Biden’s ‘Shylocks’ remark shows Jewish groups give liberals a pass

Not all anti-Semitic statements are created equal; it largely depends on who is making them.  At least that is the informal consensus among many people.

Such sentiments were  illustrated this week when Vice-President Joe Biden chose to use the word “Shylocks” to describe a group of bankers in his home state of Delaware who were engaging in unsavory loan practices.

The term “Shylock” derives from the middle ages and is a derogatory reference towards European Jews who engaged in money lending.  “Shylocks” were considered to be dishonest and were often accused of trying to swindle the local non-Jewish population.

Say it ain't so Joe, but is Joe just being Joe with his 'shylock' remark. (Screenshot)
Say it ain’t so Joe, but is Joe just being Joe with his ‘shylock’ remark. (Screenshot)

Even today the term is considered to be very offensive.

Now I am not suggesting that the Vice-President is anti-Semitic, and it is not my intention to condemn him.  After all, he apologized and we should leave it at that.

But I do take issue with the way certain Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have responded to Biden’s comment because there is clearly a double standard here: one for liberals and another for conservatives.

While Abraham Foxman, ADL’s outgoing president, did criticize the Vice-President for using such language, he then went on to sing Biden’s praises, saying:  “There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden…”  “Not only has he been a stalwart against anti-Semitism and bigotry, but he has the courage and forthrightness to admit a mistake and use it as an opportunity to learn and to teach others about the harmful effects of stereotypes.”

That is all fine and dandy, but would Foxman have reacted the same way if a conservative had made a similar remark?

Seth Mandel, a writer for Commentary, which is one of the few conservative Jewish publications, echoed similar sentiments in his weekly column (where he directly referenced Foxman’s response) See Biden’s Apologists Do Him No Favors:

Teach others.” The only lesson Biden taught anybody here is the same one we’ve been learning for years: if you’re a prominent Democrat, you can say basically whatever you want.

To be fair, I am not suggesting that the ADL is a partisan organization; clearly it is not.  In the past it has bestowed high awards upon individuals such as former Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

However, when a conservative steps out of line, he or she is subjected to harsher criticism than a liberal would be for a similar offence.

For example, in 2007 conservative columnist Ann Coulter drew the ire of ADL when she made a comment suggesting that Jews needed to be “perfected” by converting to Christianity.

This was undoubtedly an extremely prejudicial remark that hinted of anti-Semitic overtones and the ADL was right to condemn her for it.

But they may have a gone a little too far…  On October 12, they issued the following press release:

The Anti-Defamation League strongly condemns Ann Coulter for her anti-Semitic comment that Christians “want Jews to be perfected” in an interview with Donny Deutsch on CNBC’s “The Big Idea.”  During her October 8 appearance, Coulter suggested that Jews should convert, adding that, “we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.  That’s what Christianity is.”

Ann Coulter may be a political pundit but she clearly knows very little about religious theology and interfaith issues.  Coulter’s remarks are outrageous, offensive and a throwback to the centuries-old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism.  The notion that Jews are religiously inferior or imperfect because they do not accept Christian beliefs was the basis for 2,000 years of church-based anti-Semitism.  While she is entitled to her beliefs, using mainstream media to espouse the idea that Judaism needs to be replaced with Christianity and that each individual Jew is somehow deficient and needs to be “perfected,” is rank Christian supersessionism and has been rejected by the Catholic Church and the vast majority of mainstream Christian denominations.

Clearly, Ann Coulter needs a wake-up call about the power of words to injure others and fuel hatred.  She needs an education, too, about the roots of anti-Semitism and the shared values of Judaism and Christianity.  Christians and Jews have worked tirelessly for more than 40 years to overcome the past and to promote a more tolerant and pluralistic vision for the future and especially for America.

Donny Deutsch is to be commended for his immediate and forceful denunciation of Coulter’s statements, for calling her remarks personally offensive, and for rightly characterizing her suggestion that Jews are inferior to Christians as anti-Semitism.

Now compare that with the mild criticism Biden received for his remark… And keep in mind that the Vice-President used a religious slur, whereas Coulter did not.

Alll public figures should be held to the same level of accountability.


One thought on “Biden’s ‘Shylocks’ remark shows Jewish groups give liberals a pass

  • September 22, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Biden was referring to a behavior, usury. Coulter was referring to replacement theology. Coulter remarks were objectively anti-Semitic because she was saying that Judaism should not be an acceptable religion. That’s a form of cultural genocide, and that is a slippery slope.

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