Is it really antisemitic to criticise George Soros?

The taboo on criticising the anti-Israel philanthropist is so entrenched in mainstream media, a group called Jews Against Soros has been launched

June 15, 2023 13:01

George Soros is usually called a philanthropist. The word means “lover of humanity”. But Soros is highly partisan when it comes to showing the love, and especially the money.

Soros, a Jew who survived the Shoah in Hungary and a US citizen since 1961, does not like Israel. In 2016, hacked documents exposed Soros’s Open Society Foundation’s donations to left-wing Israeli NGOs and Palestinian NGOs, some of which, it has been claimed, deny Israel’s right to exist.

Open Society built up an extensive network of organisations while strategically maintaining what it called “a low profile and relative distance”.

These donations included more than $2.6 million between 2001 and 2015 to the Palestinian group Adalah, which campaigns for BDS and promotes lies about Israeli “massacres”.

Liel Leibowitz of the Tablet website called this “an extensive and deliberate effort to delegitimise Israel” by creating a media and political “echo chamber”. That description also fits the left-wing lobby group J Street. Soros helped to bankroll J Street in its early years and has consistently donated since then.

In August 2022 alone, he gave $1million to J Street’s “super PAC” lobbying vehicle, more than 20 times more than any other donor. J Street is currently campaigning against the Israeli government’s effort to cut funding to groups which Israel claims are fronts for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Last week, Israel’s diaspora affairs minister Amir Chikli called J Street a “hostile organisation that harms the interests of the State of Israel”.

“No single person has done more to damage Israel’s standing in the world, especially among so-called progressives, than George Soros,” the noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat, wrote recently. By 2010, Dershowitz notes, Soros had donated $100 million to the obsessively anti-Israel Human Rights Watch.

At least Open Society’s American activities are an open secret. It is entirely legal for retired hedge-fund billionaires to pour rivers of cash into political campaigns. Congress designs the law on campaign donations so everything is above board.

Open Secrets, a non-partisan site tracking money in politics, reports that Soros gave $128.5 million in direct donations in last year’s midterms alone. This was more than twice the amount given by the second-largest donor, a Republican.

Soros was the largest donor in a cycle in which control of Congress hung in the balance. The Democrats retained the Senate.

Soros is catnip for racist conspiracists on the right. His Jewishness, his distrust of nation states and his fondness for unelected NGOs make him the very model of a nudge-nudge “globalist”. To the progressive left, however, he is a key donor. Its tolerance for antisemitism is high and getting higher — except when it comes to mentioning Soros’s funding.

Last year, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, criticised Democrats for blocking a measure intended “to force Soros-backed prosecutors to put dangerous criminals in jail”.

Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who represents the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan in Congress, tweeted “‘Soros-backed’= conspiracy of Jewish $=antisemitic trope”.

Nadler’s retort is baseless.

It’s no secret that Soros has given some $40 million to left-wing candidates in district attorney races across the country: he explained his campaign to reshape the judiciary and criminal sentencing in the Wall Street Journal.

His candidates are unanimously committed to less law enforcement and reduced jail sentences. Seventy-five of them won their midterm races. The results, a demonstrable increase in both petty and serious crime, are deeply unpopular with the taxpaying, law-abiding majority.

Again, Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, recently suggested that it was antisemitic to mention that Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump’s alleged hush money payments to the porn actress Stormy Daniels, had received Soros donations.

But there is no doubt that Bragg received Soros’s money. Meanwhile, Weingarten has repeatedly alleged undue influence by the Koch brothers, libertarians who mostly donate to the right.

The taboo on criticising Soros has become so entrenched in mainstream media that the conservative lawyer and Newsweek editor-at-large Josh Hammer and the ex-prosecutor Will Scharf have launched a group called Jews Against Soros.

“We are Jews who have had enough of George Soros and his malign, leftist influence on American politics,” Jews Against Soros’s mission statement reads.

“We are Jews who are also sick and tired of the Left accusing anyone who criticises Soros of being antisemitic … Leftism isn’t Judaism, and being anti-leftist is not the same as being antisemitic. Period.”

This week, in a victory for nepo babies everywhere, Soros handed control of his $25 billion empire to his son Alexander. In a CNN op-ed this month, Alexander claimed that “charges of antisemitism” are used “as a weapon meant to stifle debate” about Israel.

The same principle should apply to George and Alexander Soros’s political donations, in the US or anywhere else.

June 15, 2023 13:01

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