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Antisemitism: A Dive Into Hate Culture

By Aria Kim-Brown

On October 6, 2022, rap artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, was featured in an interview with Tucker Carlson of Tucker Carlson Tonight on FOX News. Many controversial things were said, whether that be about the “White Lives Matter” shirt that West wore at his show during Paris Fashion Week or his relationship with his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian. But perhaps the most controversial of all was his comments about the Jewish community, which lead to a flood of antisemitism not new to our world. The Nazi party in World War II did not introduce it, nor did the end of the war end it. In fact, antisemitism springs from centuries before the Second World War. It starts with the Bible.

Judaism was one of the first religions, along with Islam and Christianity, dating back to over 3,500 years ago. It is said that those three monotheistic (belief that there is only one god) religions sprouted from Abraham bringing his family to Canaan, henceforth bringing the religion of Islam into being. Because the early Jews refused to submit to the Islam rulers, they faced persecution and discrimination. 

But mainstream anti-Judaism didn’t start until the birth of Jesus. Christianity was born with the son of Christ, who strayed from his Jewish society to preach different ideals, slowly gaining more followers. The New Testament revolves around Jesus as he teaches Christianity, and initially, Christianity was thought of as a form of Judaism. The Jews rejected Jesus and his teachings, dragging him through city streets and nailing him across the infamous cross. But in 70 C.E., as Romans took on Catholicism, they cast out all Jews, subsequently scattering them all throughout the world and sending them on a long path of hardship and discrimination. 

During the years after that, as Christianity boomed exponentially, Jews lived under a set of restrictions. They couldn’t marry Christians, couldn’t hold positions in government nor bear witnesses in court. Offensive images of them arose: devils with horns and tails that murdered Christians (more specifically Christian children) for evil Jewish rituals. When the bubonic plague spread throughout Europe during the 14th century, it was said that Jews were poisoning drinking water, causing the deaths of the 200,000,000 people who suffered from the plague. In Germany and Austria, 100,000 Jewish boys were burned for this—and other—false crimes. It was moments like this that began the change from anti-Judaism: discrimination against Jews for not accepting Christianity, to antisemitism: the discrimination against Jews as a race of people for fear that they would contaminate the “Christian race.” This only increased with time. In the 16th century, a German priest, theologian, author, hymn-writer and professor, Martin Luther, well-known for his 95 Theses, published a pamphlet called The Jews and Their Lies, that would later influence the Nazis and be republished by them. That wasn’t all the Nazis took from history—in the 13th century, Jews were forced to wear a badge and/or a pointed hat that would differentiate them from the Christian population. Actions like this, clearly repurposed during World War II, are a haunting embodiment of  “history repeats itself.”

It wasn’t until after the horrors of the Nazi rule that antisemitism became far less acceptable. It even led to monumental change within institutions as old as the Catholic Church, which removed the charge against Jews for Jesus’s death in 1960. But change is a rollercoaster and more always follows less. As time goes on and the Holocaust becomes further removed from our present, antisemitism rises once more. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a service that tracks antisemitism around the world, found that in 2021, there was a 34% increase in antisemitic behavior from the previous year: a whopping 2,717 incidents. In 2013, they found that a large group of Europeans thought of Jewish citizens as disloyal to the countries where they live and that they wield too much political and economic power.

An April 2022 interview on PBS News Hour talks about this rise in antisemitism. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “As [the interviewer, William Branghan] pointed out, this is the highest total we have ever tracked in more than 40 years of doing this work. And we should keep in mind that antisemitic acts were going down in the United States for almost 15 years and then, in 2016, they started to move up. And we’re now at the point where we have nearly triple the number of incidents today [than] we did in 2015.” These acts consist of vandalism on synagogues and other Jewish locales as well as harassment against Jewish people. 

The reasons for this rise in antisemitism remain unknown. A rise in attacks on Arab Americans, Asian Americans and African Americans in the past few years could very well be connected to the rise in antisemitism. This “normalization of antisemitism and extremism,” which Greenblatt called it, can be applied to other minorities as well. And all throughout history, that’s what antisemitism can be seen as: what humans are capable of doing to another human when hatred fuels them. The Holocaust is one of the most extreme and clear examples of our prejudices blinding us to reality, but it is not the only one, and unless we can learn to work on our judgments and biases, it will not be the last. 

The prime example of contemporary antisemitism is the recent controversy surrounding Kanye “Ye” West. This normalization of anti-Semitic hate paves the way for other people who share these ideas to break out and spew forth their harmful stereotypes and prejudices. Indeed, controversial comedian Dave Chappelle and NBA star Kyrie Irving contributed to this anti-Semitic culture following Ye’s outbursts.

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