Kanye West, spokesman for the anti-Semitic “Black Hebrews” fringe

“I can’t be anti-Semitic because black people are actually Jews. The statement is from last October and is signed by Kanye West. The American rapper responded to the controversy after ending his Adidas collaboration. The artist’s slips, especially anti-Semitism, can no longer be counted. Most recently on Thursday, the rapper, who now calls himself Ye, went on a tirade about sin, pornography and the devil before admitting his admiration for Hitler.

And on Friday, Twitter suspended his account for “inciting violence” after he posted an image of a swastika intertwined with the Star of David. Often associated with his mental health—Kanye West has acknowledged his bipolarity—these phrases are actually inspired by the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, or Black Hebrews. Founded by two African-American preachers William Saunders Crowdy and Frank Cherry in the late 19th century, the doctrine claims that the true biological descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel (from the 12 sons of Jacob) were actually African-American. .

“Our culture has been taken away from us”

Some new rhetoric for the rapper. Indeed, during the month of October, Kanye West does not stop repeating his support for the American basketball player Kyrie Irving, who shared an anti-Semitic video last October. From Hebrews to Negroes: Awakening Black America. A conspiracy plot based on a book that attempts to demonstrate that Jews will be the “true Israelites” and “steal” the religion of Holocaust-denying blacks.

Since then, Kanye West has often referenced the Black Hebrew movement in his speeches. “I am a black person, I classify as a Jew. I want to prove that I am first and foremost a Jew. Do your research on it. Our culture has been taken away from us,” he said in an interview with Piers Morgan in October. “When I say Jew, I am talking about the 12 tribes of Judah, the blood of Christ, this is the true identity of the Black people. This is us,” he added a moment later in an apparent reference to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.

Extremist actions and attacks

The idea of ​​preachers William Saunders Crowdy and Frank Cherry spread over the decades and gave birth to countless different churches, from black Hebrews who immigrated to Israel, to those who call themselves “Jews” rather than Jews, to “sectarians.” and the deeply anti-Semitic movements cited by Kanye West.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which catalogs extremist activities in America, classified 144 branches of the movement as “black separatist hate groups,” particularly those with “anti-Semitic beliefs.” Sometimes even terrorism. In 2019, two gunmen entered a kosher grocery store in New Jersey and killed three people after shooting a detective who was investigating the area. According to police, the shooting was motivated by anti-Semitism, and the attackers who died in the attack “expressed an interest” in the organization Black Hebrew Israelis, specifically the One West Camp movement.

“I’m Israeli”

In addition to the countless movements that comprise them – some of which are peaceful – Black Hebrews have grown in popularity in rap in recent years, and Black Hebrews’ influence on hip-hop culture has been commented on by many American articles. . So in the title in 2017 Well, Kendrick Lamar “I am an Israelite / Don’t say me no more black” (French: “I am an Israelite, don’t me more black”). Regularly billed as “the new king of hip-hop,” the rapper also sings, “We’re Israelites in the Bible.” fear.

In First day speech, American rapper Kodak Black declares: “I’m Israeli, my diamonds are real ice.” Interviewed historian Jacob Dorman notes that among the many movements of Black Hebrew, “the most extreme form is the ‘YouTube generation’, which mixes it with various conspiracy theories and spreads it on the Internet.” Let it go. According to him, Kanye West and other rappers are also familiar with these concepts.

Reversing stigma

In several of these songs, Kendrick Lamar mentions Deuteronomy. In Well, the aforementioned rapper states, “My cousin called me, my cousin Carl Duckworth told me we’re all cursed in Deuteronomy.” Because the ideology of the Black Hebrew is based on the interpretation of the Bible and especially on the connection between Israelite slavery in Egypt and the slave trade. Progressives see in Deuteronomy a prophecy of slavery in the United States until the end of the 19th century. The two African-American preachers who started the movement were themselves ex-slaves.

“This is where the idea of ​​the Black Israelite is strong: ‘If we were slaves, it is because we are the chosen people.’ “Suddenly, the biblical imagination of the West was ‘transformed’ to assert not only black humanity, but also black primacy,” explains Jacob Dorman, who has dedicated a book to this movement. Yet for Kanye West, this reversal of stigma translates into the spread of anti-Semitic hatred. It is likely that Kim will continue, because the artist suggested at the end of November that he will run for the 2024 American presidential elections, which will allow him to keep the media platform.

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