Twitter says Khamenei’s antisemitic ‘International Zionist clown’ tweet doesn’t violate platform rules

UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM A TWITTER SPOKESPERSON

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday alleged in a tweet that his country is not interested in producing a nuclear weapon, but said that if it were, no one could stop it, including Israel. In the post, he used the antisemitic phrase “international Zionist clown,” which, according to The Times of Israel, was an apparent reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“That international Zionist clown has said they won’t allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him wouldn’t be able to stop us,” Khamenei tweeted Monday.

Many conservatives, after former President Donald Trump was banned last month from Twitter and other social media platforms regarding his posts alleging election fraud and those viewed as playing a role in stirring up the deadly January 6 Capitol riot, have argued that it was unfair that Trump was banned while Khamenei and the Chinese Communist Party have tweeted far worse things and faced no repercussions.

A Twitter spokesperson told this reporter that Khamenei’s tweet is “not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”

Specifically, the spokesperson pointed to Twitter’s world leader policy, in which it is stated that the company assesses “reported Tweets from world leaders against the Twitter Rules, which are designed to ensure people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.” The policy also says that “[p]resently, direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”

It is not clear whether Twitter will take action against Khamenei for the tweet, though the company has not done so in the past—even when he has used the platform throughout the years to call for the “elimination” of Israel, among other statements.

Prior to Twitter permanently banning Trump, he was shielded by the platform’s world leader policy, which exempts currently serving global leaders from penalties for posting certain policy-violating content. The former U.S. president, the company argued, needed to be held accountable for violating its policies, despite still being a world leader at the time.

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Former Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ellie Cohanim, a Jewish Iranian whose family fled Iran due to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, told this reporter that the “Iranian regime engages in what I have termed an ‘obsessive anti-Semitism,'” adding that “Ayatollah Khamenei’s tweet is just more evidence of the hatred and vitriol which the Supreme Leader himself directs at the Jewish state of Israel.”

“Despite his protestations, Khamenei is clearly frustrated with the knowledge that Israel has consistently blocked repeated Iranian attempts at achieving nuclear capability, and undoubtedly the Israelis will continue to thwart the greatest state sponsor of anti-Semitism from developing a nuclear arsenal,” Cohanim added.

Below Khamenei’s aforementioned tweet, the Iranian leader doubled down on his claim that Iran isn’t seeking nuclear weapons, saying, “This is based on Islamic fundamentals and commands that prohibit weapons that are used for killing ordinary people.”

He, however, went after the United States for dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, the only nuclear weapons ever used in warfare.

“The one that massacres 220,000 people with nuclear weapons is the US.”

In a separate post on Monday, Khamenei reasserted his claim that his country has no interest in such weapons but said that Iran’s “nuclear enrichment will not be limited to 20% either.” Moreover, he added that it “will enrich uranium to any extent that is necessary for the country” and that its “enrichment level may reach 60% to meet the country’s needs.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.