George Soros, in his political pronouncements and in his characterization of the goals of his Open Society Foundations (OSF), the primary financial vehicle for his political advocacy and activism, acknowledges his support of a globalist agenda. He also acknowledges his embrace of that position as an alternative to identification with the Jewish people or the Jewish state.
For example, in a 1995 New Yorker interview, Soros remarked, “my mother was quite anti-Semitic and ashamed of being Jewish. Given the culture in which one lived [he grew up in Hungary before and during World War II], being Jewish was a clear-cut stigma, a disadvantage, a handicap – therefore there was always a desire to transcend it, to escape it.”
Elsewhere in the interview, he remarks, “Of course, this whole interest in universal ideas is a typical means to escape from the particular… I am escaping the particular. I think I am doing exactly that by espousing this universal concept… In other words, I don’t think you can ever overcome anti-Semitism if you behave as a tribe… The only way you can overcome it is if you give up the tribalness.”
When asked in the interview about Israel, he answered – “testily,” according to the interviewer – “I don’t deny the Jews their right to national existence – but I don’t want to be a part of it.”
While the cited remarks – the gist of which he has repeated on many occasions – reflect some candid self-observation, there are also elements that are disingenuous and self-serving. It is not true that among Jews targeted for abuse by surrounding societies, there was “always a desire to transcend it, to escape it.” There was, of course, a desire to escape abuse, but most Jews were not inclined to jettison their Jewish identity to appease the haters. Similarly, in his reference to the need to escape tribalism, it is not entirely clear if he is talking about the tribalism of the anti-Semites, or of the Jews, or of both; but the context suggests he is talking at least partly of Jewish “tribalism,” and the sentiment reflects Soros seeking to justify the rightness of abandoning Jewish identity by casting his doing so as his choosing to take a higher, more virtuous path.
Jews who have chosen over the centuries to jettison their Jewish identity in the face of anti-Semitism have typically sought to characterize their course as somehow reflecting a morally superior one. Most who have fled a Jewish identity have embraced instead, and chosen as their exclusive self-definition, the majority identity of the nations in which they lived, and they have chosen to perceive the latter as a more wholesome alternative. But in the last almost two centuries, claims of abandoning the parochial and narrow for the universal have been a particularly popular tack for those seeking to escape identification with other Jews and a particularly popular form of virtue signaling and self-promoting among such people. Soros fits neatly into that tradition.
(Noteworthy in this regard is that Soros’s idol and model, the late Austrian/British philosopher Karl Popper, author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, was another plyer of this path. Popper’s parents had converted to Lutheranism to escape their Jewish identity and the anti-Semitism rife in their native Vienna and had had their son baptized in their new faith. With the rise of the Nazis, Popper anticipated Hitler seizing control of Austria, knew his formal Lutheranism would not protect him, and arranged to flee Austria in 1937. But he continued to pursue distancing himself from his Jewish roots, and he cast his doing so as a morally superior course. He embraced a supranational cosmopolitanism as adjunct to his Open Society concepts and as his alternative self-definition, declaring his opposition to all nationalisms and “tribalism.” But he voiced particular hostility towards what he characterized as Jewish tribalism and to Jewish national self-determination, Zionism. In the wake of Israel’s founding, he turned that same hostility towards the Jewish state. For Popper, too, a supposedly parochialism-transcending supranationalism was the virtue-signaling alternative to the liabilities of a recurrently besieged Jewish identity.)
Soros’s Open Society Foundations declares it works to “strengthen freedom of expression” and “access to information.” One would think this would, of course, be an essential element of the “openness” Soros claims to support. Yet he has consistently backed efforts to prevent the open exchange of ideas and to close down public access to views he opposes, such as those of conservative voices in America. He has been a heavy supporter of Media Matters, which is largely devoted to silencing conservative media and conservative writers and commentators. (Media Matters has also at times engaged in crude anti-Semitic tropes to attack Jewish supporters of Israel.) Soros has financed as well other attempts to block such views, including campaigns to constrain and eliminate conservatives’ access to social media.
And support for Israel, like that provided by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has been an explicit target of his seeking to silence voices with which he disagrees, in this case not least by accusing AIPAC’s Israel advocacy of being too influential, somehow suppressing opposing views (a projection of Soros’s own modus operandi) and exerting a supposedly nefarious impact that requires demolishing. As he spells out in a 2007 New York Review of Books article entitled “On Israel, America and AIPAC,” it is nefarious, in his view, because Israel’s refusal to recognize Hamas as a negotiating partner and AIPAC’s backing of that stance stymies what would otherwise be advancement towards peace. That Hamas remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction and, as its charter makes explicit, the murder of all the world’s Jews, is no reason, in Soros’s world view, to refuse to recognize the organization as a legitimate interlocutor in his imagined march towards “peace.”
Soros clearly nurtures a hostility towards Israel that outweighs any devotion he has to the asserted principles of his Open Society. As indicated in his promotion of Hamas as a legitimate negotiating partner, Soros’s discussions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict virtually never includes any criticism of the Palestinian leadership – whether the Palestinian Authority or Hamas – for its campaigns against any opening of their societies; their abuse of journalists and proscription of a free press. He is similarly silent on the absence of a free press and of openness in the societies of the nations surrounding Israel.
Compare also Soros and his beneficiaries’ attacking AIPAC for its influence, characterizing it as somehow illegitimate and in need of dismantling, to their remaining essentially silent regarding groups that advance not only anti-Israel but anti-Semitic agendas. For example, Qatari and Saudi-financed groups do so through influential Washington lobbying and through payments to universities to shape curricula against Israel and its Jewish supporters. Those efforts and agendas do not arouse Soros’s ire. On the contrary, he has at times joined forces with, for instance, pro-Iranian voices in America, obviously not put off by the Iranian regime’s genocidal anti-Semitism.
Also noteworthy is Soros’s support for the United Nations and the European Union as projects commensurate with his transnational, globalist agenda. He is apparently indifferent to the anti-democratic biases of both institutions and the support given by both to censorship in various forms, even though both predilections stand, again, in obvious violation of the principles touted by him and his Open Society. He is likewise indifferent to the bias against Israel and outright anti-Semitism that is a pervasive feature of many UN bodies, including the General Assembly, and to the burgeoning anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias that are a staple of the machinations of the EU.
Support for far Left positions in the U.S. that would seem to undermine America, such as open borders, is related to Soros seeing U.S. power – economic, military and diplomatic – as the biggest obstacle to his apotheosis of globalism. The U.S. is unique in the role it plays as a counter to the globalist agenda. Hostility to Israel, as voiced in statements like those noted in the opening paragraphs, is allegedly related to the fact that it is a nation state that does not want to lose its independence to international entities; but it is hardly unique in that regard. Many of the world’s nations would likewise resist doing so. Why is it particularly the one Jewish state vis-a-vis which he devotes so many resources to aid those who seek its dissolution? The answer is, again, that his globalism derives largely from his eagerness to escape the handicaps of a Jewish identity, and so it is particularly from the Jews and the Jewish state that he seeks to distance himself, even to the point of supporting those who wish to obliterate it.
In the 2007 New York Review of Books article, Soros declared that, “I am not a Zionist, nor am I a practicing Jew, but I have a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel.” Yet his actions – his failure to offer any actual support for the one Jewish state (as the interviewer in the 1995 New Yorker piece, Connie Bruck, noted, “Soros has chosen to exclude Israel and Jewish causes, by and large, from his massive philanthropy…”) even as he devotes huge amounts to support many other nations and provides substantial resources to groups that oppose Israel’s existence – give the lie to his assertions of sympathy and concern.
Let us consider the myriad forms that his anti-Israel actions take:
1) Soros’s Open Society Foundation has provided funding to Palestinian groups linked to terror organizations and dedicated to Israel’s destruction, including Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).
2) OSF has supported Israeli organizations that promote policies inimical to Israel’s survival and well-being including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, whose founders’ stated goal is Israel’s dissolution. Among Israeli groups that have received OSF funds and that have voiced backing for BDS are B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, Gisha and Yesh Din.
3) OSF has funded American organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Center for Constitutional Rights, that promote anti-Israel boycotts and other measures aimed at undermining Israel. It has also supported various branches of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal government’s case against the Holyland Foundation for being a front group raising funds in America for Hamas. Soros has supported MoveOn (formerly MoveOn.org), which describes itself as a “progressive public policy advocacy group” and which aggressively backs anti-Israel political figures, including advocates of the BDS movement against Israel. In 2019, the group campaigned effectively to stop Democrat presidential candidates from attending the year’s annual AIPAC conference. Recently, Soros joined with conservative financier Charles Koch in funding the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, whose associates have included a number of people notorious for blaming American Jews and Israel for what is supposedly wrong with American statecraft. Soros is not given to making common cause with conservatives, but is apparently more than willing to do so when the cause entails attacks on fellow Jews and the Jewish state.
4) OSF funding is also given to American Jewish organizations of the far Left which likewise promote anti-Israel agendas:
OSF has helped finance the New Israel Fund, which in turn provides financial resources to some of the same Israeli organizations named above as supporting BDS and as receiving grants directly from OSF.
Soros has also contributed substantial funds to J Street, which characterizes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace but continually takes stances hostile to Israel and its well-being. (J Street long denied being a recipient of Soros money, as Soros is known for his hostility to Israel and the organization did not want revelation of his support to undercut its presenting itself as “pro-Israel.” But Soros’s financial backing of J Street – with his seemingly perceiving it as a tool for undermining genuine pro-Israel sentiment in the American Jewish community, in the halls of Congress and with the public at large – was ultimately revealed.)
J Street’s stances inimical to Israel closely align with those espoused by Soros. It has positioned itself as an alternative to AIPAC, priding itself on being opposed to AIPAC’s general backing of Israeli policies. It has drawn moral equivalences between Israel and Hamas, often lent greater support to the latter in Israel-Hamas confrontations, and largely ignored the group’s genocidal anti-Jewish agenda. It has urged U.S. sanctions against Israel for the presence of Israeli communities beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines and has essentially rejected the claim by the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242 (the key, unanimously passed, UN document relating to the territorial issue) that those lines left Israel too vulnerable, invited further aggression against the country and should be replaced by new, “secure and recognized” boundaries. It has endorsed elements of the BDS movement. It has received support from and, like Soros, cooperated with backers of the Iranian theocracy, including in promoting the passage of the 2015 agreement with Iran that legitimized that nation’s nuclear program and released to the mullahs over $100 billion in embargoed funds in exchange for limited curtailment of its pursuit of operable nuclear weapons. It has done so even as Iran has consistently reasserted its goal of annihilating Israel and consistently used its resources to arm and finance terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah, that target Israel.
5) Soros and organizations he finances have funded vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic members of Congress, such as Ilhan Omar and Rashid Tlaib. Soros’s son Alexander founded, and Soros money has supported, the “progressive” Jewish group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, which has defended Omar and Tlaib against criticism for their statements attacking Jews and calling for Israel’s dismantling. The two Congresswomen have in turn repeatedly cited Bend the Arc’s backing to counter criticism of their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric. Bend the Arc and other Soros-funded groups have also supported the Jew-baiting Farrakhan acolyte Linda Sarsour. Recipients of Soros funding created “Jews for Linda” to promote and defend Sarsour. Sarsour was one of three women who left the leadership of the Women’s March after being exposed for their links to Farrakhan and their anti-Semitic sentiments. But concomitant additions to the Women’s March board included anti-Semites and defenders of anti-Semites as well, among them people likewise financially supported by Soros. One new member was Ginna Green, “chief strategy officer” for Bend the Arc. Another, Zahra Billoo, notorious for her anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tweets, has been executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay office (CAIR-SFBA), one of the regional CAIR offices that were Soros beneficiaries.
6) Soros money has funded Black Lives Matter and its anti-police and anti-Israel campaigns, the latter parroting Palestinian, Islamist, and the anti-Semitic Left’s invoking of “genocidal” and “apartheid” smears against the Jewish state. Black Lives Matter has also interwoven its animus against police with that against Israel. Since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, American law enforcement groups at all levels – federal, state and local – as well as front-line medical personnel have traveled to Israel, or have invited Israeli experts to lead seminars in the U.S., to learn from Israel’s long, painful experience in dealing with terrorism. Participants in such exchanges have talked virtually unanimously of their great value in helping address terror threats here. But Black Lives Matter has lobbied for an end to these programs. According to the group, such programs are actually designed to teach American police alleged Israeli techniques for targeting Palestinians so that American police can apply the same techniques to targeting Blacks. There seems to be no canard against Israel whose purveyors Soros is unwilling to finance.
7) Soros and his OSF have supported anti-Israel groups in Europe. These include the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), EuroMed Rights, European Middle East Project (EuMEP), and the Ligue des droits de l’Hommes (LDH).
8) Not content to disseminate their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messages through the myriad means of domestic and international NGO’s, other organizations, media outlets, politicians and other public figures, Soros and OSF are also taking those messages into the schools. An episode that garnered some media coverage this past winter involved Open Society Foundations employee Kayum Ahmed going to the Fieldston School, an elite private school in New York City, to present a talk on apartheid to some 500 high school students. While there, Ahmed found an opportunity to draw a parallel between the Holocaust and Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
The examples cited above are an attempt to illustrate something of the breadth of Soros’s anti-Israel efforts. But the examples hardly capture the manifold instances of those efforts: the list of Palestinian, Israeli, American and European NGO’s, other organizations and individuals – politicians and others – funded to advance the anti-Israel, and anti-Jewish, agenda; and the virtually endless list of undertakings through which they do so.
Given Soros’s animus towards Israel and most of his fellow Jews, perhaps most cynical of all is his and his beneficiaries and allies,’ including his son’s, efforts to delegitimize and shut down criticism of Soros’s political agenda and tactics by tarring those efforts as anti-Semitic (which is, of course, additionally cynical in its violation of the free exchange of ideas which is supposedly a key principle of his Open Society). There have no doubt been attempts by some on the far Right and in the Muslim world to attack Soros for his Jewish origins. But more notable, especially in America, have been campaigns to silence those who criticize Soros’s use of his wealth in support of far Left causes by accusing such critics of enlisting anti-Semitic tropes simply because they note his wealth and the wide net of his political agenda and the resources dedicated to it, and the secretive, behind the scenes nature of many of his projects. (A very good discussion of this topic and of several of the related issues considered below, including citation of key illustrative material some of which is drawn upon in the present work, is Dan Feinreich, “Criticizing George Soros is not anti-Semitic.”)
Adding to the cynicism is that Soros himself employs the same language that, when directed against him, he and his associates characterize as anti-Semitic. Consider, for example, his demonization of AIPAC as having and using the power to silence dissent in America. The claim can be seen as no less an anti-Semitic trope about Jewish power and control as anything said or written, and subsequently attacked as anti-Semitic, by mainstream figures criticizing Soros’s political activities.
In a similar vein, groups generally supportive of Soros and his activities employ anti-Semitic tropes to attack Jews who are prominent financiers of right-of-center candidates and causes; people such as Sheldon Adelson. And, of course, it would be difficult to find anyone associated with Soros criticizing the invoking of anti-Semitic tropes and memes when they are directed at people with whom he disagrees.
The comparison with coverage of Adelson, likewise discussed by Feinreich in the article noted above, also illustrates how much the media enable Soros in his cynical use of accusations of anti-Semitism to silence criticism. They parrot his complaints in this vein even as they themselves use anti-Semitic tropes to attack Adelson.
Among the many examples of such attacks, a number of which are cited by Feinreich, are The Huffington Post’s 2015 headline, “Tonight’s GOP Debate: Sheldon Adelson’s Malignant Tentacles,” and the op-ed under the headline. Author Richard North Patterson asserts in the piece that “…Adelson means not only to pick the party’s nominee, but to dictate his thoughts.” And: “More than anyone else, it is Adelson – not voters, candidates, or experts on the Middle East – who dictates what Republicans dare to think and say about our relationship to Israel, the Palestinians on the West Bank, and the complex government of Iran.” And, “To Adelson’s God, Israel’s solution to the Palestinians is biblically ordained: annexation of the West Bank and subjugation of its peoples.” And, “…he’s ‘the richest Jew in the world’ and, as such, determined to bend the world to his views.” It is not hard to imagine the charges of anti-Semitism that comparable statements about Soros would elicit from him and his circle and the media outlets that support his activities. But such attacks on Adelson apparently fail to merit such a response.
One can cite similar statements about Adelson from, for example, The New York Times. Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for whom attacking Adelson, and Israel, is something of a personal obsession, wrote in 2015, under the title “Is it Sheldon Adelson’s World?” “…it is troubling that one man, with a willingness and ability to give away great sums, can now tilt Israeli and American politics his way at the same time.” And in a 2014 column: “Adelson personifies everything that is poisoning our democracy…” In a more generic invoking of an anti-Semitic trope, Friedman in a 2011 column explained that the standing ovation Benjamin Netanyahu had recently received in Congress was not a reflection of agreement with his views but rather “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
While apparently having no problem with the use in its pages of anti-Semitic tropes directed against Adelson or “the Israel lobby,” the Times has run a number of news articles and op-eds on Soros as a victim of anti-Semitism. A Times op-ed by Soros’s son Alexander in October, 2018, asserts that his father’s liberal philanthropic exertions have exposed him to “the poison of anti-Semitism.” He characterizes anti-Semitism in America as coming exclusively from the Right, “white supremacists and nationalists,” regurgitates the absurd but often heard association of the anti-Semitic Right with President Trump, and says nothing of the much more mainstreamed anti-Semitism emanating from the Left, including from groups and individuals supported by him and his father.
The Times has for much of the last century ignored anti-Semitism and has written of it recently only in the service of some political objective, as in its promotion of politics of Soros’s variety. And Soros, again, is no less cynical in his invoking of anti-Semitism, doing so to silence critics even as he deploys it to advance his own agenda.
And, once more, central to that agenda is his hostility to Israel. His jaundiced attitude towards other Jews is not as monochromatic as his anti-Zionism. As indicated in the list of anti-Israel organizations and individuals he supports, there are Jews and Jewish groups among them, the major test being that they share, and act upon, his anti-Israel animus. There is little such nuance, however, in that animus.
It is not hard to comprehend why some Jews would be eager to distance themselves from an identity that has been and continues to be so vilified and that not long ago marked its holders for slaughter on an unprecedented scale. Each individual is free to choose his or her communal affiliations, or at least such freedom ought to be an element of any truly open society. But to move from disassociating oneself from the Jewish quest for national self-determination and its realization in Israel to supporting those who would undermine and ultimately annihilate the Jewish state, and to do so while claiming a higher purpose, to take the path that Soros has forged for himself, is not a course that would be chosen by any truly moral human being but rather the mark of a moral cripple.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege.