Tony Greenstein is slowly but surely being disappeared from the internet. A renowned anti-Zionist Jew who has long been active in the Palestine solidarity movement and on the wider political left, Greenstein is being censored by powerful American internet companies. In the latest incident, his account on Twitter has been “suspended”, the company’s misleading euphemism for “deleted”.
This means that not only is Greenstein no longer allowed to post on the influential social media platform, but also that everything he ever posted on Twitter is no longer available to view. Go onto Twitter now and type in @TonyGreenstein – his former “handle” – and you’ll see nothing but a cryptic message.
His forced disappearance is yet another reminder of the incredible power that a handful of Silicon Valley companies has over our de facto online public spaces. Increasingly, these near-monopolies side with the anti-Palestinian, pro-Israel apartheid narrative. That very much seems to have been the case with Tony Greenstein’s “suspension” from Twitter.
Writing for the US site Mondoweiss and in an interview with The Canary, Greenstein provided evidence that his opposition to Israeli war crimes was the reason for Twitter deleting his account. It started with his response to tweets by the Jewish Leadership Council, an adamantly anti-Palestinian group based in North London.
In mid-November, the JLC tweeted a defence of Israel’s latest murderous invasion of the Gaza Strip, which violated a ceasefire with armed Palestinian resistance groups in the besieged territory. An Israeli Special Forces unit entered Gaza wearing disguises. When Palestinian defence forces discovered them, a firefight broke out — seven Palestinians were killed, as was one senior Israeli officer — and Israel began bombing Gaza, yet again. Palestinian resistance groups responded to this by firing rockets into Israel, a strategy which was successful in forcing the Israelis to agree to a ceasefire.
The JLC statement on Twitter predictably tried to turn the aggressor — Israel — into the victim, and supported “Israel’s right to defend itself”. Greenstein responded to the JLC by tweeting, “Let’s go back 80 years ‘today Nazi Germany came under repeated attack by Poland when its troops attempted to keep the peace’.”
It was this tweet, it seems, that was one of several reported to Twitter by a journalist for an anti-Palestinian newspaper, which then led the social media giant to delete Greenstein’s account. Jack Mendel, who writes for the Jewish News, claimed that it had been his reports to the site which had led Twitter to forcibly disappear Tony from the platform, supposedly for “hateful conduct”.
Laws against hate speech are intended to protect vulnerable minorities from racism. Such laws are not there to protect nation states from criticism of their human rights violations, and nor should they be used for that purpose. The same should apply to the rules and regulations governing the use of social media platforms.
Tony Greenstein’s historical comparison of the JLC’s defence of the aggressor today, the state of Israel, and the aggressor 80 years ago, Nazi Germany, was a valid expression of free speech. It is perhaps not a comparison which non-Jews would feel comfortable about making but, as the son of a rabbi and a Jew, Tony was surely entitled to make it. His free expression should certainly not be censored in this way.
However, when it comes to Israel and the word “Nazi” people often lose all sense of proportion. Look at the hysteria this summer, for example, when it “emerged” in the media that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had once attended a meeting with the late Hajo Meyer, another anti-Zionist Jewish activist who also happened to be a Holocaust survivor.
In 2010, Corbyn hosted a meeting in Parliament with Meyer under the banner “Never Again – For Anyone”. As reported by The Electronic Intifada, Meyer was deeply upset and distressed at the situation of the besieged Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and “could not help but compare the situation of Palestinians trapped under Israeli occupation and bombardment with Jews caged by the Nazis in ghettos like the Warsaw Ghetto.”
Hajo Meyer was forced to flee his native Germany as a teenager after the Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews in November 1938. Escaping to the Netherlands, he was captured by the Nazis when they occupied the country. He was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where the Nazis tattooed number “179679” on his arm. Unlike millions of his fellow European Jews, Meyer survived. His parents did not; they were murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic.
Meyer’s experiences led him to the Universalist conclusion that “Never Again” must mean never again, for anyone. He told The Electronic Intifada in 2011, “My own fate is so similar to what young Palestinian people in Palestine experience. They have no free access to education. Preventing access to education is murder in slow motion.”
After renewed media hysteria about the Meyer meeting this summer, Corbyn was compelled – to his utter discredit and shame – into distancing himself from views expressed at the 2010 meeting. Again, he apologised for doing nothing wrong. Such concessions have only added fuel to the fire.
Tony Greenstein is never one to back down, though. For refusing to recant his principled anti-Zionist views, he is being censored by the online media giants. The relentless censorship of anti-Zionist Jews should be unacceptable to anybody who cares about freedom of speech for everybody. With the far-right on the march again across Europe and America — and being embraced by Israel’s leaders — it’s a worrying portent of things to come.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.