August 11, 2023

Jews, Jesus, and Jamie Foxx

After Jamie Foxx posted seemingly anti-Jewish comments on Instagram, antisemites jumped on the bandwagon to spread antisemitic narratives on social media.

American actor, singer, and comedian Jamie Foxx set off a media storm last week after writing “They killed this dude name [sic] Jesus” in an Instagram post, which Jennifer Aniston appeared to “like.” Those aware of the antisemitic, religion-based narrative that the Jews collectively are responsible for the death of Jesus immediately went on the offensive, fearing another round of antisemitic harassment similar to Ye’s tirades last year.

In this case, Foxx immediately removed the post and clarified that “they” did not refer to the Jewish people. He insisted that he was using common phrasing to refer to a friend’s betrayal, and that he is a staunch supporter of the Jewish community.  Aniston further made a statement of solidarity with the Jewish people. To the both of them, we say – well done. This is the correct way to address misunderstandings with sensitivity and respect.

Unfortunately, like Ye’s kerfuffle in 2022, once the narrative was in the limelight, it refused to get off the stage.

Jews and the Crucifixion: Why is this still a thing?

The narrative that the Jews killed Jesus is a rumor that just won’t quit despite being refuted by the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), scholars, and many more. Unfortunately, this ancient slander has led to dire consequences, including expulsions, atrocities, pogroms, and mass murder against Jewish people and communities for centuries.  And it persists today, earning attention in popular entertainment, from lay clergy, and from conspiracy theorists alike. 

Beyond movies, musicals, and some Christian denominations, the false accusation that Jews collectively killed Jesus has a new pulpit: social media. 

As part of CyberWell’s monitoring for antisemitic content across five major social media platforms — Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, YouTube and TikTok — we have, to date, vetted around 200 antisemitic posts featuring the “Jews killed Jesus” trope.  Almost two-thirds of the posts are on X and a quarter of them are on Facebook.

Despite Foxx removing his post and issuing an apology, last week CyberWell identified a sharp increase in the online discussion surrounding this myth.  And since Foxx’s Instagram account has nearly 17 million followers, there wasn’t a prayer of getting this bit of ancient gossip quashed. CyberWell took a closer look at this narrative on X over the last six months and found that, while there was an average of about 40 posts on a typical day, the day after Foxx’s Instagram post saw a jump to about 2,600 posts — an increase of 6,400%!

Many of the posts over the last week included antisemitic content, and below we break down some of the most prominent narratives. 

Blaming Jews for Killing Jesus

A large segment of posts focused on backing up the claim that Jews killed Jesus. Some seemed to be in “solidarity” with Foxx, despite his statement clarifying his comments, and insisted that he shouldn’t apologize because he was “right” (yes, we’ve seen this before).

The first post has almost 320K views!

Additional Forms of Religious Antisemitism 

The false accusation that Jews collectively called for the killing of Jesus originates from one passage of one Gospel in the New Testament describing Jesus’ crucifixion. Therefore, it is not surprising that Jamie Foxx’s post led to an uptick in posts containing a variety of religious antisemitism with tropes such as the “Synagogue of Satan” and “fake Jews.” Originating in the New Testament, these two terms have experienced a revival in recent years by several groups including the Black Hebrew Israelites, the Nation of Islam, extremist Christian groups, and public figures such as Ye and Kyrie Irving. According to this antisemitic narrative, today’s Jewish people are pretenders who, in reality, are the Antichrist and worship the devil.

The Trope of Jewish Control

One of the most prominent antisemitic narratives across social media is the allegation that Jews control major centers of power such as global politics, the media, the economy, entertainment and Hollywood.  This narrative spiked alongside Ye’s antisemitic tirades.  After Foxx’s apology, some claimed that he was coerced into doing so due to pressure from Jews in high places. Some of the posts also included the antisemitic hashtag #TheNoticing, which unfortunately remains on some social media platforms and continues to spread hateful content.

An Error Doesn’t Become a Mistake Until You Refuse to Correct It

These poignant words come from Orlando Aloysius Battista, a chemist, author, and devout Catholic. President John F. Kennedy quoted Battista during a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association, in which he spoke of the tug-of-war between a free press and the public good — a challenge we still grapple with today. 

Jamie Foxx’s apology is appreciated.  At the same time, as pointed out by King Solomon, considered to be the Wisest Man Who Ever Lived:[1] “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue”.[2] Words can cause damage, especially in this era of social media, where hatred spreads more easily and farther than ever before.  Although Foxx’s post did not have antisemitic intent, antisemites eagerly used it as a springboard for spreading their own Jew-hatred. While Foxx took the important step of expressing a sincere apology, social media platforms did not step up to do their part — removing the ensuing onslaught of antisemitic content in violation of their hate speech policies.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the mitzvah of the Passover sacrifice. One of the commandments is to finish eating all the meat from the sacrifice on the night of Passover and to burn any leftovers the next morning.[3] The commentators explain that this is to remember that God took the Jewish people from slavery to freedom and delivered them from poverty to a point where they no longer need to save every scrap of meat and have the luxury of burning the leftovers as undesirable.[4]

However, there is another layer to these commandments, and it is a fundamental concept in Judaism — the importance of, and ability to, correct mistakes and wrongdoings. Though you must finish the meat during the night, if you don’t, there is a way to correct this mistake. So, too, there are additional commandments that come as a correction after an improper act, such as returning goods after committing a robbery.[5] Moreover, a significant portion of the commandments are dedicated to repentance if a mistake cannot be corrected directly. In fact, correcting mistakes is considered to be so essential that, according to the Talmud, the concept of repentance existed even before God created the world.[6]

In this spirit, CyberWell calls on social media platforms to understand that their failures to enforce their own policies have led to significant harm, and that they must immediately correct this mistake. The time has come for social media platforms to ban the old antisemitic trope of blaming the Jews for killing Jesus, which leads to the spread of hate across platforms.  Although enormous damage is done each day that Jew-hatred is left online, it is not too late to change the situation and save lives.  As Rabbi Israel Salanter said: “As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to make repairs.”

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Footnotes

[1] Melachim I (I Kings) 3:12.

[2] Mishlei (Proverbs) 18:21.

[3] Shemot (Exodus) 11:10; Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:4.

[4] Sefer HaChinukh 8

[5] Vayikra (Leviticus) 5:23

[6] Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 39b

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