A tweet from Fadah Jassem announcing her new position with emojis of 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli flag. (Screenshot)
A tweet from Fadah Jassem announcing her new position with emojis of 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli flag. (Screenshot)

Twitter’s new curator for Middle East news apologizes for anti-Israel tweets

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A new Twitter hire responsible for curating news coverage of the Middle East and North Africa has apologized for tweets harshly critical of Israel made in 2010 and 2011 after they generated controversy on social media Monday.

The tweets, made by Fadah Jassem, said Israel was “not born” but “dropped like a bomb” in the Middle East, and another appeared to show support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Jassem first earned scrunity from pro-Israel groups early Monday after announcing her new role as editorial curation lead for the MENA region. In the announcement she did not list Israel as one of the many nations under her purview.

“Cats out the bag, I’m thrilled to say that I join Twitter as Editorial Curation Lead for MENA today,” she posted in a tweet that included flags of 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli flag. “Very excited to get stuck in and delve deeper into the discussions that matter from this diverse and lively region!”

Jassem’s posts have raised questions about objectivity in social media news coverage, a major source of news in the United States and across the globe. According to a recent Pew survey, about half of Americans get some of their news via social media.

While Twitter’s editorial curation teams do not produce original reporting, they are responsible for creating Twitter “Moments,” or aggregations of news stories from a particular region or event. Curation teams “find and highlight great Tweets,” according to Twitter.

Jassem’s announcement sparked an outcry from pro-Israel users. Israel War Room tweeted: “Hey, @Twitter, why did your new MENA Editorial Curation Lead not list Israel alongside its Middle Eastern neighbors? This is either woeful ignorance of the territory @FadahJassem is supposed to cover, or antisemitic erasure of the only Jewish state.”

The watchdog group StopAntisemitism.org tweeted: “Hey @FadahJassem — seems you forgot something.”

Hours later, GnasherJew, a UK-based investigative outfit instrumental in exposing antisemitism within the Labour Party leading to its split, unearthed and reposted the old tweets.

One, from September 2010, says Israel was “dropped like a bomb in the middle of Palestine.” Another says “they need to arrange another puppet before this puppet leaves..Israel is shitting itself.” A third quotes Farrakhan taking issue with U.S. support for Israel.

Jassem protected her account, so it is no longer publicly visible. She apologized for the tweets and “for forgetting the Israeli flag with reference to MENA as I did others.”

“I can see that I have been ill-informed with some tweets when younger,” she wrote, responding to Emanuel Miller, an analyst with Honest Reporting. “I apologise for any offence caused by these particular tweets.”

The incident follows other recent controversies in which public-facing employees have attracted scrutiny and sometimes backlash for social media posts about Israel. Earlier this year, the Associated Press fired reporter Emily Wilder for tweets about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the news organization said violated its social media policy on bias. In Northern California, UC Merced said in August it was investigating teaching professor Abbas Ghassemi for tweets railing against “Zionists” that the university chancellor called “repugnant.”

In the tech world, Google reassigned its head of diversity, Kamau Bobb, earlier this year after blog posts from 2007 were unearthed in which he claimed, in a post about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that Jews have an “insatiable appetite for war” and an “insensitivity” to suffering.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.