When NBA players union president CJ McCollum criticized Kyrie Irving for linking to an antisemitic movie on Twitter last month, he seemed to confirm what many had already guessed.
“I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the movie,” McCollum said, “because he didn’t watch it.”
Irving, who hasn’t played since he was suspended Nov. 4, may not have watched the three-and-a-half-hour “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” but I did, both to see for myself what was in it and to see if it were possible — as Irving implied in his apology — to believe parts of the movie without somehow buying the hateful stuff.
That means I survived the 20-minute commercial reel for the director’s other projects that leads the film, the interminable PowerPoint slide-reading that dominates it, and the repetition of the same dramatic-build theme music for hours on end.
So, to spare you the $12 it costs to stream it on Amazon Prime, here are five takeaways, if you can call them that.
1. The director of the movie says he received its contents as a prophecy
Ronald Dalton Jr., the movie’s director and narrator, claims to have started receiving divine revelations beginning around 2010. According to Dalton’s Amazon bio, he asked God to explain the struggles of the Black community and his prayers were answered.
“Ever since that day,” the bio says, “God would reveal the truth to Ronald in bits and pieces about the true heritage of Black people in America as it pertained to the Ancient Hebrew Israelites of the Bible. God would reveal to Ronald the REAL REASON why blacks have been oppressed for so many years.”
2. Antisemitic lies underpin the movie, but are barely discussed in it
The thesis of “Hebrews to Negroes” is that African Americans are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, but that Jews usurped their identity and fooled the world about it through a series of five lies. One of those “lies” is the Holocaust:
The movie shows this slide in the first half hour or so, but never returns to the Holocaust or these other topics. Instead, the vast majority of the movie is spent linking contemporary African culture to Biblical text and ancient Jewish tradition, with a bit of comparative archaeology mixed in.
An image from “Hebrews to Negroes,” which is narrated by director Ronald Dalton, Jr. Image by
Standing on its own, believing that Black people are descended from the Jews of antiquity is not offensive, if non-historical. But it is antisemitic to say that contemporary white Jews are imposters, and the movie states that at the outset and reinforces it every so often for the next three hours.
Another example is its description of how Jews participated in slavery. Again, it asserts that schools don’t teach that Christians, Muslims and Jews orchestrated the Atlantic slave trade — kidnapping the descendants of the tribe of Judah in 1619 — and that mass media has helped cover it up. But it doesn’t provide (or fabricate) any details as to how Jewish people were involved.
So, to what extent were Jews involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade? According to an article in the New York Review of Books written by David Brion Davis, the director emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, in the American South in 1830, there were only 120 Jews among the 45,000 slaveholders owning 20 or more slaves (that’s two-tenths of a percent) and only 20 Jews among the 12,000 slaveholders owning fifty or more slaves (slightly less than two-tenths of a percent).
“In actuality,” Davis writes, “so far as ownership of slaves is concerned, the free people of color in the Caribbean greatly surpassed the much smaller number of Jews.”
3. The movie shows footage of Hasidic Jews dancing and says they are “Hebrew-speaking gentiles masquerading as Israelites”
It also quotes midrash. Wait, what?
One of the film’s arguments is that the ancient Israelites were Black — a claim supported by a well-known Jewish text. “Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer” is a book of midrash (that is, stories and exposition based on the Torah) dating back to around the eighth century. Out of all the quotes this movie fudges, fabricates or misattributes, this is actually the most correct one!
The movie cites midrash as “an impeccable Hebrew (Jewish) source.” Image by
Indeed, Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (whose authorship is unknown) says that the descendants of Noah’s sons Shem and Ham were blessed by God with dark skin. Some Jewish scholars have pointed to this passage as evidence that Africans may be descended from the 10 Lost Tribes.
4. It cites a widely debunked quote from a rabbi that only appeared for the first time after his death
The movie’s smoking gun is a quote attributed to a Jewish man, Harold Wallace Rosenthal, that has been circulating in conspiracy spaces for decades — and whose legitimacy has been questioned since its initial publication.
“We are obliged to conceal our own particular character and mode of life so that we will be allowed to continue our existence as a parasite among the nations,” the movie quotes Rosenthal saying.
The quote first appeared in 1978, two years after Rosenthal, a New York politico, was murdered in a terrorist attack. A man named Walter White, Jr., published a pamphlet containing an interview in which Rosenthal allegedly brags that the Jews have hand-picked the last several presidents, control the media, and killed Jesus.
5. It quotes Henry Ford and ‘Adolph’ Hitler, but the Hitler quote is a notorious fake
Dalton draws on two of the 20th century’s most infamous antisemites to buttress his points about the fraudulent and sinister nature of the Jews.
Ford’s bona fide quote asserts that the Jews of the Bible — that is, Abraham, Moses, and Samuel — were not Jews but Israelites, and thus contemporary Jews have no claim to the Old Testament, let alone to being the seed of Christianity and Islam.
The phony Hitler quote, which says that “the white Jews know that the Negroes are the real Children of Israel,” was also shared by NFL player DeSean Jackson in 2020 and widely condemned. And its conclusion — that the Jewish plan for world domination “won’t work if the Negroes know who they are” — was reminiscent of Irving’s statement that he can’t be antisemitic “if I know where I come from.”
As bad as Hitler was, he didn’t actually say this. Instead, the quote appears to have originated without citation in a 1980 book, “The Nazis: World War II,” which — shocker — this movie quotes too. (Judging by its Amazon reviews, the book is not known for anything else.)
When the movie cites the quote as “believed to be said by Adolph [sic] Hitler in a secret document before his death in an undisclosed location,” it’s almost like the forgery is staring Dalton — and any reasonable viewer — in the face.
6. The question this movie tries to answer is as tragic as its conclusion
“No matter what country we live in, why is it so hard for the so-called Negro to be prosperous as a people?” Dalton asks, nearly three hours into the movie. He adds: “Why are we the object of ridicule all over the world? And why are the other nations living their best life but our lives seem to be a lifelong struggle?”
The commonly accepted answer to this question is the enduring power of white supremacy, an often invisible force that continues to dictate social norms long after the abolition of slavery and the heyday of the Klan. White supremacy targets Jewish people, too, promulgating the centuries-old myth of a “globalist” cabal so that Charlottesville torch-carriers chanted “Jews will not replace us” at the Unite the Right rally in 2017.
That’s one reason so many were frustrated when Irving shared the movie with his 4.5 million followers: “Hebrews to Negroes” does white supremacy’s dirty work — one minority group blaming another for the problems both are facing.
The post We watched the movie Kyrie Irving shared so you don’t have to appeared first on The Forward.