By Sophie Brassey, Third Year, Philosophy
Growing up Jewish meant that the religious community of North London cushioned my childhood. A year would go by speckled with the placards of tradition; weekly Friday night dinners, monthly festivals, yearly bat/bar mitzvahs, and school trips to Israel.
But it was also littered with cautionary tales: stories of the girl who wore her Star of David necklace into town, or warnings of what would happen if you wore your school blazer, boasting its Jewish emblem, into Camden after school. I learned about the history of genocide, and how antisemitism had manifested itself in society as a twisted conspiracy theory. I was educated on the 80 years following the Holocaust and how people worked to untangle mainstream antisemitism, where Jews were used as scapegoats. I was told how dangerous stereotypes can be, and more recently, I saw how easily they can be resurrected.
The American rapper ‘Ye’, formerly known as Kanye West, took to Twitter a few weeks ago to voice his manic thoughts. ‘I’m going to go Deathcon 3 on Jewish people’ Ye wrote, shortly followed by an explanation on why the statement wasn't antisemitic, because ‘black people are actually jew also’.
Shalom : )— ye (@kanyewest) November 20, 2022
After this, Ye paraded his questionable views during a string of podcast interviews. With Lex Fridman, he discussed how the real Holocaust Museum is ‘Planned Parenthood’ noting how while 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazis, ‘over 20 million have died by the hands of abortion’.
Ye spoke about how Jewish people ‘stole’ Jewishness from Black people on Piers Morgan Uncensored: ‘we have got our culture ripped from us’ he said. Amidst these absurd claims, Ye continually called attention to ‘Jewish media’, blaming his separation from Kim Kardashian in part on the ‘Zionist media handlers surrounding her’.
After struggling with bipolar for many years, it’s very apparent Ye is not in the right state of mind to be voicing his opinions on social media. However, this isn't the first time the rapper has vocalised this antisemitic rhetoric. Ye has been articulating these views since 2015. In a ShowStudio YouTube video he spoke about the way Jewish people ‘communicate and spread information’, and only three years later the rapper wanted to name his album ‘Hitler’ after apparently reading ‘Mein Kampf’.
These opinions aren’t simply fashioned by manic episodes. Ye’s bipolar is acting as a megaphone for some of his deeply embedded discriminatory beliefs. The thing with antisemitism is it is not simply a negative preconception about Jewish people. It's sewn into the fabric of conspiracy theories; in fact, it was the myth that Jews plot to take over the world that fueled the rise of Nazism.
It is a medieval ideology that uses Jewish people as a scapegoat for anything from tragedies to slight annoyances. When Ye blamed ‘zionist media’ for his divorce, or ‘Jewish Doctors’ for the diagnosis of his bipolar, he is reinforcing this long-lasting theory.
The news hasn’t been able to escape the outrageous stunts that Ye’s pulled; he was called out for his ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirts, his conspiracy about the murder of George Floyd, and his comments about Lizzo, abortion rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Following the ‘Deathcon’ tweet, he has been dropped by almost every company contract and banned from social media.
The necessary response from brands shows that while Ye has the freedom to say what he wants, he is not free from the consequences. But, despite the fitting response from brands and celebrities worldwide, there is still something ugly in the backdrop shadows of Ye’s manic tweets. Once the whirlwind of articles and nonstop news updates dies down, we are left wondering what the incident says about antisemitism in the world today.
Ye’s comments, for Jews around the world, are a reminder that antisemitism is still embedded into the beliefs of many. I could call attention to the Goyim Defence League who hung the ‘Kanye is right’ sign over a bridge in LA, or the various white supremacist groups in America - but these are somewhat too obvious.
The problems that Ye’s comments point attention to don’t have ‘I hate Jews’ written on them. Rather, they are much more subtle: any one of Ye’s comments, tweets, or posts has the potential to affect the young people that read them.
It has taken a death threat, and a couple of interviews for the rapper to finally face the full consequences of what he has said: a couple of antisemitic comments throughout the years have been picked up, dropped, and eventually ignored by companies he has worked with. It does make you wonder why it takes such a mammoth mistake for Ye to be truly called out and held accountable for what he is saying.
In a generation where we pay such great attention to inclusivity and work hard at demolishing fallacious stereotypes, it can feel disheartening to have someone with so much power and influence knock it down. However, the response to Ye’s antisemitism will hopefully call for earlier responses to these issues in the future.
Incidents like the one Ye has caused remind not only Jews, but all minorities around the world, that western society is not one of complete amnesty, and this is something we are going to have to fight hard to achieve in years to come.