WA seeing major rise in antisemitism amidst hateful celebrity rhetoric

Dec 3, 2022, 10:50 AM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 11:09 am


In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with a photo of Kanye West shown in the background on October 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. - Rapper Kanye West's Twitter account, which was temporarily locked out after posting anti-Semitic remarks, appeared to be back up on the platform, on October 28 after billionaire Elon Musk took ownership of the social media company. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Acts of hate against the Jewish community are on the rise not just nationally, but right here at home in Washington.

The local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which has recorded incidents of hate against the Jewish community for more than 100 years, said last year hit an all-time high for anti-Semitic acts in our state.

“We’re on track to report more incidents of antisemitism in Washington state than we did last year, which was the highest ever in the history of our organization,” said Stephen Paolini, assistant regional director of the ADL’s Pacific Northwest office.

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He added that this is likely a significant undercount because these are just the reports that their organization has gotten.

“Things are scarier right now for the Jewish community than at any point in the last 50 years,” Paolini said.

This disturbing trend comes as celebrities like rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and other public figures are spreading anti-Semitic messages to millions of people on their platforms — and the ADL believes there is a direct connection.

“It absolutely is because of the high-profile normalization of hate, conspiracy theories, antisemitism that celebrities, public figures, have been putting out there into the world,” Paolini said.

He noted that before Ye’s Twitter account was suspended, he had 30 million followers — more followers than there are Jews in the world. Paolini said that kind of prominence emboldens anti-Semitic people to engage in acts of hate.

“We routinely get calls [reporting] anti-Semitic vandalism incidents, Jewish-owned businesses that have had graffiti sprawled on them with swastikas or other virulently anti-Semitic images,” Paolini said. “We saw the Jewish Family Services Center a few months back had some horrific targeted vandalism … We had numerous Jewish institutions, whether they be middle schools or elementary schools or synagogues, report to us credible threats of violence against them. And they’ve had to shut down service or shut down school to respond to that.”

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Washington residents and politicians often praise the state for being progressive and welcoming of diversity. Still, Paolini said the state is actually one of the worst in the country for white supremacism. In a report released by the ADL, Washington ranked fifth for number of white supremacist propaganda incidents in 2021, despite the fact that it is not in the top five most populous states.

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WA seeing major rise in antisemitism amidst hateful celebrity rhetoric