Published originally in Newsweek.

Jewish groups have slammed conservative commentator Candace Owens for saying her friend Kanye West‘s recent remarks on Twitter about Jewish people were not antisemitic.

The Chicago-born rapper, 45, also known as Ye, made the controversial comments on Twitter over the weekend.

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” West tweeted. “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti-Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

On Sunday, the social-media platform announced that it had locked his account as a result. 

The comments came after he got banned from Instagram for suggesting rapper Diddy is controlled by Jewish people – pandering to an age-old antisemitic trope and conspiracy theory that Jews control the media and the establishment, Mitchell Bard, ​executive director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), told Newsweek. Meta, Instagram’s owner, also suspended West from the platform.

Owens, 33, defended West on her Daily Wire podcast on Monday, where she showed the tweet on air before saying, “Now, if you are an honest person, you did not think this tweet was antisemitic.”

She then said she didn’t understand the tweet. “You did not think that he wrote this tweet because he hates or wants to genocide Jewish people. This does not represent the beginning of a Holocaust. That’s if you’re an honest person, you’ll admit that, right?

“If you’re an honest person, when you read this tweet, you had no idea what the hell he was talking about.”

Owens then said it was unclear what “death con 3” meant. Many believe it is reference to DEFCON, the alert state of the U.S. military and the mobilization of forces against an enemy, thereby implying that Jewish people are a threat to him.

“Did he mean defcon 3, which would be a military-defense position?” Owens said. “Not an offense, for those of you that are offended, a military-defense position. Is he tweeting this because he’s reading the Newsweek headline, calling him an anti-Semitic?”

It is not clear which specific article Owens is referring to, but it might be this one.

Jewish groups condemned Owens and West on Tuesday.

Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, told Newsweek: “Candace Owens – nor anyone else – cannot tell Jews what is antisemitic and what is not. We know that his words are antisemitic because those are some of the same age-old tropes and conspiracy theories that have been used for centuries to persecute Jewish communities throughout the world.

“We know that Kanye West does not want another genocide for the Jewish people. However, words carry consequences, and his words could potentially incite violence. No wonder that they were celebrated in the fringes of the internet, and not only,” Rosen added.

He said that because West evoked DEFCON in reference to Jewish people, it was antisemitic.

“The implication is that the Jewish people represent a direct threat to him and to society. And, no matter how you translate that, it is clear antisemitism,” Rosen added.

Mitchell Bard, ​executive director of American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), agreed.

“West doesn’t just mention the word ‘Jew.’ He uses the words, ‘I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.’ When you seem to threaten Jews, that is not an innocent remark. Too often in history, Jews have seen threats sloughed off as rhetoric, only to see them followed up with action,” Bard told Newsweek.

“Would Owens consider the remark equally innocuous if ‘Jew’ was replaced with Christian, gay, Black or any other religion, race or ethnicity?” he added.

Halie Soifer, chief executive officer of The Jewish Democratic Council of America, told Newsweek: “Kanye West’s comments, which echo some of the darkest and oldest conspiracy theories about Jews, are deeply antisemitic and dangerous.

“We have seen throughout history the deadly result of such dangerous words, and are committed to ensuring such hate is not perpetuated. It’s incumbent on public figures to condemn this antisemitism, as opposed to giving it a platform, as was done by Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson.

“One month before the midterm elections, it’s essential that we reject political extremism, including among the GOP. This is also why we’re confident that Jewish Americans will overwhelmingly support Democrats in November.”

Newsweek has contacted Owens and West for comment.

(Photo by Edward Berthelot/GC Images)

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.