Osama bin Laden said in a new audio recording released Friday that al-Qaida will continue its holy war against Israel and its allies until it liberates Palestine.
The terrorist leader’s third statement this year came as President Bush was wrapping up his visit to Israel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state.
Bin Laden said the fight for the Palestinian cause was the most important factor driving al-Qaida’s war with the West and fueled 19 Muslims to carry out the suicide attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
“To Western nations ... this speech is to understand the core reason of the war between our civilization and your civilizations. I mean the Palestinian cause,” said bin Laden in the close to 10 minute audiotape.
“The Palestinian cause is the major issue for my (Islamic) nation. It was an important element in fueling me from the beginning and the 19 others with a great motive to fight for those subjected to injustice and the oppressed,” added bin Laden.
Trying to creata a rallying point
Al-Qaida has been stepping up its attempts to use the Israeli-Arab conflict to rally supporters. Israel has warned of growing al-Qaida activity in Palestinian territory, though the terror network is not believed to have taken a strong role there so far.
The authenticity of the message could not be verified, but it was posted on a Web site commonly used by al-Qaida and the voice resembled the one in past bin Laden audiotapes. Though it was unknown exactly when the audio was recorded, but it referenced Israel’s 60th anniversary, which began May 8.
IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors al-Qaida message traffic, said the audio message was accompanied by a photo of bin Laden wearing a white robe and turban next to a picture of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It was unclear when the photo of bin Laden was taken.
The al-Qaida leader said the Western media managed to brainwash people over the past 60 years by “portraying the Jewish invaders, the occupiers of our land, as the victims while it portrayed us as the terrorists.”
“Sixty years ago, the Israeli state didn’t exist. Instead, it was established on the land of Palestine raped by force,” said bin Laden. “Israelis are occupying invaders whom we should fight.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel dismissed bin Laden’s new message.
“We do not relate or pay attention to the words of this terrorist lunatic,” he said. “The time has come for him to be apprehended and pay for his crimes.”
Thorniest issues unresolved
Bin Laden criticized Western leaders like Bush who participated in Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Bush feted Israel on Thursday and predicted that its 120th birthday would find it alongside a Palestinian state and in an all-democratic neighborhood free of today’s oppression, restrictions on freedom and extremist Muslim movements.
Delivering this rosy forecast for the Middle East in 2068 during a speech to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Bush made no acknowledgment of the hardship Palestinians suffered when hundreds of thousands were displaced following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, a counterpoint to Israel’s two weeks of jubilant celebrations.
Though Bush has set a goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal before the end of his term in January, he did not mention the ongoing negotiations or how to resolve the thorniest disputes.
Bin Laden said Western leaders were insincere in their expressed desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace and failed to criticize Israel.
“Peace talks that started 60 years ago are just meant to deceive the idiots,” said bin Laden. “After all the destruction and the killings ... your leaders talk about principles. This is unbearable.”
The terrorist leader mentioned former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who he said ordered a Jewish militia to attack the Arab village of Deir Yassin in 1948. The attack during Israel’s push for statehood killed more than 100 Arabs and forced the rest of the village to flee.
“Instead of punishing him (Begin) over his crimes ... he was awarded a Nobel prize,” said bin Laden.
Begin won the Nobel peace prize for negotiating a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, Israel’s first with an Arab nation. The Israeli leader shared the prize with former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was Begin’s negotiating partner. Israel has only signed one other peace treaty with an Arab nation, Jordan.
“We will continue our struggle against the Israelis and their allies,” said bin Laden. “We are not going to give up an inch of the land of Palestine.”
Bin Laden’s message Friday followed an audiotape released in March in which he lashed out at Palestinian peace negotiations with Israel.
The March audiotape was the first time bin Laden spoke of the Palestinian question at length since the deteriorating situation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has been fighting with militants who fire rockets into southern Israel. Israel has been battling Hamas in Gaza since the Islamic militant group took control of the strip last June from followers of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.