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

May 4th 2018
Quote fromthe article: "Iran has been instrumental in the survival of the Assad regime since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Since then, Israel has used its air power to disrupt weapons supplies to Hezbollah and maintain a buffer zone in the southwest, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But now it seems things are heating up. Is this now a far bigger, more direct confrontation in the Syrian arena?"
May 3rd 2018
As signs of an incipient slowdown in the European economy begin to multiply – coincident indicators suggest that industrial production has slowed sharply in 2018 – the case for agreeing on a Brexit deal and refocusing attention on capital markets union is becoming more powerful and more urgent. The commissioner now responsible, Valdis Dombrovskis, said in London in late April that the “building blocks” will be in place early next year, to “help our companies to better cope with the departure of Europe’s largest financial center from the single market.” That is a laudable goal, but it could well be too little, too late.
May 3rd 2018
Gaza has often been invaded for its water. Every army leaving or entering the Sinai desert, whether Babylonians, Alexander the Great, the Ottomans, or the British, has sought relief there. But today the water of Gaza highlights a toxic situation that is spiralling out of control. A combination of repeated Israeli attacks and the sealing of its borders by Israel and Egypt, have left the territory unable to process its water or waste. Every drop of water swallowed in Gaza, like every toilet flushed or antibiotic imbibed, returns to the environment in a degraded state.
Apr 24th 2018
Renewable electricity costs have fallen faster than all but the most extreme optimists believed possible only a few years ago. In favorable sunny locations, such as northern Chile, electricity auctions are being won by solar power at prices that have plummeted 90% in ten years. Even in less sunny Germany, reductions of 80% have been achieved. Wind costs have fallen some 70%, and battery costs around 80%, since 2010.........[The] estimate that the cost of going green will be very small has proved too pessimistic – the cost will actually be negative.
Apr 23rd 2018
Electric Vessels, EVs don’t rise or fall on Tesla — Nissan and the Chinese brands are arguably way ahead, and the Chevy Bolt is comparable to the Tesla 3. But it is unarguable that a price spike in petroleum would certainly help the company get past its current Tesla 3 production problems by substantially bolstering investor and consumer confidence.
Apr 20th 2018
 

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high.

Apr 18th 2018

HONG KONG – At the beginning of this century, when China launched its “going out” policy – focused on using foreign-exchange reserves to support overseas expansion and acquisitions by Chinese companies – few expected the country quickly to emerge as a leading economic player in Latin America.

Apr 18th 2018

BEIJING – Last month, US President Donald Trump enacted steel and aluminum tariffs aimed squarely at China. On April 2, China retaliated with tariffs on 128 American products. Trump then announced 25% tariffs on another 1,300 Chinese products, representing some $50 billion of exports.

Apr 17th 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week was a most unusual one for President Donald Trump’s administration.

Apr 16th 2018

All the attention being given to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica regarding their breach of public trust and exploitation of personal data is richly deserved.

Apr 12th 2018

CAMBRIDGE – Why were democratic political systems not responsive early enough to the grievances that autocratic populists have successfully exploited – inequality and economic anxiety, decline of perceived social status, the chasm between elites and ordinary citizens?

Apr 11th 2018

LONDON – The world will soon witness a historic test of wills between China and the United States, two superpowers whose leaders see themselves as supreme. In the immediate sense, it will be a battle over trade.

Apr 10th 2018

NEW YORK – Parts of the world are experiencing eruptions of hyper-masculinity. The president of the United States presents himself as a kind of caveman, beating his chest, grabbing women “by the pussy,” and roaring like a great ape.

Apr 9th 2018

CAMBRIDGE – In the future, if not already, the Silicon Valleys of artificial intelligence (AI) will be in China. The tech firms Xiaomi, Baidu, Didi Chuxing, Meituan, and Toutiao are all headquartered in Beijing. Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant, is based in Hangzhou.

Apr 3rd 2018

LONDON – It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Flowers are starting to bloom, as the sun shines brighter and longer each day. When it comes to world affairs, however, the outlook is hardly rosy.

Apr 3rd 2018

JERUSALEM – “The most dangerous moment for a bad government,” the nineteenth-century French statesman and historian Alexis de Tocqueville

Mar 28th 2018

MADRID – Four days before the United Kingdom’s 1924 election, the Daily Mail published a letter purportedly written by Comintern Chairman Grigori Zinoviev, calling on British Communists to mobilize “sympathetic forces” in the Labour Party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty and to encourag

Mar 19th 2018

The emergence of any new global power often profoundly shifts the political and economic landscape and causes considerable discomfort among the established order.

Mar 15th 2018

The American journalist and poet Ambrose Bierce wrote in his 1906 satire The Devil’s Dictionary that “the gambling known as business looks with severe disfavour on the business known as gambling”