Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism in the 21st Century

Antisemitism in U.S. Black Communities

African American rapper and entrepreneur Ye, previously known as Kanye West, has a reputation for outlandish statements and publicity stunts. A series of social media posts further embroiled the musician in controversy in October 2022. At a Paris fashion show early that month, he was subject to a public outcry after wearing a shirt with the slogan “White Lives Matter,” largely deemed a racist pejorative of the Black Lives Matter movement.* Soon after, on October 7, Ye posted screenshots to Instagram of a text message conversation with rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs, who was critical of the White Lives Matter shirt. In the exchange, Ye told Combs he would use him “as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this was war.”* Instagram subsequently restricted his account. On October 9, Ye tweeted out his intentions to “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” because Jews “toyed” with him and “tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes [their] agenda.”* Twitter deleted the tweet and followed suit in restricting the rapper’s account.*

Public condemnation of Ye came from all corners.* Talent agency CAA dropped Ye as a client. A completed documentary on the artist was also shelved.* Calls quickly spread for athleticwear company Adidas to sever its association with the music star and his Yeezy clothing line. Ye goaded the company, claiming he could say antisemitic things “and Adidas can’t drop me.”* Calling the comments “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous,” Adidas severed its business relationship with the artist on October 25 following public pressure.* In their denunciation, the executives of MRC Entertainment—the producers of the canceled documentary—contextualized Ye’s comments:

Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3000 years — the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain. This song was performed acapella in the time of the Pharaohs, Babylon and Rome, went acoustic with The Spanish Inquisition and Russia’s Pale of Settlement, and Hitler took the song electric. Kanye has now helped mainstream it in the modern era.*

Ye’s comments found support among others who already harbored ill will toward Jews. The antisemitic hate group the Goyim Defense League (GDL) hung a banner above a Los Angeles interstate highway, declaring, “Kanye is right about the Jews.” Like Ye’s comments, the banner drew broad condemnation. But California Governor Gavin Newsom also drew a direct correlation between Ye’s hateful comments leading to the hateful actions of the GDL.* The executives of MRC also recognized Ye’s comments did not happen in a vacuum. Their condemnation framed the outbursts as part of the long history of antisemitism in human civilization. But Ye’s attacks are specifically symptomatic of a problem that has been steeped in segments of the U.S. Black community for decades.

In a 1967 essay for the New York Times, African American author and activist James Baldwin wrote that Blacks were antisemitic because they were anti-white. For Blacks in New York City in the 1960s, many of their landlords and employers were Jewish and Jews came to represent the system that was systemically unfair to Black people. “The root of anti-Semitism among Negroes is, ironically, the relationship of colored peoples--all over the globe--to the Christian world,” he wrote.* According to Baldwin’s interpretations, despite their long history of persecution, Jews had not only become accepted in America, they had become comfortable and thus shared the status of the white Christians who continued to degrade the Black community:

In the American context, the most ironical thing about Negro anti-Semitism is that the Negro is really condemning the Jew for having become an American white man--for having become, in effect, a Christian. The Jew profits from his status in America, and he must expect Negroes to distrust him for it. The Jew does not realize that the credential he offers, the fact that he has been despised and slaughtered, does not increase the Negro’s understanding. It increases the Negro’s rage.*

Decades later, Baldwin’s observation of Jews as a stand-in for the American white man because of their successful integration into American society continues to resonate and contribute to the promulgation of antisemitism in the Black community. And as the American Black community gained equality, its relationship with the Jewish community has become more tenuous as many in the Black community—as Baldwin described—equated successful Jewish integration in America with shared Jewish responsibility for Black oppression. Among the many who helped shape the Black nationalist scene in the 1980s and 1990s, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Minister Louis Farrakhan stand out in particular for advancing an adversarial relationship between the Black and Jewish communities.

Farrakhan took over the leadership of the Black nationalist-religious movement Nation of Islam in 1977.* In 1979, Jackson allegedly said he was “sick and tired” of hearing about the Holocaust, and Jews didn’t have a “monopoly on suffering.”* Allegations of antisemitism continued as Jackson ran for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. In a January 1984 interview with the Washington Post, Jackson referred to New York City by the antisemitic slur Hymietown.* Jackson later apologized,* but Farrakhan defended the slur, labeled Judaism a “gutter religion,” and designated supporters of Israel as criminals in the eyes of God. Jackson condemned Farrakhan’s remarks as “reprehensible” and accused him of dividing the Democratic Party,* but Farrakhan continued on to become a symbol of Black pride in America, organizing events such as 1995’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C.* At the same time, he earned a reputation for making anti-white and antisemitic comments.* For many young African Americans coming of age in the 1980s and 1990s, Farrakhan’s charisma and outspokenness—including his unveiled antisemitism—introduced them to Black pride.*

The Black-Jewish communal relationship reached a low point in August 1991 with the Crown Heights race riots. The motorcade of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic group, accidentally struck two Black children in Brooklyn, New York, on August 19, killing one. Hours later, Australian yeshiva student Yankel Rosenbaum was pulled from his car in Brooklyn and stabbed to death by 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson. That attack was the start of three days that became known as the Crown Heights Riots, during which rioters burnt and looted businesses, homes, and cars owned by Orthodox Jews. Jews were physically attacked in the streets.* Nelson was convicted of murdering Rosenbaum, but that conviction was overturned. He was later convicted of violating Rosenbaum’s civil rights, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released after only one, however, because of time served for his overturned conviction for the murder.*

Friction between the Jewish and Black communities remained elevated in the twenty-first century. A 2013 ADL survey on antisemitic attitudes recorded an average of 22 percent of the U.S. African American population held antisemitic beliefs. That number had declined from 29 percent in 2011, 28 percent in 2009, and 25 percent in 2007.* Nonetheless, the study noted that while antisemitic “propensities” within the African American population were in decline, they continued “to be higher than the general population.”*

Violence would again mar the relationship between the two communities in 2019. On December 10, 2019, David Anderson and Francine Graham attacked the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing three. Anderson and Graham were subsequently killed during an hours-long shootout with police. Anderson previously belonged to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which has a history of engaging in racism and antisemitism.*

The Black Hebrew movement dates to nineteenth century America. The movement is based around the narrative that they are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, while modern Jews are imposters. According to the narrative, the original 12 Tribes of Israel were divided by ethnic groups, which did not include whites. Not all branches of the Black Hebrew movement are antisemitic, nor are all Black Jews members of the Black Hebrew Israelites. The movement has subgroups that are more open to relations with mainstream Judaism, a particularly militant faction emerged in the 1960s calling themselves Black Israelites. This denomination began openly espousing racism toward white Jews. And this is the group to which Anderson at one point belonged.* The Black Israelite movement has spawned multiple subgroups of Black nationalists. Under the aegis of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, for example, one militant sect of Black Israelites has built a following in the United States, creating more than two dozen churches across the country devoted to militant anti-white and anti-Jewish ideals. Another subgroup called the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge has become known for antisemitic and homophobic street preaching.* After the 2019 Jersey City attack, Commander General Yahanna of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge in Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia suburbs attempted to distance his group from other violent sects of Black Israelites. He claimed they don’t hate Jews because they are Jews. A real Jew, he claimed, “is a black and Latino or native Indian that is a descendant of biblical Hebrews.”*

Deceased white supremacist Tom Metzger reportedly once dubbed the militant Black Israelites “the black counterparts of us.”* The Black Hebrews advocate the notion they are descended from the true Israelites and modern Jews are imposters. This accusation mirrors propaganda pushed by Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. There is a similar theory popular among white supremacists, that modern Ashkenazi Jews—those of central and eastern European descent—are in fact descended from the Khazars, a people from the northern Caucasus Mountains who allegedly adopted Judaism en masse.* The Khazar kingdom collapsed in the thirteenth century and its citizens migrated to eastern and central Europe where they continued to mix with local populations,* giving rise to the conspiracy theory that modern Ashkenazi Jews—who represent a large segment of Jews worldwide—are not, in fact, the Jews of the Bible, but rather products of the Khazars and their mass conversion. The commonality is an accusation that modern Jews are imposters, automatically casting an aspersion of dishonesty on the Jewish community that then builds a foundation of dishonesty in all personal dealings.

The Black Hebrew accusation gained nation attention in late October 2022, when professional basketball player Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets posted to Twitter and Instagram promoting a 2018 movie called Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, based on a 2015 book of the same title. In the book and movie, author Ronald Dalton Jr. alleges “false white Jews” are trying to “extort America” because they “know that the Negroes” are the “Real Children of Israel.”* In line with other historic antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish domination, the film and book accuse Jews of originating anti-Black racism in biblical texts and repeats claims of global Jewish dominance of financial and media worlds. In a further push to divide the Black and Jewish communities, Dalton accuses “Jewish slave ships” of transporting West African slaves to ports owned by Jews,* an erroneous claim also promoted by Farrakhan.*

The Nets suspended Irving for a minimum of five games, citing his failure to “to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity -- but failed -- to clarify.”* When Irving returned to the Nets on November 20, 2022, after an eight-game suspension, a group of Black Hebrew Israelites gathered outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to distribute propaganda.* Wearing purple shirts proclaiming “Israel United in Christ,” the group of Black Hebrews handed out flyers proclaiming they know “the truth” about antisemitism, while chanting “we are the real Jews” and “time to wake up.”* The flyer elaborated on those beliefs: “The biblical Israelites are targeted and accused of hate day and night without rest. Our knowledge of our heritage and laws has been systematically removed from us through the monstrous holocaust known as the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They may lie to the world and deny us of our birthright, yet Jesus the Christ, our Black Messiah, confirms the truth of who we are. We are not antisemitic, we are Semitic.”* Boston Celtics player Jaylen Brown posted to Twitter supporting the demonstrators, but later deleted the tweet claiming he had confused the Black Hebrews for members of the historically African-American fraternity Omega Psi Phi because of similarities in their wardrobe.*

Irving eventually apologized, claiming he was “doing research on YHVH.”* YHVH is a reference to the English representation of the four-letter name of God in the Torah spelled with the Hebrew letters yud, hay, vav, hay. The name is not pronounced within Judaism, but early and medieval Christian writers transliterated it into Latin and later English as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” The term Yahweh was later adopted by biblical archaeologists to reference the Israelite God.*

A subsect of the Black Hebrew Israelites is a cult group called the Nation of Yahweh, or more commonly known as the Yahwehs, named after their founder, Yahweh ben Yahweh (“God son of God”). After a stint with the Nation of Islam, Hulon Mitchell Jr. changed his name to Yahweh ben Yahweh in 1976 and launched his group in 1979 with the mission to gather in the lost people of Israel under God’s laws. Yahweh ben Yahweh accrued a multi-million-dollar empire and gained followers across the United States. The Yahwehs built a large temple in Miami, where they also owned a hotel, an apartment building, restaurants, stores, and houses. In November 1990, federal authorities indicted Yahweh ben Yahweh and 12 of his followers on three counts of federal racketeering and extortion charges, which included charges of killing followers who disagreed with their leader. Yahweh ben Yahweh died of cancer in May 2007, but his followers continue to promote his teachings.* During Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, an individual self-identified as “Michael the Black Man”—a.k.a. Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside, and Mikael Israel—famously held up signs declaring “BLACKS FOR TRUMP.” Then known as Maurice Woodside, he joined the Yahwehs in 1980 and was one of the cult members charged in 1990 with racketeering and conspiracy, though he was acquitted. Asked about his time in the Yahweh cult during a 2017 radio interview, Woodside declared he had “belonged to Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and he was not violent; he was a black man that was destroyed by the Clintons because we were black and prominent and doing things positive, as they have attacked all black organizations.”*

Groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites and Nation of Islam have intertwined antisemitic conspiracy theories with Black nationalism. This has resulted in Ye, Irving, and several other Black celebrities visibly promoting and mainstreaming antisemitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories in recent years. In 2017, rapper Jay-Z drew criticism for a line in his song “The Story of O.J.”: “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”* The following year, rapper 21 Savage apologized after creating controversy with his song lyric, “We been getting that Jewish money. Everything is kosher.”* While these incidents raised some objections within the Black community, their continued use in pop culture indicates some level of wider acceptance. In 1989, hip hop artist Richard Griffin, a.k.a. Professor Griff of the group Public Enemy, called Jews evil and claimed to have proof during an interview with the Washington Times.* During a July 2020 appearance on Nick Cannon’s podcast “Cannon’s Class,” Griffin said he was hated because he told the truth. Cannon agreed and declared Blacks were the true Hebrews.* Cannon later apologized,* but several Black celebrities defended his comments as well. Rapper Ice Cube and professional athletes DeSean Jackson, Larry Johnson, and Stephen Jackson made headlines that year for making blatant antisemitic comments or promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories.* Some directly praised Farrakhan and cited him as their inspiration, demonstrating that Farrakhan’s decades of influence helped cement an antagonistic relationship between the Black and Jewish communities.

In July 2020, former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar condemned antisemitic comments by Black celebrities as an offense against all who seek social justice. “It’s so disheartening to see people from groups that have been violently marginalized do the same thing to others without realizing that perpetuating this kind of bad logic is what perpetuates racism,” he wrote.* Harkening back to Baldwin’s 1967 essay, Atlantic writer Jemele Hill wrote that some in the Black community have a “certain cultural blindspot about Jews,” while “stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African American community.”*

These stereotypes have been long perpetuated in the community and can be seen at the core of worsening relations between the Black and Jewish communities. In her 2020 piece, Hill pointed to the prevalence of her parents’ generation repeating stereotypes of Jews’ obsession with money.* In the 1960s, Al Vorspan, then director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, observed that as Jews migrated to the suburbs, many Black-Jewish relationships in inner-city communities ceased to be neighborly and became transactional as tenant-landlord-tenant, merchant-customer, or social worker-client relationships. “These are inherently tense, unequal relations. They are fraught with conflict and resentment. Jews in the core neighborhoods are represented by landlords and pawnbrokers and small merchants,” he said.* Both Vorspan and Baldwin cited the relational shift between African Americans and Jews from neighbors to moving parts of a larger system. And it is that system that Baldwin ultimately blamed: “The crisis taking place in the world, and in the minds and hearts of black men everywhere, is not produced by the star of David, but by the old, rugged Roman cross on which Christendom’s most celebrated Jew was murdered. And not by Jews.”*

Download Full Report

Read Part I:

Historic professional, societal, and political restrictions on Jews helped give rise to some of the most enduring conspiracies about Jewish influence.

Read about Antisemitism throughout History

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

View Archive