by Leo Nasatir (8th grade)
On October 6th, 2022, rapper, record producer, and philosopher (to a select few), Kanye “Ye” West joined Tucker Carlson, host of the aptly named Tucker Carlson Tonight, a primetime show on Fox News, for a remarkable 15 minute sit-down interview.
A quarter of the program, Carlson reserved the time of his more than 3 million nightly viewers for the ramblings of West in response to the increasingly augmenting pressure he faced for publicly declaring his support for the “White Lives Matter Movement,” a common ideological ideal among modern members of the Klu Klux Klan, through wearing a shirt bearing the slogan during Paris Fashion Week with Daily Wire host Candace Owens.
Whilst replying to these cries, through West’s muddled and inharmonic analysis of racial relations and the larger social landscape at that moment, he claimed he would prefer his “knew Hanukkah '' rather than the modern African-American festival Kwanzaa. His reason, he quipped, was that, in his view, “at least it will come with some financial engineering.” When referring to the work of Jared Kushner, Former Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump and Orthodox Jew, on The Abraham Accord, an Israeli peace proposition, West claimed that he believes what Kusher is “about, is making money.”
Finally, he continued to explain, this time through his view on abortion and its use to “control the Jew [sic] population,” that when he says “Jew, I mean the 12 lost tribes of Judah, the blood of Christ, who the people known as the race Black [sic] really are. This is who our people are.”
What followed, and continues to follow, is a microcosm of the larger societal response to antisemitism from all sides of the political spectrum, and, in turn, the value individuals place on the pleas Jewish people have continued to express for over a millennium.
When discussing Antisemitism, it is highly important to the discussion’s integrity to define and evaluate where exactly the hate originates which, in turn, gives insight into how and why it is resonating with an individual. Just as with any form of hatred, the diligence of those engaging in the conversation is reliant upon their ability to empathize with the intersectionality of their and other’s identities, and balance that with their recognition of the shared humanity among individuals.
This principle is particularly important in describing bigotry that is not inherently shown through definable characteristics (i.e. race), but rather manifests culturally and ethnically. With this in mind, a general set of Antisemetic “tropes” have been established, which outline continually present ideals among Antisemites that infiltrate their worldview and actions. However, the reliance on tropes increases the need for individuals to recognize the subtlety within their use (an often frivolous endeavor) and understand the nuances within their use as a means of directly targeting a long-persecuted group of people.
Given this sentiment, the undercurrents within West’s comments and actions, and the precursors to them, are harder for the general, gentile, and particularly young population to recognize. For instance, take West’s comment about the additional “financial engineering” that comes with celebrating Hanukkah. While known by many as a clear Antisemetic trope, the constant linking of Jewish people and a greedy, power hungry need for money can easily be taken at face value by many young people.
This acceptance often comes from a need for a scapegoat, and just as has been seen for centuries, typically the Jewish race is considered one to blame. Our collective societal perception of wealth and the accumulation of it relies on the idea that the majority of individuals are not wealthy. Through this, a collective anguish festers among those in search of wealth and therefore in search of a better way of life for them and their family. From this yearning emerges a need for someone and something to project that desire upon. And historically, for a bigoted plethora of reasons (primarily that in medieval society one of the few jobs a Jew was legally allowed to have was a lender), this thing has become the Jewish people.
The immense irony within this logic is that the Jewish people throughout history have, in fact, been the poor, oppressed foreigners and not the rich and powerful. While it is an irrefutable truth that in modern, assimilated society many Jews live with considerable amounts of wealth, Ashenazi and other white Jews exhibit White Privilege, the notion that the Jewish people are uniquely rich or powerful is characteristically untrue and Anti-Semetic.
Recognizing that Jews have grown despite their oppression does not cancel out the oppression itself, and using that as a means for allowing it to continue only perpetuates the tropes that have come to externally define Jews on a global scale. The fabricated link between Jewish individuals and an automatic inheritance of power and money has set back the Jewish fight for equality for centuries, and its persistence is directly tied to its growth from generation to generation (ironically enough a foundational Jewish principle, known as L’dor Va’dor).
West’s comments directly highlighted this, perpetuating this belief on a scale that is exponentially larger than the estimated 15 million worldwide Jews. What makes these comments so pertinent to teens is that they are not found on a fringe website or in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but rather are a manifestation of implicit biases on a mainstream scale.
And, more than anything else, these attacks normalize Antisemtism in a way that downplays its effects among those most impressionable. For instance, take comedian Dave Chapelle’s Saturday Night Monologue from November 12, 2022 in which he comically remarks that he understands where West’s “delusion” comes from, as he, personally, has seen “a lot. Like a lot,” of Jews in Hollywood. He also, fascinatingly, quips when referring to yet another Antismetic incident in the aftermath of Ye’s tirade that he “knows Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world but, you can't blame that on Black Americans. You just can't.” Both comments are laced in Antismetic power tropes which disregard important contextual facts.
Firstly, his latter comment greatly disregards the intentions of Jewish people, and pins the Jewish and African American Justice movements against each other to ensure unneeded conflict. American Jews and African Americans have historically been strong and loyal allies. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. literally marched hand in hand with Jewish leader Rabbi Joshua Herschel, who was one of many activist-Rabbis in the movement.
A large number of Jews have volunteered and continue to volunteer for African American causes, and vice versa. In fact, Jews served with Black in the civil rights movement, even reaching the Boards of organizations like SNCC, and three activists,one Black and two Jewish, were famously murdered in 1964 in the process. This comment also erases the existence of many Black Jews who are just as much Jewish as their non-Black counterparts. In 1965, Dr. King remarked that “it would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro's struggle for freedom—it has been so great.”
Chapelle’s comments completely disregards this, instead choosing to play into the idea that Jews are those controlling what is and is not heard, and making it seem as though by calling out an African American individual’s Antisemitism, Jews are actively plotting to blame their oppression entirely upon another oppressed group to gain power over them. While it is surely true that there are racist white Jews, just as there are Antismetic Black people, making it seem as though both parties’ advancement is mutually exclusive destroys the foundational relationships that make both groups more unified and stronger as a whole. An argument, and highly reputable and valid one at that, can be made that the reason Antisemetic comments from West and Chapelle, rather than comments made by white Antisemites gained traction is due to systemic racism. That assertion is a fair one, however it illustrates a larger systemic problem, rather than a problem Jewish people are solely creating, as Jews have consistently called out Antisemitism from people of all races. When targeting Jews, Chapelle is being counterproductive by trafficking in the rhetoric of a systemic problem that destroys millions of lives. That systemic problem, the continued evil of racism, is the same problem being fought when waging the war against Antisemitism, illustrating the continued need for the strong unity and allyship between both communities Chapelle’s comment seeks to destroy.
Chapelle’s comment about Hollywood only exacerbated this-as many Jews have historically worked in show business as it was an industry they formed when barred from acceptance anywhere else. While yes, there are Jews in Hollywood, their actions are not indicative of all Jews, and their existence in that space is linked with the oppression experienced throughout history.
But, Dave Chapelle is still a wildly popular comic, touring and selling out nightly. It took Adidas almost three weeks to drop West after he threatened to end the Jewish race. In those weeks, Adidas continued to advertise West’s “Yeezy” brand and its new partnership with GAP. Because the Jews have “power.” And “money.” No, to Adidas it seemed that it didn’t matter what West says… the risk of profit-loss proved more valuable than inciting violence against a “loaded” group who have grown to be highly prolific in society. And Ye knows this. He even said, verbatim, that he can “say Antismetic s*** and Adidas won’t “drop” him. Jews can not be oppressed if they are controlling conspirators. Or bank-owning misers. Or, just too many doctors and lawyers.
The tropes presented in these sentiments have continued to tickle through into societal norms, and there is no clearer example of that for young people than the politicized treatment of Israel. When using the word politicized, I am not referring to genuine, appropriate criticism of the Israeli state and its policy. Rather, I am referring to the constant erosion of Israel's right to exist as the world's sole Jewish state, particularly among the rising generation of world-leaders.
Fair criticism of the Israeli state is certainly warranted, and many times Isrealis and Jews across the world will agree with the sentiment suggested. It would be utterly ignorant and irresponsible to deny that Israel, just as almost every other nation, has enacted policies that have been, frankly, oppressive and wrong, particularly in relation to its treatment of the Palestinian people. However, with all that being true, it can, and also is, true that many times the criticism levied Israel has little to nothing to do with the concrete political actions of the state.
It would be an exceptionally rare feat for one to go to any social media post from a large account that in some way relates to Jewish people and culture without dozens of comments solely saying “#FreePalestine.” Take an Instagram post from late 2022 by food blog Eater. The simple reference to an Israeli recipe and its roots in Jewish culture was left with a smattering of claims ranging from requests to “Free Palestine” to claims that all Jews are commiting genocide against Palestinian people.
In China, 12 million muslims known as Uyghers are oppressed in so-called g Uyghur Autonomous Regions, which many human rights advocates call modern-day concentration camps. However, when Eater posts a Chinese recipe, the comments calling to free the oppressed Uyghers are few to none, for the space being created has nothing to do with the actions of the Chinese Government. Rarely, if ever, has there been a report of graffiti proclaiming the need to free the Uyghers on a Chinese restaurant, and yet Synagogues from Los Angeles to Austria and everywhere in between have donned graffiti calling for a free Palestine.
This is not to say that the Uyghers don’t need the strongest possible fight for their well-deserved human rights, nor is it to say that Palestininas don’t deserve the same. Rather, this example points out the immense double standard between appropriate and timely criticisms of two nations with distinct backgrounds.
China’s actions in relation to Uyghers are deplorable, and yet they are inherently separate from the cultural and customary background of the Chinese people. Therefore, equating their actions under the monolith of Chinese with the actions of a government they have every right to have their own, personal opinions on is inherently a racist act, tying a person's background to their beliefs. And yet, it is rare to see this done in response to China, which is vastly untrue of the global response to Israel.
This difference, of course, is that Israel is the world's sole Jewish-identifying state, and was founded as a safe haven for a group of people who have wandered from place to place for thousands of years fleeing imminent threats of death. While not unique in its controversial policies, just as every other developed nation has had for centuries prior, Israel is unique in this fact. Coupled with the fact that those people have been living under the assumption that they are a power-hungry, controlling group, it becomes clear that the unprovoked coupling of the Jewish people and the actions of Israel is the masked continuation of the Antisemetic lies that have influenced millions, if not billions, for thousands of years.
What makes this cover hyper-relevant is its growth among young people, many of which coming to it with good intentions and the hopes of advancing the Palestinian cause. And yet, as aforementioned, the perpetuation of this myth only sews more division and adds to the destruction of the self-identification of the Jewish people.
Antisemtism is a living, breathing form of hate, and yet it remains most effective when laced in beliefs thoroughly embedded in one’s psyche and yet not explicit until after a long period of rising and bubbling to reach the surface. In recognizing this fact, as has been evidently presented, one must also recognize the painful uphill battle that goes about fighting Antisemetism among those of whom are highly impressionable and have the time and influence to allow such sentiment to linger and turn into great danger: young people.
In late March of 2023, Robert Kroft, billionaire New England Patriots owner, launched a viral $25 Million campaign entitled “Stand Up to Jewish Hate,” based around the spread of a 60 second video of two blue squares, one representing the size of the Jewish population in America, 2.4%, and the other the amount of religious hate crimes levied at Jews, 55% (though some estimate that statistic to be closer to 60%).
This campaign quickly spread, gaining millions of likes and shares and the #🟦trending across social media platforms. While well-intentioned, all this campaign does is invigorate the beliefs of many who have been coerced into believing Antisemetic tropes within the belief that they are now allies to the community through their reposting of a blue square. Yes, the blue square portrays Antisemtism, but it also does it in an overly simplified and tokenistic way that emphasizes explicit hate crimes above all else.
Whilst hate crimes are surely a massive part of the equation of modern Antisemitism, as has been previously laid out, they do not define the current Jewish struggle. Rather, they are the manifestation of years of bubbling tropes that only reached the surface due to a need for a scapegoat for problems that in no way relate to Jews; both religiously and ethnically. Given this fact, solely focusing efforts to combat this hate on explicit Antisemetic actions ignorantly undermines the just as dangerous rhetoric spewed everyday, often implicitly.
Given the time it takes for these tropes to progress into explicit hatred of Jews, as well as their rapid ability to spread across social media, this puts teens at a unique place within the fight to combat Antisemitism. With knowledge of common generalizations and the subtle trafficking of anti-Jewish ideals, teens now have the opportunity to nip what is generally known by historians as the oldest epidemic of hate in the bud. Not just through posting blue squares or liking a post about Holocaust Remembrance Day, but rather through educating one another about exactly where our beliefs may come from, and how they could be harmful to the Jewish people.
It is within young people’s power to significantly decrease the next generation’s Antisemitism, and yet in doing so we must be certain to walk a delicate line that creates what white supremacists fear most: unity. Jewish people are not a monolith, but rather a diverse group of people with a variety of beliefs, opinions, and livelihoods. In recognizing that, and willfully refusing to acknowledge things that don’t (both subtle and clearly), young people can create a culture of mutual respect among the 15 million worldwide Jews and the billions of non-Jews, increasing the power and safety of a persecuted few and ensuring continued tragedy is limited in scope and scale.
Jews have been suffering, to different degrees, for thousands of years. And while the modern rise in bigotry is surely concerning and scary, it presents us teens with a prime opportunity for change. The only thing left in the balance now is if we, as a group, take it, or if we let this cycle that has lasted multiple millennia continue to destroy the lives of millions on our watch.
It is up to us.
Moon, Jeenah. "Antisemitic incidents on rise across the U.S., report finds." April 17, 2023. Accessed May 1, 2023. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/antisemitic-incidents-on-rise-across-the-u-s-report-finds