Culture

Anti-Semitism in the Name of Black Lives Only Benefits White Supremacy

Recent tweets from Wiley and Jay Electronica, among others, have sown discord and division between communities that have more in common than not.
28 July 2020, 1:02pm
wiley 2017
Photo: Bettina Strenske / Alamy Stock Photo

This weekend, Wiley was temporarily banned from Twitter after posting a string of vile antisemitic tweets.

Beginning on Friday, the MC’s diatribe included some of the oldest tropes in the book: Holocaust denial, the conspiracy theory that Jews control the world and the accusation that Jews are “slippery”. Other tweets were rooted in bizarre notions that Black people are the original “semites” – an ideology associated with the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and the Hotep movement.

The ferocity and relentlessness of Wiley’s tweets was jarring; by Saturday his management had dropped him, and fans were calling for his MBE – along with his social media accounts – to be removed.

While Wiley’s Twitter account was suspended, he wasn’t banned from using the platform. In response, a campaign called #NoSpaceForJewHate was launched on Monday, with celebrities, MPs and public figures across the UK committing to boycott Twitter for 48 hours to protest the lack of action.

To see Wiley’s tirade grow with intensity, virtually unchecked, for the best part of 48 hours was deeply upsetting for Jewish people. Twitter already has a serious issue with racism – the platform is notorious for dragging its heels when it comes to banning neo-Nazi and white supremacist accounts – and its failure to act quickly in this case caused Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to accuse Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey of “complicity”.

In a statement, Twitter said, “Our Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits the promotion of violence against — or threats of attack towards — people on the basis of certain categories such as religious affiliation, race and ethnic origin. We enforce our rules judiciously and impartially for all and take action if an account violates our rules.”

For Black people, the tweets were confusing. Wiley said Jewish people are at “war” with the Black community, and at one point even suggested that Black people fraternising with the Jewish community would “get bumped”. Meanwhile, Black Jews like myself were caught in the crossfire.

While anti-racists and Jews reported Wiley’s tweets and implored Twitter to take them down, racists flocked to them with glee. It was like all their dreams had come at once: for those who hate Black people and Jews with equal measure, tension between the two communities is a gift – division hinders solidarity, making each group easier to target and abuse.

One reason Wiley’s tweets attracted so many racists was because of the various forms of antisemitism he implemented. The first – and perhaps most unfamiliar – is the idea that Black people are the original “semites”, descendants of the ancient Israelites. This belief stems from the teachings of the Nation of Islam, an organisation that has been condemned as antisemitic by multiple NGOs and advocacy groups.

Black Hebrew Israelites claim that white Jews – specifically Ashkenazi Jews – “stole” their culture, often throwing in false claims about the extent of Jewish involvement in the slave trade. It’s this ideology that led Wiley to suggest that Israel and Palestine belong to Black people, and that Jewish people are responsible for the slave trade.

Then, of course, there was the more traditional antisemitism: Wiley smearing Jews as “slippery”, untrustworthy and all-powerful. This attracted antisemites from all walks of life, including the far-right – the group most notorious for pushing this agenda.

As a Black Jew, this was something out of a nightmare. When I challenged Wiley, he responded by telling me I wasn’t Black. I had people in my mentions calling me a “coon”, and received messages on Instagram calling me a “white supremacist Zionist cunt whore”.

Some in my mentions suggested that multiculturalism had been dangerous for Jewish people, while others said Black people are inherently antisemitic. Then came the Jewish people telling me I’m not really Jewish, and the bizarre accusations that I’m actually an antisemite. I’m still speaking to the police about the harassment. This isn’t the first time this has happened, either. I received a similar onslaught of abuse when I called out what I believe was an antisemitic tweet by Black Lives Matter UK.

With this Twitter storm, Wiley has hurt the Jewish community deeply at a time when antisemitism is on the rise, and while he claimed he was acting in Black interests, all he’s done is stir up anti-Black hatred. Nobody but white supremacists will benefit from all this, watching on as two communities they loath use racist and antisemitic tropes to attack one another.

Worse still, the issue is now transatlantic. Almost immediately after Wiley’s Twitter was suspended, American rapper Jay Electronica started tweeting the same extremist conspiracy theories.

We must all be cognisant of this problem. We must pause and recognise that we should not let those who seek to divide us – and ultimately weaken us – win. We must recognise that antisemitism is corrosive to society, and that people use it not only to harm Jews, but to cause division between Jews and other communities.

This includes keeping track of false anti-racists – those who have enabled racism to go unchecked. Members of the Tory cabinet responsible for racist legislation, commentators like Darren Grimes (who didn’t challenge historian David Starkey when he said “slavery was not genocide” just weeks ago) and public figures like Alan Sugar (with his own history of racist tweets) were quick to condemn Wiley, but often turn a blind eye to other forms of racism.

We must also remember Jews and Black people have more in common than what sets them apart. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle... to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.”

@nadinebh_