With the aid and speed of the Internet, conspiracy theorists are spreading a rumor that 4,000 Israelis who worked in the World Trade Center didn’t report for work the day two airliners commandeered by terrorists crashed into the towers, destroying the tallest buildings in New York.

The e-mailers and Internet sites spreading the tale suggest this is evidence Israel, not Islamic terrorists, were behind the attack Sept. 11 – or at least had advance knowledge of it.

There’s just one problem with the story, WorldNetDaily has learned. It’s not true.

The report seems to have originated in Jordan’s Al Watan newspaper and been spread by Pakistani publications, including Jang. Versions of the story have been repeated at news conferences by Islamic clerics in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Alex Safian, associate director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, which monitors Middle East media coverage, says his organization first saw the report on Lebanon’s Al-Manara Television.

Al-Manara is the television station of Hezbollah – a militant Islamic terrorist group.

“4,000 Israeli Employees in WTC Absent the Day of the Attack,” read the “Manar TV” headline Sept. 17.

“With the announcement of the attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, the international media, particularly the Israeli one, hurried
to take advantage of the incident and started mourning 4,000 Israelis
who work at the two towers,” started the Hezbollah story.

“Then suddenly, no one ever mentioned anything about those Israelis and later it became clear that they remarkably did not show up in their jobs the day the incident took place.

“No one talked about any Israeli being killed or wounded in the attacks,” the story added.

In fact, at least 130 Israelis were killed in the World Trade Center attack. Many more are missing.

Nevertheless, Pakistani political leader Sami-ul Haq, in calling for a nationwide strike yesterday to protest his country’s plan to cooperate with the U.S., made reference to the rumor.

“Thousands of Jews working — nothing happened to them,” Haq told a roomful of reporters.

The Israeli consulate may be partly responsible for the rumor. Immediately after the tragic attack, it filed requests for information on as many as 4,000 Israelis who may have been in the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks. Nearly 50,000 people work in the buildings at any one time. Many, however, left the second tower following the first attack.

The estimated death toll is currently around 7,000, but fewer than 300 bodies have been found and even fewer identified.

An FBI spokesman claimed not to have any knowledge of the rumor and refused comment or any interest in it.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.