Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The disingenuousness of Mitchell Plitnick and the critics of Facebook eying the word "Zionist"

For the past month, the anti-Israel Left has mounted a major campaign - a petition, a website, lots of articles - claiming that Facebook is considering adding the word "Zionist" to its hate speech policy.

The only piece of evidence for this is a single letter that Facebook sent to someone where they wrote:

As you know, in the context of our hate speech  policy, we do not allow content that attacks people based on a protected characteristic (e.g., race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation). Under the same policy, we also remove violating attacks where proxies or codewords are used by way of substitute for a protected characteristic. 
In that context, we are looking at the question of how we should interpret attacks on "Zionists" to determine whether the term is used as a proxy for attacking Jewish or Israeli people. The term brings with it much history and various meanings, and we are looking to increase our understanding of how it is used by people on our platform. 
There is not one clue that Facebook is doing anything wrong or underhanded. On the contrary, it is doing research. A word can be used in many ways, and Facebook was reaching out to understand how the word "Zionist" may be used as a substitute for "Jew."

Facebook no more wants to restrict the word "Zionist" than it wants to restrict the word "Jew" itself. It wants to understand how the context of the word can be interpreted as a slur, just as the word "Jew" can.

The Israel haters are purposefully twisting this Facebook-initiated request to claim that it is a Zionist plot.

Mitchell Plitnick, co-author with Marc Lamont Hill of the recently released book "Except for Palestine," writes in the New Arab:
Facebook is facing a dilemma. The social media Goliath finds itself caught in a debate over the use of the political label "Zionist". Supporters of Israel are pressing Facebook to treat the term "Zionist" as a proxy for "Jew", and to therefore label harsh criticisms of Zionism - a political ideology that must surely be open to criticism in any free society - as anti-semitism, a hateful ideology that has no place in civil discourse.
There's a funny thing about that paragraph. While the rest of the article is replete with links, Plitnick has no link showing that Zionists are pressuring Facebook to do anything. No proof for the main assertion in the first paragraph of the article. 

Because, as far as anyone can tell, this wasn't a Zionist initiative. It was Facebook trying to uphold its own policy.

Plitnick then argues unwittingly for Facebook to do exactly that - in terms of the Right:

The use of the word "Zionist" to launder anti-semitism is a real issue. For decades, white nationalist conspiracy theories have talked about the "Zionist Occupied Government," or "ZOG," referring to Jewish control of the United States, or even the world. It is an outgrowth of centuries of anti-semitism and particularly of the continuing malign influence of the notorious Russian forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, first published in 1903.

...The disingenuous practice of using the term "Zionist" to cover for anti-semitism is not difficult to see through. Both opponents and adherents of white nationalist propagandists, for example, routinely understand precisely what is meant.
Which means that Plitnick agrees that sometimes the word Zionist is used as a pejorative proxy for "Jew" and therefore would fall under Facebook's hate speech policy. He admits that the way that white nationalists use the term is clearly antisemitic. So why shouldn't Facebook treat those cases as the antisemitism it is?

He gives no answer. He just says that when legitimate critics of Israel use the term, it never means Jews, so don't bother even checking it out. 

Yet even the Left was forced to admit the blatant antisemitism in the British Labour party, often hiding behind "anti-Zionism." 

Iranian and Arab media today will talk about "Zionist" control of the media or of banks, simply substituting "Zionist" for traditional anti-Jewish tropes. Only last week I wrote about an Arab article that claimed that Mohammed drove out the deceitful "Zionists" from Medina

Denying that is denying reality, but Plitnick ludicrously claims that Palestinians and their allies are never antisemitic. 

Plitnick's example of the far-right slur "Zionist Occupied Government" is clearly antisemitism. But the Left makes the same claim - that the "Zionist lobby" controls Congress and the White House. What, exactly, makes one of them antisemitic and the other one legitimate criticism? The stereotype is identical, the aims are identical, the language is nearly so. While Plitnick himself criticized some aspects of the infamous "Israel Lobby" book by Walt and Mearsheimer, he didn't consider it antisemitic, and plenty of people on the Left embraced its theme that is indistinguishable from "ZOG."
If even Plitnick agrees that some purported anti-Zionism is thinly disguised antisemitism, what could be wrong with Facebook learning how to identify this and treat it as the hate it is?

Because Plitnick and the groups behind this initiative want to defend left-wing and Arab antisemitism. They doesn't want it to be scrutinized.  They want free reign to cross the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and hate. They want to allow the most vile antisemitism to be spouted from people on the Left and then defend it as mere "criticism of Israel."

Facebook wants to see what it can do to flag hate speech. People from the Left want to defend hate speech when it comes from their own side. Which means that they aren't against antisemitism - they just want to use the term to apply only to their ideological opponents.