Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lately there has been a flurry of articles about whether recent harsh criticism of George Soros is antisemitic.

Since I have written my definition of antisemitism, I have been keenly interested in boundary cases to see if my definition can clarify the issue of whether a specific utterance or act is antisemitic or not.

My definition says:


In an academic paper that I submitted along with my presentation on the topic at ISGAP earlier this month, I tackled this exact topic, comparing specific criticisms of Sheldon Adelson and George Soros to see whether they are antisemitic or not. There is no doubt that some criticism of both of those men is antisemitic, but each case must be judged on its own.

Here is what I wrote in the paper:

How does this definition do with more controversial or ambiguous cases of potential antisemitism?

George Soros is a Jewish billionaire who funds many left-wing causes. Sheldon Adelson was a Jewish billionaire who funded many right-wing causes. Both have been the object of conspiracy theories. Are those theories antisemitic?

Frank Gaffney said about Soros:

 Is George Soros the anti-Christ?  While former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani has put the question in play, theologians may be better equipped to debate it than politicians.

The decades-long record of this billionaire financier and philanthropist, however, is one of such malevolence and destruction that he must at a minimum be considered the anti-Christ’s right-hand man. [i]

This was regarded by the ADL as being antisemitic[ii]. Is it?

I’m no expert on Christian eschatology, but I have seen that non-Jewish rich people like Bill Gates[iii] and Jeff Bezos[iv] have also been accused of being the Antichrist, so without any mentioning or hinting of Soros’ religion, it does not fit my definition of antisemitism – the attack on him is as an influential rich person, not as a Jew, at least on the face of it.

In contrast, Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters had this to say about Sheldon Adelson[v]:

Sheldon Adelson believes that only Jews – only Jewish people – are completely human. That they are attached in some way…and that everybody else on Earth is there to serve them.

There is no record of Adelson ever saying anything remotely like this. Waters is – consciously or not – invoking antisemitic interpretations of the Talmud and ascribing that to Adelson.

Both Waters and Gaffney are accusing rich Jews of being puppet-masters, but only Waters is couching that accusation is clearly Jewish terms. Under my definition, he is showing hostility toward, denigration of and malicious lies about a Jew as an individual Jew. While Gaffney’s slur can be interpreted as being against any rich person, Rogers’ invective cannot be interpreted any other way except for being antisemitic.

To be sure, the puppet-master motif has been associated with Jews for more than a century. Yet it is not exclusively applied to Jews, so without additional evidence, we cannot say that the accusation itself is antisemitic when applied to an influential Jew.

This brings up another issue in determining whether something is antisemitic or not. The IHRA Working Definition takes pains to point out that much of the determination of whether something is antisemitic or not depends on context. I would be a little more specific and note that much of that determination depends on the mindset of the potential offender. Their intentions may have been wholly innocent, they may have been malicious, and they very possibly may have been clueless or careless as to the implications of their offensive actions or statements.

We cannot read minds, but we can take educated guesses based on other statements or actions by the person or group that is behind the offensive words or actions. In this example, if Gaffney has a history of antisemitism, or he has previously specifically referred to Soros’ being a Jew, or he has cited sources saying that the Antichrist must be a Jew, then we can reasonably assume that his statement was indeed antisemitic, because in that case it would also be hostility toward, denigration of and malicious lies about Soros as an individual Jew.

Knowing the motivation of the person making the offensive comment is key in any determination. I believe that we should err on the side of caution and not assume antisemitic motives unless there is a compelling reason to do so, typically a history of other obviously antisemitic comments or a consistent pattern of singling out Jews for opprobrium.



[i] Frank Gaffney, “George Soros, The Anti-Christ, or Just His Right-hand Man?”, Center for Security Policy, October 11, 2018

[ii] “The Antisemitism Lurking Behind George Soros Conspiracy Theories,” ADL Blog, October 11, 2018

[iii] Christopher James Blythe, “Bill Gates’ Comments on Covid-19 Vaccine Enflame ‘Mark of the Beast’ Worries in Some Christian Circles,” Religion Dispatches, May 4, 2020

[iv] “Could Jeff Bezos possibly be the Antichrist?”, Reddit r/Christianity, March 13, 2022

[v] “Musician Roger Waters on Hamas-Affiliated News Agency: Crazy Puppet Master Adelson Has Donald Trump’s Tiny Little Pr*ck in His Pocket; Israelis Teach U.S. Police How to Murder Blacks,” MEMRIReports Twitter,  June 21, 2020

If criticism of Soros or Adelson invokes or implies his Jewishness, then it is antisemitic. But the fact that they are Jewish does not automatically make criticism antisemitic, any more than criticism of Andy Levin or Henry Kissinger can be assumed to be antisemitic without additional context and evidence.

The most difficult cases, in my experience, are dog-whistles - or alleged dog-whistles. By their nature, they have a built in layer of plausible deniability, so sophisticated antisemites can use them to great effect without being explicitly antisemitic. But people can innocently invoke dog-whistles as well without meaning to - terms like "cosmopolitan," "New York," "bankers," "puppetmaster" and "East Coast" can be used maliciously or innocently. When I said at the conference that I would prefer to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt, others disagreed. But to me, unless there is additional evidence that the person who uses the problematic phrase had Jews or Judaism in mind, it is better not to assume that it is an antisemitic criticism. 

And just as a plug for my definition of antisemitism: no other definition I am aware of gives any useful guidance at all whether these boundary cases are antisemitic or not. With a good, precise definition, we can describe exactly why something is - or isn't - antisemitic.



Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

Or order from your favorite bookseller, using ISBN 9798985708424. 

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