On Monday, Jews will be walking away from Twitter for 48 hours. This isn’t because of a Jewish holiday but in response to the rise and normalization of antisemitism on Twitter, and the social media giant’s indifference to violators of its own rules and regulations. Celebrities, Farrakhan supporters, and antisemitic conspiracy peddlers have tweeted with no shame or challenge, and The Great Jewish Twitter Walkout is the response. It’s worthwhile to explore the path to the Walkout, starting with the unhindered propogation of antisemitic conspiracies surrounding major current events, followed by the celebrity obsession with Louis Farrakhan and their blue check immunity to Twitter’s rules and regulations.
Jews are no strangers to harrassment and disparagement on social media. Every possible form of antisemitism can be found on the Internet. When society moved online, so too did those ideologically obsessed with blaming all Jews for all the ills of all societies. The IHRA definition, a international standard for what is antisemitism, could be used as a scavenger hunt checklist when scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and of course, Twitter. Unfortunately, it would be a very short game. Recently, however, there has been a notable increase in antisemitism on social media, with Twitter in particular. The rise of modern Judenhaus coincides with two major international events, the COVID19 pandemic and unrest in the West regarding police brutality and African-American grievances. As with all things, Jews are ever accused to be the font of evils that afflict society, and these were no different.
It seems that the only thing as virulent as antisemitism this year was COIVD19, and as soon as it infected countries, tweets and posts about how Jews created or intentionally spread the virus began to multiply. According to The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey in early May, one in five Brits suspected Jews as the culprits for the virus’ creation. As always, “Jews” is often replaced with the “Zionists” when it comes to the narratives and rhetoric of Jew haters. Theories about how Israel was responsible for COVID19 were popular with anti-Israel activists and Palestinian leaders, but it was a troubling sign of things to come when celebrities like Rosanna Arquette began to suggest the same. Blaming Jews for plauges is not new, and has been going on since the Black Death. While such tweets are easlily understood as comparable to that old manifestation of antisemitism, they were ignored by Twitter. As were other conspiracies. While not quite as old, the conspiracies about Jews being behind police brutality in the US and the ills that the American black community suffer also enjoyed a renaissance.
JVP and other BDS organizations have long sought to hijack American issues to make them about their pet cause. The Deadly Exchange campaign, which contends that US police brutality is caused by Israeli training, is one of the most successful. The libel was regurgitated by antizionist zealots following the killing of George Floyd, hoping to capatalize on the renewed focus on police brutality. Despite there being police exchanges between the US and many countries, the focus of Israeli exchanges being counter-terrorism strategies rather than tactical traning, and that only hundreds of American officers from a force of hundreds of thousands have taken part in this exchange, the libel was eagerly spread on social media to a receptive crowd. Twitter has been engorged with articles and tweets explaining that Israel and the Jews have a hand in the Minneapolis tragedy, and must be held accountable. Twitter supposedly takes action against fake news and hate, but it didn’t against these tweets. These lies also jived with similar ideas expressed by the notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan.
Farrakhan is well known for his antisemitism and general bigotry to caucasians, women, and those in the LGBTQ community. Famously, he once claimed he was not antisemite, but “anti-termite”. Rivaling David Duke in his bigotry, Fararkhan is perhaps the most open and mainstream antisemitic voice in the US, with the ears of the wealthy and politically powerful. Farrakhan has long contested that Jews were the chief orchestrators of not just African-American poverty, but the original sin of slavery itself. According to proponents of Farrakhan, Jews had enslaved and used Black Americans up until modern times as well and recently this message has been sent to every corner of Twitter. Concurrently, the Black Hebrew Israelite idea that Jews were “fake Jews” and had stolen the identity and heritage from Africans has also become popularized. Jews on Twitter and other social media platforms have been shocked with how these ideas have proliferated of late. To be openly Jewish on Twitter these days is to have one’s identity attacked, blamed for police brutality, slavery, and black poverty. “Jews”, “Hebrews”, “Semitic”, and “Jewish Privilege” have trended on Twitter in the last few weeks. What is even more troubling is not only that these attacks have been ignored by Twitter, but also that these ideas have been mainstreamed and amplified by celebrities.
It seems that not a day goes by without some celebrity or influencer posting Farrakhan materials or other antisemitic content. Ice Cube went on a Farrakhan Twitter tirade, before it was cool, and Chelsea Handler posted Farrakhan on her Instagram, with big names like Busta Ryhmes, Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Garner liking and extolling the content. More recently Madonna also posted materials on Farrakhan. Diddy hosted Farrakhan’s 4th of July address on RevoltTV. Larry Johnson attacked several high profile Israeli and Jewish figures and influencers for being “fake” Jews. DeSean Jackson posted a fake Adolf Hitler quote that blamed Jews for slavery and stealing the heritage of the “real” Jewish people, and was supported by Stephen Jackson and many others. The list above is not even close to being exhaustive. The outcry against these actions was almost exclusively limited to the Jewish community, recieving little media backlash in a time when someone can be “canceled” for just about anything. It wasn’t until Nick Cannon reposted a podcast featuring himself and Professor Griff engaging in anti-Jewish and anti-white rants that news outlets began to pay attention. Heroes like Zach Banner, Kareem Abdul-Jabba, Jamele Hill, and Charles Barkley spoke up against the wave of antisemitism, encouraging and inspiring many to unite in solidarity and sow empathy between the Jewish and black communities. Twitter, however, did nothing in response the pandemic of antisemitism and harrassment on its platform. Worse than nothing, the only thing it managed in that time frame was banning accounts with Stars of David in their profile picture. This has further infuriated “JTwitter”. To Jewish and Israeli social media users, Twitter has been selective in enfocring their regulations and who they apply to.
Blaming Jews for COVID19, police brutality, slavery, stealing identities, and much more should be in violation of Twitter’s regulations. It could be that Twitter doesn’t understand what antisemitism is, and needs to seriously consider adoption of IHRA to better understand and enforce its own regulation commitments, as has been suggested by groups like Honest Reporting. What is clear is that Twitter has a different standard for violations when it comes to celebrities and those sporting blue checkmarks on their profiles. The list of celebritities above recieved no slaps from Twitter for their violations. However, the double standard became painfully obvious when Wiley, a rapper with hundreds of thousands of followers, began to post tweets that were explicitly antisemitic. Wiley’s hours long antisemitic tirade linked Jews to the KKK, attacked Jewish identity, referred to Jews controlling the world, among countless of other tropes and canards. For even Twitter, even without adoption of IHRA, there can be no denial of the rapper’s antisemitism. However, while any other account would have been deleted, Wiley’s was only suspended. This is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Jewish social media users are fighting back. This is the same fight that led Jews to the streets in a march following a wave of a violent attacks on Jews across the world. The lesson was not learned, drowned out by the coverage of the assassination of Qassam Soleimani. Now that the attacks have continued by another means on Twitter, Jews are once again protesting their plight. Led by Hen Mazzig they conquered the hashtag #Jewishprivilege, which had formerly been used to disparage Jews and share negative viewpoints on the Jewish community at large. Jewish students have begun to share their stories of antisemitic experiences on campus with online initiatives like Antisemitism Stories. They aimed to showcase how antisemitism is indeed a problem, and a growing one. When Twitter began to ban accounts with Stars of David, Jewish Twitter users changed their profile pictures to one of the banned users’ in protest. Now, a coalition of Jewish organizations, celebrities, influencers, and their friends and allies are taking their protest against Twitter’s double standards on antisemitism and celebrity to a whole new level with a 48 hour walkout.
The 48 hour walkout begins on Monday July 27th, at 09:00 GMT. While the organizers decided to take action following Wiley’s ongoing attacks on the Jewish community, they have made it clear that this incident is just one of a many high profile Twiter users inciting hatred and violence against Jews with little to no response from the social media platform. The coaltion spokesman said:
“The walkout we are announcing today is to show that the Jewish community and its allies have had enough of platforms like Twitter acting as loudspeakers for antisemitism, amplifying the hatred of Jews to millions of other social media users.
As soon as Wiley began posting his antisemitic tweets on Friday Twitter was flooded with requests to have his account taken down. In response Twitter deleted a copuple of tweets and gave the grime state a brief suspension. It was a completely inadequate response.
Unless there is an immediate change in how Twitter operates then there will be further action, including legal action, against the organization.”
Jews are making themselves heard on Twitter, even with their silence. They will no longer stand for double standards. Twitter must address the concerns of the Jewish community, and either enforce its rules equally for everyone or not at all. The path to this point has been several month long, and did not begin with Wiley. It began with the slow creep of normalcy, of pandemic and police training conspiracies, of false histories and libels, of harrassment and threats. It began with Twitter’s inaction, and hopefully, it will end with it taking action.