December 1, 2022

Outside of Barclays Center on Sunday, hours before the Brooklyn Nets’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies, a large crowd of Black Hebrew Israelites gathered in support of Kyrie Irving, who returned from a suspension. Irving was suspended on Nov. 4, a week after he’d publicized an antisemitic film on social media and repeatedly refused to apologize or state that he doesn’t hold antisemitic beliefs.

Many of the Black Hebrew Israelites outside the arena handed out flyers containing Radical Hebrew Israelite propaganda. Black Hebrew Israelites also handed out that brochure on Nov. 9, before the Nets’ game against the New York Knicks, which was their only home game during Irving’s suspension. On Sunday, however, the group of supporters was much larger.  

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, who, like Irving, is a National Basketball Players Association vice president, quote-tweeted this video of the Black Hebrew Israelites lined up on Dean St.:

Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas quote-tweeted the same video approvingly. Thomas eventually deleted his tweet, but Brown followed up by writing that he didn’t know which group had rallied to support Irving:

The scandal that resulted in Irving’s suspension started with Irving publicizing the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Twitter and Instagram. He has apologized for causing harm to the Jewish community several times since the suspension, but in a press conference on Sunday morning he did not completely distance himself from the thesis of the film. 

After shootaround, when a reporter asked him for his views on the film’s assertion that Black people are the “real Israelites from the Bible,” Irving said: “Well, that was the intent when I was watching the movie, was to have a deeper understanding of my family heritage and where I come from. And when I said I meant no harm, I meant that. To learn about the lost tribes of Israel, to learn about Black history in a way where it’s not degrading anyone else’s history is important to me.”

Irving also said that, in “trying to learn what anti-Blackness was,” he found “a documentary that ended up exploring and opening my mind to more than I can put into words right now. So I think there are deeper conversations that I would like to have regarding the lineage of Hebrews and regarding the lineage of more of our cultures here and abroad.”

The film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America” asserts that Jewish people are lying about the Holocaust, lying about their identity and engaged in a secret “plan for world domination.” Not all Black Hebrew Israelites believe antisemitic conspiracy theories; these ideas are the domain of the fringe extremist Radical Hebrew Israelites, who are categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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