Celebrity Antisemites Can’t Be Absolved Through Private Apologies
Recently, Mort Klein of the ZOA engaged Ice Cube in a two-hour conversation that was treated as an act of absolution for the antisemitic rapper. Mort was convinced, according to JTA, that “the rapper was not antisemitic.”
According to JTA, Ice Cube has “drawn widespread condemnation after repeatedly tweeting antisemitic images and support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has disparaged Jews over the years, including comparing them to termites.”
I’m sure that Mort’s intentions were noble, and I do not question whether we in the Jewish community should be doing outreach to those whose hatred might be reversed. But I am increasingly disturbed at the growing number of celebrities granted clemency for public racism, antisemitism, and bigotry through private conversations rather than public penance.
If Ice Cube wants to repudiate his long history of antisemitism, he must do it in the forum where that Jew-hatred was uttered: in public.
Recently, influential rapper and producer Jay Electronica told his nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter that Jews are “imposters” and black people are the “true children of Israel.” He also described the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper as a “DEVIL” before capping-off his nearly all-caps tirade with “#SynagogueOfSatan.”
Jay Electronica has recorded songs with Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott, and his most recent album features Jay-Z on eight of its ten tracks. The album offended some with its sickening rhyme: “And I bet you a Rothschild I get a bang for my dollar / The Synagogue of Satan want me to hang by my collar…” The Jew-hatred was balanced out by the album’s non-stop Jewish biblical imagery — including references to Moses, Ezekiel, and even the rapper’s claim that it was “recorded over 40 days and 40 nights.”
Jay Electronica now joins a squad of leading cultural figures waging a concerted campaign to hijack Jewish nationhood, giving whole new meaning to the words “identity theft.”
A-List rapper Wiley told his 940,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter that Jews were “snakes,” “cowards,” at “war” with black people, responsible for the slave trade — and even suggested we deserve to be shot.
NFL player DeSean Jackson — with a million followers on Instagram — claimed to be of “the real Children of Israel,” and called on black Americans to foil white Jews’ “plan for world domination.” To back up his claim, Jackson posted a fake quote attributed to Adolf Hitler. Yet former NBA star Stephen Jackson rose to DeSean’s defense on Instagram, saying, “The Jews are the richest. You know who the Rothschilds are? … They control all the banks. They own all the banks.”
Pop-icon Nick Cannon also repeated the “true Jew” claim in an antisemitic podcast discussion that he aired himself. Interviewing “Professor Griff” Griffin — ejected from the rap group Public Enemy after blaming Jews for “the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe” — Cannon went on to explain, “You can’t be antisemitic when we are the Semitic people.” Griffin, in turn, blamed his misfortunes on the villainous “Cohens and the Moskowitzes” who control everything. Cannon later gave the lip service of a public apology.
Most of this “true-Jew” talk spews from the sewer that is the mind of Louis Farrakhan, arguably the most high-profile antisemite in the United States. Having popularized the “Synagogue of Satan” slur, he calls Jews “termites” and claims we are guilty of countless sins.
Heroic voices like NBA greats Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighed in, along with Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon, to condemn the remarks, and Pittsburgh Steeler Zach Banner posted a series of video messages supporting the Jewish community.
But most of this Jew-hatred has gone unnoticed and unpunished.
DeSean Jackson was given clemency after posting a forgettable apology addressed insultingly to his Jewish managers and team-owner, and only then the general community of Jews. Cannon was ousted by Viacom, but managed to stay on the air with Fox, where he still hosts The Masked Singer. He also won a few high-profile defenders, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, who publicly offered Cannon a new job on his own station. Rabbi Cooper himself appeared on Cannon’s podcast to discuss antisemitism.
Instead of rushing into dialogues and granting errant clemency, we should demand public penance and repudiation of vile antisemitic words.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the author of The Israel Warrior, Judaism for Everyone, and Renewal: The Seven Central Values of the Jewish Faith. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.