What the Hell Is Going On With Antisemitism Right Now, Explained

From Kanye West to Adidas to the Goyim Defense League, there's a lot of highly visible antisemitism in the world right now. Let's talk about it.

Approximately a month ago, the Jewish people welcomed the new year on Rosh Hashanah. Unfortunately, thanks to some very vocal antisemites, 5783 has been off to a not-very-sweet start.

There have been antisemitic comments on social media from rapper Kanye West and former President Trump, morally ambiguous decisions from multiple fashion companies, white supremacist protesters in Los Angeles and lots of pushback online.

Let’s dive in to *gestures wildly* all of this.

What antisemitic incidents have happened lately?

Antisemitism, or prejudice against Jews, has existed as long as Jewish people have existed. It has also always existed in the United States, with antisemitic incidents reaching an all-time high in 2021 (according to the ADL). That said, the flare-up of antisemitic rhetoric over the last few weeks began with comments by rapper Kanye West, who also goes by Ye.

Hey Alma covered Ye’s comments more in-depth here; however, the gist of what happened is this: Ye, who is Black, wore a shirt bearing the white supremacist phrase “White Lives Matter” during Paris Fashion Week. Right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson then platformed Ye on his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where they discussed the shirt and, weirdly, foreign policy. In that segment, Ye stated that he believed Jared Kushner, former President Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and advisor, had brokered the Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 for profit. Many condemned Ye’s statement as propagating an antisemitic stereotype. (Later, Vice revealed that unaired footage from the interview contained even more antisemitic comments from West.)

The next day, Ye posted a screenshot of a conversation between himself and rapper Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy and Diddy) to Instagram, which contained even more antisemitic speech, though the post was eventually taken down and Ye’s account was restricted. Finally, Ye took to Twitter where he tweeted that he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” That tweet was also taken down and his account was restricted.

Has Ye faced any repercussions from these actions?

Since his statements, brands that have partnerships with Ye and companies that represent him have been pressured to drop him. Last week, fashion brand Balenciaga (whose fashion show Ye wore his “White Lives Matter” shirt to attend) severed ties with the rapper. “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist,” the fashion house’s parent company Kering said last Thursday. Fashion magazine Vogue followed suit last Friday. “Anna [Wintour] has had enough,” an insider told Page Six. “She has made it very clear inside Vogue that Kanye is no longer part of the inner circle.” Even just today, Creative Artists Agency, who represent Ye for touring, dropped him. As Emily Tamkin, author of the book “Bad Jews,” so aptly pointed out, “A frustrating thing about antisemites alleging Jews control everything is that if there are consequences for their actions, they just turn around and say it proves them right. Still, they’re alleging it with a few fewer enablers and ties.”

However, German sportswear brand Adidas took longer to drop Ye. The sneaker giant carries Ye’s line of shoes, Yeezy.

“The thing about it being Adidas is like, I can literally say antisemitic s*** and they cannot drop me,” Ye seemingly bragged in a now-removed episode of the Drink Champs podcast. “Now what?”

On October 6, Adidas said their relationship with Ye was “under review.” On October 25, after extreme public pressure, Adidas announced that it was severing ties with Ye. “adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” the company said in a statement.

Additionally, though West formally ended his partnership with Gap in September, the clothing company was still advertising Yeezy hoodies as of last week.

Wait a minute… wasn’t Adidas founded by Nazis?

Wow, someone knows their antisemitic fashion history! Yes, a company called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) was founded by Adolf Dassler around 1924 in Germany; Adolf’s brother Rudolf later joined the company as well.

In 1933, both brothers joined the Nazi Party and became members of the paramilitary organization National Socialist Motor Corps. Later, the Dassler brothers would convert the company’s shoe factories into Nazi munitions factories during the war. At least nine Nazi prisoners and forced laborers worked in the Dassler’s factory between 1942 and 1945.

In 1947, the brothers stopped working together. Two years later, Adolf Dassler formed a company called Adidas and Rudolf Dassler formed a new company called Ruda (which was later renamed Puma).

OK, back to current events: Anything else?

Because the Jewish people can’t seem to catch a break as of late: yes.

On October 16, former President Donald Trump, who is no stranger to antisemitic dogwhistles, took to his platform Truth Social to say that American Jews don’t appreciate him enough for his policy on Israel.

This statement, beyond appearing to be a veiled threat, invokes the dogwhistle of dual loyalty. As we wrote in 2020, “According to the ADL, dual loyalty, also referred to as disloyalty, is the idea that Jews are ‘holding allegiance only to fellow Jews and to a uniquely Jewish agenda. Jews are accordingly seen as untrustworthy neighbors and citizens, as if they are inherently disloyal — or have inherently dual loyalties.’ This is often expressed as American Jews having loyalty not to America, but to Israel.”

More recently, the white supremacist group Goyim Defense League hung banners over the busy 405 freeway in Los Angeles this past Saturday. “Kanye was right about the Jews,” read one banner. The group also seemed to perform Nazi salutes from the overpass and handed out antisemitic literature in nearby communities.


Screenshot from Twitter

Wait, is there really a white supremacist group called the Goyim Defense League?

Yup. The name would perhaps be kind of funny if the group’s threats of antisemitism weren’t so violent and vitriolic.

“Goyim Defense League (GDL) is a small network of virulently antisemitic provocateurs led by Jon Minadeo II of Petaluma,” the ADL states on their website. Adding, “GDL’s overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories.”

Got it. So, are Jews with platforms speaking out against this recent wave of antisemitism?

Jewish celebrities and Jews with large platforms have been (and will always be) at the forefront of discussing antisemitism. Jessica Seinfeld, a Jewish cookbook author and wife of Jerry Seinfeld, posted this image to her Instagram and told her followers: “If you don’t know what to say, you can just say this in your feed.”

Others, including Jewish celebrities like Isla Fisher and Amy Schumer, have also posted the image to their Instagram accounts.

Here’s what other Jewish celebrities have had to say:


Hannah Einbinder
Screenshot via @hannaheinbinder on Instagram.

Eric Andre
Screenshot via @ericfuckingandre on Instagram

OK, but are non-Jewish celebrities and people with platforms speaking out?

Yes, some. Today, Ye’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian wrote on Twitter, “Hate speech is never OK or excusable. I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end.”

Here’s what some others have had to say:

Is that enough?

Probably not. While posting messages of support for Jews online is a good start, it’s not the same thing as taking direct action against antisemitism. This could look like: checking in with your Jewish friends, boycotting companies that uphold antisemitism, being an active bystander when you witness antisemitism (including countering antisemitic tropes when you hear them) and/or donating to Jewish organizations.

Additionally, the conversation around Ye’s antisemitism has largely put Blackness and Jewishness in opposition to one another, erasing Black Jews. For non-Jews and Jews alike, it is equally important to continue to uplift and protect Black Jews.

As Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg said on Twitter:

Why has it taken this long for there to be significant pushback to antisemtism?

It’s hard to say why it’s taken Ye’s comments to generate more widespread condemnation of antisemitism, when antisemitism has been on the rise in the United States for quite some time. Nearly four years ago, an antisemitic gunman murdered 11 synagogue-goers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In April 2019, another gunman murdered one and injured three others at the Chabad of Poway. As previously stated, 2021 was a record-high year for antisemitism in the United States. Just this year, yet another antisemitic gunman held hostages at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas and later, a gunman murdered seven people and injured over 30 others in the Jewish community of Highland Park, Illinois. The list of “smaller” incidences like desecrations of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries and attacks on individual Jews (particularly Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews who literally wear their Jewishness) goes on.

Of course, some of the pushback against Ye has to do with anti-Black racism. To be absolutely clear: that is not to say it is racist to condemn West for his antisemitism in and of itself. However, Former President Donald Trump propagated antisemitism all throughout his presidency and still does, and yet it’s clear that he still has a huge base of support. The same is true of Tucker Carlson, who often spreads the antisemitic Great Replacement Theory on his show, yet still reached 3 million viewers in July 2022. With this albeit small sampling of evidence, it seems that American society at large is more comfortable condemning the actions of a Black man than white men, even when all of them have made equally pernicious anti-Jewish statements to their large audiences.

Other than that, however, it’s harder to say. What’s less hard to say is that Jews and non-Jews need to continue this conversation on antisemitism on a larger scale, combat antisemitism wherever it manifests and equally importantly, center conversations on Jewish joy. L’chaim.

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