WASHINGTON – Sensational tales have been spinning for years around the work of George Soros, the Hungarian Jewish immigrant-turned-billionaire businessman and philanthropist known as much for his financial success as for his political activism abroad.
An entire Wikipedia page is devoted to conspiracy theories revolving around this man – something that he, as a prominent Jewish figure, feared in 2003 may contribute to a new and expanding brand of anti-Semitism, perpetuating the conspiracy that Jews are the world’s all-powerful puppet masters.
At that time, 13 years ago, Soros expressed concern over his own role in fueling such theories, “because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world,” he told a Jewish forum hosted that November in New York. And “as an unintended consequence of my actions,” he continued, “I also contribute to that image.”
With that risk in mind, Soros has continued his global activism through the work of the The Open Society Foundations, a grant-making network that has served as his primary tool to shape and shift political dialogue around some of the world’s most challenging conflicts.
The common theme in his work is an effort to further democratize societies: He set up a foundation in Ukraine toward that end before its independence from the Soviet Union, and has recently fought southeastern European countries over their strict policies toward Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees flowing over their borders.
In his 1998 book thematically tied in with the work of his foundation, titled The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered, Soros acknowledged the Open Society fund serves as a vehicle for his political activity, specifically toward further democratization of struggling states.Given that acknowledgment
, revelations this week that the fund has attempted to pressure Israel on its dilemma with the Palestinians would seem to implicate Soros directly.
A hacking of Open Society Foundations over the weekend revealed its efforts – outlined in two, once-confidential reports – to accuse the Israeli government of state-sponsored racism, to form civil society organizations that can serve as rapid-response opposition to Israeli policies, and to create an NGO environment in Washington and across Europe that would make criticism of Israel more politically palatable – to “hold Israel accountable,” using the words of one report, for its violations of international law.
A 2013 summary of the foundation’s portfolio on the Middle East conflict posited that, in a shift from the Bush to Obama administrations, “space for reasonable, unbiased discussions in the policy deliberations, including criticism of Israeli policies, is opening.”
“We wanted to construct a diversified portfolio of grants dealing with Israel and Palestine, funding both Israeli Jewish and PCI (Palestinian Citizens of Israel) groups, as well as building a portfolio of Palestinian grants,” one report reads, “and in all cases to maintain a low profile and relative distance – particularly on the advocacy front.”
Soros was already known to have defunded previous investments in Israeli organizations operating in the West Bank, such as SodaStream, from which he divested in 2014. But this hack shows that several organizations which received Open Society grants actively deny Israel’s right to exist. Such grants include over $1 million to I’lam, an anti-Zionist organization, and over $2.5 million to Adalah, which frequently accuses Israeli forces of war crimes.
Soros’ other investments indicate that he supports a two-state solution, albeit not one on the terms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: While he distanced himself from the original 2007 founding of J Street, a lobby primarily working toward a two-state settlement, he has since donated annually to the organization, with the lobby itself acknowledging 7 percent of its fund-raising had come from the Soros family by 2010.
In a 2007 article published in the New York Review of Books, Soros wrote that “neither Israel’s policies nor the critics of those policies should be held responsible for anti-Semitism.”
“At the same time, I do believe that attitudes toward Israel are influenced by Israel’s policies, and attitudes toward the Jewish community are influenced by the pro-Israel lobby’s success in suppressing divergent views,” he said.
In the same piece, he argued that US and Israeli refusals to negotiate directly with Hamas – listed by both as a terrorist organization – amounts to a “hopeless strategy... No peace agreement would hold without Hamas’ support.”
On its public list of expenditures, Open Society says that over its 33 years in existence it has spent “$1.6 billion on democratic development in the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union,” and “$2.9 billion to defend human rights, particularly the rights of women, ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, and often marginalized groups such as drug users, sex workers, and LGBTQ communities.”
But while Open Society claims to support democratic development and democratic governance, the fund has also given tens of thousands of dollars to the National Iranian American Council, an organization with deep ties to the Iranian regime and that has, in recent years, worked to explain Tehran’s positions to a skeptical American public. NIAC was instrumental in selling the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last summer, over Israel’s impassioned objections.
NGO Monitor first reported Open Society funds to NIAC in 2013, just as negotiations between the US and Iran were first beginning in earnest. The Jerusalem Post could not independently confirm whether the fund has issued further grants to NIAC since completion of the nuclear deal.