Kanye, Trump and the return of overt anti-Semitism in the United States
“Empirically, something is different. The level of public animosity towards Jews is higher than it has been in recent memory,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.
Experts said the climate is the product of a stew of forces, including a digital culture that spreads misinformation and hatred, and right-wing political forces focused on protecting the status of white Christians. Some have said that current anti-Semitism is also aggravated by more people downplaying it as just an interfaith issue instead of a dangerous form of racism; in the past, majorities from Germany to America have made it clear that they regard Jews as a distinct and inferior race.
To survivors alike the deadliest attack on Jews in US history – the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – the most pressing concern is that the event, which left 11 dead and at minus six wounded, is already fading from public consciousness, ousted by the dozens of mass shootings that followed.
Barton Schachter, a Tree of Life member and former synagogue president, said, “That’s what scares me, that over time [the shooting is] just another thing. I’m afraid it’s drifting in that direction. I don’t know how to save him.”
He called West, now called Ye, “a fool…but he’ll fade eventually.” Another person will take his place. The question is, how do we continue to keep the good stuff alive? This is the difficult part. The memory of these 11 [who were killed at Tree of Life] and the 6 million [Jews who died in the Holocaust]this is the hardest part.
Some experts say the more and more uncovered anti-Semitism brings 2022 into line with much of Jewish history.
“For me, it’s like coming back from a 50-year vacation,” said Mark Oppenheimer, co-host of the Jewish podcast “Unorthodox” and author of the 2021 book “Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Shooting and the L soul of a neighborhood. “We’re back to ‘Keep your head down; nobody supports you. It’s not that we’re going back to real estate bans; it’s more like the old “It’s a little unseemly to be a Jew”.
But current attitudes toward Jews are complex and may appear to be heading in different directions, say observers of anti-Semitism. Overall, Americans hold fewer anti-Semitic views than 60 years ago. An ADL Index in which people are asked if they agree with a series of negative stereotypes about Jews has measured anti-Semitism since the 1960s, when 29% of Americans were considered anti-Semitic. In 2019, ADL’s most recent measurement year, the number was the lowest ever in the United States, 11%.
That same year, however, the ADL also tracked 2,107 incidents of vandalism, violence, and harassment toward Jews in the United States, which at the time was the highest number since the group began reporting. collecting data in the 1970s. (This record was broken in 2021.)
“While on a general level anti-Semitic attitudes have gone down, incidents have gone up because there is less shame. People feel like they can say and do anything,” Goldblatt said.
Benjamin Lorber, a longtime researcher on antisemitism at Political Research Associates, said the latest wave of antisemitic rhetoric “fits into this larger political project,” and he’s not surprised to see it in the news. approaching midterm elections this year. “The right is trying to regain the power it felt it lost in 2020, so it makes sense, in addition to virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry, that anti-Semitism is once again in the mix,” he said. .
He and other experts noted that the 2018 Tree of Life massacre took place just before the 2018 midterm elections and that the suspect had posted on the far-right social media site Gab that he was angry with “dirty” Jews working to resettle refugees, especially Muslims.
“We are in a time where the boundaries of the MAGA movement of who is considered a real, good, authentic American are shifting and the future is very unpredictable,” Lorber said.
Earlier this month, Trump attacked American Jews in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying Jews in the United States need to “pull themselves together” and show more appreciation for the State of Israel “before let it not be too late”. Trump has repeatedly raised the old anti-Semitic trope that American Jews hold, or should hold, a secret or dual loyalty to Israel rather than the United States. He said evangelicals are “much more grateful” for actions on Israel than Jews.
More Republicans said nothing about Trump’s Truth Social post. Trump also defended Ye in an Oct. 18 interview with Salem News Channel, and other conservatives also rallied in support of Ye, most often portraying him as a victim of the supposed efforts of Democrats, in combination with the media and businesses, to suppress opposing viewpoints. .
Fox News host Tucker Carlson in clips posted by Vice Newsdid not challenge Ye during an interview when the interpreter cited the doctrine of the movement known as Black Hebrew Israelites: that African Americans are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, a belief often mixed with accusations that traditional Jews are not legitimate Jews.
“When I say Jewish, I mean… people known as the black race,” Ye told Carlson.
In the interview, Ye also said there was some “financial engineering” to being Jewish.
Anti-Semitism has also become a major issue in the Pennsylvania governor’s race between Republican Doug Mastriano, who promotes Christian nationalism, and Democrat Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish. Mastriano’s campaign advertised Gab. In a September campaign speech, Mastriano attacked Shapiro’s attendance at a private Jewish school in Bryn Mawr, in remarks that have been criticized as coded anti-Semitism. An adviser to Mastriano, former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, responded to the backlash by dismissing Shapiro as “a secular Jew at best.”
Lorber said that in a time of widespread misinformation, economic insecurity and alienation, such comments fit into the narrative of a segment of Americans seeking to identify internal enemies, groups they perceive as not being American enough or, in the case of the Jews, part of an invisible power structure preventing them from succeeding or censoring them. When Adidas ended its partnership with Ye on Tuesday over his anti-Semitic remarks, some conservatives were quick to label him a victim of “woke capitalism.”
“They’re like, ‘Maybe Kanye is onto something,'” Lorber said.
Adidas acted in response to a public pressure campaign, and some observers said it was proof that efforts to push back against anti-Semitism are working.
David Baddiel, a British comedian and screenwriter, last year published a book called “Jews Don’t Matter” about the ramifications of anti-Semitism not being seen as an equally dangerous form of racism for others.
“Since writing the book, I’ve been hearing more and more people talk about anti-Semitism (although I see it growing),” Baddiel wrote to the Post. “I used to think that the concept of alliance, so important to progressives, would never apply to us… but I think that’s changing.”
Greenblatt, in a statement, hailed Adidas’ decision as “very positive” one that “creates consequences”, because brands today “mediate a large part of our lives”. Other brands, including Balenciaga and Gapalso cut business ties with Ye.
Deborah Lipstadt, the US State Department’s envoy on anti-Semitism, in a statement Wednesday highlighted the role of corporate accountability. She said “social media and online spaces have been dominated by dangerous and inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric in recent weeks.”
“I commend the stance that various companies and private platforms have taken against anti-Semitism, ensuring that their platforms are not used to spread hatred, cutting ties and ending lucrative business relationships with partners who indulge in it. Companies must continue to act responsibly and make it clear that touting hate is not profitable.
But Oppenheimer said people shouldn’t let corporate America deal with police bias.
“It’s fine when business leaders have a conscience,” he said, “but anyone who relies on the dictates of profit margins to enforce sound and moral standards is in trouble.”
Jeremy Merrill contributed to this report.