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Call It Soros-Phobia

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Call It Soros-Phobia

Jew hatred, by any other name. Et tu, Alan Dershowitz?

Commentary by Jeffrey Salkin | Religion News Service

Governor Ron DeSantis should be ashamed.

In contemplating the possible criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump, the Florida governor tweeted: “The Manhattan District Attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor.”

Let us review.

George Soros, the wealthy Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist, is the bogey man of the American right wing. They trace whatever they don’t like about liberalism or progressive politics back to Soros’ imaginary machinations. Soros is the puppet-master.

George Soros is a Jew.

These are antisemitic conspiracy theories. That is what makes antisemitism so potent, and unique among hatred — it has always existed as a network of conspiracy theories.  You just have to say the name “Soros,” and you wind up with an antisemitic dog whistle — in much the same way as “Rothschild” has been, and continues to be.

To quote the ADL:

Hungarian Jewish billionaire, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros is widely recognized for funding progressive political and social causes, usually through grants made by his Open Society Foundations. As a result, Soros has become a lightning rod for conservative and right-wing groups who object to his funding of liberal causes.

In far-right circles worldwide, Soros’ philanthropy often is recast as fodder for outsized conspiracy theories, including claims that he masterminds specific global plots or manipulates particular events to further his goals. Many of those conspiracy theories employ longstanding antisemitic myths, particularly the notion that rich and powerful Jews work behind the scenes, plotting to control countries and manipulate global events…In the United States, Soros long has been a favored target of the so-called alt right and other right-wing extremists. Their online echo chambers reverberate with conspiracies about Soros, accusing him of attempting to perpetrate “white genocide” and push his own malevolent agenda. 

Look at various right wing and Russian websites. Look at how those web sites depict Soros — as a tentacled monster. That is how classic antisemitism portrayed the Jew.

We did not need for this to get worse.

But, then Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz came along.

He said that Republicans should not worry that attacking George Soros would be considered antisemitic.

“Please, everybody, feel free to tell the truth about George Soros,” Dershowitz said on Newsmax TV, a pro-Trump conservative cable network.  “Don’t worry about false charges that it is antisemitic.” 

Dershowitz also repeated a debunked far-right conspiracy theory that Soros was a Nazi collaborator.

“He’s not much of a Jew, first of all,” Dershowitz said. “I mean, as you know, he worked and collaborated with Nazis in his native country when he was a young kid.”

For many years, I admired Professor Dershowitz. He was a classic liberal icon and a prominent Jewish personality.

That is why I write these words, less in contempt than in sadness and disappointment.

First, Professor Dershowitz repeated the slur against George Soros — that Soros, as a young boy, collaborated with the Nazis in Hungary.

To quote Nadine Epstein in Moment magazine:

Whether or not they know it, people who call George Soros a Nazi are echoing a malicious lie that was likely invented in the early 1990s by known anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, Jr…

The pretext for the accusations stems from two childhood incidents that occurred after the Nazis invaded Soros’s native Hungary in 1944. The first took place when the Jewish council in Budapest, which had been established by Hitler’s henchman Adolf Eichmann, ordered Soros—then 13—and other Jewish teenagers to work as couriers delivering messages to Jews…

The story is complicated, painful, and nuanced.

Whatever George Soros did “as a young kid” in his native Hungary; whatever he did to stay alive during the worst time of Jewish and human history — those actions of a young, scared boy should be beyond the scope of our judgement.

In the name of any Jewish value you choose to list, can’t we choose to simply not “go there?” Is there anyone who wants to re-create a GPS of the roads of hell?

Because, let us be clear: The only people who seem to care — no, obsess — about George Soros’ Hungarian childhood are those who oppose his politics.

Like, for example, Professor Dershowitz.

This goes even beyond the title of Professor Dershowitz’s autobiography — “Chutzpah.” It is far worse than chutzpah to weaponize these accusations, emerging from the darkness and from the ashes, as a way to fight an ideological battle against George Soros, to cast aspersions on the Manhattan DA, and to traffic in an antisemitic conspiracy theory that the DA is somehow in Soros’ nefarious pocket.

But, second: There is the outrageous, beneath and beyond contempt statement about George Soros: “He’s not much of a Jew, first of all…”

What does that even mean?

Are we now to stand in judgement on every public Jew’s Jewish identity?

Are we now to micro-manage every Jew’s personal observance level, their level of Jewish giving, their affiliations — all, again, in an attempt to weaponize their liberalism, even their progressive politics, against them?

Because once we do that, then we must be free to say that a right wing financier and donor to conservative causes is likewise “not much of a Jew.”

Professor Dershowitz knows that many Jews would gleefully tell him that he — a man who might not observe Shabbat traditionally; a man who might not observe the Jewish dietary laws traditionally; a man who does and does not do all sorts of things — is “not much of a Jew.”

Professor Dershowitz has consented to the slicing and dicing of Jewish identity — all in the service of his client.

George Soros is not the issue here.

The bigger issue is: How do we Jews not tear each other apart, as part of our ideological squabbles?

Alan Dershowitz knows better.

I can only hope that he will, in fact, do better.

Jeffrey Salkin
Jeffrey Salkinhttp://www.religionnews.com
Jeffrey Salkin is a columnist for the Religion News Service

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