Why are so many prominent Jews defending George Soros – a virulent anti-Zionist who has never been friendly to the Jewish people.
An op-ed in The Jerusalem Post typified what many Jews have been saying since Elon Musk compared Soros to Magneto, a Marvel super-villain.
The op-ed was headlined: “This time every Jew is with George Soros.” It concluded that Musk’s “attack must make every Jew, regardless of ideological orientation or political stripe, defend Soros.”
Well, not this Jew. I refuse to defend Soros, and I refuse to join the Jewish chorus of criticism against Musk.
Musk has been falsely accused of antisemitism because of his criticism and mockery of George Soros. These accusations come from the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, and even the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Soros is Jewish by heritage. Musk is not. But their religious backgrounds should play no role in evaluating the charges and counter-charges. The facts and history of both men should be evaluated.
“Soros’s defenders try to shut down criticism of the billionaire by claiming it is antisemitic because Soros himself is Jewish. But no one has financed more destructive attacks on Israel and the American Jewish community than Soros. He is, at best, a self-hating Jew, and shouldn’t be let off the hook because of his ancestry.”Farley Weiss
George Soros has done more harm to Israel than any other single person in the world
No single person has done more to damage Israel’s standing in the world, and especially among so-called progressives, than George Soros. Without his support, the two major organizations that have done the most to shift the left-wing paradigm against Israel, would not have the pernicious influence they currently possess.
Human Rights Watch was founded by publisher and human rights advocate Robert Bernstein. For years it critiqued the denial of human rights by all countries based on two criteria: the seriousness of the human rights violations in any particular nation; and the inability of the citizens of that nation to protest and remedy such violations. Then a Soros-funded radical anti-Israel zealot named Kenneth Roth took over the organization and turned it into an organization that specialized in demonizing Israel without regard to the previously outlined criteria. The Israel bashing became so one-sided and extreme that Bernstein wrote:
“As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”
After that, matters got even worse.
Roth deployed “human rights” as a weapon targeting Israel. Its one-sided “reports” were used as primary justifications and excuses for selective condemnation of Israel by the United Nations and its various committees. They were also circulated on university campuses around the world. Despite their obvious anti-Israel bias, supporters pointed to the fact that Roth too is of Jewish heritage, thus purporting to lend credibility to his anti-Israel accusations.
Natan Sharansky documented the bias of Human Rights Watch: “Here is an organization created by the goodwill of the free world to fight violations of human rights, which has become a tool in the hands of dictatorial regimes to fight against democracies ... It is time to call a spade a spade. The real activity of this organization today is a far cry from what it was set up 30 years ago to do: throw light in dark places where there is really no other way to find out what is happening regarding human rights.”
Soros contributed $100,000,000 to Roth’s organization. (The Guardian, September 7, 2010) And since he has been funding this organization, its priorities have shifted even more to singling out Israel for demonization and applying a double standard to the nation-state of the Jewish people. The impact of this demonization cannot be overstated: HRW has done more to turn the international community and progressives against Israel than any other organization. This is ALL Soros’s fault, and Soros is justly condemned for shifting this paradigm against Israel.
The second most influential organization in turning progressives against Israel is another Soros-funded group: J Street. Despite its claim to be a progressive pro-Israel and pro-Palestine organization, J Street has done much to turn most progressive and some liberal Democrats – especially members of Congress, as well as academics and media pundits – against Israel. Soros contributed a million dollars to J Street, which, according to Haaretz is “20 times larger than any previous donation J Street Action Fund received” (August 23, 2022). J Street now lobbies Congress against Israel and supports candidates who are virulently anti-Israel, as does Soros.
Attorney Farley Weiss, former president of The National Council of Young Israel, put it exactly right when he concluded: “Soros’s defenders try to shut down criticism of the billionaire by claiming it is antisemitic because Soros himself is Jewish. But no one has financed more destructive attacks on Israel and the American Jewish community than Soros. He is, at best, a self-hating Jew, and shouldn’t be let off the hook because of his ancestry.”
I, TOO, have been a strident critic of Soros, and his pernicious influence not only on Israel but on American domestic issues, such as his funding of progressive candidates for district attorneys, such as Alvin Bragg and Chesa Boudin, who have politicized law enforcement. My criticism of Soros did not include comparing him to “Magneto,” who, like Soros, survived the Holocaust. I would not make that comparison because I had never heard of this super-villain, but I agree with Musk that Soros’s acts, contributions and motivation do contribute to the erosion of the “fabric of civilization.”
In another Post oped, Shlomo Fischer criticized my defense of Musk by false accusing Musk cursing out Soros “as a Jew.” He did nothing of the sort. He characterized him as a super-villain, which is fair comment, even if he compared him to a Holocaust survivor who became a villain. If the shoe fits…
Musk himself has shown no hostility toward Israel or the Jewish people. He is not an antisemite, and what he said is not antisemitic.
It is true that some right-wing antisemites have focused on Soros in promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories about “the Jews” controlling the world. Just as antisemites of the past blamed “the Rothschilds” for many of the world’s evils, so too some contemporary bigots blame Soros.
The difference is that the Rothschilds were strong supporters of the Jewish community and of Zionism. Not only is Soros not a supporter, he is an opponent. He is “Jewish” only on his parents’ side and he boasts of the fact that his mother was an antisemite.
Even so, every Jew should condemn antisemitic and illegitimate misuse of Soros’s Jewish heritage. But this misuse should not prevent or deter legitimate criticism of Soros’s individual influence on the world, not as a Jew but as a super-villain in his own right.
The writer is professor emeritus at Harvard. Portions of this op-ed appeared in The Wall Street Journal.