Democrat contender for President Joe Biden has been accused of antisemitism after a 2014 clip of the former Vice President using the term “Shylocks” to refer to financiers and loan sharks was again shared on social media. The term is widely considered to be an antisemitic trope and anti-Jewish dog-whistle.
Speaking at the 40th-anniversary celebration for the Legal Services Corporation, Biden spoke of his son Beau and his experiences in Iraq, referring explicitly to moneylenders, bank representatives and financiers as “Shylocks”.
“People would come up 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 these women and men while overseas”Joe Biden
The term “Shylocks” refers to the character of Shylock from the William Shakespeare play The Merchant of Venice. In the play, Shylock is an unscrupulous Jewish moneylender and his name has become a byword for greed and an age-old dog-whistle to suggest Jews are unscrupulously greedy.
The term has been used in antisemitic thinking ever since the publication of the work, with the 1619 edition subtitled “With the Extreme Cruelty of Shylock the Jew …” and the Shylock stereotype reoccurring in fiction right up until the present day. Such is the strength of the depiction that the Nazis used Shylock extensively in propaganda, including broadcasting the play on German radio shortly before Kristallnacht in 1938.
Speaking at the time, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said that Biden “should have been more careful.”
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day,” Foxman said on Tuesday. “The Vice President should have been more careful.”Abe Foxman
The re-highlighting of the 2014 incident comes amidst increased scrutiny placed on Biden over his long history of “gaffes” and incidents that have been identified as racist or sexually inappropriate.
Main image: Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. | Gage Skidmore