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Ye, Antisemitism, and How Far we Have to Go

As a Jewish person, my childhood was littered with a constant placard of reminders. Reminders about the history of my people; a history of genocide, scapegoating and oppression, and the vulnerability that the Jewish part of my identity left me within the modern world. ‘Make sure your Star of David necklace is always tucked under your shirt’, my Mum would mention to me anxiously before leaving the house. There has always been as aspect of myself that has wanted to treat the prospect of antisemitism as an absurd concept. Why would my association within a certain faith which preaches love, tolerance and understanding inspire resentment from others? Why was the existence of myself and those around me worth less than whatever hateful ideas spawned from those minds?  

However, in the years that followed, amongst the wider prevalence and accessibility of social media, my worldview became decisively bleaker.  Ignorance dribbled onto my iPhone screen, manifested through pathetic, insane notions, repetitions of the accusations and discrimination that Jews like myself have experienced for generations, this time in the form of modern technology.  People who may have never set foot in a Synagogue, nor picked up a Torah had transformed into armchair experts on how my religion was a personification of hate, and as a surprising bonus was also responsible for all their personal and economic problems. 

Whilst working part-time at Dominos last year, one worker even told me that the Star of David, an important symbol of my faith, was actually a symbol of hate. ‘Can you take your Star of David necklace off?’, he asked. ‘That symbol offends me and is used as an act of oppression against my people’. Whilst I refused his request, and took it as an opportunity to educate someone on how The Star of David symbol was actually the ultimate contrast to everything he had just said, this was one of the many occurrences within our society today that makes me feel unsafe to not just be a Jewish person but also myself, a feeling which many discriminated people feel that should have been swept away as long ago as the ice age. 

Then last week the acclaimed rapper and music producer, known by many as Kanye West but now self-identifying as ‘Ye’ decided that this was the moment to express a vitriol of hate towards the Jewish people, on various social platforms. ‘I’m going Deathcon 3 on Jewish People’ Ye remarked, claiming that ‘black people are actually Jew also’, therefore his comments were not antisemitic. Whilst I, like many, would argue that a wish to kill a group of people automatically excludes one from being part of that group, Kanye continued the onrush of hate, arguing that his motivation was behind Jewish businesspeople controlling the music industry. Whilst unsavoury, one cannot help but make a parallel in the motivations of ‘Ye’ and that of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief of propaganda and one of the architects of the Holocaust. Goebbels founded his antisemitism on a perceived inferiority complex in the journalism industry, which like ‘Ye’ was claimed to be due to the fact his industry was controlled by Jews. 

‘Coming to university this year, I was fully aware that I may face verbal antisemitism on campus. However, Ye’s hate speech has made me deeply concerned due to his enormous scale of followers. The historic antisemitic tropes used make me fearful that his followers, of which many are young adults on university campuses, may turn this into antisemitic hate speech of their own and, even worse, violence against Jews. The lack of condemning that Ye and other antisemitism has received is understated and could mean that these comments are not only accepted but also felt throughout society, which is alarming to students and the rest of the Jewish population. It is making me think twice about telling people I am Jewish, which is not something I’ve ever had to do’.

 Joe, a first-year Jewish student 

Whilst some may choose to reduce Ye’s words to being caused by his battle with mental health, it is undeniable that they have energised many members of the far right. On the 22nd  of October, a group of Neo-Nazis were pictured displaying a banner on top of an interstate bridge, saying ‘Kanye was right about the Jews’, alongside a number of members performing Hitler salutes.

 This is accompanied by further warnings about the rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in multiple countries, particularly the US UK, and France. A little over 4 years ago, a far-right individual perpetrated a deadly domestic terrorist attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue murdering 11 people, who would have attended the place of worship as a sanctuary of safety for a period of contemplation. In the UK, the Community Service Trust recorded the highest ever tally of antisemitic hatred. This included a leaflet distributed around South Yorkshire homes containing a litany of antisemitic insults. In France, the murder of holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in her Parisian apartment in 2018 prompted further cries of antisemitism, particularly as those who entered the apartment did amongst false illusion of ‘hidden treasures’. 

On October 9th Kayne posted a tweet calling for “Death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE”. The repercussions of his ‘harmless’ tweet was a banner claiming that ‘Kayne is right about the Jews’ hung over an LA freeway. A freeway which is located only one and a half hours away from where my best friend (who is Jewish) studies at university. If you asked me last year, I would guess that I would be calling my friend to find out what fun parties she has been going. Instead, I find myself checking up whether she feels safe living in her own apartment. Kayne is just one man tweeting whatever bigoted and antisemitic comments come to mind. However, these comments are having real and frightening consequences for the Jewish community world-wide.          

Chloe, a second-year Jewish student

Meanwhile, Ye recently announced that he is taking a 30 day cleanse from talking, drinking and sex. The intentions behind this move are unclear, yet the damage the language impulsively tweeted has caused is likely to be long-lasting and cannot be cleansed. What many may take from this affair is the irony. The irony that a man who claims oppression by Jews has a far greater twitter following than there are Jews in the world (31 million to 14.8 million). The irony that whatever hatred Ye levels at both the Jewish and the African American population, his quality of life will largely remain untouched. Let’s hope this irony does not contribute to a long-lasting wave that would be a repeat of Jewish history. 

To non-Jews who may be reading this, look out for your Jewish friends. Remember to monitor the information that you read online, and challenge individuals who act out and discriminate against others, whether they are Jewish or not. To any Jews who are reading this remember to stay strong. As a community it is important to remember that one weapon we all have is our voice, and it is far louder if we all use it together. It is important that we educate, rather than villainise the ignorant in the context of antisemitism, and the more that we pressure our institutions to punish those who spread hate to any community, not just ours, the greater chance we have to extinguish the plague that is antisemitism forever.  

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