George Soros arouses strong reactions. Very strong reactions.
A financier and backer of progressive causes, he has been praised by liberals and lambasted by conservatives.
Donald Trump, the former president of the United States; Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, and Republican Party figures like Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Green, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, all have blasted him on a regular basis.
Soros, a U.S. citizen and a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1930, is admired in liberal circles. His political action committee, Democracy PAC II, donated $125 million to Democratic Party politicians last year, making Soros the biggest donor during the 2022 midterm elections in the United States.
Soros’ fund-raising activities go back a long way.
In 1989, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, he donated hundreds of millions of dollars to former Soviet-bloc countries to promote civil society and liberal democracy. These funds were channelled through his Open Society Foundation. Since then, he has donated billions of dollars to his favorite causes.
Soros’ right-wing opponents have blamed him for virtually every problem that afflicts the world, from falling currencies to the flood tide of migrants desperately trying to reach western Europe and the United States from the Middle East and Mexico.
Still other critics, particularly anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists, have accused him of financing the “great replacement” of white Americans with people of color from Africa and Asia.
During the 2015 general election in Hungary, Orban criticized Soros for funding organizations that were helping non-European migrants attempting to cross into his country. Trump, in 2018, suggested that Soros had financed migrant caravans heading for southwestern states. The prime minister of Malaysia, in 1997, insinuated that he was responsible for his nation’s economic ills.
Soros’ most vociferous enemies have invoked classic antisemitic tropes about him, claiming he is the mastermind of a cabal of “globalists” working to destroy their respective countries.
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, is the latest high-profile person to assail Soros. Several days ago, he tweeted that Soros “reminds me of Magneto,” referring to a Marvel X-men comic book villain who, like Soros, survived the Holocaust.
Responding to a Twitter user who maintained that Soros is acting out of good intentions, Musk wrote, “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”
Musk’s tweet led to a wave of antisemitic tweets on Twitter, which has been inundated by racist tweets since his takeover.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, was quick to react to Musk’s tweet. “Comparing (Soros) to a Jewish super villain … is not just distressing, it’s dangerous, and it will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”
In a counter-attack, Musk said he will continue to post controversial tweets. “I’ll say what I want to say,” he said in an interview on CNBC. “And if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it.”
David Saranga, the director of the Digital Diplomacy Bureau at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, was perturbed by Musk’s tweet and accused him of stoking antisemitism.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, disavowed Saranga’s tweet and added, “There will be no more tweets like this.”
Amichai Chikli, Israel’s minister of Diaspora Affairs, has dismissed Saranga’s critique: “As Israel’s minister who’s entrusted with combating antisemitism, I would like to clarify that the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli citizens see Elon Musk as an amazing entrepreneur and a role model.”
Chikli claimed that Soros funds organizations hostile to Israel and Jews, but he did not name any.
Doubling down on his animus toward Soros, Chikli, on May 22, declared, “‘No single person has done more to damage Israel’s standing in the world, especially among so-called progressives, than George Soros.”
Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy who monitors and combats antisemitism, expressed a diametrically different point of view. As she put it, “In bygone eras, antisemites invoked the Rothschild family to advance their conspiracy theories about Jews. Today, they use Soros to do so.”
It goes without saying that not every Soros hater is antisemitic. But it is true that he has become an irresistible target of both conservatives and antisemites.