Opinion |

In Netanyahu’s World, George Soros’ Politics Justify Throwing Him to Hungary’s anti-Semitic Dogs

Nationalistic and xenophobic Israelis increasingly identify with like-minded countries and often share their distaste for liberal, universalist Jews

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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George Soros, billionaire and founder of Soros Fund Management LLC, speaks during the Brussels Economic Forum in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, June 1, 2017.
George Soros, at the Brussels Economic Forum last month. Many Europeans, including some of his critics, can clearly identify blatant anti-Semitism in the campaigns in Hungary.
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been waging an aggressive and hateful campaign against Jewish billionaire financier George Soros. Hungarian Jews are divided on whether the campaign is anti-Semitic in and of itself, but they are united in their view that it has sparked a nasty anti-Semitic reaction and in their anger that, despite their pleas, Orban hasn’t ordered it stopped or moderated.

They appealed to the Israeli Embassy in Budapest, which published an appropriate condemnation – until Benjamin Netanyahu stuck a knife in their backs. He instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to issue a clarification that said, in essence, that anti-Semitism is generally a bad thing but Soros is a legitimate target. Soros deserves it.

The reason given for jettisoning Soros is that he is “a person who has continuously undermined democratically elected Israeli governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deprive it of its right to self-defense.”

Orban has been fighting Soros-funded Hungarian NGOs that support democracy and minority rights for reasons that sound similar. Soros and his NGOs have been urging Hungarians to reverse Orban’s refusal to accept refugees from the Middle East. In response, the government has been putting up large posters throughout Hungary with Soros’ image and the caption “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh” above it. Hungarian anti-Semites have been adding their own anti-Jewish slogans to the posters.

The onslaught against Soros isn’t restricted to Hungary. He’s become an icon of evil and favored whipping boy for supporters of nationalistic movements, whether in power or not, from Russia to Poland to Macedonia and all the way to Donald Trump’s favorite radio guy, Alex Jones.

Some of Soros’ detractors don’t mention his Jewishness, but they all use classic anti-Semitic themes, immensely popular with the Nazis, to describe him. Their Soros is a rootless and ruthless profiteer and speculator, a multi-armed octopus with globalist tendencies, a godless cosmopolitan who wants to dilute the purity of the nation by injecting it with foreign ideas and dangerous foreigners.

Many Europeans, including some of Soros’ harshest critics, can clearly identify blatant anti-Semitism in these campaigns. Netanyahu apparently believes that his anti-Israeli positions justify throwing Soros to the anti-Semitic dogs.

But Soros is not alone. When ISIS attacked Paris, Netanyahu was beside himself, antagonizing Francois Hollande’s leftist government and championing France’s right-wing Jews. On the other hand, when America’s mostly liberal Jews were reeling from bursts of anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial emanating from Donald Trump and those around him, Netanyahu didn’t see, didn’t hear and didn’t speak out, either.

As witnessed in the unilateral revocation of the egalitarian worship arrangement at the Western Wall, before Netanyahu decides who is a Jew, he first finds out whom that Jew voted for. The rhetoric that he and other right-wingers use against Jewish critics of the occupation, self-hating enemies of the state who serve foreign interests, is often uncannily similar to the vocabulary employed by European anti-Semites.

The more that Israel turns nationalistic, xenophobic and insular, the more it deepens its ties and identification with similar countries that think and behave the same way. It is increasingly tolerant of dark regimes that support Israeli policies and increasingly critical of liberal countries that criticize them.

Small wonder that Netanyahu will stand besides Orban next week at a welcome ceremony near the Danube, where Hungarian fascists murdered thousands of Budapest’s Jews, despite Orban’s recent praise for Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s pro-Nazi leader, and notwithstanding Orban’s problematic campaign against Soros, which is anti-Semitic by outcome if not by design.

The sounds of the Hungarian marching band that will play "Hatikva" will help Netanyahu ignore the voices of the blood of his brothers, many of them liberals and even anti-Zionists, who will be crying out to him from the once-red river.

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