtime leader,” he says.
“But we are profoundly grateful that almost 10 years after Sept, 11, the killer-in-chief has been hunted down and killed.”
Snyder relies on historical models and real-time assessments to formulate his answer.
“I don’t think it will have a tremendous impact on al Qaida because bin Laden was seen as the nominal head of the organization,” he says.
“However, I don’t believe his death will push moderate Muslims and Arabs into the extremist camp.”
Gumbiner brandishes fighting words and takes aim.
“Al Qaida is disorganized right now, which gives us the opportunity to try and neutralize them,” he says.
“There’s a lack of trust in the leadership. This is the time to take advantage of the situation.
“The worst thing would be if we killed the bad guy and let it rest there.
“The Six Day War was an overwhelming victory for the Jewish people,” Gumbiner says.
“Those who opposed us recognized our strength and even feared us for a while.
“There was relative peace,”he says. “The same thing is true now.
“If we really want peace, we’re going to have to hit ‘em hard.”
Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News