(JTA) — At the end of 2022, Kanye West, the billionaire rapper who now goes by Ye, seemed to be persona non grata in the entertainment industry. After months of antisemitic rants on social media and in unhinged interviews, he was dropped from a lucrative business partnership with Adidas and booted from his longtime record label.
But on Sunday, he hosted a swanky album release party as part of the prestigious Art Basel art fair in Miami, in advance of the record’s upcoming debut this Friday. The album, titled “Vultures,” was written in partnership with longtime collaborator Ty Dolla Sign, and its track listing features a who’s-who of respected rap industry names — from artists such as Lil Baby and Nicki Minaj to producers like Timbaland, who has worked with the likes of Beyonce and Justin Timberlake.
On the album’s eponymous lead single, released last month, West raps: “How I’m antisemitic? I just f—ed a Jewish bitch/I just f—ed Scooter’s bitch,” referencing Jewish music mogul Scooter Braun.
“At a time of rising antisemitism worldwide, it’s disgusting to see Kanye once again use his platform to spew Jew hatred,” the Anti-Defamation League responded.
Even though the single did not make any Billboard music charts, West’s album seems headed for a large audience on most major streaming platforms — despite having spent months in the spotlight over antisemitic comments. In October 2022, he threatened to “go death con 3” on Jewish people, a phrase that was widely interpreted to connote violence. He tweeted images of swastikas, picked fights with Jewish figures and praised Hitler in a sprawling interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He bragged that he could “say antisemitic s–t” while maintaining business ties with Adidas, and several reports came out about his longtime fascination with Nazism.
West, also a clothing designer in recent years, made headlines for his fashion choice at Sunday’s event: a black pointed hood that resembled part of the Ku Klux Klan’s uniform. He previously used the black hood imagery in the music video for his 2013 song “Black Skinhead.”
Art Basel did not respond to a request for comment on the event by press time. Last week, a group of artists began bringing large reproductions of milk cartons with the names of Israeli hostages to sites across Miami, including at Art Basel locations.
Others who feature on the “Vultures” album, according to the track listing leaked online, include Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper who is one of the most popular artists in the world; Nicki Minaj, who has sold over 100 million records; Grammy winner Lil Baby; Grammy nominee Freddie Gibbs; influential rapper Young Thug (who is currently on trial for a possible gang conspiracy); and West’s 10-year-old daughter, North West.
Not all of West’s plans have panned out, including a larger album release show originally slated at a stadium in Italy that seats 100,000 people. And while West and Ty Dolla Sign say their album will come out on Friday, it is unclear what record label will release it. Billboard reported in October that West was still shopping the album around.
‘American Leadership Will Not Waver’: Senate Passes $95.3 Billion Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan
After months of negotiations, the Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan on Tuesday by a vote of 70-29.
The bill, if signed by President Biden, would provide $14 billion in military assistance to Israel to help it replenish the Iron Dome and weapons that can help it defeat Hamas. While US President Joe Biden supports the bill, it is not certain to pass the House of Representatives.
The aid package gives $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, along with people in Ukraine and other war zones. However, it is well documented that much of the aid to Gaza does not reach Palestinian civilians but instead goes to Hamas.
The bill also provides about $5 billion toward countering Chinese aggression and $2.5 billion for fighting the Houthis as they continue to terrorize civilian ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill’s passage showed “that American leadership will not waver, not falter, not fail.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) said, in a statement, that “Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest, and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it. They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”
“But today,” he wrote, “the Senate responded by reaffirming a commitment to rebuild and modernize our military, restore our credibility, and give the current Commander-in-Chief, as well as the next, more tools to secure our interests.”
More progressive members of the Senate objected to funding Israel in its war against Hamas. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), called the idea of voting for Israel funding “unconscionable.” He wrote, “This bill provides Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable. I will vote NO on final passage.”
Some conservatives also voted against the bill because it did not include provisions to secure the U.S.’s southern border. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), released a statement making clear that while “It is important that Israel eradicates Hamas, that Taiwan remains resilient against China’s threats, and that Ukraine defeats Russia,” he would vote for the bill “only after America’s border is secured.”
The bill faces an uphill battle to pass in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has suggested provisions will have to be added to secure the southern border for him to bring it to the floor for a vote.
He said, “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border.“
Johnson continued, “In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”
Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital
Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a century-old Canadian medical institution originally built for Jewish doctors and patients who faced discrimination but which now treats all the city’s residents, became the latest target of anti-Israel protests on Feb.12. Protesters took over portions of southbound University Avenue with one individual climbing a scaffold and waving the Palestinian flag […]
Yeshiva Loses its Ninth Student in War in Gaza
Israelis on Monday woke up to bittersweet news: the good was the successful rescue of two hostages from the Gaza Strip. The bad, that three soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Elkoubi, and Maj. Yair Cohen were killed in separate fighting in the Strip.
Chen, 27, from Kfar Saba, was a graduate of a religious Zionist yeshiva in southern Israel which has now lost nine students in the war against Hamas in Gaza.
“We wanted to believe that we had finished paying the heavy price,” the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Wolfson, told Hebrew media.
The yeshiva, Yeruham Hesder, is a program for observant Israelis who wish to combine regular military service with Torah study. A longer program than regular enlistments – five years total – there are thousands of students every year participating.
“We have lost a mainstay of the Beit Midrash (study hall). Ziv, as his name is, was all light,” Rabbi Wolfson added. “A loving and beloved man, I will bless you, everything he did was with infinite love. He loved people, loved the Torah, and everything he was involved in was done wholeheartedly.”
Chen was set to celebrate his wedding anniversary this upcoming Sunday with his wife Hillel, his family said.
At the funeral, held on Tuesday in his hometown, accompanied by hundreds of Israelis paying their respects, his uncle, Danny Chen, said about the fallen soldier: “He was a salt of the earth, a brilliant yeshiva student who loved the Land of Israel. He was a walking encyclopedia, very knowledgeable. Saturday night, two weeks ago, I saw him for the last time, always hugging and kissing. An exemplary child, a great loss. We are all shocked and hurt.”
The organization overseeing the Hesder yeshivot, the Hesder Yeshiva Association, released a statement that said, “We bitterly mourn the death of the soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, a fighter in the Givati Brigade, student of the Hesder Yeshiva Yeruham, who fell in the war. On behalf of the leaders of the Hesder Yeshivas and all the rabbis and students, we embrace the family, the the rabbis of the yeshiva, its students and graduates, and pray for an overwhelming victory of our heroic soldiers over our vile and cruel enemies. May his soul be wrapped in the bundle of life.”
The three soldiers who perished on Monday were the victims of an IED explosion in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF has been concentrating its fighting for the last few weeks.
As mentioned, Chen is the ninth soldier to fall during the war from the Yeroham Yeshiva. The other eight are: Sergeant Ariel Eliyahu, 19, Staff Sergeant Yanon Fleishman, 31, First Sergeant Eitan Dov Rosenzweig, 21, Captain Eitan Fish, 23, Sergeant Yakir Yedidia Shankolevsky, 21, Advanced Sergeant Gideon Ilani, 35, First Sergeant Elisha Levinstern, 38, and First Sergeant Ephraim Yachman, 21.