By David Andrew Weinberg
On the last Friday of Ramadan every year, the Government of Iran organizes what it calls Global Quds (i.e. Jerusalem) Day, which it uses as an opportunity to spread horrific propaganda calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, as well as messages of support for terrorist organizations and a deluge of antisemitic hate speech.
This year was no exception. On Friday, May 7, the main English-language Twitter account attributed to Iran’s Supreme Leader (@khamenei_ir) repeatedly posted tweets brimming with antisemitic language degrading both the Jewish people and Jewish Israelis.
For example, one such post on May 7 by Khamenei’s account declared that, since the creation of the State of Israel, the “pure land… has been occupied by the evilest people, racists” who are engaged collectively in “slaying, looting, imprisoning & torturing” the land’s inhabitants.
Other posts from the same day by this account described Israeli Jews as “the enemy,” “the Zionist enemy,” “plot[ting]”, and the lynchpin of a massive conspiracy by both global capitalism and Communism. Other posts described the Jewish state as “illegitimate,” “a base for terrorism” and “a #TerroristCamp against… Muslim nations” that “isn’t a country”
The conduct of these social media accounts on May 7 alone appear to blatantly violate several of Twitter’s own basic policies prohibiting the use of the platform to spread incitement and hate.
Twitter reportedly claims that its Hateful Conduct policy also bans Holocaust denial. Yet on Quds Day @khamenei_ir went out of its way (yet again) to try casting doubt upon the Holocaust, arguing that Europeans merely “claim” to have “oppressed Jews during WW2.”
The account also posted tweets calling for Israel’s elimination, through violence by “the Palestinian fighters” until Israel is “forced to submit to a referendum”. It made clear that this referendum that it envisions would use a rigged voter base, including only those individuals whom Khamenei considers to be “original residents.” As such it would be certain recipe for the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. @Khamenei_ir even seemed to acknowledge that this would result in the ethnic cleansing of nearly all of Israel’s Jewish people, tweeting that such a vote’s outcome would then “decide about the foreign settlers.”
In addition to degrading Jewish Israelis, many of these tweets also constitute hate speech affecting the Jewish people as a whole, since the tweets spread historic negative myths about Jews in the course hatefully mischaracterizing the citizens of the Jewish state in particular.
Indeed, @Khamenei_ir’s Quds Day tweets spread numerous age-old anti-Jewish myths: that Jews are powerful, disloyal, greedy, and bloodthirsty, in addition to casting doubt upon the Holocaust and rejecting the Jewish people’s equal right to self-determination. These constitute forms of blatant, explicit, and egregious antisemitism.
Glorification of Violence
The means by which Khamenei and this Twitter account associated with him seek to impose such a referendum on Israel is through terrorist violence. As such, many of @Khamenei_ir’s tweets in this regard seem to be clear-cut violations of Twitter’s Glorification of Violence policy. This Twitter account is arguably not just degrading Jews – it could be endangering them, too.
Twitter states that its user’s accounts will be suspended if they repeatedly “glorify, celebrate, praise or condone violent crimes, violent events where people were targeted because of their membership in a protected group, or the perpetrators of such acts.”
But this and other accounts associated with Khamenei seem to be doing exactly that, with remarkable impunity yet again.
For example, @khamenei_ir posted a rather brazen tweet this Quds Day that glorifies a grim lineup of deceased antisemitic leaders from the U.S.-designated terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and Iran’s IRGC Quds Force:
“Peace be upon the martyrs of the Resistance: the Martyrs Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, Abbas Musawi, Fathi Shaqaqi, Imad Mughniyeh, Abdul-Aziz Rantisi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis & finally, the prominent figure among Resistance martyrs, Qassem Soleimani. Their lives & martyrdoms influenced Resistance.”
These are also presumably the sorts of individuals whom @Khamenei_ir is referring in several other tweets this Quds Day, glorifying “the Palestinian fighters,” “the axis of #Jihad,” “the pure blood of Resistance martyrs [who] have managed to multiply Palestinian Jihad’s internal power by 100s of times,” and that such “fighters” constitute “an apocalyptic manifestation” of scripture.
Another of @Khamenei_ir’s May 7th tweets celebrated the “precision missiles” fired by Palestinian terrorist groups against “the enemy.” It also retweeted a Spanish-language account attributed to his personal office posting part of this quote along with the following cartoon, which celebrates rockets about to hit an Israeli soldier, in a grave with an Israeli flag tombstone.
In addition to glorifying violence, @Khamenei_ir also used Twitter on May 7th to forbid peace along religious lines. In particular, it ruled that it is an “important duty” for “#Muslim & #Christian scholars” to proclaim that peace accords normalizing relations with Israel under any circumstances are “religiously forbidden,” “treachery,” and “a stab in the back to Palestine.”
All of the posts noted above are from a just single day. And @Khamenei_ir is just one single account. Many of this account’s hateful or harmful tweets from May 7th were also posted in numerous other languages, by accounts that have been credibly attributed to Khamenei (and cited by ADL for recommended de-platforming) as well. These include tweets in Persian, Arabic, Russian, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Urdu and Hindi. And that’s not counting the vast array of Iranian state-run media outlets that subsequently amplify Khamenei’s incitement on social media platforms such as Twitter.
ADL has repeatedly called on Twitter and other social media platforms to permanently suspend the accounts attributed to Iran’s Supreme Leader, which have a long record of degrading hate speech and glorifying terrorists in multiple languages. Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy clearly prohibits “slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.” It also prohibits “the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion… national origin, race, or ethnicity.”
Clearly much more has to be done to deal with the propagation of such hateful and violent antisemitic propaganda on social media. A painfully obvious first step would be for Twitter to finally stop hosting these accounts that spread antisemitic incitement in the name Iran’s Supreme Leader, the worst propagator of state-sponsored antisemitism in the world.
The conduct of Twitter profiles attributed to Khamenei on just a single day – Friday, May 7th – provide a chilling reminder of why all such accounts need to be shut down without delay.
David Andrew Weinberg is ADL’s Washington Director for International Affairs.