al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri tried to make Jews into Islam’s ‘greatest adversary’

The al-Qaeda leader killed in a CIA drone strike this weekend, authored a 1998 study that claimed Jews controlled the U.S., a treatise that caught the attention of Osama bin Laden and led him to focus more intently on American targets. 

Terrorism experts describe Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71 — who led al-Qaeda after the 2011 assassination of bin Laden — as the organization’s brains. Before he partnered with al-Qaeda, Zawahiri led his own militant groups, including the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, a coalition that encouraged Muslims to assassinate “Americans and their allies.” He advocated for particularly violent tactics, including suicide bombings, and argued that for the cause, the killing of innocent civilians was justified. 

“It was a philosophy that was meant to encourage murder and hatred. And it did,” said Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a medical doctor and former fundamentalist who now speaks out against Islamic extremism. 

Egypt-born Zawahari was motivated, his writings show, by Israel’s defeat of its Arab neighbors in 1967. His study, Hamid said, helped spread the idea that Muslims should fear Jews and considered Jews to be Muslims’ “greatest adversary.”

In November 2001, two months after the 9/11 attacks, Zawahiri went on television and said “our jihad, with the help of Allah, will continue until we liberate our holy places from the American-Jewish aggression in Palestine and the rest of the Arab world.”


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