Kanye West’s Comments Spark Antisemitic Acts

Rapper and business mogul Kanye West (he/him), who has legally changed his name to Ye, is no stranger to controversy. However, the rapper’s recent antisemitic comments have veered into the extreme. On October 8, Ye tweeted that he would go “defcon 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” and that “[y]ou guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever oppresses your agenda.” Ye’s Twitter account was locked out the following day, one step below a full account suspension. Ye’s 31.5 million Twitter followers could still access his account, but the “Jesus Walks” rapper could not. His account has since been unlocked.

Ye claims that he cannot be antisemitic because he believes Black people are the actual Jewish people. An analysis of his behavior by the American Defamation League (ADL) explains that West has furthered an antisemitic trope used by hate groups that those who are not Black and claim to be Jewish, dubbed “fake Jews,” are involved in a conspiracy to oppress non-Jewish people. This claim is often repeated by a fringe religious organization, The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement. The ADL emphasized that the BHI is not considered part of mainstream Judaism, nor does it represent Black Jews.

Since Ye’s Twitter episode, a rash of antisemitic incidents has occurred. On October 22, several people believed to be a part of the Goyim Defense League (GDL), an antisemitic hate group, hung banners with antisemitic messages over a bridge on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. Three banners were displayed by the small group, who also performed Nazi salutes. One banner read, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” another said, “honk if you know,” and the third promoted a video platform that streams antisemitic content operated by the GDL.

That same weekend, antisemitic flyers blaming Jewish people for health, environmental, racial, and social issues were distributed in Beverly Hills. It is not clear if the two incidents are connected.

On November 3, the FBI released an alert warning that they had received “credible information of a broad threat” to synagogues in New Jersey. Soon after, the FBI stated it had identified the source of the threat. On November 10, police arrested 18-year-old suspect Omar Alkattoul (he/him), who had shared an antisemitic manifesto on social media and referenced plans to attack Jewish people.
While antisemitism is not a new phenomenon, incidents of antisemitic violence, harassment, and vandalism have been on the rise in the U.S. According to an audit by the ADL released in April, the past year had the highest numbers of incidents since the organization began tracking them in 1979. There were 2,717 incidents reported in 2021, up 34% from 2,026 incidents in 2020. The ADL has tracked over 1,400 incidents so far in 2022.

The fallout for Ye has been severe. He has lost contracts and sales from Adidas, Foot Locker, Balenciaga, Peloton, TJX companies, and several talent agencies. JP Morgan Chase Bank has revoked his privileges to continue using their services. According to an estimate by Forbes, Ye lost $1.5 billion of his fortune attributable to his Yeezy deal with Adidas, dropping his net worth to $400 million.

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