Last month, leading black British newspaper The Voice published an interview with the rapper Wiley following his attacks on the Jewish community. There is no condemnation of Wiley’s antisemitic remarks, the tropes he used to denigrate Jewry or his threatening language. Instead, he is treated with kid gloves by a journalist who seems to imply that his claims contain a kernel of truth. Such indulgence is unforgivable.
We are told in the interview – now removed from the Voice’s website – that Wiley might not be alone in thinking “there is an unspoken systemic oppression that blights the lives of young black creatives in the entertainment space…” This oppression comes from a Jewish community with a “stranglehold” over another (black people) “in particular relation but not confined to, the music business”.
He says Jews “still see us as slaves” except this modern-day slavery is “dressed up in a million pound record deal”. The notion a multimillionaire with vast exposure and multiple awards is akin to a slave is ludicrous and repellent, but it goes unchallenged. He goes on to say the Jews “have already got us divided conquered and segregated”. While there was a grudging admission that he had mixed “ignorance with truth and fact”, Wiley was adamant that he was articulating a narrative of “systematic oppression”.
In one sense, he is right. There is indeed such an antisemitic narrative within sections of the black community that taps dangerously into long-standing canards about Jewish power and privilege. Much of this narrative has been formed by radical organisations such as the Nation of Islam (NOI) and sections of the Black Lives Matter movement. For them, Jews are part of the white supremacist elite, privileged and entitled members of the establishment who are complicit with the oppression of black people. They are perceived to be white and rich; symbols of a toxically racist establishment flaunting its wealth.
Opposing Jews is deemed an anti-racist gesture precisely because of how the radical left defines racism; it is viewed as a hierarchy of power, with Jews at the top. Perhaps this is why synagogues and Jewish shops were attacked in LA following George Floyd’s killing and why anti-Jewish chants could be heard in France. Jews were seen not as allies in the anti-racism struggle but legitimate targets.
It is important to see this as a racialised version of the ‘socialism of fools’, the 19th century argument placing Jews at the apex of a capitalist system that oppressed the working class of Europe for their own financial gain. For Wiley, this system has continued. The ‘huckstering’ Jewish music manager is perceived to epitomise an avaricious elite whose misdeeds reverberate throughout history.
Indeed, seeing Jews as responsible for black slavery is another harmful and utterly unfounded trope that has echoed recently. It surfaced in the NOI’s volume The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, with its false claim that Jews owned slaves disproportionately more than other ethnic and religious groups in America, and the Afrocentrist writings of academic Leonard Jeffries.
Wiley’s charge that Jews own and hire the police, control the legal system and make and write the laws reflects the kind of lethal hatred commonplace in Nazi Germany. The Voice chose not to call him out on that.
In tweets, Wiley claimed that “Israel is not yours” and that “the Star of David that’s our ting”. The notion that the land of Israel belongs to the black community stems from an anti-Zionist reading of the Middle East conflict in which Palestinians are ‘people of colour’ oppressed by a colonialist state. Much of this has surfaced with the BLM movement. The same people believe Israeli ‘oppression’ against Palestinians intersects with the oppression of black people. It remains a and seductive conspiracy designed to suggest black people are threatened by the Jewish state.
The Voice defended its decision to publish its interview, refusing to accept criticism of the tone, saying only it “saddens us deeply that persons have implied that we are antisemitic”. It let Wiley regurgitate a set of hateful tropes. Instead of showing contrition, he doubled down, further alienating a community that has so often stood with black people against racism.