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In an admittedly complicated world, some things should still be easy to say. For example: Nazis are bad. Adolf Hitler was an abhorrent human being. The Holocaust happened, and it was an atrocity.
Frankly, these simple truths should go without saying. But when prominent people like Ye, also known as Kanye West, amplify ancient forms of hate against Jewish people, it falls to the rest of us to clearly and consistently reject this distorted worldview.
Ye is many things: A rapper, a businessman, a fashion designer. Unfortunately, and unquestionably, we now can say he is also an anti-semite. When someone won’t stop staying anti-Jewish things, and only escalates their hateful rhetoric amid deserved criticism, they have made their beliefs pretty clear.
Ye’s recent words and actions were already plainly antisemitic, as he echoed tropes and conspiracies about Jewish control of society. That didn’t stop former President Donald Trump from hosting him and white nationalist provocateur Nick Fuentes at a Nov. 22 dinner. And since then, Ye has only further descended into this dangerous hate.
Some version of this script has played out in various interviews with conservative hosts recently: The interviewers, from Tucker Carlson to Alex Jones, have insisted to Ye that he is misunderstood — that people are unfairly portraying him as being unwell or some sort of Nazi sympathizer. Help us set the record straight, they’ve all but implored him.
Ye’s recent response, to Jones: “I like Hitler” and “I see good things about Hitler also” and “The Jewish media has made us feel like the Nazis and Hitler have never offered anything of value to the world.”
There is no misunderstanding all of that. While antisemitism is often masked in code words, this was undeniable and direct. The comments were so extreme that even Jones disagreed.
These remarks cannot be ignored, just as they cannot be excused because of Ye’s acknowledged bipolar disorder diagnosis. Millions of Americans go about their days living with bipolar disorder without spouting anti-Jewish hate.
Ye has a huge platform, and his words have real world implications. As others have pointed out, his Twitter account (before it was suspended once again after he posted an image of a Swastika inside a Star of David) had more followers than there are Jewish people across the globe. He just recently dined with the former Republican president who is once again a declared candidate for the highest office in the land. And we’ve already seen how Ye’s words can embolden the hate of others, like when a group in Los Angeles hung a banner over a freeway saying “Kanye is right about the Jews” earlier this fall.
“It’s the oldest hatred, as I say, one of the oldest hatreds of humanity. It was wrong then, it’s wrong now,” former and now future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend. “But it’s got an extra life probably in the United States and in other countries by the age of the internet.”
Netahyahu also called Trump’s dinner with Ye and Fuentes “unacceptable.” It should always be unacceptable for American leaders to court voices of hate.
To be clear, the issue of antisemitism is bigger, and older, than Ye or Nick Fuentes or Donald Trump. It has a long and horrifying past, and we must all stand up to prevent it from taking root in the future.
It is right and good that President Joe Biden has forcefully condemned antisemitism and the White House held a roundtable discussion about antisemitism with Jewish leaders this week. That effort was led by First Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.
“We cannot normalize this,” Emhoff said Wednesday. “We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent. There is no either/or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”
Emhoff is right, we cannot allow this to be normalized. Ultimately, the most important response falls to the country as a whole. The strongest rebuke to antisemitism must come not from the White House, but from the hearts, minds and voices of the American people.