One of the most common Semitic tropes is to say that criticism of George Soros is an antisemitic trope. But it’s now being claimed that it was Jews themselves, friends of Netanyahu indeed, who came up with this “antisemitic trope”.
The architects of Viktor Orban’s war on Mr Soros have now been revealed to be two secretive American political strategists, themselves Jewish. An interview with one of these advisers, describing how they turned Mr Soros into a public enemy, has prompted a criminal complaint from a Hungarian opposition party. It alleges that the regime misused taxpayers’ money to sway elections with anti-Soros adverts.
The campaign’s mastermind was Arthur Finkelstein, a Republican pollster who worked for Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and is said to have advised Donald Trump to go into politics. His business partner George Birnbaum, a former chief of staff to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that the pair had identified Mr Soros as the ideal scapegoat for Mr Orban in 2013.
“The perfect opponent is one whom you punch over and over again and who never hits back,” Mr Birnbaum, 48, told Das Magazin, a Swiss weekly. In 2006 Mr Birnbaum and Mr Finkelstein, who died in 2017 aged 72, founded a political consultancy called GEB International, which specialised in eastern Europe. Two years later Mr Netanyahu is said to have introduced them to Mr Orban, who was leader of the Hungarian opposition at the time.
After coming to power in 2010, Mr Orban began to cast around for a new political target. Mr Finkelstein, who was revered in Republican circles as the father of modern negative campaigning, suggested Mr Soros.
At first sight he was a strange choice. Mr Soros had funded the photocopier Mr Orban used to publish an underground magazine during his days in opposition. One of Mr Soros’s charities had also paid for the future prime minister to study philosophy at Oxford.
The first blow was struck in 2013 when the Orban-friendly Heti Valasz news weekly accused Mr Soros of orchestrating a conspiracy of charities and civic groups. Two years later Mr Orban gave a speech decrying Mr Soros as the “lieutenant” of a global ideology that sought to “weaken the nation state” and overwhelm it with refugees. He later called Mr Soros an “enemy” of the Hungarian people, who was “rootless” and “different from us”. During the 2017 election, posters appeared across Hungary showing Mr Soros’s face next to the slogan: “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.”
The Democratic Coalition, a liberal opposition party, said yesterday that it would seek to have Mr Orban’s Fidesz party prosecuted for “deceptive and brainwashing propaganda against Soros in the service of its campaign”.
Mr Birnbaum denied that he and Mr Finkelstein had ever intended to attack Mr Soros’s Jewishness. “When we planned the campaign we did not consider for one second that Soros was Jewish,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Orban has declined to comment on the claims.
This is the political equivalent of Jews spraying swastikas on gravestones or making hoax bomb threats. One set of Jews creates a problem; another set of Jews cashes in from complaining about it. Whatcha doin’ pollster?