image Photo: Reuters, Flash90

Anti-Jewish hate speech surges in US

A rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States has emerged, centering around comments made by an African-American musician.

By Erin Viner

Anti-Semitic incidents reached an all-time high in the US in 2021, according to the annual report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) civil rights organization.

The situation has recently been inflamed by American rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who officially changed his name to “Ye.”

Messages threatening Jews posted by the multiple Grammy award-winning artist were deleted and he was booted of Twitter and Instagram.

In one tweet, he threatened to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” and claimed that he “actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew [Sic].” The comment was apparently an incorrect reference to a military term used to assess the intensity of a national security threat.

In a since-deleted screenshot of an iMessage exchange, West accused another African-American musician, Sean Love Combs aka “Diddy,” of being controlled by Jews. “This ain’t a game,” West, 45, wrote, adding, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me [Sic].”

After being locked out of his Instagram by Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., he responded by posting a photo of himself with Meta Platforms founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, tweeting, “Look at this Mark How you gone kick me off instagram [Sic],” adding, “You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

“How you gone kick me off instagram… You used to be my n—-” he wrote, referring to Zuckerberg, adding a veiled slur over Jewish control of the media, “Who you think created cancel culture?” West, 45, said in another tweet.

In an interview on Fox News, West accused former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, of negotiating the Abraham Accords peace process between Israel and Arab states “to make money.”

Speaking on the Drink Champs Podcast, West claimed Disney is a Jewish platform, “Jewish people have owned the black voice” and that Jewish people “came into money through the lawyers.” The podcast has been deleted from YouTube.

West’s Twitter and Instagram accounts had been restricted following his posts on similar subjects.

West has faced a major backlash from companies with which he has business dealings that that knocked the musician off the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. Ending its 9-year partnership with West, who is also a clothing designer, Sporting goods giant Adidas announced that it “does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other sort of hate speech,” adding, “Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”

The apparel chain Gap Inc. cut ties to West while issuing a statement that, “Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values;” as did the Balenciaga European fashion house.

The US trial law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan withdrew its representation of the rapper over his erratic online posts, following dismissal by his previous firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft – which said it condemns “bigotry and hate speech of any kind.”

While many Democratic members of Congress and American Jewish organizations such as the ADL have condemned West, his rants have ignited further anti-Jewish reactions.

Enormous banners were hung from an overpass above a Los Angeles highway reading, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” and “honk if you know.” The third advertising the “Goyim TV” video channel of the anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi and white supremacist Goyim Defense League (GDL), accompanied by verse numbers for a passage from Revelations, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.”

When police arrived to remove the offensive banners, GDL leader Jon Minadeo Jr. shouted rhetoric against diversity hires” and immigrants taking over America “thanks to Jewish law,” reported the StopAntisemitism organization.

The GDL, which frequently posts anti-Semitic signs in Los Angeles, previously hung a sign last August calling on drivers to “Honk if you know the Jews want a race war,” said the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA).

Similar messages have appeared across the United States. In Jacksonville, Florida, local media reported the projection of the message “Kanye was right about the Jews” across the TIAA Bank Field during a Georgia-Florida football game celebration last Saturday, while banners reading “End Jewish Supremacy in America” and “Honk if you know it’s the Jews” were hung from an overpass on nearby highways.

The University of Florida and University of Georgia issued a joint statement last Sunday morning, in which they condemned the hate speech at the stadium and “the other anti-Semitic messages that have appeared in Jacksonville.” Stressing that, “together denounce these and all acts of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance,” the statement added, “We are proud to be home to strong and thriving Jewish communities at UGA and UF, and we stand together against hate.”

The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars team, Shad Khan, said he was “personally dismayed” by the rhetoric, which he said was “hurtful and wrong.”

“It has to stop. I’m asking everyone to make it their mission to end the ignorance and hate. Let’s be better,” he wrote on social media.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded by airing a 30-second television ad on Sunday during his team’s game with the New York Jets. “Recently many of you have spoken up,” said the message, from Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, adding, “We hear you today. We must hear you tomorrow. There are less than 8 million Jewish people in this country. Fewer than are watching this ad. They need you to add your voice.” The ad ended with the hashtag: #StandUptoJewishHate.

Elsewhere in the sports world, seven-time All-Star Nets basketball player Kyrie Irving tweeted out a link to a film loaded with anti-Jewish tropes called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The move immediately sparked massive condemnation, including  the ADL and the owner of the Nets team Joe Tsai, who said the film was “based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation.” The National Basketball Association issued a statement and the NBA saying that “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable” and that “We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.” A defiant Irving nevertheless defended his actions, saying at a postgame news conference that, “I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe in,” “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.” He added, “Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody?”

Several conservative commentators have also made attempts to defend Kanye West’s hate speech. “If you are an honest person, you did not think this tweet was antisemitic,” said Candace Owens, adding “it’s like you cannot even say the word ‘Jewish’ without people getting upset.”

Also in seeming defense of West, new Twitter owner billionaire Elon Musk facilitated his return, tweeting, “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!”

Israeli leaders have been asked to weigh in on the controversy and subsequent outburst of anti-Jewish activities.

When asked about the rising scourge of anti-Semitic rhetoric by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Israeli President Isaac Herzog praised the “overwhelming reaction” to West’s inflammatory statements.

“History teaches us that xenophobia starts with Jew hatred,” said President Herzog, pointing out that, “We also assume that whenever you have an energy or other economic crises, the first ones to be blamed for them throughout history, were the Jews.”

Warning that “the lessons are clear,” the Israeli leader called for defenders of the Jewish People to raise their voices in dissent “loud and clear.”

In a somewhat amusing attempt to defuse the controversy, US comedian and talk show host Bill Maher asked Israeli Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu if Israel will “retaliate” against West for his anti-Semitic behavior.

After a quick laugh, a somber Netanyahu replied, “Antisemitism is the longest hatred in history. It goes back thousands of years. We’ve dealt with bigger problems than these stupidities.” Pointing out that, “the Communists blamed the Jews for being capitalists, the capitalists blamed the Jews for being Communists – you have a problem, blame the Jews,” the former Israeli Premier went on to say, “It’s old stuff, it shouldn’t have any place in civilized discourse – and that’s the reason we established the Jewish State, so the Jewish People would have defense against these absurdities; and sometimes they’re coupled with violence, we don’t let that happen again.”