Content notice: This article contains multiple references to a campaign name composed of two slurs. The campaign name appears once in paragraph 3 with all following references modified to reduce harm.
Jews and allies have drawn thousands to demonstrations following separate antisemitic attacks by members of Black communities against orthodox Jews in Jersey City, Crown Heights, and Monsey. The White nationalist movement, meanwhile, has applied antisemitism and racism to strategically exploit tensions between Jewish and non-Jewish Black communities in service of their broader goal of White racial dominance. By examining these developments, we can gain insight into the endurance of antisemitism as a political ideology that harnesses popular grievances for reactionary ends, and we can understand its increasing appeal, in our volatile era, to far-right nationalist movements and aggrieved individuals across different communities.
How White Nationalists Exploited Monsey Attack
Shortly after the December 28 attack in Monsey, New York, a series of fake Jewish Twitter accounts were created to spread vicious anti-Black racism, and reinforce antisemitic stereotypes of Jews as powerful, conniving, and controlling Black communities. The most popular of these accounts, attributed to the nonexistent “Elaine Goldschmidt,” tweeted, in response to the Monsey attack, “N*****s were supposed to be on our side. Now, we have lost control of them.” This sock puppet account, and a number of others posing as shoddy caricatures of Jews, generated substantial engagement before being reported as inauthentic and removed from Twitter.
The anonymous ”Kangs vs. Kikes” campaign urged followers to print and distribute their inflammatory posters (containing statements such as “Blacks need to respect Jewish authority” and “Jewish Lives Matter more”) on carefully-chosen streets and tenant buildings in neighborhoods like Crown Heights, where complex and deep-seated tensions between Jewish and Black non-Jewish communities frequently spill over into racism and antisemitism. Others have made elaborate videos, memes and other antisemitic content, and enthusiastically brainstormed ways to seed their cultural interventions into Black communities. Often, the antisemitic tropes deployed—such as blaming Jews for the Transatlantic slave trade, systemic Black poverty, and widespread landlord abuse in Black communities—are sourced directly from the faction of right-wing Black nationalism that is antisemitic.
While these efforts don’t appear to have made inroads into actual Black communities, and were met with pushback from Black activists on Twitter, they have gathered momentum in prominent White nationalist forums and threads on the popular social media sites Telegram and 4chan, and were briefly amplified by movement personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Far more than simple amateurish trolling, this burgeoning campaign, while remaining relatively obscure, reflects longstanding tendencies in White nationalist organizing, and could remain a notable trend in years to come.
Antisemitic and Anti-Black Legacy
For White nationalists, hatred of Jews is deeply intertwined with anti-Black racism. In the 1960s and 1970s, White supremacists, bruised from the victories of the civil rights movement, had to explain how a supposedly inferior race had struck such a powerful blow against institutional White supremacy in the U.S. For a generation of emerging White nationalist leaders like David Duke, William Pierce, Willis Carto and others, the answer was clear—it’s the Jews.
“The blacks in America are not really independent agents and are not fully responsible for their actions,” wrote White nationalist leader William Pierce in 1983, “but are primarily the tools of another minority [Jews] which uses black-white race conflict for its own ends.” In the following decades, White nationalists argued that the same Jewish conspiracy behind the civil rights movement also promoted non-White immigration, feminism, LGBTQ rights, multiculturalism, moral relativism, and virtually every other supposedly toxic progressive ideology and social movement—all with the goal of ‘White genocide’, the disappearance of a White demographic majority in the United States, the destruction of the White race itself.
In their eyes, the only hope for White racial regeneration is to create an all-White ethnostate on all or part of U.S. soil, where non-White immigration will end and non-Whites will be expelled. The continued existence of Black, Latinx and other non-White people alongside Whites in the U.S. presents a clear demographic obstacle to this vision. Ultimately, however, White nationalists believe a deeper enemy is rigging the game. “To rail against blacks and Hispanics without mentioning Jews,” wrote neonazi leader Victor Gerhard in 2003, “is like complaining about the symptoms and not the disease.” While Black, Latinx and other non-White groups remain problems to be dealt with, the organized Jewish community, writes movement leader Greg Johnson, “is the principal enemy—not the sole enemy, but the principal enemy—of every attempt to halt and reverse white extinction.”
White Nationalist Proxy War
The K–s vs K–s campaign, as one activist put it, aims to “j-pill [enlighten] those blacks to the truth about Jews…[as] part of our overall strategy to free ourselves of Jewish occupation”. Jews, they reason, have long “used blacks as proxies to invade White spaces and keep us under duress”; now, White nationalists seek to flip those proxies upon the Jews themselves, to win Black people over to the antisemitic cause. Black communities, as the “Western Masculine” Telegram channel described, are “pieces on the chessboard that are currently being used against whites, that could just as easily be turned against our enemies. The [J]ews have been using this type of proxy war against whites for millennia. Why not exploit this vulnerability in their strategy?”
These White nationalists insist Black communities adopt antisemitic views as a crucial, if circuitous, step on the winding road towards so-called White liberation. They are willing to build short-term tactical alliances, to unite against the chief architect of the trap in which they all are entwined.
In their online forums, White nationalists patronizingly argued that the spread of antisemitism ultimately will benefit Black people themselves, who need to be awakened by their benevolent White nationalist superiors to the truth that their own communities have long been immiserated by Jewish-orchestrated poverty and exploitation, brainwashed by Jewish control over the media and information streams, co-opted, even, by Jewish-engineered movements for equality and civil rights. Their discourse is also, unsurprisingly, immensely racist, erasing the existence of Black Jews while demeaning Black people as agency-less pawns, with all the offensive stereotypes one would expect. One Telegram channel, for example, speculated “[Black communities] are only good for violence. What better way to use them as meat shields while we set things in motion?”
Antisemitism is Being Used as a Wedge to Divide Communities
White nationalists also noted approvingly that the ideology behind one of the attacks seemed, in certain ways, to mirror their own. The Jersey City shooters interacted online with Black Hebrew Israelites and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, tiny groups and marginal voices in the Black community which, far from serving as evidence of ‘left-wing antisemitism’ as some commentators ridiculously claim, are far-right nationalist. Like other right-wing nationalists, BHI and NOI’s Farrakhan reject the very premises of multiracial democracy in favor of separatism, chauvinism and a primordial vision of racial rebirth. They promote sexism, homophobia, libertarian capitalism, opposition to abortion, and other conservative values. They are also antisemitic at their core, insisting that Black communities must liberate themselves from “Jewish power” in order to win true freedom. As journalist Rebecca Pierce demonstrates, the antisemitic tropes of outsized, conspiratorial Jewish power are drawn from deep wellsprings of European nationalism and Christian scapegoating, adapted to the contours of Black grievances in the United States.
Indeed, antisemitism, and right-wing nationalism more broadly, are political projects that are not the exclusive province of any particular racial group. Right-wing nationalism promises a retreat into an organic, timeless ‘us’ bound by blood and soil, race and tribe. Antisemitism compliments this ‘us’ with the perfect foil of a transcendent, transnational, all-powerful ‘them’ — a racialized image of the ‘eternal Jew’ bent upon uprooting and dissolving all ‘healthy nationalisms’ through a toxic stew of globalism, cosmopolitanism, ‘diversity’ and other proclaimed ills of the liberal modern world. Antisemitism blossoms organically from the soil of right-wing nationalism, a soil that can sit in many backyards.
We need more data and a careful approach in analyzing the recent attacks which have occurred and identifying patterns that may emerge. Tracing the complex, localized economic structures and social relations in which Jewish and non-Jewish Black communities in places like Crown Heights and Monsey are enmeshed, as many have attempted to do, can help us, not to excuse the attackers or blame the victims, but to begin to understand the conditions in which ideologies like antisemitism can take root.
Antisemitic tropes and ideology, moreover, can ‘migrate’, as it were, across different communities. Since the attacks in Monsey and Jersey City, White nationalists have excitedly shared antisemitic Black nationalist tracts like The Secret History of Blacks and Jews, written by the Nation of Islam and sometimes sold on the streets of neighborhoods like Crown Heights. The steady amplification of antisemitic rhetoric by Trump and other right-wing leaders, while most causally bound up with the growing mainstreaming of White nationalism, nonetheless helps create a climate which encourages antisemitism within non-White communities as well. In our era, the flexible ideology of antisemitism can grow more appealing not only to White nationalists, but also to a diversity of communities, movements, and individuals eager to use its categories to map the contours of, and assert a response to, an increasingly unequal, uncertain and destabilizing world.
Safety through Solidarity
While Trump and Fox News amplify White nationalist and antisemitic rhetoric to a national audience of millions, perpetrators of antisemitic crimes in New York City remain disproportionately White. To misidentify Black communities or progressive movements in the U.S. as the primary antisemitic threat, as many have, risks driving a deeper wedge between communities that should be natural allies in the fight against White supremacy.
It is demoralizing, then, to watch as some right-wing Jews join in this project of division, eagerly sharing racist videos or writing think-pieces that reinforce the myth of a single, unified ‘Black antisemitism’. These videos are carefully constructed and edited to imply active and pervasive Black hostility toward Jews. The truth is, there is no such thing as “Black antisemitism.” There is just “antisemitism,” and the preoccupation with antisemitic acts committed by People of Color, and in particular Black people, is racism. But whether motivated by calculated racism or by an honestly fearful, albeit deeply confused worldview, sharing these videos and giving oxygen to other tropes and memes promoting “Black antisemitism” end up playing into a right-wing project of us-vs-them ethnic politics designed to drive a wedge between two communities who have been consistently targeted by White supremacy.
It’s more important than ever to insist upon solidarity and a shared commitment to the practice of building multiracial democracy. Against the ‘negative solidarity’ of distance and ‘us vs them’ ideology espoused by right-wing nationalist, antisemitic movements and regimes the world over, it’s up to Jewish, Black non-Jewish, and all other communities threatened by the rising tide of exclusion to enact a deeper, more expansive ‘we’, a ‘positive solidarity’ of love grounded in the certainty that the only way we all thrive is by thriving together.