JTA — A 2002 essay by Osama bin Laden that says “Israel must be erased” and rails against the “Jews, who control your policies, media and economy” has gone viral on TikTok, with some users endorsing its message.
The missive by the notorious leader of al-Qaeda was written in 2002 to justify the September 11 terror attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, and lay out the terror organization’s ultimate goals. At the time, the letter was published in full by The Guardian, though the British newspaper removed the article on Wednesday after it began to spread widely online.
On Thursday, TikTok announced that it would prohibit videos promoting the letter, according to Reuters.
The White House came out strongly against the sharing of Bin Laden’s letter, especially in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 massacre of Israelis.
“There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al-Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement to The Times of Israel Thursday.
A compilation of the videos endorsing the letter shows users declaring, “Everyone should read it,” and saying the letter was “eye-opening,” “explains so much” and has led them to have an “existential crisis.” Two users posted regarding the letter that “he was right.” One wrote, “It ALL makes sense now.”
The resurfacing of the nearly 21-year-old document has come amid heated social media debate over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and the civilian death toll. Israel declared war on Hamas after 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst through the border into Israel on October 7 and slaughtered 1,200 people, most of them civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities, and abducted some 240. Hamas claims over 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza, but its figures cannot be verified, and include its own terrorists and the victims of misfired rockets aimed at Israel.
Upon bin Laden’s killing by American forces in 2011, Hamas praised him as a “holy warrior.”
One video endorsing the letter says, “Now it’s all coming to light because of Palestine.”
Over the past 24 hours, thousands of TikToks (at least) have been posted where people share how they just read Bin Laden’s infamous "Letter to America," in which he explained why he attacked the United States.
The TikToks are from people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and… pic.twitter.com/EwjiGtFEE3
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) November 16, 2023
The letter is largely devoted to enumerating bin Laden’s opposition to the United States’ policies, system of government and society — with a focus on US military action in the Middle East and other countries. The letter also defends the murder of civilians on September 11.
Large portions of the letter focus on Israel and Jews. The word “Israel” appears 19 times in the document, while “Jews” are mentioned an additional 10 times. The first question bin Laden posed in the document is “Why are we fighting and opposing you?” And one of the first answers is, “You attacked us in Palestine.”
Elaborating on that allegation, the Saudi-born bin Laden wrote, “The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased.”
The al-Qaeda leader also said the idea “that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah,” is “one of the most fallacious, widely-circulated fabrications in history.” He wrote that Muslims superseded Jews as the inheritors of the Torah, and that the land therefore belongs to them. (Supersessionism — or the idea that the Jewish covenant with God has been replaced by a truer religion — is most commonly associated with Christianity and is widely considered antisemitic.)
Later, he wrote that “governments have surrendered to the Jews.”
The letter includes a number of other attacks on Jews, both related to Israel and not. It also claims that homosexuality is “immoral.”
In the second half of the letter, which describes bin Laden’s vision of a world governed by Islamic law and condemns American society, he trumpets age-old antisemitic stereotypes about Jewish money and power.
At one point, he wrote, “the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense.”
Soon afterward, he wrote, “Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.”
Pro-Israel users on social media were quick to respond to Bin Laden’s newest followers, ridiculing those in America supporting the mass-murdering Islamist extremist.
One content creator summed up the letter as, “Radical Islam – good, everything else – bad.”
— Dani Buller (@askdani__real) November 16, 2023
Another commentator, Renny Grinshpan, on TikTok addressed her anti-Israel and antisemitic peers sarcastically: “American capitalism and democracy aren’t perfect, but they are exactly what allow you to voice your ridiculous opinion on TikTok right now.”
Along with his denigrations of Israel and Palestine, which account for approximately half of the text, Bin Laden lectured the American people on morality, covering topics including drugs, sex, gambling, the objectification of women, and environmental policy. He accuses America of spreading “AIDS as a Satanic American Invention.”
The letter ended with a threat: “If the Americans refuse to listen to our advice and the goodness, guidance and righteousness that we call them to, then be aware that you will lose this Crusade Bush began, just like the other previous Crusades in which you were humiliated by the hands of the Mujahideen, fleeing to your home in great silence and disgrace.”
The origin of the missive’s new popularity has been pinned by various media outlets on a video posted on Tuesday by a TikTok influencer with 12 million likes on her profile.
“I need everyone to stop what they’re doing right now and go read — it’s literally two pages — go read ‘A Letter to America’,” the influencer wrote.
“Come back here and let me know what you think. Because I feel like I’m going through like an existential crisis right now, and a lot of people are. So I just need someone else to be feeling this too.”
The letter has been received with widely positive comments by social media users, with trending searches on TikTok including “Osama letter to America summary,” “a letter to America full text” and “a letter to America explained.”
The Washington Post on Thursday published a statement from TikTok that said any content promoting Bin Laden’s letter “clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism. We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”
After nearly 10 years as the world’s most wanted man, Bin Laden was tracked down and killed by US special forces at his compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this article.