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Five ways antisemites avoid apologizing for their antisemitism

We’re starting to notice a pattern in all the non-apologies

We’ve had a lovely few decades here where antisemitism was actually unacceptable. Historically, it’s the exception, not the rule, that antisemitism is widely condemned. Still, in my lifetime, I’ve enjoyed relative freedom from Jew-hatred. 

It’s not that no one said awful things about Jews, or believed in conspiracy theories, or made antisemitic jokes. But when they did, the tide of condemnation, whether in the public sphere or your own living room, was strong enough that they’d quickly apologize. Some people even learned and changed for the better!

Until now, apparently — not only are public figures across the board boldly making antisemitic statements, they’re not even bothering to pretend they’re sorry. 

That’s not to say the public doesn’t still pressure the likes of Mel Gibson or Kanye West — who has legally changed his name to Ye — to make statements about their antisemitism. Figures including basketball player Kyrie Irving, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano have been asked to account for their antisemitic statements or associations. And they have answered. Not with apologies, though.

The non-apology for antisemitism takes many forms; most of them are forms of denial and none of them actually take responsibility for spreading antisemitism. 

So let’s break down the types of non-apologies we’ve been seeing — apparently, it’s time to get used to them.

The immediate resumption

What it is: This is the easiest, because it will get rid of the uncomfortable public pressure, for the most part. You make a lackluster apology, do the bare minimum, then pick right back up where you left off — after all, you apologized! Now no one can be mad, at least not for a little while.

You do have to say sorry though, which is hard for unrepentant antisemites, even if it doesn’t require changing your behavior at all.

Who’s used it: This one has been deployed by the likes of Gibson, Greene and Andrew Torba, founder of right-wing antisemitic social media site Gab, all of whom made weak apologies — and denied that they were antisemites, passing their statements off as a one-time slip of the tongue — then carried on as though nothing had changed.

The ‘I love Israel’

What it is: This non-apology has been particularly popular in recent years. The basic strategy involves replying to any accusation of antisemitism with an assertion of support for Israel. There’s no denial of the antisemitism, and no apology for it, simply a repeated statement of love for Israel. That’s basically the same thing as loving Jews, right? (Wrong.)

This one is fun because it can even lead to a fresh, new antisemitic statement when the non-apologizer inevitably says Jews don’t love Israel enough. 

Who’s used it: In the course of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, Mastriano has repeatedly attacked his Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro for going to and sending his children to Jewish day school where they learn “disdain” for others.

Mastriano also paid Torba, the Gab founder, a $5,000 consulting fee, and made numerous statements comparing abortion and vaccines to the Holocaust. A member of his campaign also disparaged Shapiro as at best a secular Jew.”

When Nathan Guttman, a reporter for Israel’s Kann News asked Mastriano to respond to accusations of antisemitism, however, his wife stepped in. 

“We so much love Israel,” Rebbeca Mastriano said. “In fact, we probably love Israel more than a lot of Jews do. I have to say that.” 

Aside from the Mastrianos, Donald Trump is also a big fan of this one. So is Todd Rokita, Indiana’s attorney general. Wayne Christian, a Republican running for re-election as Texas railroad commissioner, used it recently. 

The ‘It’s not antisemitic to say that’

What it is: This non-apology denies the charge of antisemitism by explaining why the statement everyone thinks is antisemitic is, in fact, not. Everyone is simply mistaken.

Remember when Greene asserted that her claim that Rothschild lasers started a massive forest fire couldn’t be antisemitic because she didn’t know the Rothschilds were Jewish? Or when, just a couple of weeks ago, she refused to apologize for comparing Biden to Hitler because she claimed that other people make comparisons to Hitler all the time? These are classic examples of the “it’s not actually antisemitic” non-apology.

Who’s used it: Obviously, it’s a favorite of Greene’s. But this tactic has also been employed by West and Irving, as explained in the next section.

The ‘I can’t be antisemitic because I’m Jew’

What it is: This one has reached its zenith in the past few weeks with the controversies driven by West, who has been making antisemitic statements about Jewish power and social control for weeks, and Irving, who tweeted a link to a conspiracy theory-filled 2018 movie called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.”

Both men have denied charges of antisemitism due to the fact that they believe all Black people are Jews. They claim that, as Jews, they cannot be antisemitic. Both also seem to subscribe to the antisemitic belief that white Jews are usurpers who have stolen Black people’s identity. (Followers of this belief have various names and leaders, and a diverse set of theologies, but are sometimes collectively dubbed the Radical Hebrew Israelites, a term used by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Who’s used it:

“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” Irving told reporters, when asked, point-blank, if he has any antisemitic beliefs. (Irving has since posted an apology that comes very close to actually admitting responsibility and sounds almost apologetic.)

West has repeatedly asserted that he is “Jew” and thus cannot be antisemitic. (West has stated that he believes “Jewish” means similar to, but not actually, a Jew, and thus does not use the “ish” part of the label.)

You can’t be anti-Semite when you know you are Semite,” West tweeted Thursday, far from the first time he has employed this logic.

The ‘It’s just the truth’

What it is: This is the newest, boldest and apparently hippest non-apology, and a sign that the days of even feigning shame over antisemitism are gone. The antisemitic public figure positions themselves as a bold truth-teller, and dismisses accusations of antisemitism as an attempt to deter them from their noble mission of spreading truth.

Sometimes, this strategy is paired with repeated proclamations of spreading love or loving all people — after all, the antisemite is simply trying to save the world from the scourge of the Jews.

Who’s used it: West is the only public figure — at least the only one whose fame does not come from being a noted white supremacist — who has fully gone this route.

Hosts of TV shows and podcasts have repeatedly interviewed West in the past few weeks, after his initial tweet saying he wanted to go “death con 3” on “THE JEWISH PEOPLE,” asking him to respond to accusations of antisemitism or explain his tweet.

And explain he has to reporters and podcast hosts, to Jews and fellow Black rappers. What West has explained, over and over, is that Jews control business, that Jews have unbelievable power, that Jews have screwed him over and manipulated him and forced other celebrities to speak out against him.

He has framed his antisemitic, conspiratorial statements as truth-telling. And, after all, no one should have to apologize for telling the truth.

Really, even calling this a non-apology seems wrong. This is just doubling down.

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