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Bin Laden's Palestinian Agenda: Lip Service Over Action?

Bin Laden's Palestinian Agenda: Lip Service Over Action?Two Osama Bin Laden audio statements came out over the weekend. The first, released this past Friday, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian nakba. This Arabic term translates to “catastrophe”, and refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in May of 1948. Not surprisingly, Bin Laden decided to stress the the liberation of Palestine as the key impetus behind Al Qaeda's current war with West. This was followed by a second statement released Sunday, calling specifically for Muslims to end the siege of the Gaza Strip.

I thought it would be interesting to see how people were responding to Bin Laden's Palestinian ‘campaign’ since the issue of Palestine has long held discursive – rather than substantive – importance to the Al Qaeda cause. It's worth noting that a previous statement was released in March addressing the situation in Gaza, suggesting that these latest statements are part of an ongoing campaign by Al Qaeda to entrench itself in an issue dominated by more nationalist-driven Islamic militant groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Considering Al-Jazeera's status as a relatively mainstream source in the Arab world, I decided to examine how's audience was responding to coverage of Bin Laden's first statement, since this online format would allow me to assess the content of responses… the results turned out to be mixed.

In the comments section of the article reporting on this recording, of around 130 posted comments, 48% responded positively to the Bin Laden statement, 29% responded negatively, and about 23% neither responded clearly in favor or against Bin Laden's call. While this might not be the most ideal sample set to gauge how Bin Laden's latest message is being received in the Arab world, the negative responses to Bin Laden's statement do shed light on commonly perceived challenges to Al Qaeda's Palestinian ‘agenda’.

In addition to criticism given to the group for killing fellow Muslims, one of the most common critiques directed at this statement is Al Qaeda's maintained physical absence from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Comments basically accuse the group of undertaking attacks everywhere in the world except for Israel and the Occupied Territories. Different reasons are given for this, ranging from accusations that Al Qaeda itself is an American proxy, to suggestions that the group lacks the capabilities to do undertake such a campaign. One user even states, “Let him [have] civilians in Europe… long live Hamas and the jihad of the true Mujahideen”.

Such criticism suggests that Al Qaeda's involvement in the Palestinian cause may not be deemed serious until the group takes on a more physical role in the struggle. Subsequently, its critics will continue to argue that the group is merely paying lip service to a traditionally integral, and increasingly exploitable, component of political dissidence in the Arab world. However, will all the effort being put in to the media front on this issue inevitably obligate Al Qaeda to take action, rather than call for action in Palestine?



Pete Ajemian

Pete Ajemian is a New York-based analyst who has written on topics of political violence, terrorism, and Arab media politics. He has conducted research for US law enforcement and recently completed graduate studies at the University of St. Andrews where his dissertation research examined issues dealing with new media, politics and security in the Arab world. His interest in Arab political media developed over the course of his Arabic language studies in Lebanon and the US. He has also written previously on the subject for issues of Arab Media & Society.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Politics; Security;