Dave Chappelle. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
As anyone paying attention to the news over the past few weeks knows, on Oct. 27, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving shared to his 22.1 million followers on social media (around seven million more people than there are Jews on the planet) a “documentary” called “From Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.”
In the week following Irving’s promotion of this antisemitic film—which was about as subtle, credible and well-sourced as a Josef Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl German Ministry of Propaganda film—Irving repeatedly refused to apologize for promoting antisemitic material. At times, he even sounded angry in his response to the backlash and hurt generated by his actions. He said three days later: “I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe in. I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone.” And then he added a comment that was vaguely threatening and, based on responses on social media, also accurate: “I have a whole army around me.”
As a result of Irving’s refusal to apologize, the Brooklyn Nets suspended him and set forth a number of conditions for his return to the team—and to earning nearly $37,000,000 per year (around $16,000 a minute on average).
While many people have concurred with Irving’s suspension and the conditions imposed by the Nets for his return, others have opined that the measures were too punitive, heavy-handed, or even that people were wrong to be upset with Irving in the first place.
Two public figures who recently made such comments include comedians Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart. Chappelle and Stewart made very different defenses of Kyrie, as well as arguments against his punishments. But both ignored the blatant double standards they were endorsing through their defense of Irving. Chappelle also buttressed his claim with a blatant strawman argument, effectively gaslighting those who saw Irving’s actions for what they were: antisemitism.
But before we get into the fallacies and hypocrisies espoused by Chappelle and Stewart, it is worth recapping the antisemitic, ahistorical and dangerous drivel Irving promoted to at least 22.1 million people.
1. The Holocaust never happened.
2. The Jews made up the Holocaust to conceal their innate evil nature and to protect their status and power.
3. The Jews started and ran the transatlantic slave trade.
4. Jews worship Satan.
5. Those who have been living as Jews for thousands of years are not “real Jews,” and began the slave trade, faked the Holocaust, and assumed control of banks, governments, media, education, etc. (a smorgasbord of classic white supremacist/Nazi antisemitic tropes) to conceal their theft of Jewish identity from blacks.
6. Perhaps most dangerously, not only did the Jewish people do these terrible things thousands of years ago, but also all modern-day Jews are a knowing part of this incredible conspiracy and nefarious identity theft.
To support these ludicrous claims that plainly incite hate (and violence) against one of the most frequently attacked minority populations in history, the film Irving shared quotes Henry Ford and his views about the Jews. While Ford was certainly a racist, he was also one of the most famous Jew-haters in American history, and the only American Adolf Hitler called “an inspiration.”
The Ford quotes used in the film are accurate, but the film also promotes two fake quotes to support its lies about Jews. One is an oft-debunked fake quote of something Adolf Hitler said in his bunker before he killed himself. The other is a fake quote by Harold Wallace Rosenthal, a senior aide to New York Senator Jacob Javits who was murdered in a terrorist attack in Rome in 1976 by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).
Two years after Rosenthal was murdered, a forged quote from a supposed interview a month before his death appeared in an obscure white supremacist magazine authored by one Walter White, Jr. In this absurd quote from a nonexistent interview, Rosenthal confesses to all of the sins of the Jewish people that are the basis for many of the lies in the movie promoted by Irving. Setting aside the inanity of anointing Rosenthal as a spokesperson for “the Jews,” the irony of a conspiracy theory movie designed to inspire black pride (with corresponding hate against Jews) using a fake quote originally manufactured by white supremacists to inspire so-called white pride (and corresponding hate against Jews) should not be lost on anyone with knowledge of how antisemitism animates white supremacy.
What also should be clear is that the film shared by Irving is antisemitic and promotes Nazi-level falsehoods about the Jewish people. It should also be clear that when millions of people watch such a film, chances are that some of those people will want to attack Jews. As it is, attacks against Jews already account for over 60% of the faith based hate-crimes in the United States, despite the fact that Jews make up no more than two percent of the population. In cities like Los Angeles and New York (Jews account for less than 18% and 13% of those cities’ respective populations), they make up 80% of the victims of hate crimes.
Days after Ye’s antisemitic comments and Irving’s promotion of a film that blames all of the terrible things that have happened to black Americans on the Jews, Dave Chappelle appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” delivering a 15-minute monologue that leaned heavily into some of the antisemitic tropes about nefarious Jewish control that Ye keeps raving about, while “joking” that the only crazy thing Ye did was make those claims “out loud.”
But then Chappelle dropped this gaslighting strawman about Irving: “Kanye got in so much trouble that Kyrie got in trouble. This is where I draw the line. Jews have been through terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on black America, you just can’t.”
The first part of that statement is a flat-out lie. Irving “got in trouble” because of his own choices and actions. Period. The second part is a blatant strawman and attempts to make the concerns over Irving’s actions seem purely punitive and based on a misplaced desire by Jewish people to scapegoat black Americans for the terrible things that have happened to Jews throughout history. But that isn’t what’s happening. Jews are not doing that, and certainly no Jews with millions of followers on social media.
The truth, which Chappelle’s “joke” tried to obfuscate, is that while black Americans have also “been through terrible things,” these things also can’t be blamed on “the Jews.” But the film promoted by Irving does just that, as do many of Irving’s and Ye’s biggest defenders. People like Louis Farrakhan, who regularly blames Jews for the suffering of black Americans, including the entirety of the transatlantic slave trade.
The indisputable fact is that Irving promoted a movie filled with antisemitic canards. Lies and tropes that some people (like the movie’s producer and Louis Farrakhan) have masked in a web of faux scholarship to do what white supremacists have always loved to do: blame the Jews for everything they hate, or every bad thing they believe ever happened to them.
This is the antisemitic elephant in the room that Chappelle’s SNL monologue ignored. It’s this history that Chappelle, and those lauding him and defending Kyrie, ignore. And it’s this history that causes many Jews to be so upset when someone with as many followers as Kyrie promotes a movie that blames Jews for everything.
A few days after Chappelle’s appearance on SNL, Jon Stewart appeared on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and defended Chappelle with fallacious reasoning and double standards. He also voiced his disagreement with people exercising their freedom of contract and freedom of association with someone who promotes Jew-hatred.
Stewart’s defense of Chappelle suggested that antisemitism is already so “normal” in America that it’s not fair to accuse someone like Chappelle of “normalizing” it. This is a complete cop-out. Chappelle is not a “flat-earth” believing, anti-vax-promoting NBA player like Kyrie; nor is he widely viewed as mentally unhealthy, as Ye is. Chappelle is seen as a very smart and sharp comedian with a penchant for poignant commentary. So when he endorses a view, it does a lot more to mainstream or normalize it than when someone like Ye does it or when a Jewish person’s Twitter feed gets filled with antisemitic comments.
Regarding those who choose not to do business with Ye, or to suspend their relationships with Irving, Stewart said: “But the one thing I will say is I don’t believe that censorship and penalties are the way to end antisemitism or to gain understanding… I don’t believe in that. It’s the wrong way for us to approach it.” Stewart went on to assert: “The whole point of all this is to not let it metastasize, and to get it out in the air and talk about it.”
Stewart supports free speech, even when it is hate speech, without punishment, but apparently only when the target of the hate speech is the Jews.
When Donald Sterling lost his right to own his NBA team because of his private hate speech (recorded without Sterling’s knowledge by his girlfriend), did Jon Stewart use his prominent position to complain or suggest the answer here was conversation, not punishment? No. To the contrary, Stewart seemed to be very much in favor of that decision by the NBA.
When the NBA recently suspended Robert Sarver from having anything to do with the Phoenix Suns (including receiving any earnings) and required him to pay a $10,000,000 fine for his hate speech (which, unlike in Irving’s case, was not promoted on social media platforms to millions of people), there is no record of Stewart complaining or suggesting the answer was conversation, not punishment.
After “Flash” star Hartley Sawyer was fired by The WB television network in 2020 for racist and homophobic tweets he wrote between 2011 and 2014, did Stewart complain or suggest the answer was conversation, not punishment?
In 2018, Roseanne Barr was fired by ABC for her shocking tweet asserting that President Barack Obama’s former long-time aid, Valerie Jarrett, who is half-Iranian and half African American, “is what would happen if the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby.” I could not find any record of Stewart saying that the answer to racist tweets by a famous person like Barr with almost one million followers is to avoid “penalties” and to just “get it all out in the air and talk about it.” (This is despite the fact that Stewart defended Samantha Bee, who conservatives called to be sanctioned for her comments about Ivanka Trump).
Given all of the celebrities who have lost their jobs for expressing their racist, Islamophobic or homophobic thoughts, these comparisons could go on indefinitely. But the examples already cited are sufficient to establish the hypocrisy and double standards of Stewart and the numerous others (like Lebron James) complaining about Ye or Irving being punished or “censored”
The reality is that most of those who advocate no consequences for hate speech when it comes to Ye and Irving have one standard for hate speech targeting non-Jews and another for antisemitic hate speech. The very same people who thought it was great for the NBA and ABC to exercise their freedom of association to heap incredibly adverse consequences on people for racist or misogynist speech (or were perfectly quiet about it), now suddenly think it is a terrible idea for Adidas or the Nets to behave similarly with those who promote Jew-hatred to millions of people.
This double standard from people like Stewart, as well as the strawman argument used by people like Chappelle to make it seem as if people like Irving are the victims of an overreaching and overly punitive Jewish community, is completely warped. As long as the accepted response to those who promote hate speech against any historically persecuted group is severe consequences from the corporations that do business with them, fund them and support them, then that should be the outcome when someone promotes antisemitism.
Nothing more and certainly nothing less—no matter how many famous comedians try to normalize Jew-hatred or gaslight us about it.
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli army and is a former police officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD). An attorney, he is active with a number of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including StandWithUs, T.E.A.M. and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.