Very few people in Israel are naive enough to believe that the leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei does not stand by what he publicly declares.
Earlier this year, for example, Iran’s supreme leader tweeted for “the elimination of the Zionist regime” through “firm, armed resistance” and said he will “support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”
Another recent tweet included a graphic calling for Israel’s destruction by referring to a “final solution,” which usually refers to the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. A 2014 tweet included nine points on “why should and how can Israel be eliminated.”
The thing is that Khamenei doesn’t just tweet about destroying Israel. He also tries to act on it. All one has to do is count the missiles he has supplied Hezbollah in Lebanon (the IDF believes it’s about 150,000 now) or the attempts he has made in recent years to establish forward bases to use for attacks against Israel in Syria. Islamic Jihad and Hamas are also on the receiving end of Khamenei’s support.
And then there is of course his country’s nuclear program and effort to obtain a nuclear weapon, stopped for now by the JCPOA, international sanctions and sabotage.
To state what should be obvious to Twitter or anyone else, Iran is no friend of Israel or of the United States. It is the greatest state sponsor of terrorism and works tirelessly to undermine moderate Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf.
Nevertheless, Twitter feels that Khamenei is a person who deserves to be heard. His genocidal calls against another state don’t make the executives in the company’s headquarters in California feel that the Iranian terror supporter needs to be censored or blocked from their platform.
This came up last week during a Knesset hearing at the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.
During the meeting, Israel Jewish Congress executive director Arsen Ostrovsky pointed out that Twitter has been appending notices pointing out violations of their hate speech policies to tweets by US President Donald Trump, such as one where he wrote “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“Why have you not flagged tweets of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei who’s literally called for genocide of the Jewish people?” Ostrovsky asked.
Head of Twitter Policy for the Nordics and Israel Ylwa Pettersson, participating in the meeting via video link, categorized Khamenei’s tweets as permissible political speech.
“We have an approach to world leaders that presently says direct interactions with public figures, comments on political issues of the day or foreign policy saber-rattling on military and economic issues are generally not in violation of twitter rules,” Pettersson said.
Twitter’s Vice President of Public Policy Sinéad McSweeney went further writing to Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen that Khamenei’s hateful tweets did not violate their policies.
“World leaders use Twitter to engage in discourse with each other, as well as their constituents,” McSweeney wrote in a June 15 letter.
“Political issues”? “Discourse with each other”? “Foreign policy saber-rattling”? Has Twitter lost its mind? Calling for the destruction of another people is not a political issue and is not foreign policy banter. It is a declaration of genocide, against a people that has some experience in attempts to wipe it out.
In another exchange, pro-Israel activist Emily Schrader asked Pettersson about Holocaust denial on the platform, pointing out that Facebook and TikTok ban it.
Pettersson said: “As our hateful conduct policy states, if the content tries to directly threaten or harass on the basis of religion, then that is something we would enforce.”
Meaning, Holocaust denial not targeting someone specific would not be a violation.
Social media companies like to say that they do not censor what people write out of a desire to uphold freedom of speech. We agree that freedom of speech is a value worth fighting for but there have to be red lines. Antisemitism, sexual exploitation, murder, organized hate and announcing plans to kill someone.
This also needs to apply to the leader of a state calling to destroy another state. This is not political talk or foreign policy disagreements. This is beyond the pale and standing by, as Twitter is doing, will be a stain on the platform for as long as Khamenei is allowed to continue to tweet.
Take a stand Twitter. Shut down Khamenei’s account.