Anti-Semitism in the GOP

The following article is from the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. I have noted and am distressed by how anti-Semitism is re-entering our cultural and social mainstream. It comes from the left, as well as the right, but, on the right, it is found among elected officials and party leaders and spokespersons. If you who are reading this are a member of the GOP, I urge you to protest. They are certainly not going to pay any attention to the likes of me.

WASHINGTON – Republican officials have increasingly used the name of Jewish billionaire George Soros and invoked Nazi imagery in recent political statements, despite consistent warnings by leading U.S. Jewish organizations that such tropes reflect antisemitic messages.

The uptick notably began when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual gathering earlier this month that Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who has been a long-time rival of his, “believes in none of the things that we do.” Before a supportive crowd of U.S. conservatives, Orban further accused Soros of “hating Christianity.”

Orban delivered his remarks days after U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt decried his prior statement alleging that Hungarians “do not want to become peoples of mixed race.” Despite that, Orban shared the stage with Republican lawmakers in Texas and was lauded by the crowd for his attacks on Soros, one of the largest donors to liberal causes in the United States today.

Days after the CPAC confab, the Republican nominee for governor of Illinois, Darren Bailey, defended past remarks in which he alleged that the Holocaust “doesn’t even compare” to abortion on the scale of human atrocities. Bailey said, without providing proof, that the local Jewish community and rabbis told him his comments were correct.

Bailey is not the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to make such a comparison. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate in Pennsylvania, who became famous for his involvement in attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, made comparisons involving the Holocaust in the past on issues such as gun control, abortion and the removal of Confederate monuments.

Mastriano has drawn national attention over the past month due to his ties to Gab, the social media platform known as a haven for far-right extremists and white supremacists. Following the controversy, Gab CEO Andrew Torba called Pennsylvania’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Josh Shapiro, an “antichrist,” adding that he is praying for the Jewish Democrat’s conversion to Christianity.

Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial candidate also joined the chorus, telling Steve Bannon that Soros and Cindy McCain, the widow of late Republican Senator John McCain, were conspiring to destroy America. Kari Lake, who won the party primary in the state by campaigning on conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 presidential election, accused McCain and the Jewish billionaire – who are not known to have had ties of any sort – of promoting a “globalist agenda, a new world order.

For his part, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren over his refusal to prosecute abortion-related offenses, calling the Jewish official a “Soros-backed state attorney.” Also in Florida, Senator Rick Scott, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, led the Republican charge in comparing the FBI’s raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort to tactics used in Nazi Germany, directly comparing FBI actions to the Gestapo.

Scott was joined by Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who called the raid “Gestapo crap” and later assailed the FBI for “Gestapo tactics” after it seized Rep. Scott Perry’s cellphone as part of its ongoing investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Bruce Reinhart, the Florida federal magistrate who approved the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, faced an onslaught of antisemitic attacks over his actions, and his Palm Beach Gardens synagogue (where he is a board member) had to cancel Shabbat services due to threats.

Attorney General Merrick Garland also faced antisemitic vitriol over the raid – most notably from former Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who tweeted: “I just learned Merrick Garland is a Jew. Therefore, I withdraw all my previous criticism of him. I cannot withstand another wave of charges of anti-Semitism like I received for criticizing Soros.”

In addressing the phenomenon, Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote: “You have to be pretty deep in denial to ignore why so many right-wingers from Viktor Orban to (insert name of Trumpkin) vilify George Soros as a deep-pocketed political manipulator who is betraying ‘the people.’ This is a classic anti-Semitic trope.”

George Soros at an award ceremony in Vienna in 2019.

Stacy Burdett, a former senior official at the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said these Republicans were “spouting antisemitic Soros conspiracy theories with impunity. The ADL, American Jewish Committee and IHRA definition are clear: Casting a Jewish puppet master controlling the media, economy, government for malign purposes is antisemitism, full stop [so please stop].”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also came in for criticism for tweeting: “The democrats just blocked my effort to try & force Soros backed prosecutors to put dangerous criminals in jail.”

Emily Tamkin, senior editor at the New Statesman and author of “The Influence of Soros: Politics, Power, and the Struggle for an Open Society,” noted that “the issue here is not the identification of Soros as a political funder. That would constitute criticism, …but [Rubio] also seemed to imply that Soros is responsible for crime in this country,” adding Rubio “must be aware that it is considered an antisemitic trope to refer to Jews as foreigners and outsiders.”

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