Why is this antisemitism different from all other antisemitism?

Why is this antisemitism different from all other antisemitism?

The recent outrage over antisemitism has little to do with Jews, and everything to do with Ye. And that makes it extremely dangerous.

Unleavened by Cindy Kaplan, TruthDAO columnist

Kanye West (now known as Ye) is not the first person, nor celebrity, to publicly share blatantly antisemitic threats or conspiracy theories. Here’s a recent non-exhaustive list: Whoopi Goldberg, DeSean Jackson, John Galliano, PewDiePie, Ice Cube, and Nick Cannon (though it’s worth noting that Cannon has since partnered with Jewish organizations to combat antisemitism).

In these instances, the story got minimal coverage and little public outcry. The opposite has been true following Ye’s remarks. With each endorsement drop, the news cycle began again, and it continued when Kyrie Irving promoted an antisemitic film. Soon after, when hate group Goyim Defense League draped antisemitic signs on the 405 freeway in LA, the story got covered nationally. But when the group hung similar signage in Austin in October 2021, it did not. Dave Chapelle’s election-night SNL monologue - – a comedic Ted Talk that felt more like a Drunk History episode about the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – was debated all over the news, but the earlier jokes about Jewish world domination (euphemized as “Space Jews”) in his infamous Netflix special The Closer were ignored.

These stories should absolutely be covered at length -- history shows that the more antisemitism is ignored, the more it festers. But we needn’t kid ourselves: the world doesn’t suddenly care about Jews. This is all really about Ye, to the detriment of Jewish people.

As one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, Ye is the zeitgeist. During his rise to stardom, he famously said of the response to Hurricane Katrina, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” but now, he’s an outspoken MAGA conservative dining with former President Trump. In our polarized society, it's no wonder the left-leaning media took to calling out a powerful figure for his hate speech, just as it’s clear why right-wingers were quick to defend him.

We live in an attention economy, and the click-click-click on each headline about Ye’s antisemitism trained newsrooms to cover Jew hate, at least initially. And there’s no shortage of it! When it comes to hate crimes, Jews are the most targeted religious group, and antisemitic attacks have been steadily rising over the past few years. It’s not hard to find an emboldened hate group capitalizing on the right-wing acceptance of celebrity antisemitism, as was the case with the Goyim Defense League and the 405 freeway signs. It’s not hard to find another celebrity posting antisemitic content, as with Irving. The news turned its spotlight onto antisemitism when the topic was trending.

Now that we have another polarizing billionaire to gawk at (hi, Elon), this level of coverage and outrage is nowhere to be found. Have you seen much coverage of the antisemitic graffiti at a Maryland high school, the arrest of two men at Penn Station believed to be on their way to attack a synagogue, the FBI’s safety warning to all synagogues across New Jersey, or the angry gang chasing teens with a taser in Brooklyn, outside of my old high school?

This isn’t surprising to the Jewish community, which has been painfully ignored when our lives have been at stake. The silence was deafening this past January, when a man took worshippers hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The the FBI’s initial statement after the hostages were released,was that the terrorist’s demands were “not specifically related to the Jewish community,” though the next day the bureau recategorized the event as a “terrorism-related matter in which the Jewish community was targeted.” Attacking a synagogue during Shabbat services should be pretty obviously categorized as targeting the Jewish community, but perhaps the FBI would have put two and two together earlier if there’d been public outcry at the events of the previous month, when Zahra Billoo, the leader of Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – a group that was advocating for the release of the same prisoner the Colleyville hostage-taker sought from the all-powerful Jews – said in a keynote speech “We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues.” The hostage situation in Colleyville didn’t dominate headlines or social media in any measure close to Ye’s comments. Nor did the many other instances of violent attacks against Jews; Nor did the many other instances of violent attacks against Jews; last month marked the 3-year anniversary of the deadly shooting New Jersey at a kosher market and the stabbing of a Hasidic rabbi in his upstate N.Y. home during his Chanukah celebration, both of which got minimal coverage.

We should have been relieved to see the media finally wake up to the threat of antisemitism. But instead, centralizing antisemitism in the discourse in a way that’s tied to a beloved-but-controversial celebrity who happens to be a Black man in racially-charged America didn’t open the world’s eyes to the ugliness of Jew hatred. Rather, it created an environment for it to spread.

It’s hard to combat antisemitism when so many are unfamiliar with how it works and who Jews are (Jews comprise only 2.4% of the U.S. population, and worldwide make up only half of Ye’s Twitter following). The conspiracy works because Jews are accused of controlling the world by stealing identities from white or Black folks -- replacement theory works both ways – and fighting back only becomes proof of that control. But if we stay silent, the noise of hateful conspiracies fills the void, and the virus spreads.

We should talk more about antisemitism, its roots, its manifestations, and its consequences. But in this moment, we’ve been talking about celebrities and cancel culture, while stoking the fire for Jew haters everywhere.

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