OPINION: Antisemitism remains intolerable

Billy Bernfeld, Staff Writer

Shivani Bondada

On Jan. 11, a Tulanian published an article on a conservative website named College Dissident. The article in question made an attempt to defend disgraced rapper Ye, now infamous for his downward spiral into scapegoating Jews and praising Hitler on public television.

This article is especially disheartening to read — both as a Jewish person and as a fellow student.  Not only does it rely upon baseless conspiracy theories to spread antisemitic enmity, but it demonstrates a lack of intellectual honesty and historical literacy. My goal in this response is not bitter retaliation — I want to properly examine what makes the article so harmful in the first place. To move forward from this ordeal, we need to understand exactly what we’re dealing with.

While the written goal of this article is to reveal some sort of “context” behind Ye’s actions, context is precisely the thing it omits. The article discusses Ye’s statement about “going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” making reference to the U.S. military readiness scale known as DEFCON. He states that the Jewish people have “toyed with him,” citing a supposed “agenda” among the community as a whole.

This is a reference to a longstanding conspiracy theory about alleged Jewish control over media outlets, which has repeatedly been debunked since its inception in the 1900s. For almost 120 years, this idea has been used to justify atrocities against the Jewish people — from the pogroms of the early 20th century to the Holocaust.

The author seems to have bought into the myth that Hollywood is run by the Jewish people. Once again, nuance and historical context have been abandoned in favor of a more convenient narrative.

Due to hostility against Jewish people in most areas of work, many Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries gravitated towards industries such as vaudeville and the clothing trade. These businesses were important to the then-burgeoning film industry, allowing Jewish-American immigrants to help found major Hollywood studios alongside their non-Jewish colleagues.

While film may owe a great deal of its success to the work of prolific Jewish filmmakers, the industry itself — formed from independent studios and corporations — is not run by a purported cabal.

Ye purposefully scapegoated the Jewish people and invoked a harmful conspiracy theory rather than calling out the individuals he believes have wronged him. This rhetoric encouraged some of his supporters to attack the Jewish community through acts of violence.

When discussing how Ye praised Adolf Hitler in an interview with Alex Jones, the author uses a biblical verse to argue that the Jewish people are equal to the Nazis.

While all are free to worship as they please, there is no possible justification for using the Bible to sugarcoat genocide. Moreover, attempting to equate the Jewish people with their oppressor — especially on the basis of faith — is an act of unparalleled naïveté. The Jewish people are in no way comparable to those who murdered them in droves.

Truthfully, it’s fundamentally impossible to love everyone. The love for a murderer inherently negates the love for their victims, hence why one cannot love both the Nazis and their victims. If Ye truly loved the Jewish people, he would stand against our oppressors. The same goes for the author of this article, who has made it clear who they really stand with.

The author subsequently argues that disliking Nazis is not an instance in which we “love thy neighbor,” somehow making it worse than Ye’s praise of Hitler. To fully discuss where this idea goes wrong, we must first understand a concept known as the “paradox of tolerance.”

Introduced by philosopher Karl Popper, this concept argues that true tolerance is never absolute. If all ideas were accepted, then intolerance would be allowed to proliferate and bring harm to others. As such, ideologies such as Nazism must always be rejected.

As for the religious aspect of this idea, the fact of the matter is that history should not be viewed through the lens of Christian dogma. The Holocaust was not a biblical fable to be interpreted by theologists — it was a crime against humanity which inflicted irreversible trauma on the survivors thereof and their communities for generations to come. No amount of piety can bring back the millions of Jewish lives taken by Nazi Germany, no matter how hard people try.

To put it simply, appeals to religious authority are not a viable substitute for a legitimate argument, especially when dealing with humanitarian issues. I am under no obligation to like the Nazis, and their act of genocide is far worse than my refusal to accept them.

Two days after the article was released, the author had worked with College Dissident to release a response to the backlash. In this new article, the author alleged that they had received death threats from other Tulane students. If this is true, then I wholeheartedly condemn these acts of intimidation.

With this in mind, I absolutely believe that there should be proper accountability for spreading conspiracy theories that threaten the welfare of our fellow Tulanians. Jewish students currently make up around 41.3% of Tulane’s undergraduate population. Prejudice brings harm to others, as evidenced by the ramifications of the Nazis using the same conspiracy theories parroted by this article.

Some have falsely argued that this article is a simple difference of opinion. Yet again, important context has been thrown out the window in order to defend the indefensible.

The truth of the matter is that not all ideas and opinions are equally worth discussing. Egalitarianism and democracy are not of equivalent value to Nazism or fascism. The first two seek to preserve liberty, whereas the latter two seek to destroy it.

There is a fine line between exercising one’s right to share their opinion and actively brandishing rhetoric that endangers Jewish students. The freedom of expression does not protect us from being held responsible for demonizing people on the basis of racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes.

One cannot simply publish an antisemitic article and not expect to face any consequences, especially at a university with a significant Jewish population. Our freedom of speech comes with the right to peacefully criticize the endorsement of violent ideals.

Freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy and healthy discourse, but our words are not without repercussions. What we say has the power to provoke violence against others, and nobody should be exempt from the consequences of spreading hatred.

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