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American Al-Qaida Speaks of Jewish Grandpa

In baroque Arabic

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Gadahn in an Al-Qaeda video released last year.(AFP/Getty Images)

American-born Al-Qaida operative Adam Gadahn acknowledged his Jewish roots in a video released over the weekend. It’s an awkward fact about Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman, that was already known to people following the Muslim convert’s strange career. Raffi Khatchadourian reported on Gadahn for The New Yorker in 2007 and noted the convert’s strikingly anachronistic use of Arabic language in his video messages: “sometimes his syntax is so baroque, his sentiment so earnest, that he sounds like a character from the Lord of the Rings.” That’s still true in his latest YouTube release—the Obama administration, in Gadahn’s words, is “led by a clique of Zionist Jews and Zionized Christians who respect in a believer neither kinship nor covenant”—and it’s especially interesting when he addresses his own heritage. “My grandfather was a Zionist, and a zealous supporter of the usurper entity” who would have influenced Gadahn’s views had it not been for “Allah’s kindness to me and His taking care of me,” he says. Jews, after all, are “usually bereft of fairness and human emotions.” What’s astonishing here is not so much the violence with which Gadahn rejects his roots, Jewishness included—see, as a fictional predecessor, Swede Levov’s terrorist daughter in Philip Roth’s American Pastoral—but the unsophisticated language he uses to separate himself from them. Gadahn, like Merry Levov, was (according to the New Yorker profile) a very bright child, which would suggest that he is today a very bright, and very angry, adult. It’s a testament to the blunt force of Al-Qaida’s ideology that they’ve got him talking about his rejected Jewishness like an anti-Semitic demagogue—or a peasant.

U.S.-Born Qaida Spokesman Describes Jewish Ancestry [AP]
Azzam the American [New Yorker]
Let’s Continue Our Jihad and Sacrifice Message from the Mujahed Brother Adam Yehiye Gadahn Azzam [YouTube]

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American Al-Qaida Speaks of Jewish Grandpa

In baroque Arabic

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