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Far Right Uses Antisemitic George Soros Trope To Attack Campus Protests

Amid ongoing campus protests advocating for a cease-fire in Gaza, a concerning trend has emerged: Right-wing activists, mainstream media, and politicians have begun to recycle decades-old antisemitic tropes to denounce the protests as inherently antisemitic.

George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist who frequently supports liberal causes through his Open Society Foundations, is not only a Holocaust survivor but also an outspoken critic of governments and administrations that stifle the free exchange of ideas. However, over the past few decades, he has been portrayed as a boogeyman, a puppet master behind the scenes, and a convenient target for right-wing attacks.

The widespread use of the George Soros trope in American society is alarming, says Emily Tamkin, author of the book The Influence of Soros: Politics, Power, and the Struggle for an Open Society. She worries that as with other antisemitic tropes that have become enmeshed in American sociopolitical discourse, phrases such as “Soros-backed” or “Soros-funded” are often brushed aside as legitimate criticism.

“We have moved past the point where it can even be called out as antisemitic because it’s now so baked into” American socio-politics. People may even use it “not realizing it is an antisemitic trope,” she added.

Ben Lorber, a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, asserts that the Soros trope “allows” the right to “point the finger at” some “evil demonic force lurking behind all manner of progressive causes” and then use any “tangential connections to claim that Soros is a kind of hidden hand or puppet master.”

Antisemitic images
Left: A 1940s cartoon from an antisemitic Hungarian publication, thought to depict a Jew puppeteering influential figures. Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Orszagos Szechenyi Konyvtar, Budapest. Right: An image from a Trump campaign email, depicting the financier George Soros puppeteering President Biden. Credit: Donald J. Trump campaign email.

In early May, a story published by Politico triggered a surge in Soros conspiracy theories. The story hinted at a supposed connection between Soros and the campus protests for a ceasefire in Gaza – although this link has since been thoroughly debunked by PolitiFact, who wrote: “We learned that Soros’ grant-making organization, Open Society Foundations, has awarded grants to some groups the New York Post article linked to the demonstrations. But the connections between Soros’ money and specific campus protesters involved several degrees of separation.” Politico has had to attach a long series of corrections to the piece.

Nevertheless, the right-wing conspiracy machine was already in motion and seized upon this opportunity to resurrect the Soros trope with fervor. On May 6, far-right extremist and provocateur Jack Posobiec tweeted a reference to this story, stating, “BREAKING: Some of Biden’s biggest financial backers are the ones throwing support behind the campus Gaza demonstrations.”

Similarly, MAGA extremist Charlie Kirk reposted the story, asserting that “Politico is reporting that some of Joe Biden’s biggest donors are also funding the pro-Gaza protesters via grants and sub grants. This includes George Soros, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Susan and Nick Pritzker, heirs to the Hyatt Hotel empire.” Kirk posted: “Ask yourself, if it were Trump’s top donors funding and coordinating the illegal occupations of universities across the country, would Blue State AGs just sit idly by? Where are the Red State AGs? Indict the left!”

Anti-student inclusion group Moms for Liberty and its co-founder, Tiffany Justice, recently attempted to connect antisemitism in schools to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Moms for Liberty is no stranger to antisemitism, having advocated for banning Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, appearing with the Proud Boys at events, and quoting Hitler in a chapter newsletter last year. In a May 4 post on X, formerly Twitter, Justice reposted a Moms for Liberty post asking who is “behind the mass indoctrination” and chaos in higher education that the anti-Israel protests have supposedly caused. She answers this by quoting New York Post columnist Charles Gasparino, saying: “Yes, there is big money funding this type of instruction–one that deemphasizes Western civ and extols anti-American and Jew-hated instruction by leftist and even Marxist professors–and it isn’t just Soros-related, as the Post has documented. It comes from some frightening and surprising places both foreign and domestic.” Justice, like Posobiec and Kirk, is recycling the antisemitic Soros trope while attempting to position herself as against antisemitism.

While it’s unsurprising that known extremists are peddling antisemitic tropes, what is increasingly concerning is the readiness of right-wing politicians to normalize these tropes without any regard for perpetuating antisemitic rhetoric. On May 9 at a Senate press conference, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz attacked the president’s supposed hesitancy to provide weapons to Israel.

“I want to finally underscore a very important story that broke last week came from Politico. And it was a story that says the funding for the anti-Israel antisemitic anti-American protests occurring at universities across the country. Much of the funding came from Joe Biden and the Democrats biggest donors,” Cruz said. “And here’s who Politico identified: George Soros, the Rockefeller Brothers, Bill and Melinda Gates, and the Pritzker Family.”

Cruz then proceeded to suggest that these individuals are responsible for funding all Democratic members in Congress. On May 8, Cruz attacked his opponent, Colin Allred, for receiving funding from those who are “funding the anti-Semitic college protests,” including George Soros.

Biden has since approved the weapons expenditure.

Kari Lake, a Senate candidate from Arizona and a supporter of the MAGA movement, has previously declared her position that she would not “bow down to George Soros” and has capitalized on recent reports not only to propagate the myth of Soros-backed protests but also to attack her opponent, Ruben Gallego. Weeks earlier, she falsely claimed that the “Soros Family is funding the anti-Semitic hate happening on college campuses all across our country.”

Most paradoxically, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, an emerging figure supposedly championing the fight against campus antisemitism, has also routinely employed the Soros trope. Last month, Stefanik shared a New York Post article falsely accusing Soros of funding “paid protesters” on U.S. campuses. In the same post Stefanik asserted, “George Soros is trying to fund the downfall of America by buying elections for radical Far Left politicians and corrupting the next generation to support terror groups.” The House GOP Conference chair is no stranger to engaging in Soros tropes, having used them to repeatedly attack Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in recent weeks.

“It’s counterintuitive,” Lorber says, that “the Right is using these antisemitic conspiracies that Soros must be behind these protests. And they are doing that” in “the name of fighting antisemitism.”

Notably absent from the discourse on “Soros backed” or “Soros funded” accusations are any mentions of right-wing politicians who are recipients of grants from Soros’s Open Society foundation. These include Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, a friend of the Republican Party. Similarly, there’s scant acknowledgment that former presidential candidate and outspoken Republican campaigner Vivek Ramaswamy was also a recipient. The speed and intensity of right-wing denunciations of those tangentially connected to Soros money make it clear that two individuals who actually received grants escape that level of vitriol because of their political affiliation with the right.

Says Tamkin: “Republican politicians would push antisemitic tropes while defending Israel. What is discouraging is how many people who have seen through in the past are suddenly saying, ‘Thank you Congresswoman Stefanik.’”

Banner photo illustration by SPLC. (L-R Charlie Kirk, Kari Lake, Jack Posobiec, George Soros, Elise Stefanik, Sen. Ted Cruz, Tiffany Justice.) Source photos from Getty Images.

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