Is Instagram Silencing Jewish Educators?

A post by reader Arielle Calvo


Many of us in this community have long noticed a theme on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where antisemitic posts and calls to violence against Jews and/or Israelis never seem to violate their community standards or rules against hate speech. Meanwhile, innocuous posts by Jewish educators and advocates get removed or have their accounts repeatedly blocked or put on lock-down. Well, Instagram has officially joined the double-standard club.

Last week, one of my favorite accounts, quarter.water.dreams, was put on a what’s called a soft block. Followers can see posts made prior to the ban, but Yasmine, the owner of the account, cannot see any of them, meaning she cannot save any of her own work and she cannot upload new posts or stories.

To understand why this is a big deal, it’s important to know the topics Yasmine covers on her account. From a Mizrahi background, Yasmine puts hours of labor into the posts she makes to educate people on Jewish history. She is incredibly even-handed in that she understands and talks about the Palestinian narrative as well, but regularly points out to people that without the creation of the State of Israel, many of her family members would have been murdered and she would never have been born. She is never inflammatory – even when angry she talks calmly – and she truly aims to create dialogue. I’ve never once seen her do or say anything even close to actually violating community standards.

Her posts are progressive and nuanced, taking the time to explain the grey areas that exist to help people understand everything is not a black and white issue. She also talks about concerns and realities she faces as the mother of children who are half Black and half Jewish, classism, body positivity, as well as educating people on the struggles her family deals with being low income and having a child with type 1 diabetes. People follow her for all of these reasons and by her covering all of these topics, her Jewish education posts are reaching people they may not normally reach. In her Instagram bio, she had two links to allow people to donate and pay her for the labor she puts into all of these posts but since the soft ban was put in place, Instagram removed these links, stripping her of her ability to be paid for her work.

So what were the posts that led to this soft ban? Last week, Yasmine uploaded a few stories that talked about massacres against Jews prior to 1948, history of Jews in the MENA region, as well as posts about Birthright that explained while yes, Birthright is funded by “right-wing” donors, it’s classist to tell Jews not to accept the free trip as some Jews don’t have the money to ever visit their ancestral lands any other way. I saw these posts with my own eyes, there was nothing inflammatory in them, they were factually accurate and made great points. The soft ban was put in place before the stories expired and yet all of her stories were taken down, indicating people had been reporting her en masse for simply telling an inconvenient truth.

It should also be noted that Yasmine actually had to make her account private because antisemites were constantly attacking her account with nasty comments and messages. None of these bullying accounts or their nasty posts were ever banned or removed by Instagram.

So why do I care about one Instagram account so much? Not only because her account is interesting, educational and amazingly done (Food Fridays I miss you), but this is bigger than one account. Alongside her personal page, Yasmine also helps contribute to an account dedicated to education about ethnic Judaism and debunking the “Jews are white” narrative. This account has had Instagram take down a post about Amin al-Husseini, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was involved with the Nazis and helped instigate the Farhud. I saw the posts, they were nothing but facts about his actions of incitement that directly led to the massacres of Jews, and yet Instagram took the post down three times claiming it didn’t follow their guidelines regarding violence or threats of violence.

It’s also not just Yasmine and accounts she associates with that are dealing with such twisted policies. I had noticed this as a pattern for quite awhile so when Yasmine’s account was put under the soft ban, I reached out to numerous other Jewish education accounts. All of them have had innocuous posts taken down. Posts calling out antisemitism were taken down for violating guidelines about violence. Can someone explain to me how a Jewish account sharing screenshots of antisemitic content is the Jewish account calling for violence (against themselves…?) Some have even had posts about the Holocaust removed and been put on a shadow ban for months after posting about it, meaning their posts are now getting significantly less reach despite having almost 13,000 followers.

Multiple other accounts have also been bullied relentlessly by followers of an account that sicced her 73,000 followers on Yasmine. When any of these Jewish accounts called out Instagrammer thefatsextherapist, breaking down and explaining why their comments were antisemitic, they had their followers mass report the posts, bully and harass the Jewish accounts and ultimately succeeded at getting many posts removed. Thefatsextherapist has suffered any repercussions for her repeated antisemitic comments or her encouraging her followers to bully any Jewish account that dared to call them out. None of the accounts commenting things such as “Hitler should have finished the job” were ever taken down. Instagram wouldn’t even remove the reported comments, leaving the Jewish accounts to either leave atrocious comments up or go through and delete them themselves.

This double standard becomes even clearer when you realize there are multiple accounts with name variations of “gas the kikes now,” which have been reported to no avail. Search for ‘Hitler’ and see how many hateful accounts and hashtags come up, none of which seem to violate Instagram’s supposed community standards.

In a time when antisemitism is on the rise globally, social media platforms need to be more aware of how they are facilitating it and do more to stop it. Almost every Jew I know has reported countless posts and accounts for violent antisemitic content, only to be told they don’t violate community standards. Yet, when Jewish educators spend hours of their lives making content to educate people about Jewish history and culture, Instagram is more than happy to give in to the bullies and remove the content despite them being nothing more than historical facts. This is depriving their combined hundreds of thousands of followers of educational content simply because it’s about Jews.

Emails have been sent, Instagram has been contacted, friends who work at Instagram have been contacted; you can’t convince me that no one at Instagram has seen any of the complaints, there’s been too many of them. I encourage everyone to be more vocal and tag Instagram on multiple platforms anytime you notice this pattern occurring. Document the posts you report and whether Instagram actually takes them down or not, and let’s start showing them the content they allow versus the content they take down simply because Jew haters didn’t like what Jews had to say. Instagram needs to take a hard look at their policies and they will only do that when we vocally stick up for ourselves and expose their double standards. Please join me in telling Instagram to give Yasmine her account back and to stop soft banning Jewish educators and prevent them from being paid for their work.

(Also, go follow Yasmine’s new, hopefully temporary, account yasmine.dreamz)

Arielle Calvo is a Seattle native who made Aliyah in 2013 and resides in Tel Aviv. She holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and writes about her experiences in Israel.

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