In the three weeks since the artist formerly known as Kanye West (“Ye”) made his anti-Semitic claims on social media and the Tucker Carlson show—and then tweeted about going “Death-Con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”—he has had numerous opportunities to express remorse for promoting dangerous tropes about the Jewish people to his tens of millions of followers. Instead, in at least a half-dozen interviews, television appearances and podcasts, he doubled and tripled down on his anti-Semitic claims.
In one interview, on Oct. 16, 2022, Ye said, “I’m #MeTooing the Jewish culture,” adding, “y’all gotta stand up and admit to what y’all have been doing.” Then in that same interview he referred to alleged Jewish control of the media, banks and the recording industry. He also blamed “Jewish Zionists” for his ex-wife and her boyfriend deciding to make social media posts about their sex life. And citing centuries-old European tropes about Jewish control, Ye claimed that Jews “milk [black people] until we die.”
The next day, during an interview with Chris Cuomo on “NewsNation,” Ye referenced a “Jewish underground media mafia,” and argued that “every celebrity has Jewish people in their contract.” And in almost all of his interviews since his infamous “Death-Con 3” tweet, Ye has repeated his Nation of Islam/Louis Farrakhan-based assertion that black people cannot be anti-Semitic, stating that “we are Semite, we Jew, so I can’t be anti-Semite.”
Notably, as Ye was repeatedly referencing a Black Supremacist-based conspiracy theory popularized in certain circles by Louis Farrakhan (which seeks to erase Jewish identity and history, claiming that Jews stole their identity from black people) white supremacists from the Goyim Defense League were making Nazi salutes above signs draped over the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles that stated, “Kanye is right about the Jews.”
Given Ye’s nearly nonstop promotion of malicious and dangerous canards against Jewish people—which has attracted Jew-haters of all stripes—many Jewish groups and celebrities were calling on Ye’s business collaborators and partners to end their business relationship with him. As NFL All-Pro Aaron Donald recently noted, “hateful words and actions have consequences.”
Oct. 25, 2022 saw the greatest yet financial consequence: Adidas ended its multi-billion dollar relationship with Ye. In the wake of the news from Adidas that they were ending their relationship with Ye over his repeated, unrelenting and certainly unapologetic promotion of many dangerous anti-Semitic tropes about the Jewish people, conservative radio show Jesse Kelly tweeted: “Kanye looked like a loon blasting away at Jews like that. Jewish people piling on him and demanding his financial destruction in the wake of it look equally terrible. As someone without a dog in that fight, you both look cringe and nasty.”
To be fair, Kelly is certainly not the only person to express such views over the last few weeks. But since he is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show with far more potential listeners than there are Jews in the world, and over 555,000 followers on Twitter, I thought it fitting to address his comments directly.
First, the admission from Kelly that he has “no dog in the fight” against the promotion of dangerous anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories, which for centuries have resulted in Jews being mass murdered (at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States are at an all-time high) is pretty terrible. Shouldn’t we all “have a dog in the fight” against the spread of racist hate and bigotry? The notion that one can be “neutral” in the face of someone with Ye’s reach and influence promoting such hateful anti-Semitic tropes is, in and of itself, as Kelly puts it, “cringe.”
And why does Kelly find it “cringe” that Jews are “demanding” Ye’s “financial destruction”?
In reality, it’s a non-Jew complaining about Jews demanding serious consequences for promoting dangerous anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories to hundreds of millions of people that’s “cringe.” Further, Jews were not “demanding” Ye’s “financial destruction.” Rather, the overwhelming “demands” from both Jews and non-Jews who care about the dangers of promoting dangerous anti-Semitic tropes were for real and meaningful consequences for Ye’s actions.
After all, aren’t consequences for bad behavior something conservatives like Kelly are supposed to support? Or is that only for people who are not currently siding with people like him and Candace Owens on conservative political issues? Do Kelly and other conservative pundits and politicians really want to be no different from the many progressive and liberal pundits and politicians who try to shield the anti-Semites on their side of the aisle from consequences when they make blatantly anti-Semitic comments and promote anti-Semitic tropes?
Finally, since Kelly apparently thinks Jews should just “chill out” and be less “cringe” in the face of a very influential man with significant reach trying to once again mainstream and popularize the worst anti-Semitic tropes, he may want to explore how poorly ignoring the promotion such tropes has worked out for Jews in the past.
After all, Henry Ford, before World War II, suffered few adverse consequences (financial or otherwise) for his incessant promotion of many of the same anti-Semitic tropes Ye is promoting today to far more people (and far more quickly and easily). At a time when, much like today, anti-Semitic hate was on the rise in both the United States and Europe, Henry Ford was a purveyor of mendacious anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power and control.
Starting in 1919, Henry Ford translated into English the forgery called the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”—first released by a newspaper in Czarist Russia in 1903. The “Protocols” weave a dark and terrible tale about a conspiratorial cabal of Jews wreaking havoc on the world in order to achieve world domination. Ford republished the “Protocols” in English as an ostensibly factual piece in the Dearborn Independent (a newspaper he owned) as he railed about “Jewish control” of the media.
Ford also published 91 issues of his “International Jew” magazine with different articles (using many of the same canards Ye has repeated) to support the claim that there was a vast Jewish conspiracy to destroy America and Europe, and to thereby take over the world. As one of the most famous men in America, with arguably more reach than almost any other American at that time, Ford legitimized hateful ideas that otherwise would have gained far less traction.
Ford spread hate and lies without any adverse consequences, at a time when Hitler and the Nazis were still in their infancy politically and socially in Germany.
But Ford’s words, ideas and hate certainly had influence. Not only in the United States, where they led many people to show open support for Nazi ideas as well as for Nazi Germany in the 1930s, but also in Germany and in the rest of Europe. It’s why Ford is the only American who Hitler complimented by name in “Mein Kampf”; and it is why, in 1938, on the eve of WW2 and the start of the Holocaust, Ford received from the Nazis the “Grand Cross of the German Eagle.” Birds of a feather, as the saying goes.
The position of Jews in most diaspora communities over the past millennium was often tenuous, thanks in large part to Jews’ relative powerlessness in most of these societies compared to the local aristocracy (the Fords of the world). As a result, history is replete with instances of Jews being silent in the face of powerful people with tremendous reach and influence stoking Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic tropes.
But that silence has also often led to Jews being subjected to increased discrimination, persecution, expulsions and even mass murder. The expulsion in 1290 of all Jews living in England, the Spanish Inquisition beginning in 1478, the terrible Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, the Holocaust and numerous less famous brutal attacks on Jews throughout Europe and the MENA, all started with words. All were the result of the same type of hate Ye is now spreading going forth largely unchallenged and certainly without significant consequences for the purveyors.
After the Holocaust, most Jews and many non-Jews pledged “never again.” But if “never again” is to mean anything, then it must not only mean that we Jews will never again be stateless and defenseless. It must also mean that we will never again be silent in the face of powerful and influential people spreading dangerous anti-Semitic hate. It must mean that we insist on real consequences for those who spread such hate without remorse—even if it makes people without “a dog in the fight” like Jesse Kelly “cringe.”
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli army and is a former police officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD). An attorney, he is active with a number of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including StandWithUs, T.E.A.M. and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.