Five Dancing Israelis: The Forgotten Documented Element Of 9/11

On the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, people will talk about Muslim jihadis, the inside job, the utterly impossible explanation by the government of how those buildings fell perfectly into their footprint and those who benefited the most from those attacks, while the American people have been that target in those attacks from that time up until the present day.  However, one element of that fateful day that continually gets lost or hardly even mentioned is the story that has been dubbed the “Dancing Israeli” art students

In June 2002, ABC News ran a story titled Were Israelis Detained on Sept. 11 Spies?

Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. “They seemed to be taking a movie,” Maria said.

The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men’s faces. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange,” she said.

She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.

These five young Israeli men were arrested and detained for over 60 days.

The arresting officers said they saw a lot that aroused their suspicion about the men. One of the passengers had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock. Another was carrying two foreign passports. A box cutter was found in the van. But perhaps the biggest surprise for the officers came when the five men identified themselves as Israeli citizens.

‘We Are Not Your Problem’

When the men were transferred to jail, the case was transferred out of the FBI’s Criminal Division, and into the bureau’s Foreign Counterintelligence Section, which is responsible for espionage cases, ABCNEWS has learned.

One reason for the shift, sources told ABCNEWS, was that the FBI believed Urban Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.

After the five men were arrested, the FBI got a warrant and searched Urban Moving’s Weehawken, N.J., offices.

Steven Gordon, the attorney for the five Israeli detainees, acknowledged that his clients’ actions on Sept. 11 would easily have aroused suspicions. “You got a group of guys that are taking pictures, on top of a roof, of the World Trade Center. They’re speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on ’em. One’s got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that’s a scary situation.”

But Gordon insisted that his clients were just five young men who had come to America for a vacation, ended up working for a moving company, and were taking pictures of the event.

The five men were held in detention for more than two months. Some of them were placed in solitary confinement for 40 days, and some of them were given as many as seven lie-detector tests.

However, that is not all.

Here’s a picture, believed to have been an artist rendering of the truck used by the Israelis.

On top of that, there are several government documents on these men from that fateful day that have been obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request, along with pictures that have been heavily redacted.

Whitney Webb reports:

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.

A high-quality photo, top, shows the area the dancing Israelis were staged. Credit | Panamza

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.

FOIA Release of 9/11 Dancin… by HonklerUnredacted on Scribd

Webb goes on to report on an analysis of the photos in the documents acquired by the FOIA request.

Based on the impressions of the French website Panamza and subsequently MintPress, three of these photos — despite the heavy redaction and poor quality — appear 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 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 three out of the 14 pictures appear to 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).

Dancing Israelis lighter photo

Sivan Kurzberg holds a lit lighter with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The date September 10, 2001 visible in the bottom right corner | Photo #5

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 may have been taken at the same complex a day before the attacks.

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.

Dancing Israelis pointer

One of the Israelis points to what is presumably the World Trade Center, in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 | Photo #2

However, other analysts have interpreted the photos quite differently. For instance, Ryan Dawson, formerly of Newsbud, cited the police report that details the clothing of some of the Israelis at the time of their arrest and used that to link identities to the redacted faces in the pictures. He believes that the Israeli holding the lighter is not Sivan Kurzberg, but his brother Paul. Meanwhile, the person who filed the FOIA request that resulted in the picture’s release, who wished to remain anonymous, thought that Omer Marmari was more likely to be the man with the lighter.

Both have stated that all pictures were likely to have been taken on the day of the attacks. One reason given for the appearance of the date of September 10, 2001 in only some of the photos is due to the heavy editing, which rendered it invisible in the remaining photos. Dawson asserted that the incorrect date was due to the Israelis’ panicking when they were pulled over and attempting to edit the date and hour on the camera upon the arrest in an effort to hide the evidence. Another explanation put forth is that it was the result of a camera configuration error.

Given the highly redacted and edited nature of the pictures, what is most notable of all is the fact of what is not seen (i.e. edited out) in the photos. Clearly, there was an interest in preventing the public from seeing the state of the towers at the time of the photos were taken and also in preventing the public from seeing the facial expressions of the Israelis, despite it being known from the FBI report that they are “visibly happy” and “jovial.” The state of the towers being edited out is particularly telling.

As to whether any of the Israelis knew of the attacks in advance, 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 notably redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

Getting back to the moving company these guys allegedly were tied to, Dean Garrison pointed out on the 17th anniversary of 9/11:

On June 22, 2001, Urban Moving Systems received a one time payment of $498,750 from a Federal Government Assistance Program.

The government doles out cash to businesses regularly but when cash is given to a company that hired 9/11 suspects it is certainly cause for scrutiny.

The owner of Urban Moving systems, Dominik Suter, fled to Israel before he could be questioned further by the FBI. 

Four of his employees (4 of the 5 “Dancing Israelis”) would eventually bring a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft.


In 2004, Paul Kurzberg, Silvan Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, and Omer Gavriel Marmari filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and wardens of the Federal Bureau of Prisons for their treatment in prison after their 9/11/01 arrests.
The four were represented by New York attorney Robert Joseph Tolchin and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. They claimed that their detention was illegal and that their civil rights were violated, suffering racial slurs, physical violence, religious discrimination, rough interrogations, deprivation of sleep, and many other offenses. The lawsuit also stated “As Israelis and as Jews, plaintiffs themselves are sworn enemies of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.”

The Dancing Israelis lawsuit, however, was eventually dismissed because of the plaintiff’s failure to serve the defendants properly as per the rules of the Federal Court.

YourNewsWire reports what many have suspected over the last 17 years, that these men were very likely Mossad agents.

A group of five Mossad agents posing as Israeli tourists were caught red-handed by the FBI celebrating and congratulating themselves on the morning of the 9/11 attacks. 

According to one of several witnesses who reported “middle-eastern” looking men videotaping the disaster as it unfolded:

They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me“.

The subsequent FBI investigation discovered that Mossad knew about the September 11th attacks well in advance, and in the months following desperately tried to cover it up.

“So was Israel involved in the planning and/or execution of 9/11?” Garrison poignantly asked.

I don’t know, but the fact that this received such a coverup is indication that our government was either complicit in the attack or they were seeking to coverup what was really going on.  Again, Whitney Webb reports:

If images 5 and 7 were indeed taken the day prior to the attack, the question then becomes why the FBI officially concluded that the arrested Israelis had no prior knowledge of the attacks? One report from ABC News dated June 2002 suggests that the Bush administration intervened in the investigation. That report states that “Israeli and U.S. government officials worked out a deal — and after 71 days, the five Israelis were taken out of jail, put on a plane, and deported back home [to Israel].” If the Bush administration had cut a deal with Israel’s government to cover up the incident, it certainly would not have been the first time a U.S. presidential administration had done so on Israel’s behalf.

Further evidence that higher-ups in the administration intervened is the fact that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft personally signed off on the detainees’ release. Upon his entering the private sector as a lobbyist and consultant in 2005, the Israeli government became one of Ashcroft’s first clients.

A cover-up certainly seems to have happened to some extent, between the destruction of records of the investigation and the fact that official conclusions of the investigation do not add up. In the latter case, the FBI  — in a file dated September 24, 2001– officially stated that they “determined that none of the Israelis were actively engaged in clandestine intelligence activities in the United States.” However, that conclusion was directly contradicted by U.S. officials a year later and by the fact that Israel’s own government subsequently acknowledged that the five Israelis had indeed been involved in “clandestine intelligence activities in the United States.”

In addition, the new FOIA release of the photos suggests that another FBI conclusion — that “none of the pictures developed from the film found inside the 35-mm camera depicted the twin towers prior to the attack” — was inaccurate. This may explain why the images released via the recent FOIA request were heavily edited leaving details in the background greatly obscured, making it impossible to determine whether the photos were taken prior to or during the attacks based solely on the state of the towers.

And you’ve been told it was only about “radical Muslims.”

Read the entirety of Whitney Webb’s excellent piece at Mint Press News.

Originally published by Tim Brown at Sons of Liberty media.