This recent article by Dr. Gerstenfeld was originally published at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and republished here with the author’s consent.
Soros’s Negative Interactions with the Jewish World
From a Jewish and Israeli point of view, there are two substantial issues to look at when analyzing the activities of American Jewish billionaire George Soros. The first is his largely damaging statements and actions against Jews and Israel. The second is antisemitic attacks on Soros.
Beyond that there is a major general debate on Soros‘ worldwide activities. Many of these do not have any specific impact on Jewish matters and there is no reason for Jews as Jews to enter into this debate. It is not our business whether to call Soros primarily a major philantropist or the king of speculators.
Soros promotes lies about antisemitism. In a rare meeting in a Jewish environment, Soros spoke before the Jewish Funders Network Conference in New York in 2003. He was asked about antisemitism in Europe. Soros said European antisemitism is the result of the policies of Israel and the United States. He added: “There is a resurgence of antisemitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that.“1
Soros also remarked: “It’s not specifically antisemitism, but it does manifest itself in antisemitism as well. I’m critical of those policies…“2 He blamed the “resurgence of antisemitism in Europe” on Israel and insisted that, “If we change that direction, then antisemitism will also diminish.”3
There was apparently nobody present who took him to task for his extreme and false blaming of the victim. Soros was ignoring the basics of Europe’s extreme antisemitism conditions, which have existed for more than 1500 years.
Soros, a typical Jewish masochist, added that he too bears some responsibility for the new antisemitism quoting Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Bin Mohamad, who said, “Jews rule the world by proxy.” Soros reacted: “As an unintended consequence of my actions, I also contribute to that image.”4
Abraham Foxman, then national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) afterwards called Soros’ comments on antisemitism “absolutely obscene.”5 Foxman said that blaming the victim for all of Israel’s and the Jewish people’s ills was bigoted and biased.
At the time, Executive Vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, reacted, “Antisemites don’t need excuses. If the quote is accurate, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about antisemitism. It’s ridiculous and unacceptable to say that attacks on Jews are related to Bush or Sharon’s policies, while ignoring the real reason: a deep antipathy toward Jews in the Arab world and the occasional indifference on the part of European governments. Antisemitism in Europe reached a peak during the Barak government, during the Camp David 2 and Taba negotiations.”6
One might summarize this by saying that Soros‘ words on antisemitism were a typical example of one of his characteristics: He has a big mouth on issues that he understands little or nothing about.
Soros foundations fund a variety of bodies. Among these are also many Jewish and anti-Israeli organizations. NGO-Monitor has written a report on these donations.7 They vary greatly. For instance, according to that text, the Simon Wiesenthal Center received $4508 and the anti-Israel Human Rights Watch received one hundred million dollars.9
A general issue on which Soros is heavily criticized by many is interference in the internal affairs of many countries. The declared objective of Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF) is “to work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.”10 That translates into the OSF’s often intrusive activities in both closed and democratic societies. This includes large scale funding of political NGO’s.11
The OSF grants money to political NGO’s in Israel through its “Arab Regional Office (ARO) – Palestinian Citizens of Israel” department. The ARO headed by Ammar Abu Zayyad is one of a number of funding mechanisms for Israeli and Palestinian NGO’s in the OSF network.12
Also outside Israel Soros is involved in activities helping organizations which are thoroughly permeated by antisemitism. Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post in 2016 claimed that Black Lives Matter received “$650,000 from Soros-controlled groups over the past year.”13
Republican US Senator Tom Cotton, in a speech on the Senate floor, accused the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a new think tank funded by billionaires George Soros and Charles Koch, of fostering antisemitism.14 He did not provide details.
The attacks on Soros’ activities on many other issues go far beyond what has been said here. The OSF made more than ￡1 billion betting against the British Pound on Black Wednesday in 1992. This speculative action forced the British government to pull out from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).15 Another example of a highly problematic activity was the funding of a pro EU group to help reverse the Brexit vote.16 They were given more than￡400,000.17
A very different issue is that Soros is often accused of bank rolling the successful campaign of a variety of radical candidates for district attorneys in the US.18
Yet there is one additional issue that the Jewish world cannot ignore. Many articles on Soros, attack him as a Jew. The Spanish-language Radio Television Marti network, which broadcasts pro-United States content in Cuba, aired a report that called Mr. Soros a “multimillionaire Jew” of “flexible morals,” who was “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.”19
In Europe, the effort to demonize him has been both fueled and harnessed by nationalist leaders like Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary20 and politicians in formerly communist countries like Macedonia, Albania and Russia.21
“Antisemitism works by inversion. It works by lying. It works by conflating,” said Ruth Wisse, an emeritus professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard University and conservative writer. “And it’s so difficult to pull some of the threads apart. This is one of the most difficult situations one can be in: when you have a Jewish anti-Jew who is attacked by antisemites.”22
For Jews indeed the problems that arise around these attacks require fine-tuning. One person who ran into trouble on this was the Israeli ambassador to Budapest, Yossi Amrani, who condemned a Hungarian poster campaign attacking Soros. He said it encouraged antisemitism.23
The next day the Israeli Foreign Ministry came out with a statement which was highly negative about Soros, but did not explicitly say that its ambassador had been wrong.24 This was an exercise in verbal acrobatics.
The Ministry’s statement said that Soros was a legitimate target for criticism and that the ambassador had meant to denounce the campaign only as it could be seen as fomenting antisemitic sentiment. The statement then came down hard on Soros as an anti-Israeli saying “In no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”25
This statement in a few words characterizes Soros’ activities very well. One can summarize the required Jewish action by saying that means that Jews will have to confront continually his many negative influences concerning Israel, stupid remarks on antisemitism and so on.
8 NGO-Monitor. Bad Investment: The Philanthropy of George Soros and the Arab Israeli Conflict. How Soros-funded Groups Increase Tensions in a Troubled Region. May 2013.