Vice President Joe Biden “should have been more careful” in a speech when he used a term that some consider anti-Semitic, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday.
At a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden recalled anecdotes from his son’s experience serving in Iraq and meeting members of the military who were in need of legal help because of problems back at home.
“That’s one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year,” Biden said, “that people would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being...I mean these Shylocks who took advantage of, um, these women and men while overseas.”
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman issued a mild reprimand later Tuesday.
“When someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden, uses the term ‘Shylocked’ to describe unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society,” Foxman said in a statement, first reported by Yahoo News.
Who is Shylock?:
The name “Shylock” derives from the name of the antagonist in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.” Shylock, a Jew, was a ruthless moneylender in the play, and he’s remembered for demanding a “pound of flesh” from the merchant Antonio if he failed to repay a loan.
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day,” Foxman said. “The vice president should have been more careful.”
Let me give you a quick timeline of Shylock. In 1290, all of the Jews of England were expelled. Why? Due to Medieval Christian laws, they were not permitted to own property or to farm; instead they were required to loan money with interest, so that the King could take whatever he wanted (or felt he needed) from the interest charged. Christians were not allowed to loan money, only Jews. So, prior to the expulsion, the Jews were necessary to running the economy, but eventually the Kind needed everything that they had, and so they were expelled. (This dynamic occurred in the Hitler era. See Gotz Aly’s great study: Hitler’s Beneficiaries.) For a good overview of the economy surrounding the expulsion, check out the wiki link.
In 1657, 350 years later, Oliver Cromwell allowed the Jews to return to England.
Think about the years the Jews were absent from England – 1290 to 1657. And when, Gentle Readers, was the Merchant of Venice written? Scholars date it to 1596-1598. This means, of course, that neither Shakespeare nor anyone living during his time had ever met a Jew. They just hated because that’s what Christians did, that’s what Brits did, think about it as you will.
And today we read about our deeply ignorant and cynical Vice President blaming the housing crisis on Jews.