Each year, to commemorate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the notorious terrorist group Al Qaeda releases a video featuring one of the group’s senior leaders who typically reiterates the significance and impact of those deadly events from their warped perspective. Al Qaeda’s 2021 video, which was recently analyzed by experts in ADL’s Center on Extremism and department of International Affairs, was notable for several reasons. First, it contains minimal footage of 9/11 itself, a departure from the typical emphasis on the violence of that day. Second, the video prominently features leader Ayman al Zawahiri, who many Western analysts speculated had died, focusing explicitly on Israel.
Three years ago, Robert Bowers opened fire inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, murdering 11 people and devastating the close-knit community of Squirrel Hill. Inspired by antisemitic, anti-immigrant and white supremacist views, Bowers posted his bigoted thoughts on Gab, a site known as a haven for extremists, and then acted on his words, committing history’s deadliest assault on the American Jewish community. These resources help illuminate the hatred that motivated Bowers and shine a light on the technology and platforms that continue to host virulent antisemitism and anti-immigrant bigotry.
In recent weeks, Al Qaeda has dedicated an unusual amount of its propaganda towards encouraging attacks on Israel, Jewish institutions, and Jewish people. Given shifts in the Islamist extremist environment—including the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 and Al Qaeda’s expectation that it will gain a safe operational haven in Afghanistan as the United States withdraws from the country—this suggests that Al Qaeda or one of its regional affiliates may intend to recommit to attack Israel or the Jewish Diaspora.