Twitter’s “terms of service” policy on “hateful conduct” forbids users to abuse others with “repeated slurs, tropes or other content” that “dehumanizes” or “degrades” them. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has chronically violated Twitter’s policy, yet his accounts in English and an assortment of other languages remain intact.
Over the years, Khamenei has exploited Twitter to promote violence against Israel, antisemitism and Holocaust denial. In his latest tweet, posted on July 27, he maliciously singled out Jews as the secret puppeteers who control and manipulate Western governments, particularly the United States.
As he wrote, “The Western powers are a mafia … At the top of this mafia stand the prominent Zionist merchants, and the politicians obey them. The U.S. is their showcase, and they’re spread out everywhere.”
Khamenei, of course, was careful in phrasing his groundless diatribe. He did not use the words “Jewish” or “Jew.” He cowardly hid behind the word “Zionist,” a convenient and perennial stand-in expression for Jews.
Antisemites of all stripes resort to this flimsy stratagem, mistakenly assuming that they absolve themselves of the stench of antisemitism by attacking “Zionism.”
It’s an old tactic. The Soviet Union under a succession of leaders from Joseph Stalin onward focused its wrath on “Zionism” and “Zionists” to attack Israel and Russian Jews. The Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s took its cue from Moscow. The anti-Zionist campaign in Poland, orchestrated by the ruling Communist Party in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War in the Middle East, was nothing less than a full-throated crusade against assimilated Polish Jews who considered Poland their homeland.
Khamenei’s absurd claim that Jews are the puppet masters of the West conforms with the vile contents of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian czarist tract that was exposed as a forgery by the Times of London in the 1920s.
No one can seriously argue that Khamenei is not an antisemite. Yet Twitter tolerates his anti-Jewish rants. It is true that Twitter exempts government officials and elected politicians from its “terms of service” on “hateful conduct.” But this is a policy that cries out for change, as Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, pointed out last week in a letter to Twitter’s chief executive officer, Parag Agrawal.
Twitter’s policy of tolerating antisemitism “gives too much leeway for prominent figures to repeatedly post abusive and hateful content,” Greenblatt correctly pointed out. “Your failure to remove Khamenei has only emboldened his vilification of Jews and Israel,” Greenblatt warned.
If decency is to prevail, Twitter should alter its shockingly lenient policy with respect to government leaders and elected politicians and should de-platform Khamenei as soon as possible.
Twitter already has de-platformed such noxious individuals as Donald Trump, the ex-president of the United States. In removing his account following the insurrection in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2020, Twitter said, “We have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Having set this precedent, Twitter can surely bring itself to de-platform Khamenei, who not only incites violence, but peddles evil conspiracy theories that feed into antisemitic lies and myths.
Twitter should do the right thing and permanently ban Khamenei from its site.