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Saying much more by saying nothing




Remaining silent has never been a talent of mine. From as early as I can remember, I was unable to just to “shut it”, even when I knew it was maybe more sensible to do just that. It’s like I never received that gene. It was unquestionably missing from my mother’s DNA, and I’m sure my father’s is recessive rather than dominant.

In short, I stood little chance of keeping quiet, and have more or less accepted that it’s unlikely that I ever will.

Which is why I was so uncomfortable in taking part in the Twitter campaign that required Jews and friends to remain Twitter silent for 48 hours. At first, I struggled to understand how remaining silent could ever be helpful. As someone who spends considerable energy in speaking out, how would silence help?

The 48-hour Twitter campaign had its roots in the United Kingdom following a series of antisemitic tweets from a rapper called Wiley. He was, in a sense, the proverbial “final straw” that ultimately broke the back of the already burdened camel. Jews have been faced with torrents of antisemitism on social media, and have been asked to tolerate levels of hate that almost no other group has been asked to.

When Louis Farrakhan referred to Jews as “termites”, it took enormous pressure to have the tweet deleted. No difference in Wiley’s case, who believes without any doubt that Jews control the world. The irony, of course, being that we clearly don’t control Twitter. If not, he would be the second one to go.

And so, I grappled with the dilemma about remaining silent. And decided that even if it didn’t sit comfortably, I would stand alongside fellow Jews who had had just about enough of the constant barrage of abuse (I certainly have). But, as an observant Jew and one used to the specific laws (halacha) on just about everything, I found the lack of clear direction alarming.

The 48 hours were due to begin at 09:00 on Monday, and run until 09:00 on Wednesday.

Was it 09:00 in the United Kingdom or local time? And would this mean that Americans would be silent way after we were happily tweeting again.
Would there be 18 extra minutes (as with the start of Shabbat) where we could quickly finish off some tweets?

Does one have to send a tweet declaring the start of the 48 hours, or would it be enough to simply go silent?

Are we allowed to look at Twitter during this time and read other tweets, or is the platform prohibited in its entirety?

What if there’s an emergency tweet? And what constitutes such?

If I run a Twitter account for a business (not in my Jewish name), am I allowed to engage on the platform?

Do people outside of the United Kingdom need to keep an extra day in case of travellers crossing time zones?

And why during the 48 hours did so many New York Jews continue to tweet?

There is little doubt that silence is a powerful tool. Especially because by saying nothing, we often say more – as long as it’s used sparingly, and doesn’t become a habitual sulk. It will be interesting to see what impact the 48 hours of Twitter silence has, and if it took silence finally to be heard.

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