I have never understood anti-Semitism. The more one knows about the Jewish people, the more one realizes that Jews are as diverse as humanity itself. As soon as one lands at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, one is immediately confronted with the fact that there are Jews of color—roughly half of all Israeli Jews are of Middle Eastern or African descent—wealthy Jews, poor Jews, intelligent Jews and, unfortunately, not-so-intelligent Jews.
In short, we are a people like any other people.
Yet quite often, the fire-breathing dragon of anti-Semitism emerges again with its hateful fantasies about the Jews. The dragon recently emerged in dramatic fashion with the vile statements of rap artist and fashion tycoon Kanye West—who now calls himself “Ye.” On Oct. 16, he attacked “Jewish media” and “Jewish Zionists,” alleging that “Jewish people have owned the black voice” and “they’ll take us and milk us till we die.”
On Oct. 17, Ye doubled down on his anti-Semitic comments during an appearance on Chris Cuomo’s show News Nation. “The Jewish, underground media mafia undermines me,” he said, adding, “my life was threatened by my Jewish lawyer, my Jewish manager and my Jewish accountant.”
Although Ye said, “I can say anti-Semitic s*** and Adidas can’t drop me,” the shoe company dropped his contract—a $248 million loss for them—as did the Gap and other companies.
Ye’s anti-Semitism did not emerge out of a vacuum, however. For over 40 years, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has been regaling his flock with this sort of hateful rhetoric. Farrakhan has called Judaism “a deceptive lie” and a “theological error” that exists to “further [Jewish] control over the American government and economy.”
Needless to say, neither Ye nor Farrakhan ever mention the names Andrew Goodman or Michael Schwerner, two young Jewish men who were lynched in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964, together with their black friend James Chaney, for simply trying to register blacks to vote.
One of the worst things about anti-Semitism is how quickly it metastasizes. Earlier this week, a small group of anti-Semites known as the Goyim Defense League hung a banner over Highway 405 in Los Angeles saying, “Kanye is right about the Jews.” A second banner read, “Honk if you know.”
Ye’s anti-Semitic statements are so extreme that they have already caused major damage to his career. Companies and former admirers have abandoned, condemned and shunned him. But this does not mean anti-Semitism is not pervasive in American society.
It is in the college classroom, where professors judge the Jewish state by a standard so impossibly high that no nation confronted with the challenges Israel faces could possibly live up to it. It is on college campuses where Jews are being asked to leave student clubs or governments if they support Israel. It is in the United Nations Human Rights Council, which just this week came out with a one-sided and biased report attacking Israel for trying to defend its citizens against a constant barrage of terror attacks.
Whenever there is a corrosive rot within a society, it is the Jews—and now Israel—who are among the first to suffer the consequences. The Jewish people in America, as in Israel, have done nothing other than try to survive. Thankfully, they have also thrived, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Wherever hate comes from, it is the hatemonger, not the victim, who should be blamed.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, a think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C.