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UK: Guardian removes Bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ as it goes viral

November 16, 2023 at 4:47 pm

A picture of Osama bin Laden in an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan [AFP/Getty Images]

The Guardian has taken off its website an old text attributed to the late leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, after it resurfaced online and went viral among young TikTok users. Many from the US have found themselves in agreement with his observations and criticisms of US foreign policy, its complicity in the oppression of Palestinians and perceived subservience to Zionism.

Bin Laden’s infamous “Letter to America”, penned just over a year after 9/11, was first published by the Guardian on 24 November 2002 but was only taken off the site yesterday. The link to the text now reads: “This page previously displayed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama Bin Laden’s ‘letter to the American people’, as reported in the Observer on Sunday 24 November 2002. The document, which was published here on the same day, was removed on 15 November 2023.”

According to an email received by The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for the outlet explained that, “The transcript published on our website 20 years ago has been widely shared today on social media without its original context. Therefore, we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualised it instead.”

The decision to remove the letter appears to have come after it gained traction on social media app TikTok. One user named Lynette Adkins spoke about it with her 12 million followers: “I need everyone to stop doing what they’re doing right now and go read ‘Letter to America’, I feel like I’m going through an existential crisis right now.”

Others on X shared archived versions of the letter and sparked debate over its content, in light of Israel’s US-backed genocidal war against the Palestinians of Gaza. The hashtag #lettertoamerica has been viewed over 4.5 million times, reported the Jerusalem Post today.

OPINION: Israel’s war on truth in occupied Palestine 

Interestingly, Bin Laden brings up the issue of Palestine from the outset. Responding to the rhetorical question “Why are we fighting and opposing you?” the letter states that, “The answer is very simple” before explaining that the Muslim world has been attacked before, notably in Palestine.

“Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. 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. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its*price, and pay for it heavily.

“It brings us both laughter and tears to see that you have not yet tired of repeating your fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah. Anyone who disputes with them on this alleged fact is accused of anti-Semitism. This is one of the most fallacious, widely-circulated fabrications in history. The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites.”

Bin Laden stated further that Palestine had to be “revenged” and later addressed the justification for killing civilians in his jihad. “The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq,” he said. “This is why the American people cannot be innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.”

In a video posted on TikTok, Frederick Joseph, author of two New York Times bestselling books about racism and social justice, posted his own comment


Narrative control and censorship are not things you do to a society you want being able to deeply consider the things happening around them. #lettertoamerica #palestine #taylorswift

♬ original sound – Frederick Joseph

“This is a really good example of narrative control and censorship. It started going viral, not because people were necessarily agreeing with Osama Bin Laden’s actions or his moral clarity, but rather because the letter offered perspective into the hypocrisy of America, the hypocrisy of settler colonial nations, so on and so forth, and discussing the atrocities people in the Middle East have faced.

“The Guardian decided to take it down. People on TikTok are talking about the letter, reading it, having this discourse about the issues, with, you know, places like the United States. They’re afraid of people having information so they decided to take it down.”

The archived translated letter can be read in full here.

READ: Blaming the innocent, Israel adopts the logic of Al-Qaeda’s Bin Laden to carry out war crimes