The Guardian made the unusual move Wednesday to delete a 21-year-old letter written by Osama bin Laden from their site after several TikTokers urged followers to read the al Qaeda leader’s missive, causing “Letter to America” to go viral on the social media platform.
Guardian readers are now met with the message, “This page previously displayed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to the American people,’ as reported in the Observer on Sunday 24 November 2002. The document, which was published here on the same day, was removed on 15 November 2023.”
In a statement to TheWrap, a spokesperson for the U.K. outlet said, “The transcript published on our website 20 years ago has been widely shared on social media without the full context. Therefore we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualized it instead.”
Among the takeaways people are discussing on TikTok: bin Laden’s statement that Sept. 11, 2001 happened because of America’s support of Israel. “They threw hundreds of thousands of soldiers against us and have formed an alliance with the Israelis to oppress us and occupy our land; that was the reason for our response on the eleventh,” the letter, which can easily be found elsewhere online, reads in part.
The TikTok trend seems to have started with a video posted by Lynnette Adkins, in which she told her nearly 12 million followers, “I need everyone to stop doing what they’re doing right now and go read ‘Letter to America,’ I feel like I’m going through an existential crisis right now.”
Responses from fellow TikTokers include “my eyes have been opened.” Another user who shared the letter wrote, wrote, “We’ve been lied to our entire lives, I remember watching people cheer when Osama was found and killed.”
In one of her many follow-up videos, Adkins says, “TikTok is going to save this generation,” because older people are “programmed to think a certain way.”
Trending searches on TikTok included “Osama letter to America summary,” “a letter to America full text” and “a letter to America explained.”
Bin Laden’s resurfaced anti-Israel message comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed allegations that the country is committing war crimes in Gaza. The latest conflict in the Middle East ignited Oct. 7 following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israeli civilians that left more than 1,400 dead.
Israel and Palestine supporters have clashed around the world in the month after the Hamas attack and Israel’s military response, including recently in Los Angeles, where a Jewish man died of the head injury he sustained during an alleged confrontation with a Palestinian proponent.
Several celebrities, including former United Nations Goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie, have called for a ceasefire in the region.
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