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November 17, 2022 12:25 pm
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Kanye West’s Antisemitism Makes Us Stronger

avatar by Fred Menachem

Opinion

Rapper Kanye West holds his first rally in support of his presidential bid in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. July 19, 2020. REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo

Kanye West (Ye) recently tweeted vile antisemitic posts, then doubled down on his antisemitic rhetoric in media interviews, claiming that the “Jewish Media” blocked him from speaking out; he then continued with his antisemitic tirades. His attack on Jewish people was the embodiment of what Jews are now experiencing — direct antisemitism, subtle antisemitic innuendos from folks who feign innocence, misinformation based on historic tropes that have been used to scapegoat Jews throughout history, minimizing and denying Jewish history in every century of pogroms, murders, and expulsions — and a lack of understanding from the general public of what antisemitism even means.

Antisemitism has become normalized because the tropes of Jew-hatred have been so ingrained in the global narrative that even some individuals who support the Jewish people accept them as fact.

In a poll from 2019, 61% of Americans said they believed at least one antisemitic trope, with a good percentage believing multiple tropes. Last year, I met someone who runs diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) groups for corporations, and I asked why antisemitism was not a significant part of DE&I curricula. His response was that Jews are a religious group, not a race. I then posed a question, asking him why Hitler decided to murder the Jews. He responded that it was because of our religion.

I explained that while we are not a race, the Nazis claimed we were an inferior race and even murdered Christians who were not practicing Jews, but who had Jewish blood. I then pointed out that we are also an ethnic group and qualified as one people, regardless of religious practice. He then suggested that Jews haven’t been victims of the same level of discrimination as other minorities because we have “white privilege.” I said that I was not considered white growing up — especially when white kids threw pennies at me, told Holocaust jokes, and I had to learn to physically fight because they assaulted me while calling me a Kike, a derogatory term used against Jews.

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I explained to him that in the past, we were not invited to work in white professional firms or join white clubs, nor were we welcome to live in white neighborhoods. I also told him that I saw the KKK march several times, specifically saying that Jews were not part of the white race. Even in the 1990s at my university, most Jews were not admitted into traditional white fraternities. Unfortunately, my point was not well taken, I was dismissed and the conversation ended.

The experience reminded me that most Americans have a difficult time believing that a minority group that has achieved such a high level of success could possibly have been so deeply discriminated against. That’s one of the reasons we don’t see antisemitism addressed in our schools — because it’s not seen as a problem, even though it’s widely considered the oldest hatred in the world.

Jews have never had the luxury of deciding who we are, because throughout every century, the world decided to persecute us and tell us who we were, depending on what suited their needs at that time. Today, in the US, to the far left we have “white privilege” and to the far right, we are an inferior race. While we have traditionally allied with other marginalized groups and have fought for social justice, co-founding almost every civil rights organization in this country, it seems that we no longer have the support of many minority groups in large part due to antisemitic propaganda that has infiltrated the mainstream dialogue.

Year after year, the FBI reports that antisemitism makes up the highest percentage of religious hate crimes in the United States. That’s deeply troubling, considering that Jews only make up 2% of the US population. In the last few weeks alone, we are seeing Nazi salutes, signs that say satanic Jews control the world, and all kinds of antisemitic hate across the country, even in big cities like Los Angeles and New York City. Recently, at a college football game in Florida, we saw a digital banner that said “Kanye was right about the Jews.” We have been blamed for Covid, and we are seeing rampant antisemitism at universities, where college kids have had to remove any signs that identify them as Jewish in fear of violence against them.

In a sense, what Kanye said might be good for the Jews and a blessing in disguise, because he brought Jewish hate and the normalization of antisemitism to the forefront, opening the door to media coverage and education. It’s also allowed us to shine the bright light of day on so many people who had been trying to hide their antisemitism.

The Jewish people need to look at this through the lens of history, and fight everyday against those who would attempt to spread vicious stereotypes about us, including denying our right to a Jewish homeland by claiming Israel is a racist and colonial endeavor.

We should never have to apologize for being Jewish, or for making contributions that have helped to make the world a better place. We should be celebrated for being awarded close to 25% of Nobel Peace Prizes instead of being accused of world dominance.

For thousands of years, civilizations have tried to exterminate us, but we are still here. We are only 0.2% of the global population, but we aren’t going anywhere. We won’t cower; we will fight back if necessary. So to those that hate us, keep doing what you are doing, because it only makes us stronger.

Fred Menachem is a political commentator and columnist and former co-host of the Gray Zone Radio, a political talk show. He Has been in the trenches his entire life in the fight against antisemitism and discrimination in all forms. He is both a US and Israeli citizen. Twitter @FredMenachem

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