Dec 19th 2018

Anti-Semitism Has a New Name 

 

MADRID – Over the centuries, Jews have been blamed for all sorts of ills in Christian and Muslim societies, from the Great Plague of the fourteenth century to the financial crashes of modern times. In 1903, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, produced by Imperial Russia’s secret police, “exposed” a diabolical Jewish plot to achieve world domination by promoting liberalism – and became a pretext for anti-Semitism in Europe. These narratives endure to this day, only now they are being projected onto a single Jew: George Soros.

Right-wing, anti-globalist conspiracy theorists – a group that now includes US President Donald Trump – demonize Soros, a wealthy Jew who is deeply committed to liberal causes. The former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly described Soros in 2007 as “off-the-chart dangerous,” and “an extremist who wants open borders, a one-world foreign policy, legalized drugs, euthanasia, and on and on.” For the Texas-based Infowars founder Alex Jones, Soros is nothing less than “the head of the Jewish mafia” conspiring to derail Trump’s presidency.

Such figures imagine the hidden hand of the “leftist billionaire” almost everywhere. When a caravan of desperate Central American asylum-seekers began walking all the way to the United States border before the recent US midterm elections, it was a ploy by Soros to win a Democratic majority in Congress. When survivors of February’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, launched a gun-control campaign, Soros was supposedly bankrolling them. And it was Soros who arranged for Christine Blasey Ford to testify that Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her.

Soros was also supposedly behind the sexual-assault survivors who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator to demand an investigation into the Kavanaugh accusations, just as he orchestrated the Women’s March, a worldwide protest held the day after Trump’s inauguration. He was even pulling the strings when the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest police violence against black people.

But Soros’ imaginary designs are hardly limited to the US, nor are they all recent. He has, his detractors declare, single-handedly destabilized governments in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom.

How did Soros come to be such a larger-than-life villain?

Soros is what the late historian Isaac Deutscher would call a “non-Jewish Jew” – one who sought ideas, inspiration, and fulfillment beyond the boundaries of Jewry, and yet continued to belong to the Jewish tradition. That stance often enables the non-Jewish Jew to make important contributions to science, culture, and politics.

This is certainly true of Soros, who is not just an enlightened philanthropist, but also a perceptive intellectual participating in today’s most heated debates. Soros has proposed bold solutions to a wide range of problems, including Brexit, eurozone reformmigration policy, and the crisis of global capitalism.

A disciple of the philosopher Karl Popper, Soros has promoted open societies as the ultimate guarantee of freedom from tyranny and religious or ideological indoctrination, and as a powerful weapon against rising social inequality. A globalized community that neutralizes the influence of nationalism, he rightly believes, is vital to enable us to confront existential threats like climate change and nuclear conflict.

So, beyond offering funding for ameliorative programs, Soros uses his philanthropy to advance a vision of a truly free society governed by democratically accountable leaders. For example, his foundations played an integral role spreading democratic ideals beyond the Iron Curtain, both before and after it fell. It is this dimension of Soros’ work – together with the sheer fact that he is a wealthy Jewish financier – that so infuriates the far right, beginning in the very countries whose democratic transitions he once supported.

As Eastern Europe’s democracies backslide politically, Soros has made donations to NGOs fighting corruption and authoritarianism. This has prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to ban the Open Society Foundations from disbursing grants to Russian organizations and artists.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who once received a scholarship from Soros to study at Oxford, has introduced the so-called Stop Soros law, which prohibits “promoting and supporting illegal migration.” The law’s vague wording means that the government could, in theory, arrest anyone who provides any kind of assistance to undocumented immigrants.

Perhaps the most pernicious manifestation of this anti-Soros hysteria, however, has occurred in Israel. Against the advice of his own ambassador to Hungary, who denounced Orbán’s anti-Semitic attacks on Soros, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has blamed Soros for “funding organizations that seek to deny Israel the right to defend itself,” and introduced its own “Soros law” aimed at terminating that funding.

To be clear, Netanyahu’s accusation is preposterous. Out of the $1 billion the Open Society Foundations donate annually worldwide, some $3 million went to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. At the top of the list is the Palestinian Al-Quds University, whose rector, Sari Nusseibeh, created a peace plan jointly with Ami Ayalon, a former admiral and head of the Israel Security Agency (more widely known as Shin Bet). Another recipient, B’Tselem, is an Israeli group that monitors human-rights violations in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu allows multi-million-dollar donations for settlement construction by right-wing donors like Sheldon Edelson. In fact, Netanyahu has often allied himself with whichever government or party, including far-right anti-Semites, is willing to support the repression of the occupied Palestinians. So what we are seeing is an Israeli prime minister team up with the ideological descendants of European fascists to attack a Holocaust survivor whose philanthropy fulfills the principle, called tikkun olam, that Jews must act in ways that improve or repair the world. Netanyahu’s son, Yair, went so far as to post on his Facebook page a revolting anti-Semitic cartoon targeting Soros, with Nazi imagery.

Some ultra-wealthy individuals, such as Charles and David Koch, who control the second-largest privately owned company in the US, really do use their wealth in opaque and subversive ways. It is they, not Soros and his transparent Open Society Foundations, who represent the real threat to our politics and societies.


Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, is Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. 

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2018.
www.project-syndicate.org
2 Attachments

 

 

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "
Jan 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, if cornered, any populist might resort to Trump’s endgame methods: trying to coerce elites into committing fraud to prevent a transfer of power, or deploying right-wing extremists on the ground to intimidate lawmakers. These desperate acts signaled Trump’s weakness. But it is important to note that most Republicans still did not disown Trump even when confronted with his blatant lawlessness on January 6. ... Other right-wing populists may well take notice of this fact. The recent events in the United States have shown that elites who are prepared to collaborate with authoritarians will tolerate quite a lot in the end. This ignominious precedent is especially likely to hold true in other countries where crony capitalism has implicated the business community in illegal behavior."