It all starts with words: How Ye’s comments are fuelling age old antisemitism and the rise of hatred

The history of Jewish people's persecution and mass murder has taught us that there is a severe snowball effect when one person singularly focuses on the vilification and isolation of Jews and any other group of people simply because they are 'other'.

The Holocaust did not start with the mass murder of Jewish people in gas chambers in Auschwitz (and countless other mass killing sites). The systematic and deliberate mass murder of 6 million Jews and approximately 5 million other minorities started with intolerance and hate speech based on decades of bias and stereotyping. 

When people turned a blind eye and stopped caring about the escalation of blatant hatred or became desensitised, it allowed one of the darkest periods of human history to be perpetrated. 

Ye (Kanye West) has double the number of followers across his social media accounts than there are Jewish people worldwide. His recent statements about perceived Jewish power perpetuate hatred and antisemitism and fuel age-old stereotypes against Jews. The same stereotypes have been used to 'other' Jewish communities for centuries. Supporting and spreading hateful and prejudiced ideologies against Jewish people is bigotry and racist.

Ye's comments are terrible as stand-alone statements but even more terrifying when you consider the snowball effect of his hate-fuelled comments. In Los Angeles, a banner was draped over a highway overpass reading, "Kanye was right about the Jews" accompanied by a group of white supremacists giving the Nazi salute to the drivers below. 

This clear display of the snowball effect has been explained through the Pyramid of Hate scheme developed by the Anti-Defamation League. The model demonstrates the progression of hateful and discriminatory behaviour, such as Ye's recent antisemitic statements, which, if accepted and not called out, can lead to hate crime. As the actions prevalent in the lower levels of the pyramid become normalized, the actions present in the subsequent levels become acceptable. This model depicts how the seeds of hate, starting as one person's thoughts and words, can grow into violence perpetrated by many.

Some may dismiss or turn a blind eye to Ye's comments. However, history has proven that ignoring or not expressly calling out Ye's remarks is to accept hatred and racism and the behaviour that follows. 

Elie Wiesel, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust Survivor, said that "to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all". 

Ye's antisemitic statements have scared me and many others, both within and external to the Jewish community. The one statement of Ye's that I keep hearing in my head is, "I'm here to finish the job". 

As a global community, we must take the time to understand the conditions that allowed hatred, racially fuelled bias and mass violence to take effect resulting in the Holocaust. By understanding the conditions leading to the atrocities of the Holocaust, we can gain insight into how and, importantly, when to act to mitigate such atrocities in the future.

Julia Sussman is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Youth HEAR (Holocaust Education And Remembrance), an organisation dedicated to mitigating hate in society by connecting young adults with the memory of the Holocaust. Since its inception in 2018, Youth HEAR has become a well-known and respected organisation in the Sydney community, working with Jewish and non-Jewish young adults to educate about the power of hate if left unchecked. Youth HEAR is dedicated to working with non-Jewish communities who have/are suffering at the hands of hate to amplify their voices and stories to inspire action towards a society where hate is actively mitigated in all forms.