News from June 8 to June 14

Ice Cube antisemitism, UAE Ambassador's op-ed, and honorable mentions

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Rapper Ice Cube tweets antisemitic imagery:

What happened? Rapper Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, repeatedly posted antisemitic imagery on Twitter throughout the week. On June 6, Jackson tweeted a picture of a mural that shows caricatured Jews playing a board game on the backs of mostly black men. The mural has appeared in other antisemitic scandals before–In 2012, former British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn was criticized for supporting the artist who created the graffiti (though he later apologized). 

The image of the antisemitic mural in Jackson’s tweet.

Later in the week, Jackson posted photos of “the black cube of Saturn,” interpreted by some to represent satan, inside a Star of David. He followed up both tweets with another suggesting the Jewish slaves in Egypt were black, a claim central to the ideology of often-antisemitic Black Hebrew Israelite groups. 

This is not the first time Jackson has been accused of antisemitism. In 2015, a rabbi sued Jackson for $2 million, claiming that Jackson ordered his posse to beat him up in a Las Vegas Casino. He’s also an ardent supporter of antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and several of his songs have featured antisemitic lyrics. From the Daily Beast:

“On top of the memes and alleged rabbi episode, Ice Cube has railed against Jews in his lyrics. On “No Vaseline,” a diss track off the 1991 album Death Certificate, the rapper took aim at Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s former manager, who is Jewish.

‘Get rid of that Devil real simple / Put a bullet in his temple / ’Cause you can’t be the N**** 4 Life crew / With a white Jew telling you what to do / Pulling woolds with your scams / Now I gotta play Silence of the Lambs,’ he rhymed.

On ‘True to the Game,’ he rapped, “‘N**** go home’ spray-painted on your house / Trying to be white or a Jew / But ask yourself, who are they to be equal to? / Get the hell out / Stop being a Uncle Tom, you little sell-out.’ (The track “Black Korea” was also littered with racist anti-Asian barbs.)”

How did people react? The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that “Shame, two years ago we met with @icecube to turn a new page. Now when it counts, instead of using his notoriety to promote peace in a fractured America he regresses to classic #antiSemitic tropes.”

Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein said that he was concerned with “Ice Cube's ugly Jew-hatred, combined with the pro-BDS Black Lives [Matter] group calling Israel a genocidal apartheid state.”

The Anti-Defamation League said, “We need to be united in the fight for justice. That's why it is so disheartening that Ice Cube is using his platform to elevate #antisemites like Louis Farrakhan & cryptic posts that seem to touch upon #antisemitic conspiracies.”

Further reading: (Daily Beast)

Annexation update:

What happened? Earlier this week, Yousef Al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the United States, placed a Hebrew-language op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth, sharply criticizing Israel’s plans to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. In the op-ed, which was the first article published in an Israeli newspaper by a Gulf diplomat, Al-Otaiba said that Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would jeopardize Israeli efforts to normalize relations with the Gulf states. American-Israeli billionaire Haim Saban reportedly played a large role in getting the piece published.

What else did he say? Two quotes stand out:

“In the UAE and across much of the Arab world, we would like to believe Israel is an opportunity, not an enemy. We face too many common dangers and see the great potential of warmer ties. 

Israel’s decision on annexation will be an unmistakable signal of whether it sees it the same way.”

“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible.”

These two quotes illuminate what I would call the “Gulf state problem.” On the one hand, Israel stands to gain tremendously by normalizing relations with the Gulf states; gaining public partners to oppose Iran and collaborate on Middle Eastern security are clearly benefits. Remember, any statements issued by the UAE essentially represent Bahrain and Saudi Arabi as well. The backing of three wealthy and relatively powerful regional actors could be revolutionary for Israel. On the other hand, annexation is very important for a significant enough portion of the Israeli population that failing to follow through on it could threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political health. Netanyahu has to decide which long-term goal is more important for Israel–potential Gulf allies or his own political support (my take).

It’s not that simple, though, is it (my take)? It never is. In this case, the question we really should be asking is, “Will the Gulf states actually break off cooperation if Israel annexes?” Whether or not Israel annexes part of the West Bank, it remains strategically aligned with the Gulf States to oppose Iran’s creeping presence in the region. From Netanyahu’s perspective, if he’s confident the Gulf states will continue their cooperation, does it really matter if the cooperation is public or not? It’s unlikely the Gulf states will fully embrace Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. If you’re Netanyahu and you don’t think a full, overt relationship with the Gulf states is on the horizon, abandoning annexation to save Israel’s limited overt relationship might not be worth the domestic political costs.

Moreover, al-Otaiba was present at the release of President Trump’s peace plan. At the time, Al-Otaiba called the plan “a serious initiative” and “an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework.” Given that the framework ultimately calls for Israel to gain the parts of the West Bank Netanyahu will likely try to annex, Al-Otaiba’s harsh denunciation of Netanyahu’s plan is curious–if the root of his criticism is that annexation should happen as part of a negotiation with the Palestinians, and he believes the plan is an important starting point (tacit support for the general map), his frustration should be levied at Palestinian leaders for failing to negotiate under the “US-led international framework.” The signs point toward an empty threat (the Gulf states won’t break off cooperation) or partial follow-through (the Gulf States will break off public ties but continue private collaboration). 

What to watch for: According to his coalition deals, Netanyahu can begin measures to annex parts of the West Bank on July 1. It’s unlikely to happen on that date, but this week’s developments could give a better indication of whether or not it will happen. Also, look for more statements from the Gulf states who have been on a very public campaign against annexation.

Further reading: (JPost)

Honorable mentions:

Man charged with attempted murder after rabbi stabbed in London by PA Media (Guardian)

Trump blasts ICC’s investigation of Israel, authorizes sanctions by Marcy Oster (Forward)

Far-right spreads antisemitic conspiracies about COVID-19 and George Floyd’s death by the Jewish News Syndicate (Jewish Journal)

Orthodox children are protesting for New York summer camps to open by Shira Hanau (Jewish Journal)

Tablet Magazine published a great piece by Rabbi Ari Lamm who profiled his father Rabbi Norman Lamm’s Jewish approach to fight racism (Tablet Magazine)

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