Opinion: Condemning Kanye West’s antisemitism is easy. Vigilance is harder.
The New York Times reports on West’s performance Saturday at Yeezy Season 4, which was billed as “a musical celebration of the Black community.” West was apparently not invited by the host of the event, hip-hop artist T.I., which prompted West to respond online Sunday with his own song, “Famous,” which has been promoted as an anti-Hip-Hop song decrying the violence in Chicago:
But that’s not how West is being discussed in the media. One of the Times’ reporters, Michael Arceneaux, wrote a story headlined, “#Yeezy, Anti-Semitic Kanye, Calls for ‘Criminals and Terrorists to Be Killed’: Is Kanye’s anti-Semitism relevant again?” And as a result of his reporting, several major outlets like The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, and MSNBC all ran a story about West’s lyrics, including the line:
A lot of people are saying, “Hey, maybe he’s anti-Zionist. Is he anti-Zionist?” Well, I don’t know, because I’ve never heard anything he’s ever said that is anti-Semitic, and I don’t think he was born anti-Semitic. I really really don’t think he’s anti-Semitic.
But the implication that West’s lyrics are anti-Semitic, and that his actions during his Saturday performance at a concert in Chicago were anti-Semitic, is exactly what West has tried to deny and dismiss.
What I find is that what we’re seeing—the Times’ article, West’s “Famous” video, the way many outlets are reporting the topic—is not anti-Semitism, but rather, a conflation of anti-Zionist and antisemitic tropes. The idea that there’s some kind of a connection between Jewish people and Israel is itself anti-Semitic. The idea that anyone is antisemitic or is even remotely pro-Zionist is itself a distortion of anti-Zionist