Antisemitism in the US — Inexcusable, Dangerous and Spreading

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street President
on October 25, 2022

The increased pervasiveness of antisemitism in our country’s cultural and political discourse is inexcusable and deeply dangerous. And it’s spreading.

Kanye West — the singer, businessman and celebrity MAGA cheerleader — promised to go “Death Con 3 on Jewish People” earlier this month.

Since then, he’s leapt on microphone after microphone to repeat the oldest, most vile, undisguised antisemitism I’ve ever heard in mainstream America: Jews control the financial system. Jews control the media. Jews exploit other races.

Meanwhile Donald Trump, the effective leader of the Republican Party, continues to rant about American Jews being insufficiently loyal to Israel — and insufficiently grateful to Trump himself for his allegedly “pro-Israel” policies. Last week, J Street condemned his ominous threat that the large majority of American Jews better “get [our] act together” “before it’s too late.”

Just as it’s unacceptable for any critic of Israel to hold Jewish Americans accountable for Israel’s actions, it’s unacceptable for Trump or any other politician to refer to Israel as “your country” when speaking to Jewish Americans, or to imply that our only loyalty and concern lies with Israel rather than with the United States.

It should come as no surprise that Trump and West have repeatedly embraced each other. When asked about West’s comments, Trump dismissed them as insignificant — because West “was great to me and he was great to the MAGA movement.”

It’s truly alarming that these men and their allies — with such massive national and international platforms, and in Trump’s case major political power — are returning such repugnant, naked antisemitism to the mainstream of our society.

And the impact isn’t just felt on cable news or social media. It’s spreading through our politics, our streets and our neighborhoods. It’s terrorizing our communities — and in some cases, leading to horrifying, deadly violence.

On Sunday morning in the Los Angeles area, multiple Jewish Americans, including members of J Street, woke up to find disgusting antisemitic flyers on their doorsteps featuring Nazi-style caricatures. That same day, white nationalists performed Hitler salutes above an LA freeway, unfurling a banner saying “Kanye is right about the Jews.” I happen to have been in LA meeting with J Street supporters over the past few days — and I have felt firsthand the outrage, alarm and sadness in the local Jewish community.

This Thursday, we will commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Tree of Life attack in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill community, where, on what should have been a peaceful Shabbat morning, a white nationalist fueled by hateful conspiracies about “Great Replacement” took the lives of 11 Jewish community members. Tragically, it is one of just several memorials that now annually mark horrifying, hate-fueled violence against Jews and other vulnerable minorities in recent years — from Poway and El Paso to Charlottesville and Charleston.

Of course, there has always been hate and antisemitism in this country, and around the world. But the levels it is currently reaching would have been nearly unimaginable 5-10 years ago. From targeting refugee rights organizations like HIAS, to prominent philanthropists like George Soros, to harassing, intimidating and demonizing Jewish people online and in the streets, the pattern is clear — and it is unacceptable.

These tropes, lies and conspiracies have become normalized at the highest levels — either promoted, or actively excused, by a wide range of right-wing media pundits and MAGA politicians. Perhaps that’s why it took a major company like Adidas weeks before they decided to end their business partnership with West. Perhaps that’s why some prominent Jewish and pro-Israel groups have still said nothing about Trump’s comments last week.

At J Street, we have never hesitated to make clear: All antisemitism is unacceptable, and Donald Trump, his friends and his political movement — from Kanye West to Tucker Carlson to Marjorie Taylor Greene and far beyond — pose a clear and present danger to Jewish Americans and all vulnerable minorities.

In March 2016, long before Trump was even elected president, we stated publicly that he was “unfit to be President of the United States.” Trump and his campaign, driven by racism and hate, are beyond the bounds of acceptability for the vast majority of Jewish Americans.”

Our movement is proud to be a political and communal home for the vast majority of American Jews who are determined to call out and fight antisemitism in all its forms, and to stand up to its leading purveyors — no matter how politically powerful they are.