Over the last several weeks, three prominent individuals have been accused of spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric, but the outcry has been seemingly uneven. However, if you look into each instance, it becomes obvious as to why these three individuals received the outcomes they did. Spoiler: It has very little to do with anti-Semitism.
Let’s start with the most-heavily-punished celebrity, Kanye West. Ye, as he is now known (because apparently “Kanye” was too difficult to spell), bragged about his ability to say anti-Semitic things and Adidas wouldn’t cut ties with him. That statement is notable for two reasons. First, it flies directly in the face of another statement of Ye, in which he claimed that black people are the real Jews, so he couldn’t be anti-Semitic, a trope perpetuated by the notoriously anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelites. Secondly, Adidas did dump Ye. It may have taken them a little more time than some people wanted, but they dumped his whole line. And so did many of Ye’s other partners.
But why did this happen? If you think Corporate America cares deeply about the Jewish population, you have another thing coming. Adidas made a calculation that the amount of public blowback being associated with Ye is not worth the financial impact. Corporations aren’t waking up to anti-Semitism; they are waking up to the same thing they’ve always known - the dollar.
This instance may sound like the public is paying closer attention to anti-Semitism, and used their collective power to take a stance, but Ye is no standard anti-Semite. He has crossed the Left before. He is a one-time supporter of Donald Trump, and has recently realigned himself with right-wing lightning-rod Candace Owens, even going so far as to don a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt. Public outcry from the Left only occurs when it accomplishes a larger goal (just ask Al Franken). Don’t believe me? Let’s look at our second celebrity who engaged in anti-Semitism: Kyrie Irving.
Playing basketball for a team that plays in the location with the largest Jewish population in the country is certainly a strategy if you’re going to be anti-Semitic. But Irving is yet another celebrity who has been in the crosshairs of the Left before any anti-Semitism came out. Irving was extremely vocal about not getting the Covid vaccine, and even chose to sit out games in 2021 instead of getting the jab. The Left has had it out for him for a while, and anti-Semitism was a nice excuse for outrage. Don’t believe me? How long did his punishment last? At the time of this writing, he’s already back in the league. Compare that to how the NBA deals with someone who exhibits racism against black people. Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life for spewing bigotry. Jews? Meh. A few weeks should do the trick.
Finally, we have comedian Dave Chapelle. Chapelle used anti-Semitic tropes in a recent Saturday Night Live appearance. To be honest, this is the least egregious case, since Chapelle has historically used racist tropes against every race out there - including the black community. However, here we have another person who has previously ruffled the feathers of the Left, and people only got outraged about the anti-Semitism as an excuse. Chapelle has rather famously attacked the LGBTQ community – well, specifically the T - and that is no good.
His comments on SNL went by pretty much without any repercussion, so if you were skeptical about how seriously anti-Semitism is taken until now, this does nothing to dissuade you (though again, this one does not really bother me as much, considering Chappelle’s history).
Anti-Semitism only matters if the people perpetuating it can be tied to some other cause, whether financial or ideological. When anti-Semitic individuals who have done nothing to harm the Left are severely punished, then we may begin to live in a world where hatred against Jews is taken as seriously as other races.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.