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Jewish entities worldwide institute 48-hour freeze on Twitter over hate speech

July 27, 2020 / JNS

Credit: Office of the Chief Rabbi.

“This is about much more than one individual’s hateful rants,” insisted Michael Dickson, executive director of StandWithUs Israel. “Anti-Semitism is not a second-class form of racism. Anti-Semitism is deadly.”

International Jewish groups are joining in a 48-hour abstention from Twitter in solidarity with Jews in the United Kingdom after British rap star Wiley, who has hundreds of thousands of followers, went on an hours-long social-media rant against Jews.

“For too long, social media has been a safe space for those who peddle hatred and prejudice. Free speech is an essential cornerstone of any civilized society, but when it is used to incite hatred and violence against others, social-media companies have a responsibility to act and must do so without delay,” said the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Ephraim Mirvis, in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “ … Your inaction amounts to complicity.”

The boycott began on Monday at 9 a.m. London time with supporters using the hashtag #Nosafeplaceforjewhate.

Among the entities participating in the freeze are the American Jewish Committee, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Leadership Council of the United Kingdom and the Holocaust Educational Trust in the United Kingdom.

British rapper Wiley, whose real name is Richard Kylea Cowie Jr., began his anti-Semitic rant on Friday. Among his posts were: “Zionists suck ya mum” and “Jewish people you make me sick and I will not budge hold this corn.”

On Twitter, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism stated that the term “hold corn” is “slang for ‘take bullets.’ We consider this incitement to racial hatred.” They added that they reported him to the Metropolitan Police and asked that his account be suspended.

Twitter has removed some of Wiley’s comments, though his account appears to be active.

“We in the Jewish community were appalled to see Wiley’s anti-Jewish racist rant carry on for hour after hour with absolutely no intervention from Twitter or Instagram at all,” said Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “We are calling on all social-media platforms to adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism.”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by dozens of countries worldwide defines anti-Semitism as a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The Board of Deputies is also calling for the United Kingdom to rescind Wiley’s title as an MBE, Member of the Order of the British Empire, which is awarded to someone who makes a positive difference in their community.

Hashtag being used to promote other agendas

The measure comes amid growing concern over anti-Semitism on social-media platforms.

As a result, some are also calling out other platforms, including Instagram and its parent company, Facebook. Indeed, Mirvis sent a nearly identical letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Gilad Erdan, the permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations and incoming ambassador of Israel to the United States, posted online: “Twitter has failed to take serious steps to combat anti-Semitism on its platform. … People around the world are staging a 48-hour walkout to demand action. I will join them.”

According to Michael Dickson, executive director of StandWithUs Israel, “Twitter has been and should be a powerful force for good in our world. It can give voice to the voiceless, help bring democracy to those in dictatorships and amplify ideas that unite us. Instead, Twitter has allowed anti-Semitic statements, calls for violence against Jews, and ‘dog-whistle’ anti-Semitism to fester and spread.

“This is about much more than one individual’s hateful rants,” he continued. “Anti-Semitism is not a second-class form of racism; it is to be taken seriously and acted against. Anti-Semitism is deadly.”

While the effort is underway, a number of posters have used the hashtag to promote other agendas.

Some have used it to put forth their belief that “anti-Zionism” is legitimate and should not be confused with “anti-Semitism,” and that Israel is a “colonizing state.” Others questioned why anyone would go silent for 48 hours now when they haven’t done so for other groups.

Even those who support the premise behind the social-media freeze ponder its effectiveness. Some posters said they are going to remain active and use those two days to educate others as to what anti-Semitism really means, while others indicated they will post only “Jewish” things for the next 48 hours.


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