Why Is Iran’s Supreme Leader Still on Twitter?

By Aaron Kliegman

I follow Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Twitter. As someone who closely watches Iranian politics, foreign policy, and military strategy, I naturally monitor Khamenei’s account. Not that I expect him to make any news, but every now and then he says something significant — and revealing. And, like Hitler, he doesn’t exactly hide his intentions — especially concerning Jews.

As you might expect, Khamenei’s tweets about Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, aren’t very warm. The same goes for his tweets about Zionism, the desire and resolve of Jews to reestablish, and then preserve, their national homeland in the land of Israel. In fact, his tweets are identical to what I imagine Hitler’s would be: hateful, violent, visceral, and genocidal. But, of course, while Hitler would direct his venom at the Jewish people and therefore be antisemitic, Khamenei merely targets the Jewish state — and is therefore regarded as a social justice warrior expressing his political views. Or so Twitter seems to think, based on its silence. I’ll explain.

Since 2009, Khamenei has spread antisemitic poison on Twitter, so him tweeting against Israel is nothing new. Over the past 11 days, however, his anti-Israel tweets have been especially prolific and egregious, showcasing blatant examples of antisemitism. So, for the first time, I looked up Twitter’s rules and “hateful conduct policy” and was left dumbfounded, with one painfully obvious question: How is Iran’s supreme leader still on Twitter?

Here are a few of Twitter’s rules:

“You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence.”

“You may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism.”

“You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin … religious affiliation … We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”

Khamenei violates these rules explicitly. The examples are endless, but let’s just look at some of his recent tweets.

For starters, earlier this month, the ayatollah called Israel a “rabid, predatory dog” that “massacres” women and children. He then explained that “the Zionist regime” doesn’t understand “any language but the language of force.”

A few days later, Khamenei wrote that Israel survives by attacking innocent people and “was built based on oppression, lies, deception, bloodshed, massacre, and trampling human rights.”

To clarify, Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, actually protects minority rights. The regime in Iran, meanwhile, is an Islamist theocracy that executes homosexuals and is widely known as one of the world’s cruelest and most oppressive governments.

Khamenei soon took his incitement up a level. He tweeted that the West Bank must be armed just like Gaza, where the terrorist group Hamas, which receives money and weapons from Iran, is in power. Remember Twitter’s rule about promoting terrorism?

The next day, the supreme leader called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and “the most evident example of state terrorism.”

“The nature of the Zionist regime,” he added later, “is incompatible with peace, because the Zionists seek to expand their territories and will certainly not be limited to what they have already occupied.”

It seems fair to assume Khamenei doesn’t support a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But don’t worry: The supreme leader quickly clarified that he has nothing against Jews — he just seeks Israel’s destruction. “Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn’t mean eliminating Jews,” he tweeted. “We aren’t against Jews. It means abolishing the imposed regime and … Palestinians choose their own [government] and expel thugs like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. This is ‘Eliminating Israel’ and it will happen.”

He then promised that Israel’s “utterly racist, usurping, malicious, false, apartheid regime” will collapse, and that the “only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm, armed resistance.”

Forget China forcing a million Muslims into concentration camps, Kim Jong Un running a prison state in North Korea, or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad slaughtering his own people — according to Khamenei, “among crimes against humanity in recent times,” none equal those of Israel “in terms of scope and gravity.”

Israel also was, according to the ayatollah, created by Western governments “conspiring with Jewish plutocrats,” who made up Zionism to create a “bogus,” imperial regime. Again, don’t worry: No antisemitism to see here.

Khamenei then went on to describe Israel as the creation of a Western-Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. He explained that the struggle to free Palestine and destroy all of Israel is a form of jihad for which martyrs will be rewarded. He also compared Israel to the coronavirus as something to be uprooted and called Zionism a “long-lasting virus.”

The supreme leader finished his days-long rant by describing how Iran is waging jihad against the Jewish state by arming known, US-designated terrorist organizations — Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Lebanese Hezbollah.

The rant was so outrageous that Israel asked Twitter this week to suspend Khamenei’s account immediately.

I don’t think I need to explain how Khamenei may be in violation of some of Twitter’s rules. He is glorifying violence, threatening and promoting terrorism, promoting violence against people based on their national origin, and inciting violence.

Plus, all these tweets are egregiously antisemitic. This should go without saying, but demonizing, delegitimizing, and calling for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state all go well beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and enter the realm of antisemitism.

With all of the above in mind, I’ll ask my question again: How is Iran’s supreme leader still on Twitter?

If Twitter can suspend James Woods’s account for paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson and using the hashtag #HangThemAll in a clearly figurative way, then surely Twitter can do at least the same for one of Khamenei’s tweets. One would think that threatening the slaughter of Israel’s 6.8 million Jews, if not the country’s entire population of 9.2 million people, would warrant a suspension.

This is more than a moral issue. Twitter is giving a murderous dictator a major platform to spread his lies, hate, conspiracy theories, calls to violence, and toxic ideology. Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, needs to answer for the company’s position. There’s not even a financial motive to keep Khamenei’s account — the regime bans Twitter in Iran.

With each day that the company doesn’t act, it is endorsing antisemitism through its silence. And all the while, Khamenei or one his cronies is behind a keyboard typing, as the ayatollah’s thugs work to destroy the lone Jewish state.