Robert Schwebel (AZ): ‘It Would Be Nice to Have a Jewish President’
Robert Schwebel (71), a Democrat from Tucson, AZ, is a clinical psychologist specializing in drug abuse. He had his bar mitzvah in Hungary, where his parents were on teaching sabbaticals. He created a drug counseling program focusing on the reasons behind addiction and recently published Leap of Power: Take Control of Alcohol, Drugs, and Your Life. Schwebel is also a human rights activist and has volunteered his time doing intake interviews for immigrants seeking asylum.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
I’m very concerned about it. I’m surprised by the level of anti-Semitism. I’ve personally been protected from it and I don’t think I’ve thought enough about it in the past.
Do you think the problem is being addressed adequately by the presidential candidates?
They all seem to say the same thing in different shades: “We’re against anti-Semitism. We want the Palestinians to have some rights. Basically, we want a two-state solution.” I think people are saying it probably out of real sentiment and in part for the Jewish vote and Jewish funding. So I don’t know what to believe. It’s not an issue that I particularly vote on. The Trump support of white nationalism is what scares me. I’m concerned about hate crimes and hateful behavior across the board. Obviously, anti-Semitism would more personally affect me, but I think it’s part and parcel with other forms of hatred. And in that sense, I’m in favor of all the Democratic candidates over Trump, even though I think Trump is the most pro-Israel.
Some people believe that the far-right, fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and white nationalism, is primarily responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism. Others believe that the far left and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on college campuses, among other things, is the bigger problem. What’s your view?
Historically, I was far more concerned about white nationalism on the right. Trump’s part of it—he’s a reflection of it. He’s brought it out into the open. But I’ve been doing reading about the divestment movement on campuses and it just doesn’t make sense to me that Israel is the country that’s attacked for human rights when there’s mass genocide going on in other parts of the world. Yet somehow Israel is the one that’s targeted both in the United Nations and with divestment. I do see that coming from the left, which is the direction I lean so it concerns me.
Do you think that a Jewish president would impact anti-Semitism in America?
As a Jewish person, I personally think it would be nice to have a Jewish president, just as I think many women would like to see a woman president. But I did notice that Obama’s presidency kind of led to a backlash against African Americans. It brought out a lot of racism. But that’s not a reason not to have a Jewish president. I am concerned that Bernie Sanders may be a little less in favor of defending Israel than some of the other democratic candidates, even though he’s Jewish.