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Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise: Who's to Blame?

Photos of Donald Trump and Kanye West side by side

Celebrities like Kanye West are influencing violence against minority groups.

From athletes and entertainers to prominent politicians, the United States is seeing a rise in "old school" hatred.

The Anti-Defamation League has tracked anti-semitic harassment, vandalism, and violence since 1979. They report that 2021 was the highest year on record for hate crimes against Jewish people, and they expect 2022 statistics to be similar, if not worse.

ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt said that the rise in violence in emblematic of political unrest.

“While we have always seen a rise in anti-semitic activity during periods of increased hostilities between Israel and terrorist groups, the violence we witnessed in America during the conflict last May was shocking,” he explained. "Jews were being attacked in the streets for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish, and it seemed as if the working assumption was that if you were Jewish, you were blameworthy for what was happening half a world away.”

The organization reports that anti-semitic hate crimes usually spike within a single year, as they did in 1981 and 1994. Alarmingly, for the past five years, violence against the Jewish community has been steadily increasing.

Emily Snider, a researcher at the ADL, told NPR that anti-semitism is a "canary in the coal mine" for violence against minority groups. Conservative or reactionary actors upset about social trends— such as Black Lives Matter protests, queer and transgender visibility, or pandemic lockdowns— tend to make "short leaps" to conspiracist thinking.

"Jews are centered in a lot of conspiracy theories, especially around economy or power or greed or whatever," Snider said. "Those are core anti-Semitic tropes. So when we start to see unrest, we tend to see anti-Semitic incidents climb."

Public figures are also partially responsible for the increase in anti-Semitic violence, as Snider shared that celebrities or politicians engaging in conspiracy theories around Jewish groups often incite neo-Nazi harassment and recruiting, whether intentionally or not.

Former president Donald Trump has recently received criticism for hosting a dinner with white nationalist and Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes, as well as Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West. Ye has come under fire lately for a series of explicitly anti-Semitic remarks, which have resulted in him losing brand partnerships and most recently being banned from Elon Musk's Twitter.

Joshua Shanes, a Jewish Studies professor at the College of Charleston said that rhetoric from figures like Ye and Trump have brought back "old school" anti-semitism.

"There's rhetoric that's accepted today that simply never would have possibly been accepted a generation ago, not since the 1930s, really," he said. "People call it [political correctness], but there's a benefit to saying it is unacceptable to be openly racist, to be openly anti-Semitic. And if you are, you will not win political office. But that has gone away."

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