Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Greensboro News and Record. May 11, 2024.

Editorial: What vile posts? Antisemitism bill shines a harsh light (again) on Robinson

As a political calculation — and make no mistake, it is one — a GOP-fueled bill in the North Carolina legislature that purports to battle antisemitism is a risk.

Aside from using a definition for antisemitism that even some Jewish organizations say is too broad, the bill shines a harsh light on the elephant in the room: the gubernatorial candidacy of one of their own, Greensboro’s Mark Robinson, whose past record of antisemitic social media posts (without, to date, any semblance of an apology or trace of regret) are guaranteed to receive yet another fresh round of scrutiny.

Titled by its sponsors the Shalom Act, the bill passed decisively in the state House last week and now goes to the Senate. And the court of public opinion.

Based on guidelines from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the legislation spells out what constitutes antisemitic rhetoric. For instance, the IHRA says denial of the Holocaust is antisemitic.

The man who would be governor has described reports of the Holocaust as “hogwash” on social media.

There’s more. During a 2019 guest appearance on a podcast, WRAL reported last October, Robinson embraced a racist trope that Jewish bankers are one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” as well as the CIA, Muslims and China.

“That’s exactly right,” Robinson told the podcast host. “It’s amazing to me that we live in this age of information where you can go online and you can find all this information, and it’s not hidden from anybody.”

You can also go online and find a troubling trail of Robinson’s posts. They’re not hidden from anybody, either.

Robinson has quoted Adolf Hitler, and in a seething mash-up of insults against Blacks people and Jews, posted this two-thumbs-down review of the movie “Black Panther”: “It is absolutely AMAZING to me that people who know so little about their true history and REFUSE to acknowledge the pure sorry state of their current condition can get so excited about a fictional ‘hero’ created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist. How can this trash, that was only created to pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets, invoke any pride?”

“Schvartze” is a Yiddish racial slur that refers to Black people.

Such posts last bubbled up in the fall because, as acting governor, Robinson declared “North Carolina Solidarity With Israel Week” following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, inviting criticism that he was both insincere and a hypocrite.

As for the Shalom Act, Robinson says he supports it, and it passed easily last week with bipartisan support amid a mounting wave of antisemitism in this country.

We’ve seen signs of that ugliness in the Triad, most recently when a High Point man was arrested for his alleged threats against a rabbi in Macon, Ga.

But critics do worry that the bill isn’t as thoughtful or forceful as it needs to be. Abby Lublin, executive director of Carolina Jews for Justice, said the Shalom Act “does nothing to protect Jewish people. In fact, it’s a messaging bill that distracts from serious action to actually dismantle antisemitism. It is a political stunt exploiting Jews to do so.”

Among the bill’s most obvious flaws, say critics, is that it considers criticism of the state of Israel an antisemitic act.

“Any definition of antisemitism that conflates criticism of Israel chills constitutionally protected political speech.” Reighlah Collins, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, told the House Judiciary Committee.

As for how truly invested the state GOP truly is in battling antisemitism, Mark Robinson remains a loud, embarrassing and unrepentant case study.

When confronted with Robinson’s toxic posts and speeches, including his antisemitic remarks, state Republicans have had little to say, except for a few outliers like State Treasurer Dale Folwell. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore say they will support Robinson in the fall.

Meanwhile, the Shalom Act will likely pass in the Senate and become law. Despite its flaws, few politicians will want to be on record as opposing an antisemitism bill.

But Lublin may be right that it is more about politics than serious policy. Otherwise, North Carolina Republicans would have held their gubernatorial nominee to account a long, long time ago.