New pro-Israel group claims criticism of George Soros isn’t anti-Semitic

Michael F. Brown

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 5, 2023

Josh HammerNewsweek’s anti-Palestinian senior editor-at-large, is now directing his right-wing animus at George Soros, a longtime supporter of progressive causes and Democratic candidates. He is joined in the endeavor by Will Scharf, a Republican candidate for attorney general in the state of Missouri.

Founded Wednesday, Jews Against Soros maintains that criticism of Soros is not, in fact, anti-Semitism. Much of it, however, clearly has been.

Hammer’s own choice of words seems intended to unleash more white nationalist hatred at Soros. In a recent statement to The Daily Signal, Hammer argued that “George Soros is a destructive civilizational force in America, Israel, his native Hungary, and throughout the West more generally.”

He added, “Far too many elected officials who criticize his dastardly influence, and perhaps especially his sprawling network of ‘progressive prosecutors,’ are dishonestly tarred as ‘anti-Semites’ for doing so.”

Hammer and Scharf are pushing a hate-filled envelope when they say in a press release that “attacking Soros for his influence on American politics, to say nothing of his nefarious agenda in Israel itself, isn’t anti-Semitic.”

Hammer isn’t ignorant in resorting to terms like “sprawling network,” “destructive civilizational force,” “dastardly influence” and “nefarious” to describe Soros and his work. He’s helping to give license to the most violent and racist forces in the US and perhaps internationally.

Hammer and Scharf have haphazardly thrown together this group to validate the right-wing bigots directing anti-Semitic rhetoric against Soros.

Soros’ crime in their eyes is that he has the temerity to be Jewish and promote “left-wing” organizations and “anti-Israel activism.” Even his support for J Street, an organization which supports two states but not equal rights for Palestinians, is too much for Hammer and Scharf.

As their website states: “American Jews have a special interest in stopping George Soros. In sharp contrast to the great majority of American Jews who support the American-Israeli alliance, Soros has funded numerous groups that oppose Israel, that fight against the American-Israeli alliance, and that have spread anti-Semitic lies about the state of Israel.”

Among these “anti-Semitic lies,” presumably, is the well-documented fact that Israel practices apartheid and denies freedom to Palestinians. Hammer and Scharf cite anti-Semitism to shield Israel from well-founded criticism, but their website ignores it from the political right.

Obviously, it is possible to criticize Soros without crossing into anti-Semitism. Hammer and Scharf, however, don’t say that.

They make a blanket claim on the new website: “There is nothing anti-Semitic about condemning George Soros.”

Anti-Semitic examples

But there have been anti-Semitic attacks on Soros.

Hammer, in his recent job of opinion editor at Newsweek, gave a platform to Yair Netanyahu, a son of Benjamin Netanyahu, to make the racist claim that “the Jewish people have a long-standing and exclusive right to the Land of Israel.”

This platform was extended despite the fact that in 2017 Yair posted to Facebook a clearly anti-Semitic meme against Soros.

This is not the only example. Twice at Newsweek Hammer pushed the views of the anti-Palestinian activist and convicted tax evader Adam Milstein, though Milstein in 2017 posted an anti-Semitic tweet against Soros.

At the time of the tweet, Milstein was chairman of the board of the Israeli-American Council. He is currently a board member and chairman emeritus of that organization.

Addressing Milstein’s organization in 2019, President Donald Trump launched into an anti-Semitic diatribe.

“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well,” Trump told the largely Jewish audience.

“You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice.”

Rather than criticize Trump’s anti-Semitism, Milstein on Facebook praised the president’s lawbreaking on behalf of an expansionist and apartheid Israel.

“A big thank you to President Trump for his address at the IAC conference and his commitment to Israel which includes moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and affirming the right of Jews to live legally in Judea and Samaria.”

Both Yair Netanyahu and Adam Milstein did later delete the images, but by then had shown just how far they were willing to go to attack Soros.

Yair clearly retains the view that did nothing wrong, tweeting in 2019: “Soros is the number 1 anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish world actor. How the hell a cartoon that is showing how he is financing all the radical left in Israel is anti-Semitic?” That tweet can still be found on his Twitter feed.

This points to the fact that for many right-wing activists, including Hammer and Scharf, anti-Semitism is acceptable – or can at least be overlooked – provided the culpable party is a fierce advocate for Israel and its war crimes. Yair Netanyahu and Adam Milstein are; Soros is not as he has funded Human Rights Watch, an organization which has highlighted Israel’s numerous human rights violations as noted and disparaged by Alan Dershowitz in The Wall Street Journal.

Dershowitz, a former law professor at Harvard University and champion of Israel and many of its abuses, wrote: “His Jewishness shouldn’t shield him from criticism.”

He added, “No single person has done more to damage Israel’s standing in the world, especially among so-called progressives, than George Soros.”

Dershowitz would almost certainly be enraged at the rhetoric currently directed at Soros if the Holocaust survivor simply had spent his whole life ignoring Israel and its numerous violations of the rights of Palestinians.

Amichai Chikli, Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, though apparently not fully informed on the subject, thanked Dershowitz for his intervention.

Anti-Semitism isn’t the concern here for Chikli, but rather the harm caused by questioning Israel’s actions or highlighting its human rights abuses, including the crime of apartheid.

Viktor Orbán

One of Soros’ most determined opponents is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a friend or at least one-time drinking pal of Hammer’s.

Orbán’s anti-Semitism, including language directed at Soros, is excused by Hammer because the Hungarian leader and government are pro-Israel.

According to The Guardian, in 2018 Orbán employed clear anti-Semitism against Soros: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

The previous year, Orbán’s government ran a billboard campaign depicting Soros as a puppet master.

Hammer and Scharf’s thesis that criticism of Soros isn’t anti-Semitic is ill-conceived. Some of it is as the Viktor Orbán, Adam Milstein and Yair Netanyahu examples make abundantly clear.

Elon Musk

Much of the recent concern about anti-Semitic rhetoric directed at Soros comes as a result of tweets by Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

Musk compared Soros to X-Men supervillain Magneto, who is depicted as a survivor of the Holocaust as is Soros in real life. He then claimed Soros “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who rarely misses an opportunity to claim pro-Palestine activists engage in anti-Semitism, denied that Musk is anti-Semitic, apparently in part because Musk “has Jewish friends.”

Carefully expressing himself in a way he does not with advocates for equal rights for Palestinians, Greenblatt stated that Musk is “arguably the most influential man on the planet, controlling what’s essentially our public square. And when he repeats conspiracy theories, when he amplifies ideas – like George Soros who is a polarizing figure who supports polices that I don’t agree with – still when you say he’s a supervillain trying to destroy humanity that feeds the extremists who want to kill supervillains.”

Nonetheless, he avoided labeling as anti-Semitic what Musk tweeted. The Israeli government itself has mixed views on the subject, veering between concern over anti-Semitism and rage at Soros’ positions on Israel. Like Greenblatt, the Israeli government is quick to condemn advocates for Palestinian freedom and equal rights as anti-Semites.

Musk, who initially got Greenblatt’s first name wrong, responded that he would “endeavor to be more thoughtful in the future.”

But he then added, “Comic book analogies are obviously imperfect, to say the least. Just because George Soros can bend metal using his mind doesn’t mean he’s Magneto!!”

Stephen Miller, who was a senior adviser to President Trump, disagreed with Greenblatt going even as far as he did with his criticism of Musk.

Miller worked alongside white supremacist Richard Spencer while they both attended Duke University and were exploring their anti-immigrant views.

Hammer as arbiter

Hammer has long regarded himself as an arbiter of who is and isn’t sufficiently Jewish. Last year, he tweeted, “The sad reality here is simply that the majority of American Jews are ‘JINOs’ (Jews in name only).” In 2019, he indicated that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other Jews like him are “self-haters” who “do not speak for proud American Jews.”

Scharf, for his part, on Thursday downplayed an assault on journalist Jacob Kornbluh while slurring him as a “kapo” who “ratted out fellow Jews to the police for gathering to pray” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The New York Times, Kornbluh was, in fact, “surrounded by men and teenagers who shoved him against a wall, punched, kicked and struck him with objects, and then chased him for two blocks.”

An aspiring attorney general for Missouri, Scharf doesn’t mention that fact of the case in his rush to paint Kornbluh in the worst possible light.

Hammer and Scharf are pushing a definition of anti-Semitism targeting left-wing criticism of Israel and its practice of apartheid while downplaying the anti-Semitism thriving on the political right where they reside.

The case they are making is an assault on both the fight against anti-Semitism and the struggle for Palestinian freedom and equal rights.

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist