Ice Cube’s Long, Disturbing History of Anti-Semitism

On Wednesday afternoon, amid a global pandemic that’s killed more than 400,000 people, a civil rights movement for black lives hitting all 50 states (and beyond), and a billionaire author’s childhood-shattering campaign of hate, the rapper Ice Cube apparently decided it was the perfect time to unleash a torrent of tinfoil-hat conspiracies—including several anti-Semitic memes suggesting that Jews are fomenting the oppression of black people.

Yes, in between sharing memes positing Marvin the Martian as some sort of harbinger of anti-black racism (an odd claim, given Warner Bros.’ racist TV mascot), and alleging that Europeans destroyed the noses of sphinxes in ancient Egypt (long established as Russian disinformation), the star of Friday offered up a dog-whistle to his 5.3 million Twitter followers: a Star of David enveloping a black cube. He posted the image above a quadriptych of similar black cubes in four places around the world: California, New York, Denmark, and Australia:

The image in question, what those with vivid imaginations have come to call the “Black Cube of Saturn,” has ties to the occult—the entirely unsubstantiated idea being that it’s a sign of chaos. Further, placing it inside a Star of David heavily implies that the Jewish people are stoking the flames. The 50-year-old artist’s decision to spread such a hateful message to millions is especially troubling given his long, dark history of anti-Semitism. (Ice Cube did not respond to requests for comment; on Twitter, responding to charges of anti-Semitism, he wrote: “What if I was just pro-Black? This is the truth brother. I didn’t lie on anyone. I didn’t say I was anti anybody. DONT BELIEVE THE HYPE. I’ve been telling my truth.”)

Just four days prior, Ice Cube posted an even more insidious meme on Twitter:

It’s part of a mural titled “Freedom for Humanity” by the graffiti artist Mear One that was painted in London’s East End and clearly intended to be anti-Semitic. “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved #Rothschild or #Warburg etc as the demons they are,” Mear One wrote of the piece, tipping his cap to the anti-Semitic conspiracy that the Rothschild family in Europe and Warburg family in America are the world’s Jewish puppet-masters. “Freedom for Humanity” caused an uproar when Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semitic ex-Labour Party leader, shared it on his Facebook page.

As journalist Michael Segalov wrote in The Guardian: “First, make sure to actually look at the mural. Don’t take a fleeting glance as you prepare to tweet your outrage, but pause for a moment to take it all in. Sitting around a table is a group of rotund men: one has a full beard, and is counting money. That, in and of itself, is an anti-Semitic symbol. It’s not just the big, hooked noses and evil expressions that make this iconography offensive and troubling, these depictions mirror anti-Semitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to whip up hatred that led to the massacre of millions of Jews. This extends to the table these figures are sat at, resting on human bodies, as the Nazis also depicted.”

Most troubling of all, the rapper and actor was accused in May 2015 of ordering his entourage to beat up a rabbi.

The image conjures comparisons to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an entirely fabricated text first published in Russia in 1903 that outlined Jewish plans for world domination, alleging that a cabal of powerful Jews—“the 12 tribes of Israel”—seek to overwhelm the Gentiles by controlling the media and economy. Henry Ford infamously printed and distributed a half million copies in the U.S., while the Nazis taught it to German schoolkids as if it were a historical text. And, by placing the table atop the bodies of black and brown people, Mear One’s image suggests that Jews are conspiring to subjugate black and brown people across the world, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that echoes another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory floated by those on the right that George Soros, the billionaire Jewish financier, is directly funding Black Lives Matter protests.

It is hard to give Ice Cube the benefit of the doubt given the fact that his anti-Semitic activities have extended beyond the realm of the internet. He’s an ardent supporter of Louis Farrakhan, one of the world’s most prominent anti-Semites, and, most troubling of all, the rapper and actor was accused in May 2015 of ordering his entourage to beat up a rabbi.

According to TMZ, “Rabbi P. Taras” was at the MGM Detroit hotel when he says he bumped into Ice Cube outside an elevator. “Taras claims he said something like… hey, watch out—and the rapper/actor responded by having his boys attack. While he was getting stomped, Taras claims he heard several epithets. He thinks that’s because he was wearing a yarmulke,” the site reported. The rabbi subsequently filed a $2 million lawsuit against the rapper for assault and battery. (Ice Cube denied the claim; The Jerusalem Post reported that “P. Taras” was an alias and the rabbi’s real identity is not known.)

    On top of the memes and alleged rabbi episode, Ice Cube has railed against Jews in his lyrics. On “No Vaseline,” a diss track off the 1991 album Death Certificate, the rapper took aim at Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s former manager, who is Jewish.

    “Get rid of that Devil real simple / Put a bullet in his temple / ’Cause you can’t be the N*gga 4 Life crew / With a white Jew telling you what to do / Pulling woolds with your scams / Now I gotta play Silence of the Lambs,” he rhymed.

    On “True to the Game,” he rapped, “‘N*gga go home’ spray-painted on your house / Trying to be white or a Jew / But ask yourself, who are they to be equal to? / Get the hell out / Stop being a Uncle Tom, you little sell-out.” (The track “Black Korea” was also littered with racist anti-Asian barbs.)

    Cube and several other former members of N.W.A have long claimed that Heller (along with Eazy-E) stiffed them on their songwriting royalties and locked them into oppressive contracts via their Ruthless Records label.

    In his memoir Ruthless, the late Heller hit back at these assertions, writing: “Ruthless took twenty-five cents out of each dollar of publishing royalties. Again, a fairly customary bite. Some labels take 100 percent. The other publishing companies involved (Cube included) also took twenty-five cents. Of the fifty cents left, the lyric writer took twenty-five cents, and the beat writer took twenty-five cents. Dre composed the beats for every song N.W.A ever put out, so he always got that quarter out of every dollar coming in, less deductions for all his sampling. You wrote a lot of the words, Cube, so some of the time you took a quarter bite out of those dollars. There were quite a few times though, when you had to share with cowriters, such as Dre, Yella, the D.O.C., Eazy, or Ren. So you had to share your quarter… It’s not robbery. It’s not a Jewish conspiracy to rip off the poor artist.”

      There is indeed a troubling history of black musical artists being exploited by Jewish executives and managers, from Aretha Franklin to Etta James, but this is far from an exclusively Jewish phenomenon. Take Def Jam CEO (and accused serial rapist) Russell Simmons paying the Beastie Boys, who are Jewish, a pittance for Licensed to Ill, for example. (He’s since apologized—to the Beastie Boys, not to the 13 women who’ve accused him of sexual assault.)

      Upon Death Certificate’s release, a number of Jewish groups called for it to be pulled from shelves, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “I know that recording artists these days like to use the excuse that their music reflects reality, but this record is dangerous,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean. “This is not a just theoretical issue here. Ice Cube is advocating violence against other ethnic minorities and given the climate of bigotry in the 1990s, we consider this kind of material a real threat.”

      Ice Cube defended the lyrics in an interview at the time: “I’m not against Jews in either of those songs. I’m just doing what they do in the media. When they describe someone they often say he’s black or Korean or Muslim. That’s all I’m doing. Saying he’s a Jew doesn’t mean I don’t like Jews or I’m using a negative. I don’t like (Heller), but it’s not because he’s Jewish.”

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