Obama slams celebrities peddling antisemitic theories online

The former U.S. president called such conspiracy theories “poison,” “garbage” and “a lie” at a political rally while campaigning for a candidate who reportedly operates an anti-Israel nonprofit.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former president Barack Obama used his podium Saturday at a Pennsylvania rally for Democratic senatorial candidate John Fetterman ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections to call out celebrities who peddled antisemitic conspiracies online.

After decrying “people in leadership positions” who have downplayed the fact that the man who recently attacked the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seemingly an antisemitic white supremacist who spread his content on social media, Obama said that “it wasn’t just the politicians” who were “creating a dangerous climate” by “saying crazy stuff.”

“Whether it’s out of malice or ignorance, we’ve seen, recently, big celebrities reposting vile antisemitic conspiracy theories online,” Obama said, adding, “And you don’t have to be a student of history to realize how dangerous that is and how unacceptable it is.”

Famous fashion designer and rapper Kanye “Ye” West and basketball superstar Kyrie Irving have been all over the headlines in recent weeks as West posted about “going death con 3 on the Jewish people” and slammed several Jewish personalities by name, and Irving tweeted a link to a movie that peddled antisemitic tropes.

Both have continued to have their supporters although the chorus of condemnation has been rising, with West losing several major business partnerships and Irving being suspended at least temporarily from his Brooklyn Nets team.

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While Irving has since apologized, deleted the tweet and committed to donating half a million dollars to anti-hate groups, West has continued his online attacks.

Obama made a plea for Americans to deploy some critical thinking when cruising online.

“I don’t know when we decided that we were just going to believe everything we read on the internet,” he said.

“Here’s a tip for you. If you read or see something online that has some grand theory about how some particular group, whether it’s black folks or white, or Jews, or Catholics or immigrants or gays, if you read or see someone says they’re the cause all your problems, then it’s safe to say it is garbage. It is a lie. It is a dangerous poison.”

Obama was speaking in Pittsburgh, the site of the worst antisemitic attack in American history, when a white supremacist burst into the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 and killed 11 worshipers. He did not mention the massacre in his speech.

In an interview last year with the Jewish Insider, Obama noted the rising antisemitism around the world, including in the United States, but said that “these acts of hate” are being “countered by far larger expressions of solidarity.”

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“People are recognizing that we all have a responsibility to stand together against bigotry and violence, to not be silent,” he wrote in the email interview with the news site, “but there will always be a need for vigilance against anti-Semitism. We’ll never be able to wipe out hatred from every single mind, but we must do everything we can to fight it. And more people are realizing that. That dynamic, more than anything, is what gives me hope.”

However, while Fetterman touts his “unwavering support for Israel on the campaign trail, he operates a nonprofit that hosted an anti-Israel art exhibit that demonized Israel as an “apartheid state” and spread slanderous falsehoods about the Jewish State, Washington Free Beacon reported recently.

During his two-term tenure, Obama clashed with then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the nuclear deal with Iran that was his administration’s signature foreign policy accomplishment.

Right-wing Israelis also blamed him for throwing Israel under the bus in the waning days of his presidency, when the U.S. did not use its veto in a binding UN Security Council resolution that declared the settlements in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to be illegal.