Twitter claims to be against “hate speech” and for “healthy conversation.” But the amount of anti-Semitic material allowed on its platform tells a different story.
The aftermath of a confrontation between Chelsea Clinton and two Palestinian activists uncovered some disturbing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tweets. Quillette editor Andy Ngo tweeted out screenshots of saved tweets from one of the activists,New York University student Leen Dweik, who approached Clinton. Her tweets said, “demolishing Israel IS a solution,” and “lmao sis just wait until we dismantle the entire state of Israel.”
Both of these tweets were recent, one from March 3, 2019, and the other from April 4, 2018. After these tweets were exposed, Twitter deleted the tweets and suspended Dweik’s account @vivafalastin for 24 hours. Once her account was unlocked, she tweeted “my account has finally been unsuspended! twitter made me delete my tweet re: israel, but to be clear, israel is a settler-colonial apartheid state and nothing anyone can say or do will change that.”
The activists approached Chelsea Clinton because she criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her anti-Semitic language on Twitter. In an op-ed written for Buzzfeed, the two women stood by their criticism: “Chelsea hurt our fight against white supremacy when she stood by the petty weaponizers of antisemitism, showing no regard for Rep. Omar and the hatred being directed at her.”
Dweik’s raised the specter of danger for Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people. Calls for its destruction are widely seen as jeopardizing the millions of Jews who live there. Commentator Marc Lamont Hill lost his job at CNN for using the phrase “a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Because ending Israel is widely seen as anti-Semitic and would likely lead to ethnic cleansing.
A cursory glance at some of the tweets about Israel provided more disturbing content than Dweik. One user with an extensive 33,000 followers posted on March 17, 2019: “ALL MUSLIMS: Attack the racist/apartheid, illegal, immoral, satanic State of Israel – and utterly destroy it!” Another user tweeted, “Israel should be annihilated.”
Twitter has cracked down on what it considers to be “hate speech” from the right, including censoring conservative figures who have criticized Obama’s policies and tweets expressing beliefs in a two-gender system. But very rarely does it crack down with the same intensity on anti-Semitic language.
Rev. Louis Farrakhan, who referred to Jewish people as “termites” on Twitter, was allowed to stay on Twitter because his sentiments “did not violate Twitter’s policies.” Apparently Farrakhan is not the only account that benefits from the anti-Semitic exception found in Twitter’s policies.