August 15th, 2016
George Soros, the Hungarian-born business magnate and philanthropist who funds many liberal causes, including drug-policy reform, has long been a hate-figure to the Right. But fringe reactions to the latest Wikileaks-dump of emails related to the billionaire’s Soros Foundation are still mind-boggling.
Pro-Israel right-wing political commentator Pamela Gellar, for example, tweeted “Soros, the black hand. #evil” with a link to her blog-post accusing Soros of undermining Israel. Meanwhile, far-right anti-Semites tweeted about Soros being part of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the white race.
The Soros Foundation leaks are widely suspected of being the work of Russia, which has long demonized Soros and many of the causes he supports—including, for example, marijuana legalization (some people attack his motives for that), harm reduction, prison reform and transgender rights. In the US human rights and drug policy realm, Soros founded and funds the Open Society Foundations and is a longstanding major funder of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Russian propaganda fervently presents the country as a defender of Palestinians against Israel, yet the leaks appear to be a “dogwhistle” both to neo-Nazis, who blame Jews for everything, and the pro-Israel Right, which often accuses Soros of “delegitimizing” Israel.
Some right-wing pro-Israel commentators have seized on leaked details about Soros funding groups in Israel and Palestine that report on human rights violations committed by Israeli forces. Some leaked emails expressed a desire to confront “racist policies” in Israel—hardly most people’s idea of a sinister undertaking.
Neo-Nazis, on the other hand, claim Soros’s involvement in a “Jewish plot” to flood Europe with migrants. Soros, who as a teenage member of the Jewish community of Budapest survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II, has been a major advocate for refugees.
There has been a concerted campaign against Soros in right-wing US media. Glenn Beck, for example, has long blamed Soros for “progressivism,” and Breitbart tried to blame him for the European refugee crisis. Russian sources, often though the network RT, have long accused Soros of electioneering in Europe.
Conspiracy theorists, especially bigoted ones, can be impossible to dissuade. Soros is a very rich man who is a major contributor to countless charitable and progressive causes and a vocal critic of Israeli policy, and some people are going to hate.
But if man who spent some of his teenage years in hiding can rise to such prominence, give generously and antagonize neo-Nazis, the extreme pro-Israel Right, Glenn Beck and Vladimir Putin at the same time, it should give all of us cause for optimism.