Few things are as predictable or depressing as the Anti-Defamation League’s willingness to inject partisan or other irrelevant concerns into the discussion about antisemitism. And for the last several years, the ADL has bent over backwards to try to do so by claiming that former President Donald Trump is fomenting, inciting or somehow dog-whistling to antisemites.
So it was a given that when Trump launched into a tirade denouncing what he described as his imminent indictment by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Melvin Bragg that the group was going to find some way to twist the controversy into one in which they could accuse him of endangering the Jewish community.
In this case, it was Trump’s denunciation of Bragg as a “Soros prosecutor.”
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The reference was to the 92-year-old billionaire hedge-fund operator and philanthropist George Soros, a Jew born in Hungary who has lavished vast sums on left-wing causes via his Open Society Foundations and its various political arms.
Here, Trump is being entirely accurate. Soros donated approximately $1 million to Bragg’s campaign for district attorney. Bragg is one of dozens of candidates that Soros backed in district attorney races around the country.
While the ADL, following as it consistently does Democratic Party talking points, treats the mention of a “Soros prosecutor” as a term of incitement, the donations are a matter of record. What’s more, the source of these funds is proud of what he’s done. In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal last July, Soros boasted of his efforts to install a specific type of public prosecutor in office wherever he can.
But while the billionaire refers to candidates like Bragg as “reform prosecutors,” residents of cities where his candidates have taken power know this is a euphemism that doesn’t reflect reality. They are, in fact, pro-criminal and anti-police, and have sought to reduce the number of convictions of people accused of crimes, largely on the basis of a false belief that all such prosecutions are a function of “systemic racism.” While racism is real, Soros prosecutors have orchestrated a nationwide jailbreak that has let lawbreakers, including many who commit violent crimes, loose with slaps on the wrist or no punishment at all.
The result has increased the amount of injustice rather than reduced it for the very obvious reasons that the primary victims of urban crime are themselves minorities whose neighborhoods and lives are being made immeasurably worse by a lack of security. In Bragg’s case, he has made a name for himself by drastically reducing the number of people convicted of felonies by reducing or simply dropping charges against accused lawbreakers, including habitual criminals.
But one such case in which he’s done the opposite is that of Trump in which his office has sought, by means of novel legal theory, to use the former president’s payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels as a way of putting him behind bars.
The details of the case portray Trump in an unflattering light. But the complicated path Bragg has plotted to turn that reprehensible but not illegal action into a prosecutable crime is clearly politically motivated.
Those who defend Bragg’s decision to attempt to prosecute Trump on this flimsy pretense say no one, not even a former president, should be above the law. They’re right about that, but in this case, that rule doesn’t really apply. Bragg isn’t treating Trump as he would any other citizen. The only reason this case—the only one of its kind that anyone has ever heard of—is being prosecuted is because Trump is the defendant.
Having run for office and secured Soros’s support by putting forward a platform in which he promised to both reduce prosecutions of felons but to do anything in his power to jail Trump, Bragg’s decision is a crowd-pleaser for Democrats, even if the case he is bringing against him is a contrivance that has nothing to do with justice.
Trump has often behaved in ways that broke all sorts of precedents. Still, for adherents of one political party to attempt to prosecute a leader of their opponents—let alone a former president and a candidate to return to the White House in 2024—is uncharted territory for the United States and smacks of banana republic tactics.
This and other attempts to prosecute Trump may appease the desire of Democrats to punish the ex-president for winning the 2016 election and making them miserable the last eight years. However, the transparently political nature of such efforts may only convince Republicans, many of whom, though supportive of Trump’s policies in office, would prefer to move on to a more electable candidate in 2024 to back the former president if only out of a desire to oppose this sort of dirty political warfare.
Americans can and will argue about this point, though antisemitism plays no part in the controversy.
But the ADL, which under its current CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt, has long since abandoned its former nonpartisan stance in order to become just another left-wing auxiliary of the Democrats, had other ideas.
Trump was entirely within his rights to call for citizens to protest his prosecution. Some people, of course, fear that any such demonstrations would, like the Jan. 6 Capitol riot—or the far more numerous and deadly Black Lives Matter riots that took place the previous summer—turn violent.
That’s a reasonable concern. But for Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism to tell JTA that Trump’s mention of Soros “raises concerns” is partisan agitprop, not a sensible expression of caution.
Loosely linking Trump to “substantive spikes in antisemitic attacks” to which he has no discernable connection, Segal said: “The danger of referencing Soros in a call for protests like this is that you never know what bad actors are interpreting that as. It’s not unreasonable for the Jewish community, who feels particularly vulnerable, to hear that in a way that is uncomfortable as well.”
This is not merely irresponsible on the part of the ADL but mendacious.
It is possible for Soros to be the target of antisemitic attacks, though most of the criticisms of his financial career have been rooted in the grievous harm he has caused to countries that suffered because of his successful and immensely profitable shorting of currencies. But as the leading donor to liberal and leftist political causes across the globe, including many anti-Zionist and anti-Israel causes, as well as far-left critics of Israel like those at the J Street lobby and some Democratic candidates, he is fair game for criticism. That is especially true with respect to prosecutors like Bragg.
Indeed, when his efforts to undermine the justice system in the United States is placed in context along with his other political efforts, it can be argued that few people are doing as much damage to American society as Soros.
So, for the ADL to constantly resurrect the false argument often disingenuously put forward by Soros’s Democratic beneficiaries that to note his involvement is antisemitic validates a false charge. At the same time, it helps magnify the voices of those few marginal extremists who speak about him and actually are Jew-haters.
Trump was the most pro-Israel president to date, as well as the one who has done the most to fight antisemitism on college campuses. Last fall, however, he damaged his standing with the Jewish community by hosting a dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for antisemites like Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, something for which he characteristically didn’t apologize. Still, that doesn’t justify a politicized effort to jail him.
We don’t know yet how Trump’s legal troubles will play out or how they will affect the outcome of the 2024 presidential race. But the willingness of the ADL to play the Soros card in order to join the liberal corporate media attack against the former president undermines its credibility, as well as the fight against a rising tide of antisemitism in America.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.