From Malahem to Mainstream: The Scope of the Al-Aqsa Anti-Semitic Narrative

  • July 28, 2017
AQAP Al-Aqsa video

Since July 14, 2017, the Al-Aqsa events have shaken both the geopolitical and virtual landscape of Jerusalem, and tensions have generated hateful, anti-Semitic speech from international terror groups and everyday-Twitter users. On July 27, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula media outlet, al-Malahem Media, released a 13-minute video titled, “For You, oh Al-Aqsa,” featuring Khalid Batarfi, one of the organization’s senior military commanders.

The video opens with footage of confrontations around Al-Aqsa mosque, including one that shows a crowd of Palestinians running from tear gas. It then switches over to Batarfi, who calls on all Muslims to unite in the struggle for Al-Aqsa and to come together in all places, especially in Palestine. He encourages followers to free Al-Aqsa mosque from “the Jewish usurpers,” and discusses the works of Sayyid Qutb whose theories have had a profound impact on Al-Qaeda members ranging from founder Osama bin-Laden to Ayman al-Zawahiri, its current leader.

Many of Qutb’s works espouse anti-Semitism, including his most notable piece, ‘Our Struggle against the Jews.’ Throughout his speech, Batarfi uses various references in the wake of the Al-Aqsa attacks to vilify the Jewish population, including “Jewish criminals,” “Jewish usurpers,” and “unclean Jews.” He uses the phrases to condemn Israeli actions and encourages all Muslims to unite and commit sacrifices for Jerusalem. Batarfi’s direct incitement against Jews is part of Al-Qaeda’s larger propaganda narrative and is reminiscent of previous violent expressions of anti-Semitism detailed in the ADL report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pillar of Islamic Extremist Ideology.

The same three derogatory references --“Jewish criminals,” “Jewish usurpers” and “unclean Jews”  --  have been used across social media to promote anti-Semitism in the context of Al-Aqsa. Since the July 14th attack, at least one of these phrases appears in approximately 12.4K Arabic language tweets or retweets. On July 13th, the day before the initial Al-Aqsa attack, these phrases were used in only 19 tweets; whereas, on the 14th, nearly 2.2K tweets included the references.

The most significant spike in volume, however, occurred on July 21st, the day three Palestinians were killed in confrontations with Israeli security forces (following the implementation of metal detectors), when more than 4K tweets included one of the three anti-Semitic phrases.

As ADL’s previous Al-Aqsa analysis noted, the anti-Semitic language used on social media, which condemns the Jews in relation to Al-Aqsa, mirrors that of notable international terror groups like Al-Qaeda. Many tweets call for the liberation of “the Aqsa Mosque from the Jewish usurpers,” for God to “curse the unclean Jews,” or for God to “free the Holy Mosque from the hands of the Jewish criminals who kill the prophets.”

Given the breadth of incendiary reactions to al-Aqsa from terrorist groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and ISIS sympathizers, it is clear that these groups have exploited developments in Israel to promote an anti-Semitic agenda. But our analysis also shows that terrorist groups are not the only ones using such language -- thousands of everyday Twitter users are using the same narrative to incite violence and hatred against Jews.