As a regular attendee of reggae performances for over 15 years, the inclusive message of the music has always appealed to me with regular themes including ‘one love’, ‘unity’ and ‘all tribes welcome’. It is therefore especially disappointing when respected reggae artists use racist language about Jewish people. On 10 May, Ras Kayleb from the London-based Channel One Sound System wrote a public Facebook post stating:
“Now I say anyone who is white and says hes a jew is a liar and teef. Research its not hidden.”
“…as far as im concern them man dem inna so call isreal are not jews. Here what I say they are not jews. False jews! They stole a next mans identity. Look history tells us.”
The idea that there false and wicked Jews is a long-running anti-Semitic discourse. The same goes for the accusation that Jews are inherently dishonest ‘liars’, have ‘stolen’ something, or are responsible for the oppression of others. The comments also play on racist notions of ‘authenticity’ based on skin colour.
“…how can a person of group of persons be Anti Semitic? When Semitic refers to a GROUP of Languages spoken by a group of people. It is NOT a Ethnic Group of people.”
I have experienced anti-Semitism only a handful of times in the reggae scene – where anti-racism and diversity are guiding principles – and very much hope that it is a marginal phenomenon. Nevertheless, I feel it is vital to call it out where it rears its head, especially as these artists perform around the world where they have an influence on hundreds of thousands of people. There is also a sad irony that Channel One have performed in Israel where they were warmly received.