You need a strong stomach to be a Jew on Twitter. For every genuinely warm feeling you get from someone wishing you Shabbat Shalom, or the fun you’ll have arguing over whether that round doughy thing is pronounced baygel or beigel, you’ll be exposed to ten messages of hate. They come from the far right and they come from the far left and all sorts of random places in between.
From the former you’ll get a constant diet of Holocaust denial. You’ll get anonymous accounts like a new one under the name Dunarote Brandon. His pinned post — the one everyone can see as soon as the look at his profile — says: “The Holocaust is pure propaganda. You have better luck demonstrating Enron as a proper biz model.” He writes: “The only person Jews hate more than Hitler is Jesus”, “Porn is very Jewish” and “Jews justify pedophilia [sic] through their culture/ religion.”
The far left tends to be a little more subtle. They often bait rather than bite. You have people such as Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of a hard-left blog, who has compared Israel to the Nazi regime, equated Brexit with the words stated on the gates of the Auschwitz death camp and called the Labour antisemitism crisis “a smear campaign against one of Britain’s finest MPs on behalf of Tories and anti-Palestinian racists”.
Their stock answers to every allegation of Labour antisemitism is to call Jews smear merchants and apartheid-loving, baby-killing whores who are just upset that Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t be bought with their shekels. Then you have black preacher Louis Farrakhan calling Jews termites, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calling American Jews “filthy Zionist agents” and insisting on the destruction of Israel, adding: “The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm, armed resistance.”
All of these people merrily tweet their hatred without, it seems, any sort of punishment at all — despite activists making daily complaints about their activity.
It took five days and an international walkout of Twitter from MPs and actors as well as thousands of anti-racism activists to stop British rapper Wiley’s blatant antisemitic tirades. That was in July and social media companies pledged to do better in combatting hatred online. Twitter said then: “Let us be clear: hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service and we strongly condemn antisemitism. We are sorry we did not move faster and are continuing to assess the situation internally.”
Nine months later, how are they doing? Abysmally. All of the accounts I’ve mentioned above (apart from Wiley’s) remain up, spewing out their messages of hatred. Twitter remains a cesspit of antisemitism. And the social media organisation has just indefinitely suspended GnasherJew, one of the biggest accounts on Twitter fighting antisemitism, exposing Jew hate on the site.
Twitter’s explanation is odd, to say the least. It tells me that “the account referenced was permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on ban evasion”.
Ban evasion is when the person behind a banned account sets up a new account under a different name. But GnasherJew, responsible for exposing scores of antisemites and Holocaust deniers, has never done that. The account, run by four people, was banned two years ago for using a yellow Star of David because it had “violated Twitter rules by use of hateful imagery”. But after a public campaign the account, which has nearly 17,000 followers, returned to continue exposing antisemites. The yellow star was modified.
But, nearly two weeks ago it suddenly disappeared again with no warning. What is more, two other accounts that chose to brandish the GnasherJew sign, were suspended several days later. Again, I was told this was because the accounts had been suspended for ban evasion. It feels Kafkaesque. It also feels malign and blatantly unjust.
This example of the incredible double standards that social media companies get away with doesn’t, of course, just affect Jews. In the last few months there has been a concerted effort by the footballing community to hold Twitter account for the racism many of its players, in particular black ones, receive.
The social media company said in February, as it did in July, that it was determined to crack down on racism on its site. “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service,” said a Twitter spokesman. “We want to reiterate — there is no room for racist abuse on Twitter.”
But sadly, that is simply not true.
Being Jewish and being on Twitter can sometimes feel like swimming through rooms full of racist abuse.
And instead of punishing the perpetrators, Twitter, incredibly, malignly, has banned the people who pointed it out.