Harvey “Svi” Shapiro (NC): ‘This Is Straight out of the Protocols of Zion’
Harvey “Svi” Shapiro (71), a Democrat from Raleigh, NC, grew up in London and lived there until his early 20s. He was very involved in the Zionist socialist movement (Habonim Dror) and lived for a time in Israel with members of the group. He moved to the U.S. to attend graduate school. He is the author or editor of 11 books on educational reform, social change and the moral dimensions of education.
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How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
I’m very concerned. It’s hard not to be. I’ve been in this country since the 1970s when I moved here, and I’ve never witnessed anything like we’re facing now. My own synagogue, like many synagogues, has to have guards and extra security. The anti-sematic messages being spread on social media really plug into a set of old narratives about Jews and their control over the economy. This is straight out of the Protocols of Zion. It’s about intolerance, hate and violence. I see it as part of a larger cultural picture in the United States, which is a very negative phenomenon.
What do you think is fueling the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
President Trump didn’t invent this stuff, but he’s certainly been the cheerleader-in-chief. He has been a catalyst and encourager for the spread of hate and racism in a way that I’ve never seen before. All we have to do is watch Trump’s rallies. They’re very violent. They really remind one of the Nuremberg rallies under the Nazis. They are not so dissimilar.
Do you think elements of the far left, such as supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and members of the so-called squad in Congress, have also fueled the increase in anti-Semitic incidences?
People like New York Times columnist Bari Weiss have argued that there is an equivalence between right-wing and left-wing anti-Semitism that is embodied by BDS. That is not a view I endorse. BDS is really focused on Israel’s policies now. Jews can be critical of Israel and Israeli policy and the occupation without being self-hating Jews or being anti-Semitic. I don’t formally sign on to the BDS movement, but I personally think it’s right to consider sanctions against Israeli settlement policy. I think they violate our own Jewish morality. Are there people who use these issues as a jumping-off stage for anti-Semitism? Sure, there are. But for the most part, I don’t see the BDS movement as in any sense equivalent to right-wing anti-Semitism. I did, however, think it was kind of disgraceful when Congresswomen Ilhan Omar said it was “all about the Benjamins.” It feeds into long-standing anti-Semitic tropes.
Do you think any of the Democratic candidates stand out as particularly strong or weak in addressing anti-Semitism?
I think all of them have spoken clearly that we have a president who is an instigator and encourager of this, and that there is a profound need for a change in leadership. I’ve heard condemnations of anti-Semitism and racism from all of the Democratic candidates in one form or another and I don’t see a great difference between them.