NBA star doubles down on support for antisemitic Black Hebrew Israelite movement amid widespread criticism.
By Pesach Benson, United with Israel
Basketball star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is a facing a full court press over his promotion of an antisemitic sect, which he tweeted about Thursday. The seven-time National Basketball Association all-star’s attempts to explain the tweet have only fueled the controversy, including a very public rebuke from the team owner.
The furor began on Thursday when Irving tweeted an Amazon link to a 2018 documentary called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The video is based on a 712-page book of the same name by Ronald Dalton Jr. who also narrated the video.
“Hebrews to Negroes” claims that blacks are the real chosen people who “have been told lies about their heritage,” according to the description of the book found on Amazon and other book sites.
It also claims Jews worship Satan, had an outsized role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and cites the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Ziyon” to assert that Jews control the banking and media industries. The work also insists that Jewish racism can be traced back to Noah’s biblical curse of his son Ham, and grandson, Canaan after the flood.
Rolling Stone magazine described the more than three-hour video as “in line with more extreme factions of the Black Hebrew Israelites, which have a long history of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and especially antisemitism.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, whose ideology the video espouses, is not the same as Black Jews or Jews of color.
“Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI) believe that they are the true Israelites and that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are people of color,” the ADL website explains. BHI also points to passages in the New Testament to claim that Jesus was also black.
BHI claims that the 12 tribes of Israel were originally black and that the people who are conventionally called Jews are liars who falsely worship God and are guilty of identity theft.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled BHI a “hate group.”
In 2019, a man linked to the Black Hebrew Israelite murdered three Jews at a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey, in addition to killing a police officer.
Sensitivities are high in the wake of rapper Kanye West’s antisemitic rants.
In response to Irving, Nets owner Joe Tsai tweeted his disgust. The Hong Kong-Canadian billionaire said, “I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
The NBA also tweeted a statement that didn’t refer to Irving by name saying “Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect. We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted…”
During a broadcast of the Nets’ Saturday night game against the Indiana Pacers, commentator Richard Jefferson said: “It is disappointing, Kyrie says that he’s not antisemitic and these things, but the tweet is still up. The tweet is still up there.”
Reporters grilled Irving about the video after the Nets’ 125-116 home loss. In a testy exchange with reporters, Irving confirmed he had watched the video and denied that sharing it with his 4.5 million Twitter followers was tantamount to a promotion.
When asked if he could comprehend why Jews regard “Hebrews to Negroes” as antisemitic, Irving said, “It’s on Amazon, public platform. Whether you want to watch it or not is up to you.”
He then added, “There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over top of the adultery of, you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?”
Later on Saturday, Irving dug in his heels with a tweet saying, “I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The “Anti-Semitic” label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.”
An omnist is a person who believes in all religions.
Irving’s tweet garnered a both a lot of support and criticism.
“The guy literally promoted a video that claimed many prominent Jews worship Satan,” tweeted someone going by the Twitter handle, The Hoarse Whisperer. “And now he’s on here today acting like *he* has somehow been victimized by the accurate description of his conduct.”
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