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Ye, formerly and better known as Kanye West, has embroiled himself in yet another controversy. The man is no stranger to it. From the classic and astute “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” to his unwarranted claim that “slavery was a choice” on TMZ, he has no qualms with speaking his mind, often trying to back up his claim to being the “voice of a generation” with various megalomaniacal proclamations. His penchant for problematic behavior recently came to a head, however, with the back-to-back incidents of wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt on a Paris runway and claiming he’d go “Death Con 3” on Jewish people in a series of deleted tweets.

West’s behavior resulted in a number of consequences, including but not limited to losing important brand deals and having his company’s JP Morgan Chase bank account shut down. If some of you are as online as I am, though, you were probably aware of that already. 

West’s antisemitism is the same kind of thing you hear from white supremacists, which shows that recent antisemitism is emblematic of demagogues using this specific strain of bigotry as a rhetorical tool to not only rile up a base, but to cause divides for the sake of power and legitimacy. 

Antisemitism in the United States has, especially in the wake of World War II, been more implicit than explicit. It manifests itself in different ways. The Holocaust, evidently, has made explicit antisemitism unfavorable in the eyes of many. Euphemistic gesturing, however, is quite popular and is arguably more insidious. Along this line, there is a new, more pernicious trend of a growing number of antisemitic conspiracy theories spreading throughout the darkest corners of the internet. Most use centuries-old antisemitic tropes as a method of “explaining” modern economic and social grievances, but the “mainstreaming” of these ideas is a worrying tell for the direction of American politics. 

There’s the insane QAnon theory about adrenochrome, for instance, which claims that “coastal elites” are harvesting the blood of kids to preserve their youth. The word “globalist” is a popular euphemism used to describe Jews’ alleged supreme allegiance to some kind of elite global conspiracy. 

George Soros is a popular name to invoke, as Soros is a major donor to the Democratic Party. There are plenty of other wealthy donors to the Democratic Party. Ever wonder why people bring up George Soros so much when pretty much every uber-wealthy person donates to an exorbitant amount of political causes? Take this tweet from Twitter user @EndWokeness: “George Soros poured $126 million to Democrats for the 2022 midterms. That makes him the largest donor of this cycle and it’s not even close. But we can’t talk about it.” It currently has over 10,000 likes, with many other tweets referencing the supposed “taboo” of mentioning Soros reaching multiple tens of thousands of likes. While the claim is relatively true, he’s brought up so much because he’s Jewish, plain and simple. 

Julian Levinson, professor of American Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan, believes that “White nationalism in the United States has made a lot of this term ‘replacement.’ It’s very effective as a rhetorical term. That ties into a lot of history around paranoia about Jews: that Jews are too powerful, that they have their own interests (global interests often that they’re not part of the commonwealth and that they’re sucking resources away from others). In this case, displacing the white people.” 

The Great Replacement theory was cited not only by domestic terrorists as rationale for their horrific violence, but also by mainstream conservative pundit Tucker Carlson as an element of Democrats’ “electoral strategy.” It, too, is based in antisemitism, and demonstrates just how much antisemitism is present in American political discourse.

West’s rhetoric struck a sympathetic chord with the ridiculously-named white supremacist group Goyim Defense League, who recently hung up a banner above a Los Angeles freeway proclaiming that “Kanye is right about the Jews.” The fact that West’s talking points, which center African-Americans and are used so boldly by white supremacists, is at first glance peculiar, but in reality, it’s standard fare for those who identify as Black Hebrew Israelites.

Subscribing to a perversion of Black power and Black liberation philosophy, Black Hebrew Israelites believe themselves to be the “true” Jews, and think that white Jews are pretenders. Kanye West allegedly said as such in an unedited cut of his Tucker Carlson interview. Many athletes and celebrities like Kyrie Irving and Nick Cannon have parroted the same points.

There are actually many Black Jews and Jews of Color, including Ethiopian Jews or those of mixed heritage like Eric André, but Black Hebrew Israelites are different. Jewishness and whiteness in America are complicated, but Jews are usually considered white in America by both themselves and others — just look at how the GI Bill was distributed. “There is something you can call Black antisemitism that relates to how Jews have identified with whiteness. This backlog of antisemitic rhetoric could be wielded by African-Americans to give them a language for expressing a kind of anti-whiteness. It’s the old story of the Jew as a political target,” Levinson said.

Black Jews and Jews of Color shouldn’t be so flippantly erased and ignored, and playing into Black Hebrew Israelite narratives does exactly that. It’s disrespectful to them, and dismissive of the efforts of the many Black power movements that came before. Lest we forget Ye’s prior anti-Black comments about the “choice” of slavery, I don’t think he really has any political interests outside himself. Sowing division between two historically oppressed peoples is not only destructive, but dangerous. 

This is where the white supremacist and the Black Hebrew Israelite converge. During our conversation, Levinson brought to my attention Benjamin Ginsberg’s “Fatal Embrace” political theory, which posits that, as Jews succeed in various regimes, like medieval Europe or the Weimar Republic, they become easy tools for oppressed groups to levy criticism of the current elites. “You can say that white-nationalism, which is striving for legitimacy and centrality, is wielding antisemitism in some of the same ways, as it’s part of the same rhetoric of the decadence and corruption of the state,” Levinson said. “At the same time he [Kanye West] says Jews own all the media and Jews are in charge of everything, he says he can’t be antisemitic as he is himself a Jew, which shows you the incredible malleability of the term Jew and Jewish, and that antisemitism can’t be associated with other forms of racism.”

Antisemitism is wielded as a rhetorical tool in America by politicians and celebrities alike. It’s a way to turn grievances into bigotry, or a way for demagogic politicians to unite various groups of the population. It’s why both white supremacists and the Black Hebrew Israelites can use the same parlance. The Black Hebrew Israelites absolutely do not speak for a majority of Black people, and I don’t think they’re even unique in their antisemitism. They exist as one of many groups who use antisemitic bigotry in search of power. It’s merely a tool for people to rile a base and sic them on their enemies, to funnel grievances into a pointed weapon against the wrong people.

Solidarity is a must in the current American climate, and refuting the overwhelming push toward division is something everybody needs to keep in mind. African-Americans and American Jews have a deep and complex history together, but according to Levinson, “there has also been a great alliance with Jews and Black people in the United States.” A “Golden Age” of Black-Jewish relations flourished beginning in the post-war period and continued into the Civil Rights Movement, when both groups worked together for a better country and a better world. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. during the march from Selma to Montgomery, Jewish students participated in the Freedom Rides and Jews were often proponents of groups like the NAACP. Jews are one of the most progressive groups in America, even today.

So, when you’re on Twitter and see the word “Jews” trending, don’t let the people posting bigotry win over popular opinion. I have seen antisemitism from Black people, sure, but I have also heard anti-Black racism from other Jewish people in my life. I don’t think it’s a good representation of what the majority of people truly feel or should feel about each other. West’s recent antisemitism shouldn’t be taken as a justification for inciting more fear. It should be a moment to reiterate solidarity. 

Both Jews and African-Americans have experienced an incredible amount of strife in America, and it should be our duty to stand together rather than let powerful people use anti-minority sentiments to divide. Bigotry is categorically wrong and evil, and when something is said by both white supremacists and somebody who purportedly “speaks” for African-Americans, it’s a sign that something is up. Call out bigotry when you see it, obviously, but understand that it often isn’t just a simple word or a phrase but a concerted effort to sow divides and propagate a narrative. Don’t let yourself become a tool, and stand up for others in the same capacity.

Sam Fogel is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at