Earlier this week I woke up to news about a spate of antisemitic incidents on campus at the University of Denver, where some cowardly individual or group targeted three Jewish students over the last week. According to a report from Jewish rights organization StandWithUs: “The incidents, which occurred between February 9 – 12, included pork left on the doorstep and smeared on the dorm room door of one Jewish student and mezuzahs ripped off the doorways of the rooms of two other Jewish students. The sacred scrolls in the Mezuzahs were tampered with, one of which was destroyed. The students are all identifiable Jews or Jewish leaders on campus.”
Vice Chancellor Todd Adams responded to the incidents in a letter to students: “We want to be very clear that these acts are NOT acceptable within DU’s community, and acknowledge the harm that has been caused to members of our community. Every student, faculty, and staff member deserves a place to live, learn, and work that is respectful, welcoming, and safe. Each of us shares the responsibility to foster that environment through our actions.”
It’s yet another in an ever-growing list of attacks on Jews in this country — the result of an emboldening of antisemitic sentiment thanks to the previous Presidential administration’s embrace of white supremacist support (re: David Duke, the Proud Boys, et al.) … and public figures like Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) taking up the charge since the 2020 election.
“There are fewer than 15 million Jews on this planet. Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) alone has more than 30 million followers of his social media accounts. Many seem apt to simply shrug it off, ‘oh Ye’s just looking for relevance, he’s drumming up business for his clothing line with controversy, he’s mentally ill, no one should pay any attention, etc.’
“And while those things may all be true, that doesn’t change the very real impact of his very public, Jew-hating statements. That impact is far-reaching and it is very dangerous to Jews across the country and the world. Because it’s one more step towards normalizing this behavior. It’s one more notch of the Overton Window pushed to a place where Jew-hatred is again met with shrugs and nonchalance as more people feel emboldened to embrace the age-old conspiracies and tropes that have made antisemitism the oldest ‘hate’ on Earth.”
And what has occurred since proves just how prescient my words were — not to get carried away here, anyone with half a brain and a working knowledge of basic history could see this coming — as Ye’s vitriolic and hateful comments then and since have directly led to another runaway phalanx of antisemitic incidents.
According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League released on Feb. 12: “Since October 2022, ADL has documented at least 30 antisemitic incidents that directly reference Ye – the influential artist, producer, and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West, whose 2022 antisemitic outbursts made headlines. These incidents, which include vandalism, banner drops, targeted harassment, and campus propaganda distributions, demonstrate the ongoing influence of Ye’s conspiratorial, bigoted rants.”
That’s not a typo. There were no fewer than 30 incidents in just the last four months specifically referencing Ye’s campaign of Jew-hatred.
The report cites myriad examples, such as the Groypers‘ “Ye is right, change my mind” college tour that launched on Jan. 18 at Florida Atlantic University and included Florida State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida International University.
Ye’s words don’t exist in a vacuum. This activity is also being enabled by Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.
“Ye’s October 2022 antisemitic comments coincided with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter,” the report says. “At which time the ADL noted an increase in both antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts. Since October 1, 2022, there have been more than 10,000 Twitter mentions using or referencing the “Ye is Right” slogan. These posts have reached at least six million users on Twitter, garnering more than 22,000 likes and more than 5,000 retweets.”
The ADL report also lists out a hefty example of the way Ye’s hate campaign has taken form:
- Los Angeles, California, October 28, 2022: After offering Ye a tour, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust received several antisemitic phone calls and emails.
- Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, December 2, 2022: Hassan Yehia Chokr, 35, allegedly harassed and threatened Jewish families outside of a synagogue, making antisemitic comments that included the statement “Kanye was right.”
- New York, New York, December 5, 2022: A Jewish individual was harassed by students in an elevator at Baruch College who allegedly told the individual that Kanye West and Hitler “were right.”
- Stamford, Connecticut, December 7, 2022: Classmates targeted a Jewish student with antisemitic bullying that included Holocaust jokes and comments about Ye.
- New York, New York, December 14, 2022: Perin Jacobchuk, 32, allegedly physically assaulted a Jewish man in Central Park while yelling “Fuck you, Jew!” and “Kanye 2024!”
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 23, 2022: The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh received an antisemitic phone call from an unknown caller who identified themself using the name “Kanye West” and stated, “I hate all Jewish people. All of them must burn and die. I love Hitler. I love Hitler.”
- San Francisco, California, January 18, 2023: An unknown individual entered a Jewish Community Center claiming to be “investigating” Ye’s claims about Jews.
- Gaithersburg, Maryland, January 25, 2023: A group of individuals physically and verbally assaulted a Jewish man in a grocery store, making antisemitic remarks and commented, “Yeah, do it for Kanye!”
- Newton, Massachusetts, January 30, 2023: An individual emailed a Jewish cultural organization, writing: “Kanye was right. We all know now.”
- Sanford, Florida, January 31, 2023: A Jewish student experienced antisemitic harassment at school, which included references to Ye.
A variety of known extremist and antisemitic groups have embraced Ye’s statements, leveraging his comments to further their own agendas and promote antisemitic claims and conspiracy theories. Extremist-related incidents include:
- October 2022: In multiple incidents, the Goyim Defense League (GDL), along with the White Lives Matter network and NatSoc Florida dropped antisemitic banners supporting Ye in California, New York and Florida. They also used a laser projector to cast antisemitic messages onto buildings at TIAA Bank Field at the end of the Georgia/Florida football game in Jacksonville, with one reading, “Kayne is right about the Jews.”
- November 2022: GDL members distributed antisemitic propaganda in multiple cities that included references to Ye and his statement about going “DEATH-CON 3 (sic) on Jewish people.”
- December 2022: Two white supremacists and members of a Southern California-based Active Club wore Burger King crowns on a Southwest Airlines flight that read, “Ye is Right” and “White Power.” Additionally, Crew 319, a neo-Nazi group, distributed propaganda that included the statement “Kanye West is right about the Jews” and promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories in Coralville, Idaho.
- January 2023: Someone drew graffiti that read “YEisRight” and “America First,” alongside references to the date 1/27/23 (Holocaust Remembrance Day), on the sidewalk at the University of Alabama. The graffiti promoted the aforementioned “Ye is right, change my mind” event, which was organized by several prominent Groypers.
Can you hear me now?
When it was clear back in 2016 that antisemitism was again en-vogue, there was plenty of debate about what was happening, even within the Jewish community. The biggest point of contention: “Well, it’s good that it’s out in the open. Now we know who we’re up against.”
I did not, and still do not, subscribe to this opinion. It may have held more sway in a pre-internet age. But what we face now is an era of unchecked emboldening, buoyed by an enormous network of online spaces where white supremacists and neo-Nazis are safe to not only espouse their lies and hate — but actively and openly recruit people to their cause.
And it’s getting much worse, much more dangerous, and much more prevalent.