FILE - This is an undated photo of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden issued a new audio message claiming responsibility for the Christmas day bombing attempt in Detroit and vowed further attacks. (AP Photo, File) (AP)

The price of our Middle East policy

A new bin Laden message blames U.S. support of Israel for ongoing terrorist attacks

Glenn Greenwald
January 24, 2010 5:25PM (UTC)

In a newly released audio message, the-still-not-dead Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempted bombing and said this about why Al Qaeda continues to target the U.S.:

Bin Laden also warns the US there will be more attacks if it continues to support Israel. . . .

Directly addressing Americans, [bin Laden] says: "It is unfair you enjoy a safe life while our brothers in Gaza suffer greatly . . . . Our attacks will continue as long as you support Israel. . . . America will never dream of security unless we will have it in reality in Palestine."

There's no evidence that the Israel/Palestine conflict has ever genuinely been a primary concern for bin Laden or Al Qaeda generally.  But it always ends up being a central feature of Al Qaeda's propaganda; before the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israel as one of the three major grievances causing Al Qaeda to target Americans.  And now it's the principal reason cited in his most recent message for attacks on the U.S.  The reason for this is obvious:  though U.S. policy towards Israel may not motivate bin Laden himself -- and Al Qaeda would hardly cease to exist if the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were resolved -- it most certainly motivates large numbers of people who perpetrate attacks (including suicide attacks) out of allegiance to Al Qaeda or who otherwise lend critical support to that group.  The suffering in Gaza is as intense as anywhere on the globe.


For reasons Matt Yglesias explained recently in response to reports that the previously pro-Western suicide bomber who killed eight CIA agents in Afghanistan "had been 'changed' by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians," this connection -- between our Israel policy and terrorist attacks aimed at the U.S. -- is rarely examined:

Israel's conduct, and America’s attitude toward that conduct, are an important lens through which Muslims see the United States. So time and again you tend to hear things like this about people who wind up working with al-Qaeda . . .

This reality makes a lot of American Jews uncomfortable to the point where they try to insist on denying that Israel has anything to do with anyone's motives for doing anything, but that’s absurd. A ton of people have died in the past ten years of Israeli-Arab fighting and the vast majority of them have been Arabs, and the American approach to these issues has conveyed the impression that America cares more about Israeli life than about Arab life. That’s good for al-Qaeda recruiting and bad for American efforts to secure cooperation.

The connection between our conduct in the Middle East and the motivations for anti-American Terrorism receives far too little attention in general, and -- for reasons Yglesias explains -- the role played by our steadfast support for Israel receives less attention still.  It goes without saying that the mere fact that Islamic radicals object to a certain policy (and that policy thus fuels anti-U.S. Terrorism) is not, by itself, a reason to discontinue that policy, but it's certainly a cost that ought to be seriously weighed in deciding whether that policy is wise.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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Washington, D.c.


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