On Monday night US actor John Cusack tweeted a racist anti-semitic photo, writing “follow the money” with a photo of a hand with a Star of David crushing people. “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Below the people being crushed the meme says “is it not obvious.” It joins an increasingly frequent list of celebrities, a congresswomen, a newspaper cartoon and other well known commentators who have expressed antisemitism.
Cusack defended his tweet, arguing that “a bot got me” and that he thought he “was endorsing a pro-Palestinian justice retweet.” But in screenshots compiled by Yashar Ali, the actor had defended the tweet initially while noting, “shouldn’t have retweeted.” He had subsequently tweeted defenses of the tweet, arguing that “you think Israel isn’t committing atrocities.”
Later he sought to mollify the criticism by claiming it was a “careless dumb thing to retweet,” and posting a link to a guide on antisemitism by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. The guide says “antisemitism hurts Jews but not only Jews – it undermines and weakens and derails all of our movements for social justice.” Cusack claims that he’s been “digging in deeply to the complexities of the history of antisemitism and fascism for years” and that he has been antifascist for 35 years.”
He appeared to argue that the use of the Star of David "even if it depicts the state of Israel committing human rights violations” is antisemitic and antisemitism has no place. He said he was sorry to Palestinian friends. “I know the star itself is deeply meaningful to Jews.”
That’s nice. It’s deeply meaningful? Cusack’s tweet is similar to a long list of similar racist antisemitic incidents, from the New York Times posting a cartoon of a dog with a Star of David, to Congressional candidate Valerie Plame who once retweeted an article claiming “American Jews are driving America’s Wars.” Or there is the incident of Oberlin professor who pasted numerous anti-semitic comments on her Facebook page, one claiming the Rothschilds were behind AIDs.
In each instance the excuse is someone made a mistake, was just being “dumb” or quickly tweeting, they didn’t “notice” the anti-semitism. Which is a more reasonable explanation; that large numbers of people hold put up racist posts and say racist things and it’s all a mistake, or that large numbers of people in the US and the West in general are routinely anti-Jewish because it is considered a norm in their milieu? You think that a member of the DC city council claims the Rothschilds control the weather and an academic at a prestigious college like Oberlin think the Rothschilds caused AIDs, and it’s just a coincidence?
These are not coincidences. We know they are not because no other group in America or the West is subjected to such systematic, daily abuse from well-known sources on social media, as Jews. No one thinks the Jackson family controls the weather, or that wealthy Buddhists created AIDs, no one retweets memes constantly using Buddhist or Hindu symbols with quotes about “who you’re not allowed to criticize.” It’s not about the Star of David also being on the Israeli flag and that is why people “make mistakes” because they can’t tell the difference. If that were true then we’d be more likely to see the Islamic crescent in numerous racist memes being put up by these same “anti-fascists” as we see the Star of David. But we don’t. The Cusacks of the world, the Plames, and others, they don’t ever tweet other religious symbols or claim that “Muslims run America’s wars.”
The West’s shame is that just decades after the Holocaust, racism against Jews, which everyone should be educated about and know about, is used “by mistake.” No one is racist by mistake. They are racist either because they are subconsciously racist or because they are overtly racist. People don’t tweet blackface images “by mistake.” They do it because they either are racist or don’t care about racism. There is no other reason. No one draws a cartoon with a Star of David “by mistake.” You have to consciously insert the symbol, just like you’d put a cross on the dog’s neck instead of it, if one wanted the dog to represent Christians and not Jews. But how many dogs with crosses appeared in New York Times cartoons? Someone has to add the “follow the money” to the tweet, and that is when the racism is clear.
The thing about antisemitism in America is that ostensibly we have a scandal like this every month almost. In February US member of Congress Ilhan Omar was criticized for adding “it’s all about the Benjamins.” In April the NYT ran the anti-semitic cartoon. How can people still not recognize and be educated about racist antisemism? It’s like if we had a new black face scandal every month. The fact is that people consciously choose to ignore the importance of being anti-racist when it comes to Jews. Jews are the only group singled out again and again and again by politicians, actors, the largest newspapers. No other minority group receives such constant hatred with such a low level of expectation that the offender will learn and stop doing it.
Hiding behind words like “mistakes” is a way to excuse it. Hiding behind “it was stupid” or “I messed up,” reminds us of kids who make “mistakes.” Racism isn’t a mistake. Racism is a worldview. Racism is how people think, it’s a poison in the mind. Kenan Malik at The Guardian complained that the NYT stopped running cartoons after the incident, claiming it would “lead to a world where we say nothing at all.” He claimed that “we all make mistakes.” He also writes that the cartoon was “widely condemned as antisemitic.” This is way not to acknowledge that it was antisemitic.
These are the Orwellian words used to sidestep the need to stop racism. Imagine saying of the KKK burning a cross that it was “widely condemned as racist.” Sorry, say that again. The KKK lynching was “widely condemned as racist.” Ummm, was it racist or not? By saying “widely condemned” is a way to not have to take ownership of the incident and make a decision. Using the term “mistake” implies that the racism is, well, a mistake.
That western societies seem to need to educate the more educated people, including actors, cartoonists and politicians, basically the most privileged people with the largest megaphones, how not to be racist anti-Semites, showed that the real problem is far deeper. For years antisemitism was considered normal. When people say they don’t “see” racism it is because they have ignored it for too long. Western societies have been better at seeing racism against black people for instance. It’s a long learning curve. But how did a civilization that put people into gas chambers for being Jewish and forced them to wear Stars of David before mass murdering them, suddenly not notice the Star of David after? One million Jewish children were murdered in the Shoah. You’re telling me that 1 million Jewish children could be systematically murdered by the German Nazis in a crime that has become the most common cultural reference in most western countries, and that somehow the Star of David they were sent to their deaths in doesn’t automatically leap out when you see it and make you think twice about putting it on cartoon dogs or on memes?
This is a lie, not a mistake. No one ever tweets or draws a Star of David in any western country without knowing exactly what they are doing. They would be as likely to do so as to draw a swastika and then pretend it was just a mistake. When you tweet a Star of David you know you’re symbolizing Jews. So if you tweet it in a positive way then you are being positive about Jews, if you have a Star of David hand crushing people, you know exactly what you are doing.
When people claim they don’t “see” antisemitism, or that it’s a “mistake” it is because their society has conditioned them in whatever milieu they live in to not care about Jews. Many of these self-styled “antifascists” or “progressives” care deeply about other minority groups. There is one group they don’t include in their united front against racism. Jews.
Here’s how people can stop themselves from being racist anti-Semites. Stop tweeting anything with a Star of David that is a negative tweet. Just stop. Just like you don’t post photos of blackface, you can stop using the Star of David to frame things you dislike. So, you don’t like Israel. You should ask yourself first why, out of 200 countries, you obsessively hate only one that happens to be Jewish? But ok, let’s say you honestly just oppose Israel. Here’s a thought: Write the word “Israel” instead of a Star of David. Educated, wealthy people who are professors, city councilmen, congresswomen, actors, can figure this out. There is no excuse.