Kanye West and the Rise of Blatant Antisemitism Online

Kanye West antisemitism

We’ve all seen the headlines by now — you probably even saw the tweet on your own Twitter feed. Celebrities have been condemning him. Brands are dropping him. Why? Here’s what Kanye West said, for those of you that have been avoiding the often stressful controversy unfurling online:

“Man, let me tell you about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections.  Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.

Oh wait. Sorry. That is actually from Ye back in 2013! Here’s what he said earlier this month:

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE. The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

As you can see, Ye has been sharing antisemitic rhetoric in interviews and online for quite some time now, including in his rap lyrics. He has continued to perpetuate the idea that Jewish people control the government and the media, a harmful stereotype that has led to people hating Jews enough to attack us on the street, destroy important buildings, and go on murderous rampages. He’s been doing this for almost a decade — and the country has largely remained silent. Until now.

An impressive number of celebrities and public figures have spoken out against Ye over the past two weeks, stating that it’s harmful and dangerous to threaten an entire group of people. And then a bunch of brands that previously partnered with Ye decided to end their associations with  him — even Adidas, who Ye said would never drop him for saying antisemitic hate speech. Ye was also banned from Twitter and Instagram.

The amount of people that have stood up against Ye is quite incredible and encouraging to see. And it’s been great to see brands parting ways with someone for threatening Jews. But I think what this situation really did was shine a light on some of the horrifying truths of our society right now. Ye is just a mouthpiece. He’s an easy target.

Kanye West Breakdown Proves Antisemitism is Mainstream

Let’s be clear. Ye is mentally unwell and has been for a while. But what has actually frightened me and many other young Jews online is the amount of people agreeing with Ye — even supporting him. I’ve had friends from all races and backgrounds say that they will now be supporting Yeezy. Why?

  1. They feel that the shoes will be worth a lot now that Adidas has dropped Ye.
  2. They heard that Adidas wronged Ye through the years and are excited to see him branch out on his own in the fashion world.
  3. They don’t think what he said was that important and that he’s said similarly problematic things in the past with no consequence.
  4. They simply agree with his statements.

When the Anti-Defamation League first came out to condemn Ye’s tweet, I retweeted their sentiment and then immediately saw that all of the replies were not in agreement with ADL but were rather saying more antisemitic things about Jews and Israel. These are the same kinds of comments I’ve heard people say in casual conversations, in threads and forums all over the internet, in posts and replies on social media.

That’s the issue.

Yes, Ye’s tweet was wrong. Yes, it’s great that celebrities are denouncing him and brands are dropping him. But the underlying fact — that antisemitism today is mainstream — remains. It’s normalized. It’s seen as harmless. It’s even expected. Powerful influencers like Ye making a statement like this only encourages other people to go public with hateful speech and dangerous rhetoric.

Just take a look at this. Here’s a YouTube video of a Fox News segment about Jewish communities being worried after Ye’s comments. A rabbi from Utah explains that leaders and media icons have to think carefully about the power behind their words. The comments on the video?

  • “No one is hated more than he who tells the truth” – Plato
  • Playing victim when you are in the wrong is not interesting. We all understand the rhetorical trick of creating an “ism” around somebody critiquing your group as a way to defend and deflect. The spell is over and no one cares. Let’s talk about the crimes.
  • I wish everyone got smart and awake like Ye. Until the collective races of the world understand that there is one group undermining societal cohesion, as part of their evolutionary strategy, then a perfect union will never be reached.
  • The only group in the united States that can’t face any criticism lol absolutely insane
  • If they didn’t control everything why is everything reacting?
  • I saw the comment and there was nothing what he said. He is right
Banner hanging over the 405 freeway in Los Angeles… Hmm, similar to something that happened in 2020.

Jewish communities are scared for good reason. In Los Angeles alone (a city that’s generally seen as accepting of diversity), a white supremacist group hung banners over the highway saying that “Kanye was right about the Jews,” and fliers were left at homes and on cars blaming Jews for various government policies.

As Jews, we often aren’t too hurt by words. Sometimes we even laugh at it. I find myself saying things like, “Oh I wish I controlled the bank. Let me know how I can get in on that!”

But we must keep in mind that it’s more than words when it comes from a massive public figure with a huge following — it’s an invitation that emboldens antisemites. It’s a way of spreading and normalizing hate. It’s fuel that perpetuates dangerous and false stereotypes.

Anti-Jewish incidents reached an all-time high in 2021

The ADL has long been aware of this online behavior (and how it can spread to life-threatening and deadly situations) and has given some advice to teens over the years. They say to advocate for Jews, stand up to anti-Jewish statements, explain why stereotypes are hurtful… This is all very important to keep in mind, but it’s also okay to admit you are scared. That you are angry. That you are worried.

It honestly seems never-ending. Every website I visit is bombarded with people agreeing with Ye and casually adding their own antisemitic talking points. It’s no secret that it’s widely accepted to hate Jewish people at this point. But it’s definitely a great start to condemn Ye and everyone who agrees with his rhetoric. It’s a great start to raise Jewish voices, whether they are political or content creators. It’s a great start to celebrate Jewish values, tradition, and community.

We don’t want you to hate Ye. We don’t want you to burn his old CD’s (if you even still have physical copies of them). We just need to be realistic about the power behind his words — and raise up the voices within our own community to counter them.

You are not alone. In this case, a powerful chorus of voices — Jews and non-Jews alike — pressured Adidas and other brands to cut ties with Ye, and affirm that antisemitism has no place in society. The ADL has your back and you can report antisemitic or bias incidents at their site. And you can always feel free to reach out to a Lost Tribe team member on Discord.