Today I opened my Twitter account for the first time in two days. I’d been following the #48Hour social media ban I and Saul Freeman had instigated, in response to social media sites allowing grime artist Wiley days and days of anti-Jewish hate speech.
Our grassroots ban under the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate snowballed into a global phenomenon, with high-profile politicans, journalists, lawmakers, actors, musicians and hundreds of thousand of others demanding to know why Twitter, Instagram and Facebook had effectively given a megaphone to Wiley to spew out Jew-hate to more than 600,000 followers.
Most significantly, social media CEOs have had to sit up and see what I have been saying for a very long time: that antisemitism is running rampant unchecked, infecting their sites.
But I logged in to Twitter and the first tweet of the morning to me read: “F***ing shut up, sticking your nose into literally everything apart from an oven where it actually belongs.”
When I was four, my mum and dad took me to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. My dad went into the Hall of Names to look for relatives he wanted to verify had died in the concentration camps.
No four-year-old should have to process what I saw that day, pictures of skeletal bodies piled in open graves, a pile of Jewish childrens’ shoes, teeth and hair. The picture I have never been able to erase from my memory was of a naked dead Jewish woman’s body being placed into an oven to be incinerated. That would be the ‘oven” the tweeter told me I deserved to be in.
My great-uncle Josef, who survived the Warsaw ghetto and two concentration camps, was my hero. When I would ask how the world allowed the Holocaust to happen, he would answer in his thick Polish accent: “Because people looked the other way.”
I’m a successful actress and a writer. I’m not a politician or an activist. It was never my aim to take the job of speaking out against race hate, especially towards Jewish people, so vociferously. But I have spent my life making sure I would never be one of those people who would “look the other way”.
By standing up on social media ( Twitter especially), I have become the target of much antisemitic and misogynistic abuse, but I’ve been told by Twitter many of these tweets don’t violate their terms and conditions. People have told me I’m lying about antisemitism and weaponsing it. People looked the other way. Until Wiley.
The amazing outcome of Wiley’s hate was that it was so obvious. There was no dressing it up as something else. Jews live under rocks, are slippery cowards, are worse than the KKK, and are deserving to be shot (sprayed with corn)… Multiple tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts.
His accounts should have been closed instantantly. And yet Instagram removes pictures of a woman breastfeeding as an “offensive image” and Twitter will remove accounts with a star of David in the picture. If these sites want a veneer of respectability by having guidelines, they have to act according to them. That Wiley has been removed permanently from all platforms is a step towards a safe space for us all.