(JTA) – Popular Jewish YouTube personality Ethan Klein was suspended from the platform for a week after he made a Holocaust joke about prominent right-wing Jewish pundit Ben Shapiro, escalating a war of words between two large Internet political factions over what constitutes antisemitic statements between Jews.
Klein, whose YouTube channel h3h3Productions has more than 6 million subscribers, said Monday on his “The H3 Podcast” that “if there’s another Holocaust and people start rounding up the Jews again, I hope Ben gets gassed first. Or last.”
He added: “I’m getting gassed, too. Do you think it would be more justice if he got first or last?”
Klein was discussing Shapiro’s initial reaction to rapper Kanye West’s recent comments vowing to go “death con 3 on Jewish people.” Shapiro said West’s comments were “clearly antisemitic and disturbing,” but he simultaneously celebrated West’s “moves toward pro-life, faith and family conservatism.”
On the podcast, which reportedly has nearly 3 million subscribers and is also uploaded to his YouTube channel, Klein pointed to Shapiro’s platforming of conservative pundit Candace Owens, who once remarked that “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.” Owens also recently collaborated with West on his controversial “White Lives Matter” line of shirts shortly before the rapper’s initial antisemitic comments.
Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew and a former editor of right-wing news sites Breitbart and The Daily Wire who endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2020. He frequently invokes Israel and Judaism in his articles, books and videos while decrying Democrats and “woke culture,” and recently visited Israel on a speaking tour. Shapiro has more than 5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and 4.5 million Twitter followers.
Since Shapiro’s first tweet about West’s comments, the rapper has said he was being targeted by a “Jewish underground media mafia” (while also apologizing to “the people that I hurt”). Shapiro has also more forcefully denounced West’s comments, saying on Wednesday that the rapper was spouting “Der Stürmer-type antisemitism, and that is about as ugly as it gets, and nobody should be defending that.”
In the meantime, Klein’s own comments about Shapiro were amplified on social media by conservative figures, leading to Shapiro to respond on Twitter: “If there were another Holocaust, I would hope that Ethan and his family escaped. But maybe that’s just me.”
Klein then responded: “Sure, in poor taste, but not as poor taste as you platforming antisemites who spread dangerous conspiracies that leads to REAL violence against Jews.”
Klein was suspended from YouTube shortly after, and claimed on social media that “a few white supremacists” had reported him for going after Shapiro, whom he said “was happy to perform a purity test on me and declare me a bad Jew for criticizing Israel.” (On Twitter, Shapiro had dug up comments Klein had made last year following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, in which he wrote, “The Israeli government is making me sick” and “I wish the settling and repossession of Palestinian land would stop.”)
Shapiro himself later criticized Klein’s suspension, tweeting, “I don’t believe Ethan Klein should be suspended from YouTube for his awful garbage. But I’ll shed no tears for a person who has routinely engaged in cancellation of others.”
A link to the video in which Klein made his comments was removed from the platform as of Friday, with a note saying it “has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying.” The audio was still available on various podcast channels.
Klein is Jewish and an Israeli-American dual citizen, and he launched his digital media presence alongside his wife Hila Klein, an Israeli-American YouTube personality and fashion designer. The two met at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel while Ethan was on a Birthright trip and Hila was on leave from the Israel Defense Forces.
Klein himself has defended antisemitic behavior by other digital media personalities in the past, including in 2017 the YouTuber PewDePie, who had used his channel to make jokes about Jewish genocide and Nazis to more than 76 million subscribers; at the time, Klien said PewDePie is “a great guy” and “not an antisemite.”
On Thursday he had already uploaded a new episode of his podcast saying he had been “canceled for [the] Ben Shapiro joke.”
Elsewhere on the episode with his Holocaust joke, Klein joked that he might get suspended from YouTube for an unrelated joke, and remarked, “Nothing good comes from me being on Twitter. Only bad things.”