columnAntisemitism

Telling the truth about Soros and antisemitism is essential

Depicting harsh criticism of the billionaire as akin to traditional conspiracy theories remains a partisan talking point. Defending him endangers Jewish and American lives.

George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundation gives a speech during Economic Forum in Brussels, Belgium, on June 1, 2017. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundation gives a speech during Economic Forum in Brussels, Belgium, on June 1, 2017. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, it is more than curious that so much of the time of those whose task is to defend the Jews is spent attacking critics of George Soros. While the debate about whether attacking the 92-year-old far-left philanthropist is inherently antisemitic has been simmering for years, it went into overdrive last month when fellow billionaire and Twitter owner Elon Musk likened him to Magneto, a comic-book mutant villain with superpowers as well as a Jewish backstory.

What followed was a storm of attacks on Musk for employing what many on the left considered to be a classic trope of antisemitism in which wealthy Jews were seen as puppeteers controlling a vast conspiracy whose aim was, like that of the character created by Stan Lee, world domination. And when those critiques come from sources like the Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, they would seem to be definitive. Both claim that the talk about Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, is redolent of past invocations of the Rothschilds and emboldening extremists who attack Jews.

While both Greenblatt and Lipstadt are willing to concede that, in theory, it’s kosher to criticize Soros in some instances, they have given their stamp of approval to what has become a partisan talking point for Democrats in which virtually every invocation of Soros and the outsized role he plays in American politics can be painted as an antisemitic dog whistle. That essentially makes it impossible to talk about what he’s doing without being accused of mimicking the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In response, two young American Jewish conservative activists—Newsweek senior editor-at-large Josh Hammer and former federal prosecutor Will Scharf—have launched a website called Jews Against Soros. They claim that “Attacking Soros for his influence on American politics, to say nothing of his nefarious agenda in Israel itself, isn’t antisemitic. It is simply a fact that Soros funds a huge proportion of the radical left in this country. And he must be stopped.”

While they say their intention is to “build a grass-roots army of Jews committed to standing up against Soros and his brand of leftism,” to date, their effort consists of a website, a press release, some tweets and press interviews. Compared to the vast resources that are at the command of Greenblatt—not to mention Lipstadt’s standing as a representative of the U.S. government, and the fact that liberal corporate media are similarly committed to defending Soros—the pair are clearly outmatched. But they are nonetheless correct.

The escalation of arguments about Soros has gone beyond the effort to make Republicans stop mentioning him when they bash liberal political mega-donors. It is now a matter of faith on the left that complaining about Soros, no matter how it is done, is a form of antisemitic invective. That would be unfair under any circumstances, but it can’t be tolerated any longer because of Soros’s growing impact on American society due to his campaign to elect pro-crime prosecutors throughout the United States.

To accuse Soros of seeking to enact vast changes in American politics and law to the detriment of its citizens isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s reality. Those groups and individuals tasked with defending the Jews against their enemies are now essentially acting as his bodyguards and trying to make that dubious cause indistinguishable from the fight against antisemitism. That isn’t just disingenuous but a fundamental betrayal of the Jewish people.

Such arguments have gradually been heating up in the last 25 years as Soros’s Open Society Foundation evolved from its original purpose of promoting democracy in Eastern Europe at its founding in 1984 to one that is openly political. His fund is widely acknowledged as the largest political donor in the world, spending tens of billions supporting a host of left-wing causes and politicians in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, including Israel.

The stakes in this argument have gone up since Soros launched his crusade to elect “reform prosecutors.” There’s nothing shadowy about it. He boasted of it in an op-ed published last summer in The Wall Street Journal. As author Matt Palumbo has documented, he has poured more than $40 million into election campaigns that have elected 75 different candidates to prosecutorial posts who now preside over the criminal justice system in cities and counties throughout the United States where approximately one-fifth of Americans live.

Everywhere where these people take office, the quality of life has declined, and criminals have benefited from policies that are rooted in the notion that law enforcement is inherently racist. Much like the adoption of critical race theory-influenced curricula in schools and the imposition of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies in hiring and policymaking in education, business, the arts and the Biden administration, the shift in criminal justice is a function of an ideological war on the Western civilization and American history. But its impact is not purely a matter of a foolish adoption of the idea that all whites are privileged and that America is an irredeemably racist nation. As the efforts of Soros’s favorites—like George Gascon in Los Angeles, Kim Fox in Chicago’s Cook County, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Alvin Bragg in Manhattan—have proved, the results are a disastrous increase in crime and misery for law-abiding citizens.

As it happens, the vast majority of the victims of Soros’s efforts are not those who can be accused of “white privilege” but minorities who live in poorer neighborhoods that desperately need more policing and the locking up of criminals who prey on fellow African-Americans and Hispanics.

This development has made the debate about Soros even more dishonest than efforts in the past by left-wingers to demonize those who gave large sums to elect Republicans like the Koch brothers or the late Sheldon Adelson. Soros isn’t just trying to elect more Democrats at the expense of Republicans. Given the vast sums he has devoted to election campaigns and “social justice” organizations that are thinly disguised political operations, it is not unreasonable to speak of him as one of the most influential people in the United States and the one doing the most harm to the country.

It is true that extremists and antisemites bash Soros, and that efforts to demonize him based on his childhood experiences surviving the Holocaust are unfair. Yet it is equally true that his record as a hedge-fund operator in which he ruthlessly shorted foreign currencies is such that it is hard to distinguish between what might be termed Rothschild-style antisemitic rhetoric of the past and the truth about a financier who acquired enormous wealth by profiting from the economic suffering of countless millions in countries across the globe.

At this point, Soros isn’t just a controversial person whose activities are being falsely characterized by antisemites to justify their maniacal opinions about Jews. The scope of his political donations (his funding of anti-Israel groups is only a small part of the story) is so ambitious that he has become the living embodiment of what in the past would have been dismissed as a conspiracy theory. To deny this—as liberal Jewish groups are doing—isn’t just wrong but undermines the fight against antisemitism.

It’s not just that the arguments of Jews Against Soros are valid. It’s that Soros’s funding priorities are themselves linked to the leftist war on the West that is both intent on fueling a perpetual war of the races and an antisemitic effort to smear the one Jewish state on the planet as a function of colonialism and white privilege oppressing people of color. With Soros aligned with enemies of the Jews, to defend him and essentially delegitimize attacks against him is to actually aid the antisemites. Seen from that perspective, the claim that Jews Against Soros is koshering the antisemitic right is not just wrong but a disgraceful kind of gaslighting that has become a sadly common meme of left-wing commentary.

The argument from pearl-clutching moderates and liberals that people like Musk, Hammer or Scharf should pull their punches about Soros because some lunatics on the fringe will use their critiques to justify antisemitism doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Extremists don’t need conservatives or independents like Musk who see through the gaslighting about Soros. But Soros and his apologists very much need to silence legitimate criticism—even when it is, as in Musk’s case, expressed in satire—in order to distract the public from the reality of the Soros agenda and how much of an impact he’s having on American life.

It isn’t going too far to assert that Soros is endangering far more American and Jewish lives than stray marginal extreme right-wingers. It’s time for sensible people to take off the gloves with respect to what Soros is doing. It’s also time for his defenders to take off their blinders and acknowledge the reality about a man whose political spending is doing incredible damage both to America and to the Jews.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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