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May 26, 2015

Pervasive Anti-Semitism in Declassified Bin Laden Letters

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

In the newly declassified letters found in Osama bin Laden’s compound, references to Jews, Israel and Zionists demonstrate the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in Al Qaeda’s highest echelons, as well as Al Qaeda’s intentional targeting of Jews and Jewish institutions.

The letters also demonstrate the extent to which Al Qaeda viewed anti-Semitism as a valuable motivating factor for terrorism: References to Jews were far more frequent in propaganda pieces and in items discussing plans for propaganda than in strategic memos or other letters.

Several of the letters directly discuss targeting Jews. One section of a memo on external operations reads, “In regards to targeting…the Jews as per the orders,” and details the prioritization of attacks against Jews.  Another document highlights “the beautiful huge bombing… of the western German bakery mainly visited by Jews and western nationals,” and a third document, addressed to the Syrian people, states, “If you want to resist, as you claim, we challenge you and your party to shoot one bullet against the Jews! So show us the Jews as your targets…”

Some of the documents also direct praise at other terrorist organizations for their attacks against Jews. One memo summarizing the military situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan highlights the Al Qaeda affiliated Abdallah Azzam Brigades, calling the group, “a small group of brothers in Lebanon who fired rockets against the Jews once, twice, or more….May God greatly reward them.”

As noted, this targeting and general use of anti-Semitism occurs with far greater frequency and vitriol in propaganda. One propaganda piece released states that the fighters were not exhausted in, “battles with the poodles of America and Israel … or the many other Jews shoe lickers…They refused to be fooled into tackling the servants, while the commander in chief and protector of infidelity, Zionism and evil.”

That same article later harangues, “filth of [the American and European] Zionist capitalist masters producing the money and manpower which their masters utilize to seek to destroy Israel’s enemies and to rob the people of the globe of their minds, honor, land, resources, chastity, minerals, oil, and lives!!!” and urges fighters in, “this Jihad and holy struggle against America, Israel and its friends’ Ziocrusade…”

Letters and memos discussing propaganda pieces clarify the intentionality of using anti-Semitism as a motivational tactic. One letter asks, “Did you think about issuing a statement to the nation to show solidarity with the people?… It should also say that the Jewish state is about to end, and so on.”

This use of anti-Semitism is also strategically targeted. One memo notes that they should “avoid talking about the Jews and Palestine when talking to the Germans,” because, “This subject is very sensitive in Germany.”

Image from Al Qaeda magazine

Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine Resurgence adopted a longstanding anti-Semitic stereotype equating Jews with international finance.

Many of the regular, non-propaganda memos do not include any references to Jews, Zionists or Israel. Where they do, however, they, too, demonstrate a pervasive anti-Semitism in Al Qaeda’s highest echelons, centering on beliefs that Jews control the West and are unnaturally powerful. One letter, for example, claimed, “the Jews were able to control world forces with these two sciences, sociology and psychology.” Another letter suggested that the Shi’a terrorist group Hezbollah (which has engaged in fighting with Israel) is controlled by Jews seeking to kill Sunni Muslims and another suggests that the Saudi royal family calls for  “blind obedience to the ruler, who support Jews and Christians.” Yet another criticizes “people whose mannerisms resemble those of the Jews…”

The conspiracy theories against Jews are also related to several of the books found in Bin Laden’s library, including the book Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier.

There is also criticism of Israel and of American support for Israel, which is regularly listed as one of several reasons for attacking the U.S. Support for Jews is also listed as a rationale for deposing of Arab governments. References to “Zionists and Crusaders” as the enemy are frequent and, although the name ‘Israel’ is sometimes used in memos to name the state, ‘Jew’ is always used instead of ‘Israeli.’

In all 103 declassified documents, the word ‘Jew’ comes up 36 times; Israel 16, and Zionist 6 ( This does not include compound words like Ziocrusade or Qu’ranic quotes on unrelated topics). The words ‘Quds’ and ‘Jerusalem’ are not referenced.

Anti-Semitism has been a central element of Al Qaeda’s ideology since the organization’s founding, and it is a regular feature in Al Qaeda propaganda, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP’s) infamous English-language magazine, Inspire. Anti-Semitism is also regularly used to motivate adherents and encourage recruits by many other terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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April 24, 2015

Adam Gadahn, American Al Qaeda Spokesman, Reported Dead

Adam GadahnOn Thursday, the White House announced that Adam Gadahn, an American spokesman for Al Qaeda, was killed in a January drone strike. Although less visible in recent years, Gadahn was at the forefront of creating English-language terrorist propaganda – an initiative that has evolved into a sophisticated recruitment and radicalization mechanism.

Gadahn’s death comes as English-language propaganda released by terrorist organizations is influencing an ever increasing number of Americans to join extremist organizations. As of this date, thirty-one people living in the U.S. have been implicated in terrorism motivated by Islamic extremism in 2015 alone, a significant increase from the total number of arrests in 2014 and in 2013.

Later American propagandists for Al Qaeda affiliates, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, founders of Inspire magazine who were killed in a drone strike in 2011, have become more influential than Gadahn in extremist circles. And as online technology has advanced, groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have dramatically increased the reach and influence of English-language calls to violence.

Gadahn, however, was not only the first American to incite extremism on behalf of Al Qaeda, but presumably until his death remained the primary English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda’s Central organization.

Gadahn’s first propaganda piece for Al Qaeda was an audio translation of an Osama bin Laden speech. In 2004, he began to appear in videos using the nom de guerre Azzam Al-Amriki and to promote attacks against the U.S.

In the ensuing years, he released multiple videos that reflected his anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views and were marked by threats against America and its allies.

Gadahn also called for lone-wolf attacks. In a 2011 video, he stated, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms” and that listeners can “go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card.”  He concluded, “So what are you waiting for?”

Gadahn’s most recent video was released in May 2014. Like his previous statements, it featured calls for attacks against the U.S. as well as anti-Semitic rhetoric and concluded with clips of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, fight­ing in Syria, and ter­ror­ism in Israel, includ­ing a brief video clip of Jews pray­ing at the West­ern Wall, Judaism’s holi­est site, fol­lowed by footage of an explosion.

Gadahn was also featured in an interview in the March 2013 issue of Inspire magazine, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s English-language propaganda magazine. In it, he called on his fellow propagandists to “make every effort to reach out to Mus­lims both through new media like Face­book and Twit­ter as well as the tra­di­tional broad­cast and print media.” Gadahn also used the interview to call for attacks against “Amer­ica and its NATO part­ners, par­tic­u­larly France and Britain.”

Gadahn was born in Oregon in 1978 and grew up in California. He converted to Islam as a teenager and allegedly grew radicalized shortly thereafter. In the late 1990s, Gadahn traveled to Pakistan and joined Al Qaeda.

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March 11, 2013

Detained Al Qaeda Spokesman Justified Anti-Jewish Ideology

Screenshot of Abu Ghaith, Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri from video claiming responsibility for 9/11

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former Al Qaeda spokesman and Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, was detained last week by U.S. authorities in Jordan after being deported from Turkey to his native Kuwait.

Abu Ghaith’s statements on behalf of Al Qaeda, which ceased after he fled to Iran in 2002, demonstrated how the terrorist group’s ideology was rooted in the hatred of Jews, often linking Al Qaeda’s opposition to America with its animosity to Jews and Israel.

In the 2001 statement claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghaith said that the attacks were in response to “the Islamic Nation having been groaning in pain for more than 80 years under the yoke of the joint Jewish-Crusader aggression” and the “Jewish occupation” of Palestine.  He warned that attacks against the United States would continue unless the United States met three conditions:  stopping “its support for the Jews,” lifting the embargo on Iraq, and the withdrawal of the United States from “our land.”

Abu Ghaith also released a statement claiming responsibilityfor an Al Qaeda attack on a synagogue in Tunisia, which killed 19 tourists in April 2002 and said it was revenge for the deaths of Palestinians. In the statement, he promised that “as long as America insists on its unjust and biased policy towards Muslims in favor of Jews and Christians around the world then, God willing, we will continue to hit it anywhere in the world.” 

Abu Ghaith, who is now in New York City awaiting trial, is charged with conspiring to kill United States nationals. Prosecutors are essentially arguing that “the core purpose of Al Qaeda… is to support violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States and other countries” and that Abu Ghaith was a member of Al Qaeda with a close relationship to bin Laden.

He has pleaded not guilty, and faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

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