Though we have never met in person, Miriam Ezagui is a friend. Miriam is a labor and delivery nurse, a mother of four, and an Orthodox Jewish woman living in Brooklyn. On TikTok, where she has over two million followers, Miriam shares what her life is like. Then, Miriam made, according to TikTok, a terrible mistake. She posted a video expressing her anger and anguish about the horrifying massacre in Israel and compared Hamas propaganda to Nazi propaganda. Miriam knows a little something about the Holocaust; her grandmother, Lilly Applebaum Malnik, and her grandfather, Abraham Malnik, are Holocaust survivors.
TikTok was quick to adjudicate the Case of Miriam. She was flooded with hateful comments, comments supporting #freepalestine, and threats to her family. Days later, Miriam made an apology video. In the video, Miriam sits in her car and says she “messed up” and that she will take some time to really think and learn more about her Muslim cousins and the Palestinians. My heart sank when I watched it. It looks like a hostage video. I knew that Miriam had made it under social media duress. Very quickly, though, Miriam, to my mind, came to her senses and deleted the apology.
That’s when TikTok really got into high gear. Now, there is a hashtag #miriamezaguideleted. In one video, a young woman speaks very disappointedly as she displays Miriam’s profile behind her. She explains how Miriam “took a not-so-noble stance on the issues between Israel and Gaza.”
“Basically,” the woman adds, “she took the Zionist approach…” She then points out that Miriam has a video entitled “Fountains of Kindness” in which – and this is so damning – Miriam talks about the importance of spreading love and kindness. In another video, our judge points out, Miriam explains “why there are two handles on the hand washing cup that a lot of Jewish people use to wash their hands. She’s making a video on handwashing while people in Gaza don’t have access to clean running water.”
There are dozens of these videos excoriating Miriam for standing with Israel and expressing rage and grief at the brutal massacre of Jews. One very calm young lady tells us very sadly that she had “seen red flags” in Miriam’s content previously. One young woman made a lengthy video in what looks to be a darkened parking lot about how Miriam’s hair and makeup in her original video acknowledging what happened in Israel are identical to her hair and makeup in her now-deleted apology video. She goes on about what this might mean, about how the apology must have been staged.
Watching the sweet, young, oh-so-concerned, and very self-righteous faces of these TikTok users speaking in tones ranging from sad, head-shaking disappointment to sour sarcasm is infuriating, and unnerving. Miriam Egazui has been canceled. For me, it’s like watching a woman being paraded through the streets, being shamed for the unspeakable crime of being Jewish while online. Miriam’s content was okay as long as she talked about the happy things – her kids, the rituals of her daily life as an Orthodox Jew.
I run the TikTok account of my life partner, Gidon Lev, a survivor of Theresienstadt. @thetrueadventures has never had the kind of following that Miriam had; we had a humble following of 462,000 followers. Today, we have about 2,500 fewer than we had on October 6th. Thousands of people who used to leave heart emojis on Gidon’s every video are now leaving comments about how he is “on the wrong side of history” and then informing us, sadly, that they must now unfollow his account.
You see, it’s okay for Gidon to be a Holocaust survivor, and it’s okay – touching, even – when he speaks of hope. But for Gidon to live in the “settler, colonial, apartheid state” and to have the audacity to express grief, sorrow, and yes, even some hope is most decidedly not okay. Like Miriam, Gidon has been tokenized. People, to paraphrase Dara Horn, love “good” Jews. And good Jews are not Zionists.
My thoughts here would only be complete if I pointed out that Gidon and I (and Miriam, I can confirm) have also received many kind, supportive comments and messages. The majority of our followers on TikTok and Instagram are still with us. But for how long, I don’t know. With each stage of this horrible war, I know we will face another litmus test. Should we just go quiet and stop making content? Keep our heads down? Stay out of it? Not express ourselves in our full Jewishness? Isn’t that like taking off your Star of David necklace or tucking your kippah away?
My friend Eitan Chitayat, the creator of the viral video “I’m That Jew,” and I have been working together over the past few days to meet this moment on social media. Eitan has been an advocate for Israel and the Jewish people for years. His is a passionate and influential voice.
Yesterday, I told Eitan what is happening to Miriam. Eitan, I said, it would be really powerful for you to chime in, but beware, you will get a lot of hate – the trolls will come after you, so make sure to think this over. “Yalla,” he said. “fuck ‘em.”