How the recent spike in antisemitism has affected Jewish McMaster students
YOOHYUN PARK/MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR
Kanye West’s antisemitism has instilled fear and distress in the McMaster Jewish community
The public antisemitic comments made by multimillionaire musician Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, this past month have brought discussions of antisemitism and religious discrimination to the forefront.
In October 2022, West went to several public platforms, including Fox News, Instagram and Twitter, and made several offensive and violent comments towards the Jewish community. A few of the most notable comments include West’s claim that the Jewish holiday Hanukah includes education on “financial engineering”, as well as a claim that Jewish people are exercising control over his colleagues in the music industry to intimidate him.
The most violent among West’s statements may be his now deleted tweet from October 9th. West’s Twitter and Instagram accounts received temporary suspensions and his brand deal with Adidas has been terminated following his statements.
West perpetuated several common antisemitic tropes in his public comments. The main themes of West’s antisemitism are ones that have been seen several times before — that all Jewish people are powerful and control the media or that Jewish people are greedy and have control over financial institutions. These narratives have existed for decades in popular media, and although many acknowledge the outlandish nature of these stereotypes, they continue to be used against the Jewish community.
West’s violence has not been isolated. His actions have allowed others to feel comfortable sharing their own antisemitic views. Following his viral tweets, antisemitic banners were hung above a Freeway in Los Angeles stating, “Kanye was right about the Jews”.
Jewish McMaster Biology student Andrew Johnston commented on the underestimated impact of many common antisemitic tropes.
“I feel like microaggressions towards Jews often have a deeper meaning and history behind them. Like, it may not seem harmful when people say Jews control everything, but it is. Offensive rhetoric towards Jewish people is more nuanced, as it's not very in your face, but it can be very harmful,” said Johnston.
In an email statement to The Silhouette, McMaster Hillel president Atara Lipetz commented on these antisemitic hate crimes and their impact on the neighbouring Jewish communities.
“Unfortunately, Jewish students at McMaster are not immune to the effects of antisemitism and recent statements by Kanye West and others have done great harm by spreading antisemitic sentiments. This dangerous rhetoric normalizes antisemitism and fuels hatred. There have also been a number of recent antisemitic incidents around university campuses in Ontario, including graffiti and swastikas,” said Lipetz in the email statement.
As referenced by McMaster Hillel, Queen’s University has also seen a stark increase in antisemitic vandalism in the last few weeks following the height of West’s public hate. A swastika was vandalized on the fridge of a Queens residence building and several antisemitic phrases have been found vandalized throughout campus, including “Kill the Jews”.
Jewish McMaster Biochemistry student Alan Minkovich discussed how unfortunately, West’s far-reaching and strong influence does not surprise him and he is anticipating West’s words to resonate even within his own communities.
“[West] is somebody who touches all kinds of people. They're going to hear this and see him co-opting white supremacist symbols and making them marketable and many people are going to think that this is okay just because it’s him,” said Minkovich
West’s antisemitic rhetoric does not exist in a vacuum. As McMaster students and faculty, we must be aware on how external hate and violence towards marginalized groups may influence members within our own community and support one another.
In their written statement, McMaster Hillel also describes the importance of creating spaces for Jewish people on campus in light of recent antisemitic violence and hate speech.
“[McMaster Hillel] aims to create a community for Jewish students, and foster collaborative relationships with other groups across campus. The Jewish community is the most frequently targeted religious minority in the country, according to Statistics Canada, and we need our friends and allies to stand with us during these challenging times.” said McMaster Hillel.
At this time, it is important to uplift the Jewish student voices and experiences, and ensure that the spread of dangerous rhetoric is halted before it leads to further hatred and violence.