How to Supercharge Antisemitism, and How to Drain It
“He’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, referring to Kyrie Irving, the All-Star black basketball player who caused an uproar by tweeting a link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a 2018 documentary streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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Although Silver, a Jew, doesn’t believe Irving is antisemitic and although Irving didn’t see his simple tweet as either endorsing or promoting the highly-rated film – Amazon Prime reports a near perfect four and a half stars while IMDB lists it among the 100 Most Popular Movies as ranked by users – that didn’t stop the roof from caving in on Irving.
“Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content,” Silver stated, enroute to suspending Irving for six games now and running. Irving’s salary loss as a result of that tweet, combined with the loss of endorsement income from the likes of Nike, is estimated at $300 million.
That penalty didn’t suffice as penance for tweeting a movie which, according to Amazon’s promotional material, “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel by proving the true ethnicity of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Sons of Ham, Shem & Japheth … in this movie packed with tons of research.” Irving, who is not viewed as an antisemite, was also required to grovel by apologizing, confessing guilt, condemning the film, submitting to antisemitism training, and donating $500,000 to ADL, a controversial anti-hate NGO which has itself been castigated by rabbis for conduct harmful to Jews.
The documentary’s thesis, that blacks are descended from the ancient Israelites, circa 1800 BC, is widely castigated by American Jews today as antisemitic and hurtful, and thus deserving of punishment. The Israelites of more recent times, circa 2010-2021 AD, have felt no such outrage.
When All-Star NBA basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire came to Israel in 2010 to fulfill his destiny as a Black Israelite, he was feted by the late prime minister, Shimon Peres, and warmly greeted by a flattered populace. Israeli Jews’ appreciation of this Black Israelite in their midst only increased when he decided to formally convert to Judaism and become an Israeli citizen to further his “Hebraic roots,” which his mother had inculcated in him as a child. “You should keep the laws of Moses,” she told him. “We are from the tribe of Israel, brought here [to the United States] as slaves.”
Irving, like Stoudemire intrigued by the Black Israelite theory, received a different reception.
Aside from arguing that today’s blacks descended from the ancient Israelites, Hebrews to Negroes is accused of indulging in numerous antisemitic tropes, such as the claim that Jews wield inordinate control over American culture, the American media and the American economy. Kanye West recently alluded to a similar trope, saying that Jewish managers through their control of celebrities and the media were attempting to control what he can say and think.
He also predicted that the Jewish managers through their influence in the establishment were about to come down hard on him.
As if on cue, the establishment did, seemingly validating the trope. Celebrities castigated him, social media deplatformed him, legacy media condemned him, corporate sponsors abandoned him. In a matter of days, West became a pariah, vilified as a racist, humiliated as mentally deficient, and stripped of most of his $2 billion wealth. Ditto with Irving, who at one point, seeing the assemblage of an establishment army preparing to eviscerate him, pleaded “don’t dehumanize me.”
If those who have attacked Irving and West are trying to make the case that Jews aren’t puppet masters who can orchestrate an immediate takedown of anyone who gets on their wrong side, they are failing massively. There was no proof that either Irving or West were antisemites before they were so thoroughly attacked: West was condemned based on jumps to conclusions at what he meant by cryptic comments, and Irving merely shared one tweet to a movie Amazon offers to the world. But would anyone be surprised if, after they were stripped of their dignity and means of livelihood, after their detractors denounced, diminished and sought to destroy them, that they became the antisemites that their attackers are trying to forestall?
Antisemitism is on the rise in the West, not because Jews haven’t been diligent enough in squelching any discussions that might hint at their having great influence in society, but often because of it. “Early in my career, I learned that there are two words in the English language you should never say together, in sequence. Those words are ‘the’ and ‘Jews,’” explained black comedian Dave Chappelle, in a Saturday Night Live opening monologue on the recent attacks on Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. As for those who explain away the dominance of Jews in media, finance and other fields, Chappelle explained “the rules of perception. If they’re blacks then it’s a gang, if they’re Italians it’s a mob but if they’re Jewish it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.”
Jews need to speak about it, and to be transparent about their successes, for which they have nothing to apologize but much to explain. Otherwise, the resentment against Jews from those who resent walking on eggs when discussions turn to things Jewish will only grow, and justifiably so. “It shouldn’t be this scary to talk about anything,” Chappelle states.
Some antisemites – especially the haters among the skinheads – might never be persuaded to ditch their animus. Others, especially those on the left where antisemitism has found especially fertile ground, would be educable, since they are often antisemitic out of ignorance, not of animus. These antisemites – and the many who are now on the fence as to their views of Jews – need to be respectfully engaged, not imperiously dismissed.
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