The Little Hawk

Letter to the Editors: Debunking “On the Rise”

Tony Kooi Morphew

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Antisemitism is a big, real issue that affects many people. It needs to be stopped, and I totally agree that it is a horrible form of prejudice and discrimination, just like all others. Treating someone differently because of their religion, be it Judaism or any other, is never acceptable. However, it is important that the Little Hawk only publishes the truth. If the Little Hawk just starts publishing articles with no respect to their veracity, its credibility is diminished. I would expect better of the Little Hawk than to publish an article that makes verifiably false claims and spreads antisemitic tropes while making racist comparisons and disrespecting victims of the Holocaust.

The Little Hawk should never publish articles that make many conflicting claims and contradict themselves multiple times within the same article. It is important for the journalistic integrity and future of the Little Hawk that it does not publish untruths.

“[A] necklace with the Hebrew letters chet and yud meaning ‘to life’…”

The Hebrew letters chet and yod actually spell out חי, meaning ‘lively, animate, living,’ and the Hebrew phrase for ‘to life’ is actually לחיים, spelled lamed chet yod yod mem. No one affirms that the Hebrew letters chet and yod spell out a word meaning ‘to life.’

“The term ‘anti-Semitic’ used to refer to discrimination against anyone from the Middle East. Now, [sic] it specifically refers to Judaism.”

The term ‘antisemitism’ and its derivatives originally meant ‘Jew-hating’ and still mean that. There has been no period of time when ‘antisemitic’ was usually used to refer to hatred of other Semites.  It is a common antisemitic lie that ‘antisemitism’ actually means hatred of Middle-Eastern people, rather than hatred or prejudice against Jews. The Little Hawk should never spread antisemitic tropes like this.

“Judaism is unlike any other religion. There are religious Jews, who believe and worship a higher being, and cultural Jews, like me, who choose not to participate in the religious aspect,” and “The only requirement to be Jewish is following a few simple rules in the Torah, all of which are ensuring you’re a good, well-rounded person.”

It is obviously a false assertion that no other religion has lapsed followers, apostates, and people who claim to be ‘cultural’ followers of the religion. People claim to be ‘cultural’ Muslims, Christians, and Mormons, too. Judaism shares many similarities with other Abrahamic religions. The author not only contradicts her previous claim that you can be a Jew without practicing Judaism, which is hotly contested, but also claims there is a set definition of who is a Jew in the Torah, which there is not. The most commonly accepted definitions of who is Jew all stem from the Talmud. There is no answer to mihu yehudi in the Torah. That is why it is such a difficult question to answer.

“Another interesting aspect of Judaism is that 0.2% of the world population are [sic] Jewish and 49% of the world Jewish population lives in the United States.”

Estimates for the world’s Jewish population range based on the definition of a Jew, but estimates range from .14% to .18% of the world’s population, according to the United Nations, the American Jewish Committee, the Israeli government’s demography, and the Berman Jewish DataBank. Going by the claim that .2% of the world is Jewish, that means there are more than 15 million Jews worldwide. The highest estimates for the number of Jews in the United States are around six million, which as a percent of the total is much less than the claim of 49 percent. The Little Hawk should not have to fact-check any of its journalists, but apparently it must.

“Judaism was the first monotheistic religion to exist, yet the fewest people follow it.”

The scholarly community is in consensus that Zoroastrianism is older than Judaism and that Judaism actually borrows certain beliefs and traditions from Zoroastrianism, another monotheistic religion. Archaeology confirms that Zoroastrianism was around long before Judaism and that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism quite a bit. Many other monotheistic religions have far fewer followers than Judaism–for example, Bábism and Rastafarianism, for which the estimates of the number of adherents range between five and seven million and seven hundred thousand to a million, respectively.

“A common Jewish slur is ‘k*ke,’ meaning a ‘Christ killer [sic].’ It has the same weight as the N-word…”

They are a few possible origins of the word ‘kike,’ but etymologists agree that the ‘Christ-killer’ etymology is completely untrue and a folk etymology, with no basis in reality. The most likely derivation of ‘kike’ is from the German/Yiddish word for ‘circle,’ as Christians immigrants to the United States signed their names with an X, but Jewish immigrants refused because of its association with Christianity, and instead signed a circle. To say that ‘kike’ and ‘n****r’ are comparable is not only lying, but also racist and demeaning. Studies of how offensive Americans consider racial slurs to have consistently demonstrated that the vast majority consider ‘n****r’ to be much more offensive and unacceptable than ‘kike’. An interesting study on the weight of slurs, “The semantics of slurs: A refutation of coreferentialism,” shows that ‘kike’ and ‘cracker’ do not carry nearly as much weight as ‘n****r,’ and it is racist to allege otherwise. Think about it: being called a ‘cracker’ or a ‘kike’ is not nearly as bad as being called a ‘n****r,’ because of the history of racial oppression the word holds. Words only hold the power that society gives them, and the word ‘n****r’ holds much more power to hurt than ‘kike’ or ‘cracker’ do.

“[G]as chambers and yellow fabric stars and the systematic murder of 8 million people…”

This lie disrespects six million innocent victims of genocide and their families. The Holocaust was terrible, but no one claims eight million Jews died in it. No reasonable estimates go above six million. Changing the number like that is a form of Holocaust revisionism, a tactic usually used by antisemites. Disrespecting the victims of the Holocaust like that is a heartless thing to do. It is the Little Hawk’s responsibility to not allow Holocaust revisionism to be spread. This is immensely saddening.

“The nearest neo-Nazi group to Iowa City is in the Amana Colonies in Iowa”

According to the Press-Citizen, KCRG, Little Village Magazine, and the University of Iowa police, there is an active neo-Nazi group in Iowa City, which distributed neo-Nazi fliers in Wetherby Park this year and vandalized a mural on campus. This is very scary and it is important that the Little Hawk does not allow a member of its staff to play down the dangers that neo-Nazis pose to the residents of Iowa City.

“The rally in Charlottesville was a white supremacist rally, but many participants were shouting anti-Semitic slurs, such as ‘blood and soil,’ ‘Blunt and Boden’…”

This has no basis in truth. The German word ‘Blunt’ means ‘marijuana cigar’ and the German word ‘and’ is an astrological abbreviation for the constellation Andromeda. The phrase in the article, therefore, means ‘marijuana cigar andromeda ground’. ‘Marijuana cigar andromeda ground’ is not one of the many antisemitic phrases that the Nazis employed.

“Germany is legislatively one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the whole world, socially it is still one of the most anti-Semitic.”

This is a Trumpesque defamation of an entire nation with a fabrication. According to recent sources, modern German people are some of the least antisemitic people in the world. The Anti-Defamation League’s studies of the prevalence of antisemitic views in each country’s population put Germany near the bottom of the list. As someone who has often participated in the German Jewish community, is involved with many German Jews, and has seen the Jews’ experiences in modern Germany, this claim is beyond offensive to just me–it is offensive to the German people and the Jewish people.

“Being white is a privilege beyond just the color of your skin. It also means being Christian, and rich.”

Though race is a social construct, it is widely socially constructed and accepted that if you appear white, you are white. There are millions and millions of white people who are not Christian, and more than a billion white people who are not rich. Let’s say my maternal ancestry is all Ashkenazi and my father is half-black, with his other half being German. This means I am one-fourth German, half Ashkenazi and one-fourth sub-Saharan African. According to the article’s definition, I am less white than Obama. However, it would be misleading to say that I am not white, because I appear white and therefore receive all the benefits of whiteness. Of course, there are Jews who are not white: it is a religion, not a race, but the vast majority of American Jews consider themselves white, and are considered white by other people. The only people who say Judaism is a race are antisemites.

“Even if Judaism isn’t meaningful to the curriculum, it’s meaningful to me, and it’s meaningful to the 6.8 million other Jews worldwide.”

As stated before, the estimates for Jews as a percentage of the world’s population range from .14% to .18%, which is more than double the stated “6.8 million” Jews. Where do these figures come from? The article also claimed that .2% of the world’s population is Jewish, which would be more than 15 million people, more than a 220-percent difference. This shows the importance of honesty in the Little Hawk’s reporting. If articles with falsehoods like this are published, why would one believe any of the other articles? Do not let one bad apple discredit the whole barrel of journalistic excellence.

In conclusion, the Little Hawk should publish this open letter to the editors about “On the Rise” immediately and reprimand the author, who has demonstrated total journalistic dishonesty and disregard for the truth. Thank you. If this is fixed, I hope the Little Hawk will return to its old expectations of honesty in journalism and regain its previously held trust, respectability, and prestige.

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Letter to the Editors: Debunking “On the Rise”