As the war between Israel and Palestinians rages on, the eyes of many tiktokers were recently “opened” by a 21-year-old letter from Osama bin Laden, wherein he claimed that U.S. support for Israel was the primary reason why Muslims hated and terrorized America.
Tiktokers might be surprised to learn that this 2002 “Letter to Americans” is only one of many such communiques (about 100 pages of messages to Westerners are contained and analyzed in my 2007 The Al Qaeda Reader).
Moreover, this Ladenese theme never wavered. As late as 2009, for instance, after once again rehashing the claim that jihad against America wholly revolved around U.S. support for Israel, bin Laden concluded with the following musing: “You should ask yourselves whether your security, your blood, your sons, your money, your jobs, your homes, your economy, and your reputation are more dear to you than the security and economy of the Israelis.”
In that same communique, bin Laden, yet again, made it perfectly clear that should U.S. support for Israel cease, so too would Islamic terrorism cease: “Let me say that we have declared many times, over more than two and a half decades, that the reason for our conflict with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who are occupying our land of Palestine [emphasis added].”
Islamic Hostility Transcends Political “Grievances”
While these observations and questions require an answer, some context is first needed. As clearly demonstrated by Islam’s doctrines and history — the former regularly manifesting themselves in the course of the latter — it is a historic fact that Islamic hostility for and aggression against non-Muslims transcends any and all temporal “grievances.” Islam, according to the classical — not “radical” — schools of jurisprudence, is obligated to subjugate the world.
So much for bin Laden’s insistence that Israel is the “reason for our conflict with you.” Now we see that the conflict ultimately revolves around whether Islam is obligated to dominate the world by force. Well, is it?
This is why prudent non-Muslims have for centuries been finding the question of achieving permanent peace with the Islamic world a vexatious problem. Professor of law James Lorimer (1818-90) succinctly stated the problem over a century ago:
So long as Islam endures, the reconciliation of its adherents, even with Jews and Christians, and still more with the rest of mankind, must continue to be an insoluble problem. … For an indefinite future, however reluctantly, we must confine our political recognition to the professors of those religions which … preach the doctrine of “live and let live” (The Institutes of the Law of Nations, p. 124).
In other words, political recognition — with all the attendant negotiations and diplomacy that come with it — should be granted to all major religions/civilizations except Islam, which does not recognize the notion of “live and let live.”
Bin Laden Exposed His True Convictions
Now while most Muslims may not go around invoking Islamic law’s dichotomized worldview that pits Islam against the rest of the world, bin Laden, the “man of grievances,” always did. For example, for all his talk of Israel being the heart of the problem, bin Laden exposed his true convictions in the following excerpt, which he directed to fellow Arabic-speaking Muslims not long after the 9/11 strikes:
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?
So much for bin Laden’s insistence that Israel is the “reason for our conflict with you.” Now we see that the conflict ultimately revolves around whether Islam is obligated to dominate the world by force. Well, is it? Bin Laden continues:
Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion];  or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam;  or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)
This threefold choice, then — conversion, subjugation, or the sword — is the ultimate source of problems. All talk of jihad being a product of U.S. foreign policy is, therefore, false. When bin Laden asserted in his 2009 message that it is the “neocons” who “impose the wars upon you — not the mujahideen [i.e., jihadis],” he lied. Islamic law, as he himself delineated, “imposed” war between Muslims and non-Muslims well over a millennium before the “neocons” — let alone the state of Israel — came into being.
Thus to all of bin Laden’s grievances and questions, there is but one counter-question — one that, in bin Laden’s own words, “demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice” — and it is: Even if all grievances against Israel and America’s support for it were true, why come to us — your natural-born “infidel” enemies, according to your own worldview — looking for any concessions?
Grievances of a Political Nature Pale Compared to Fundamental Differences of an Existential Nature
To better appreciate this position, consider the following analogy: Say your weaker neighbor has a border dispute with you. At the same time, however, you know for a fact that he sees you as his “eternal” enemy for nothing less than your beliefs/lifestyle, and nothing short of your total acquiescence to his beliefs/lifestyle will change that. Finally, you know that the day he grows sufficiently strong, he will undoubtedly attack you in order to make you live according to his beliefs/lifestyle.
Surely in this context, whether his border dispute with you is legitimate or not, making concessions to him while knowing his hostility for you will never subside — but rather become more emboldened and augmented with contempt — is sheer suicide. Yet this is precisely what happens whenever a non-Muslim entity makes concessions to jihadists.
In short, being hated and deemed the enemy for temporal grievances of a political nature must be viewed as peripheral to being hated for fundamental differences of an existential nature. When the latter, much more important issue is redressed, then — and only then — should the veracity of the former be open to debate or even consideration.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.