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Soros, Bannon, and the anti-Semitism of Israel's prime minister

Instead of defending George Soros from Hungary’s anti-Semitism, he has taken a page out of the alt-right playbook. His bottom line? Some Jews just aren’t worth protecting.

George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management, USA, is captured during the session 'Redesigning the International Monetary System: A Davos Debate' at the Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2011. (World Economic Forum)

George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management, USA, is captured during the session ‘Redesigning the International Monetary System: A Davos Debate’ at the Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2011. (World Economic Forum)

Benjamin Netanyahu is the self-appointed protector of world Jewry. And as such, he views his role not only as prime minister of Israel, but as the spokesperson for Jews across the world. On Saturday, Netanyahu played that role when the Israeli government called on the Hungarian government to halt an ad campaign against Hungarian-born Jewish-American financier George Soros, claiming it was fueling anti-Semitism across the country.

Just a day later, however, Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry to retract the statement, resorting instead to attacking Soros, a known critic of Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The clarification, issued by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon, deploys similar tropes to the ones used against Soros by the Hungarian government:

Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred. This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary…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.

The reaction in Israel was immediate. Meretz leader Zehava Galon sharply criticized Netanyahu, accusing him of “supporting global anti-Semitism,” and backed calls by Hungarian Jews for Netanyahu to cancel his visit to Hungary next week. Some of the reactions by the Israeli Right simply doubled down on Netanyahu’s decision. Take right-wing commentator Shimon Riklin, who on Sunday tweeted: “Want to understand part of the anti-Semitism of the 30s in Europe? Look at George Soros who is trying to educate the goyim over and over again, telling them what to think.”

The astounding thing about Netanyahu’s implicit support for Hungary’s anti-Semitism is not that it comes from the most powerful Jewish figure in the world. After all, the far-right in Israel has a sordid history of support for anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist movements.

What’s remarkable this time around is the extent to which Bibi’s move falls in line with the worldview of people such as White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the American alt-right. Bannon is a bonafide anti-Semite who mostly traffics in quasi-coded contempt for Jews of a certain variety. But despite how he is often portrayed, Bannon is not a racial purist who refuses to surround himself with Jews, nor does he advise Donald Trump to do the same.

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, February 23, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, February 23, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

His ire is instead saved for a very specific type of Jew — the kind who holds the pursestrings of neoliberal capitalism (what he terms “globalism”) while simultaneously acting as a vessel for “nefarious” ideologies such as liberalism or anti-racism, which challenge the very fundaments of America’s power structure. After all, White nationalism — be it of the Breitbart, Klan, or neo-Nazi variety — partly rests on the assumption that Jews have at best contributed to, and at worst are responsible for, the unraveling of White America’s power and the supposed consequent rise of Black and Latino political and economic dominance.

Bannon’s Jew is not only rich, he/she is progressive, liberal or left-wing, and thus stands in direct contradistinction to everything he believes in — and everything he seeks to undo during his tenure in the White House. This is the Powerful Jew who refuses to abide by the ordained laws of American White Supremacy, to temper his id, bow his head meekly, and move along. There is a reason, after all, that Soros was one of the four “bad guys” featured in Trump’s closing campaign ad, packed with anti-Semitic dog whistles and imagery.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump seen during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump seen during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

Netanyahu isn’t an idiot; he knows classical anti-Semitism when he sees it. But he doesn’t need to buy into alt-right scientific racism to knowingly propagate some of its worst aspects. He has stayed relatively silent about the uptick in anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S., the White House’s repeated Holocaust trivializations/denials, and the nastiest kinds of anti-Semitic dog whistling.

Netanyahu’s attack on Soros, who openly supports liberal and progressive causes worldwide and does not hide his objection to Israel’s military dictatorship in the occupied territories, is now effectively an open attack on the insidious influence of the Powerful Jew. Soros is the cosmopolitan, liberal, Upper West Side Jew who looks at the increasingly fascistic trends in the Jewish state and “wants nothing to do with it,” as he himself once put it. The frightening part is that there is very little daylight between the way this Jew is viewed by far-right Zionists (and in many ways classic Zionism, too) and the alt-right.

Resisting the alt-right is basic for most American Jews, yet somehow speaking out against the Israeli version of the alt-right is still considered taboo. But the fact is that Israel is way ahead of the U.S. and Europe when it comes to far-right nationalist politics. Over the past decade, pundits, commentators, liberals, and radicals have been warning against the Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pens who threaten to upend Europe’s liberal order, yet few have included the Netanyahus and Nafatali Bennetts for wanting to do the same. Israel is not “following in the footsteps” of European nationalist movements — it is actively setting the trend. And unlike in the Netherlands or France, there is nothing to stop this train.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Grandpa Frost

      The author seems to think that the only way to oppose the alt right and the neo-nazis is to side with the left. One can and should oppose both simultaneously! And that is exactly what Bibi is doing. The left is using anti-semitism to protect Soros from legitimate criticism. Soros is a despicable man. He is a proud nazi collaborator. In fact, Soros has worked against the interests of the Jewish people all his life. And now he wants to flood his native Hungary with refugees whose values are incompatible with European values. He deserves no support from the government of Israel or any Jewish organization. He must be stopped!

      Reply to Comment
      • Joshua Fisher

        There’s so much anti-semitism in your flaming against Soros, don’t know where to start with. But it must be sexy to lay in bed with every single European nazi who tells us that Soros is a puppet master behind everything, the oldets antisemitic stereotype possible.

        Reply to Comment
        • Grandpa Frost

          Joshua Fisher,

          Did you read what I said? Did I ever say that Soros is a puppet master behind everything? I am sure there are anti-Semites who use this despicable individual to besmirch the entire Jewish people, but so what? There is plenty of anti-antisemitism on both the left and the right! The entire Palestinian narrative is anti-Semitic, and it has been adopted by the mainstream left! You are not even allowed to question it without being labeled a “racist”!

          Reply to Comment
          • Joshua Fisher

            “The entire Palestinian narrative is anti-Semitic,”

            Delet your life account, Grandpa

            Reply to Comment
          • Grandpa Frost

            Typical. Instead of offering a coherent counter-argument, encourage the other party to commit suicide. The anti-Israel movement is morally and intellectually bankrupt and so is anyone who is a part of this movement.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Joanne

      Amazing that if you research George Soros you would trove of damage that he has done to multiple of nations. Still amazing is that if one specific person is attack verbally or nonverbally you the writer lumps it as a group. Instead why don’t you research the person itself and do your due diligence of what George Soros has done to say France and why he is banned from entering their borders or what he did to the english pound or why Russia wants to arrest him? Hungary isn’t attacking all jews just one person who is damn rich and trying to harm their nation and values. Frankly I didn’t know or care what religion or nationality Soros is, all I know for sure he is evil beyond belief.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Uh…ok. George Soros: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros#Political_involvement

        Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Soros’s funding has continued to play an important role in the former Soviet sphere. His funding of prodemocratic programs in Georgia was considered by Russian and Western observers to be crucial to the success of the Rose Revolution, although Soros has said that his role has been “greatly exaggerated.”[98] Alexander Lomaia, Secretary of the Georgian Security Council and former Minister of Education and Science, is a former Executive Director of the Open Society Georgia Foundation (Soros Foundation), overseeing a staff of 50 and a budget of $2.5 million…
        Former Georgian foreign minister Salomé Zourabichvili wrote that institutions like the Soros Foundation were the cradle of democratisation and that all the NGOs that gravitated around the Soros Foundation undeniably carried the revolution. She opines that after the revolution the Soros Foundation and the NGOs were integrated into power.

        https://www.georgesoros.com/

        Reply to Comment
      • Joshua Fisher

        “Amazing that if you research Jews you would trove of damage that he has done to multiple of nations. ”
        Are you intellectually capable of recognizing what level of classic antisemitism you just reached?Tell us more about the secret “Protocol of the elder Soros”

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      The blatant demonization of George Soros here (just read Joanne’s absolutely hysterical comment) is anti-Semitic. The anti-Semitic Hungarians clearly codify and perceive Soros as the personification of Jewishness. Their campaign against him is soaked in anti-Semitism. The Hungarians are hugely anti-Semitic and reactionary. It is so interesting how on the first day the Hungarians are, according to the Israeli state, the worst anti-Semites, but then on the very next day the Hungarians are, according to the Israeli state, merely good folks like us defending themselves against “delegitimization.” So that the Hungarians are magically transformed, overnight, from anti-Semitic delegitimizers of a Jewish man to poor victims of the delegitimizers of criticism of George Soros, a traitorous Jewish man who dares to criticize Israel and Hungary. Follow that? It’s dizzying in its appalling dishonesty and hypocrisy and cynicism. And all criticism of Israel “defames” Israel and all criticism of Israel “seeks to deny it the right to defend itself.”
      An odious chapter addition to the sordid history of the Israeli far right.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Denise

      Depends which Palestinian authority you deal with as over a billion dollars has been squandered by Hamas on terrorism instead of nation building and reducing poverty of both the mind a body of all Palestinians. Soros can blame Israel just like the rest of the ignorant who won’t admit that there are two Palestines and neither of them want a Jewish state of Israel to exist in peace!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Ridiculous. Mr. Nethanyahu is defending the Jewish people. However Soros is a disreputable man , a thief, a traitor who causes a big damage to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel. The globalization is in contradiction with Judaism according several rabbis.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Judy fusinaz

      Bibi is the most alt-right Zionist ARAB HATING Israeli and we all know it he would never have a good word for Sonos, the zpalesrinian people must be looked after and we all have to do our bit to help them!

      Reply to Comment
    7. Jay

      Some of the commenters here (I’m looking at you Joshua Fisher and Ben) need to be reminded: Disagreeing with a particular Jew’s ideas or actions (be (s)he George Soros, Sheldon Adelson or other) is not necessarily anti-Semitic.

      Carry on.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        As always, context and intelligent distinctions matter, Jay, and I am confident that Joshua and I are taking account of context intelligently here. As opposed to being simple minded and literal. The Israeli Foreign Ministry understood very well that the Hungarian campaign against Soros employed classic anti-Semitic tropes and quite deliberately drew on anti-Semitic sentiments widespread in the (resentful, reactionary, rather nasty) Hungarian population. You been to Hungary lately? I have. The Foreign Ministry assessed the situation correctly. It was only AFTER Netanyahu saw that the Jew being attacked as a Jew was a LIBERAL and ANTI-OCCUPATION Jew that the Foreign Ministry was told by Netanyahu to retract the very thing they had said the day before. I guarantee you, Jay, that had the Hungarians attacked a right wing Jew or one allied with Netanyahu in the exact same way Soros was attacked that then Netanyahu would have ridden the “Hungarians are being anti-Semitic” theme to the max. This episode is very instructive about the cynical, manipulative use to which Netanyahu’s government puts charges of anti-Semitism.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Achilles

      The title of this article should have been “Jews Can’t Be Evil”. Soros is an evil man. But he’s a Jew so he must be defended! Any criticism is anti-Semitism. But by elevating an evil man you lower yourselves. If you want us goyim equating Jews with Soros don’t be shocked when the inevitable backlash occurs. Actions have consequences. And when you Jews shriek about Hungary’s ethnic nationalism with one breath and support Israel’s ethnic nationalism with the next breath you will not like the consequences.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Abelard Lindsey

      No one cares that Soros is Jewish. The problem is that he is a limousine liberal. If Jewish people don’t want to be tarred as limousine liberals, perhaps they should stop being limousine liberals.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Carl Bradshaw

      This is a great piece of journalism. Criticism of the Likud government is not making anybody less Jewish or less of an Israeli for that matter. Sad that some of the people commenting here cannot see that….
      Todaraba Edo, standing behind you.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Making excuses for dirt bags like George Soros is a great way of getting more anti-Semitism. Since people in general are not too bright, you can expect them to extrapolate the fact that Soros is a Jew into the idea that all Jews must be horrible excuses for human beings.
      Netanyahu is smart enough to see the importance of explaining the difference to people who might not otherwise be capable of figuring out themselves.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “dirt bags like George Soros…horrible excuses for human beings”

        This is pure, empty, demonization. Why is Soros a “horrible human being” and a “dirt bag”? Why does Soros stand out to you as extraordinary, as an exemplar in this respect and why should this assumption be taken for granted?

        The rest of your take on this is a twisted chain of reasoning about “extrapolation.”

        Reply to Comment