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  • Reverend James Squire

Kanye (Ye) and Antisemitism

Ye’s recent antisemitic comments along with all the other isms that have emerged in the Trump era are dangerous. They are dangerous because they release tacit (hidden) antisemitism that has been given the green light by Maga to become acceptable once again. They are no different from the strategy that Hitler employed. First, you must tap into age old beliefs and then point out that a group is a threat to the rest of the nation. If Ye, Hitler, and others beat the drum long enough, antisemitism becomes a truth for the culture. After all, if so many people believe that something is true, it must be true. The research on lying, like the big lie, supports this kind of social psychological moment.

Then we have the phenomenon of the “tipping point” articulated by Malcolm Gladwell where when you reach a certain number of people, the belief “tips” over to be an acceptable belief. It is no different from style in fashion. Once a style reaches a tipping point, it becomes acceptable to wear.

Then the group such as Trump and Maga have a way to make the group closer together by having a common enemy or “scapegoat.” A scapegoat is a group that has done nothing wrong but is a convenient entity to direct prejudice when in fact they are innocent living their lives in the best way that they can. It is ironic that the term, scapegoat, was first used to describe a part of the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, the Feast of the Atonement. In Yom Kippur during the days when the Israelites were making their way through the Sinai, the Israelites had a feast to atone for their sins. They would get a goat and the priests would lay their hands on the head of the goat symbolic of the sins of the people. The goat did nothing wrong but was either removed from the herd and turned away into the desert to certain death or killed on the spot to represent the forgiveness of their sins.

There is something, however, that is unique to Judaism as a scapegoat. Hatred of the Jewish people goes back to the history of Christianity and is included in the writings of such as Shakespeare. Shylock is a fictional character in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He is a Jewish money lender. His defeat and conversion to Christianity form the climax of the story.

I have attached a 13 minutes history of antisemitism that has been produced by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. It speaks volumes. The ultimate experience would be to take a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. It is regarded as one of the best museums in America just from a museum standpoint. It is so highly regarded because you are given a “you are there” experience where you start at the top level and move through elements of antisemitism with emphasis on the Holocaust. Once you start the tour, you can’t go back so you are forced to take in the terrible truth until you reach the first floor and exit.

Like racism, the problem with antisemitism leads to people being lynched or killed. My son, Spencer, had a role in the Northwestern University production of the musical Parade. The musical is a dramatization of the 1913 trial and imprisonment, and lynching of Jewish American Leo Frank in Georgia. Frank had been accused of murdering a thirteen years old girl, Mary Fagan. There was no proof that he did this. The prosecutors didn’t believe he was guilty, but the mob depended on their “instincts” and “prejudices” to go the Milledgeville Prison where he was being held. Without firing a shot, they left the prison with Leo Frank and lynched him in a nearby location.

The Jewish community could not protest his death as church bells across Atlanta rang and people cheered after Leo Frank was convicted. The Jewish population started a migration to the north for the handwriting was on the wall.

When Jews today hear those proclamations of Marjorie Taylor Green or Lauren Boebert that we need to be a Christian nation, the Jews in America hear that with a different experiential ear. They are frightened. We should be frightened with them.

It is important to note the lack of response from the Republican Party to antisemitism. That is the only thing that will stop this period of antisemitism. They have lost their moral direction. Even when Mitch McConnell’s wife was subjected to anti- Chinese rhetoric, nothing was said publicly to challenge Trump. No challenge means others can and should do the same. It is terrific to see businesses dealing with Ye. They are canceling his contracts that is the only positive note here.

The “isms” lead to deaths for these groups whether it be Matthew Shepherd, a gay man killed or Emmett Till, a black child killed after being tortured, or Trump referring to Covid as the China Flu ignoring the terrible deaths that occurred in our nation because of his lack of action. All is in the service of getting bad behavior to achieve that isms are normal. When this is done, antisemitism becomes a norm and not an exception to the rule where it never should be tolerated any time by anyone in any situation.

I wander if Green, Boebert, or Ye have any knowledge of what you will see in the thirteen minutes video below. If they do, then our problem is bigger than anyone of us thought.

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