A contagion as insidious and widespread as the coronavirus has infected three African-American celebrities — the entertainer Nick Cannon, the athlete DeSean Jackson and the rapper Ice Cube. On social media, they have disseminated toxic tropes that could easily be construed as antisemitic.
One can safely assume that some of their followers have bought into their malicious and dangerous ideas.
Under pressure, Cannon and Jackson have issued abject apologies. But Ice Cube is standing firm, innocently insisting he has just been telling “my truth.”
All three are known to be admirers of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has a bad habit of denigrating Jews. In his latest speech, on July 4, Farrakhan claimed that Jews are enjoined by Judaism to poison biblical prophets and that Jews have “broken their covenant relationship with God.” Referring collectively to Jews as “Satan” and the “enemy of God,” he encouraged listeners to “fight Satan the arch deceiver (and) the imposter Jews who are worthy of the chastisement of God.”
By one estimate, Farrakhan’s speech has been viewed more than 1.2 million times on YouTube channels. In all probability, he exerts a baneful influence on Cannon, Jackson and Ice Cube.
On a recent episode of one of his shows, Cannon’s Class, which is broadcast on YouTube, Cannon interviewed the rapper Professor Griff, who dredged up two popular conspiracy theories: American Jews control the media and the Rothschild banking family in Britain wields “too much” power.
Cannon, having previously said that black people are the “true Hebrews,” accepted his false claim at face value, saying that Professor Griff was merely “speaking facts.”
Viacom CBS, the company that employs Cannon, issued a statement condemning bigotry and “all forms of antisemitism” and announced that it was terminating his contract. The Fox corporation, which employs Cannon as the host of the reality show The Masked Singer, did not sack him.
On his Facebook page, Cannon accused Viacom of being on “the wrong side of history,” but hastily added this contradictory caveat: “If I have furthered hate speech, I wholeheartedly apologize.”
Cannon, who also hosts the comedy series Wild ‘N Out, apologized to his “Jewish brothers and sisters” and promised to bring the Jewish and African-American communities “closer together.” He added he does not “condone hate speech or the spread of hateful rhetoric.”
Appearing on YouTube with Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Cannon made more amends and disclosed he intends to visit Israel in the near future. He did not respond to Cooper’s assertion that he has been “parroting” Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric.
Jackson, a football player for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, left a post on his Instagram account praising Adolf Hitler’s supposed claim that black people were “the real Children of Israel.” In a second post, he insinuated that Jews are planning to “extort America” and achieve “world domination.”
The Ant-Defamation League called on Jackson to apologize, while the Philadelphia Eagles and the National Football League respectively described his posts as “offensive, harmful and absolutely appalling” and “inappropriate, offensive and divisive.”
Jackson issued a pro forma apology, saying it was never his intention to “put any race down or any people down,” and noted that African-Americans and American Jews should both be fighting antisemitism and racism.
Ice Cube, who has five million Twitter followers, posted images of black cubes, which are linked to antisemitic tropes that Jews planned the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and planted the coronavirus in the United States. Ice Cube also posted an image of a Star of David suspended in a black cube, implying that Jews are stoking the flames of division and oppressing black people.
As well, Ice Cube posted an image of an infamous British mural suggesting that Jews are plotting to take over the world, as the notorious czarist forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, claims.
When he was asked to refute accusations that he had posted antisemitic images, an unrepentant Ice Cube wrote, “What if I was just pro-Black? This is the truth, brother. I didn’t lie on anyone. I didn’t say I was anti-anybody. DON’T BELIEVE THIS HYPE. I’ve been telling my truth.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a former basketball star-turned- columnist, wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that there has been a “shocking lack of massive indignation” in the African-American community over their antisemitic canards.
Writing in The Atlantic, Jemele Hill said that “stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African-American community.” And in a piece in The Daily Beast, Cassie da Costa said that some African-American public figures in the forefront of fighting against racial injustice have egregiously erred by having conflated Jewish power with white power.
American Jewish leaders have unequivocally condemned the killing of George Floyd, the African-American man who was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death touched off protests across the United States and reenergized the intersectional alignment between the Black Lives Matter organization, which has participated in many of the demonstrations, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is basically anti-Israel.
Patrisse Cullors, a Black Lives Matter leader, has drawn parallels between the oppression of black people in America and the subjugation of Palestinians by Israel. Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles and a follower of Farrakhan, has said that “Zionist Israel murders and terrorizes the Palestinian people.”
Linda Sarsour, an American Palestinian activist, has made a point of comparing the mistreatment of African-Americans to Israel’s “racist” treatment of Palestinians. Sarsour’s argument is gaining ground in some African-American circles, thereby perpetuating antisemitic myths of the kind spread by Farrakhan and his admirers, Cannon, Jackson and Ice Cube.