george soros

Soros ‘distressed’ by ‘anti-Semitic’ Hungary campaign

BUDAPEST, Hungary — US billionaire George Soros hit back Tuesday at a Hungarian government anti-immigration poster and media campaign that he said uses “anti-Semitic” imagery.

“I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign,” the 86-year-old said in a rare statement.

The posters show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

Since the posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces around the country last week, as well as on television, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” or Stars of David daubed on them have been reported.

A poster with US billionaire George Soros is pictured on July 6, 2017 in Szekesfehervar, Hungary. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

Hungary’s largest Jewish organisation, Mazsihisz, has called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to stop the campaign, with its head Andras Heisler writing to the prime minister that the “poisonous messages harm the whole of Hungary.”

Some opposition activists and citizens have also begun taking down some of the posters from billboards.

Soros said he was “heartened that together with countless fellow citizens the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community” have spoken out.

Earlier Tuesday his spokesperson Michael Vachon called the campaign “reminiscent of Europe’s darkest hours” with “clearly anti-Semitic overtones.”

Those defacing the posters with graffiti “(understood) the government’s intent,” he said.

“The government has consistently and willfully misrepresented Soros’s views on migration and refugees,” he added.

On Friday Orban accused Soros of being a “billionaire speculator” who wanted to use his wealth and civil groups that he supports to “settle a million migrants” in the European Union.

Orban and government officials say that Hungary has a policy of “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, and that the poster campaign is about increasing awareness of the “national security risk” posed by Soros.

On Saturday, Israel’s ambassador in Budapest Yossi Amrani also criticized the poster campaign, saying it “evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an European Union leaders summit, on June 22, 2017, at the European Council in Brussels. (JULIEN WARNAND / POOL / AFP)

But late Sunday — reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office — Israel’s foreign ministry issued a separate “clarification” that criticism of Soros was legitimate.

“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon in a statement. “This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.

“In no way was the statement meant to de-legitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” Nahshon added.

Netanyahu is due to visit Hungary next week, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the end of communism in 1989.

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With Netanyahu set to arrive, swastika-daubed Soros posters still in Budapest

Billboards displaying messaging against Hungarian-born Jewish philanthropist George Soros remain up in Budapest, some with anti-Semitic imagery on them, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to arrive in the Hungarian capital Monday afternoon for a highly anticipated visit.

Netanyahu is making the first trip to Hungary by an Israeli prime minister since the end of Communism in 1989, but the trip had been complicated by the posters, which have been criticized as encouraging anti-Semitism.

Hungarian officials said the posters would be down by the weekend, marking the end of a campaign against Soros for his pro-immigration stance.

Hungarian media had reported that the posters were being removed in order to not embarrass Netanyahu.

But a Times of Israel correspondent said at least six billboards remained up. Two billboards had black swastikas spray-painted on them.

Hungarian and Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment.

Hungarian Jews, and Israeli politicians from the opposition, had taken issue with Netanyahu’s too-gentle admonishment of the billboard campaign, while maintaining that criticism of the liberal philanthropist was legitimate, and his apparent dismissal of the Hungarian prime minister’s praise for the country’s fascist wartime leader and Hitler ally Miklos Horthy.

The Soros posters show a large picture of the Jewish businessman laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

Many of the posters around Hungary had been daubed with anti-Semitic messages, including “stinking Jew,” drawing protests from Hungary’s over-100,000-strong Jewish community, one of Europe’s largest.

Its members have often accused Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power since 2010, of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism or even encouraging it with nationalist rhetoric that analysts say is aimed at staving off a rise in power for the far-right, a charge the premier denies.

Hungarian Pime Minister Viktor Orban gives a joint press conference in Budapest on July 4, 2017 during a summit of the Visegrad group countries and Egypt. (AFP Photo/Attila Kisbenedek)

In going ahead with the visit, critics have accused Netanyahu of putting Israel’s political and economic goals ahead of the concerns of the Hungarian-Jewish community.

Netanyahu and Orban have developed close ties over their shared anti-immigration stances and disdain for the left-leaning liberal global order bankrolled, as they see it, by the likes of Soros, an octogenarian US billionaire.

Soros, who hid from the Nazis in Budapest as a boy, said that the posters, plastered nationwide, used “anti-Semitic imagery.”

His spokesman said they were “reminiscent of Europe’s darkest hours.” The head of Mazsihisz, Hungary’s biggest Jewish organization, called the campaign “poisonous.”

A poster with US billionaire George Soros is pictured on July 6, 2017, in Szekesfehervar, Hungary. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

Orban insisted they were not about Soros’s Jewishness but the “national security risk” posed by his wish to “settle a million migrants” in the European Union.

Orban’s government is also making life difficult for the prestigious Central European University in Budapest, created by Soros, and for civil organizations he funds — prompting EU legal action.

Netanyahu, whose relations with the EU are strained too, is also scornful of Soros because of his support for both Israeli and Palestinian rights groups critical of Israel’s government and the occupation.

Some in Israel called for Netanyahu to cancel his Hungary trip because of the posters, with Israel’s ambassador saying it “evokes sad memories (and) sows hatred and fear.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a joint press conference with France's President at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEPHANE MAHE)

But hours later, a Foreign Ministry statement backtracked — reportedly at Netanyahu’s behest.

While Israel “deplores” anti-Semitism, Soros “continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” it said.

“Connecting Soros to the migration issue is the (Hungarian) government’s aim, but it is a problem for Orban if the campaign is seen as anti-Semitic,” political analyst Csaba Toth told AFP. “So the Netanyahu visit helps him as it bolsters his claims that the Soros campaign is not.”

But whether consciously anti-Semitic or not, the posters clearly evoked dormant anti-Semitism, said Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti, a senior Mazsihisz leader.

Soros, a declared non-Zionist and harsh critique of successive Israeli governments, is seen in Hungary “primarily as a Jew,” Radnóti explained. “And this has been stressed recently many times, implicitly and explicitly, playing with imagery resembling the interwar stereotypical caricature of the wicked Jew pulling the strings and laughing. In the context of this campaign, one cannot differentiate between slamming Soros and playing with blatant anti-Semitism.”

Ira Forman, a former US special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism (SEAS), concurred: “You don’t have to unequivocally call something out as anti-Semitic to point out it is wrong and dangerous,” he told The Times of Israel. “Given Hungary’s history and the levels of anti-Semitic sentiment inside the country, the [Victor] Orban government is once again playing with fire.”

Recently Orban also praised Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s wartime leader and Hitler ally until 1944, as an “exceptional statesman” for rebuilding Hungary after World War I.

Regent of Hungary Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya with Adolf Hitler, year unspecified (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Orban’s praise for Horthy, made in a June 21 speech, has been widely denounced by Jewish groups. The Anti-Defamation League called Horthy a “notorious anti-Semite.”

Critics have long suspected Orban of trying to rehabilitate Horthy, who oversaw the sending of over a half million Jews to the Nazi death camps, by tacitly encouraging new memorials of Horthy and other interwar figures.

In 2014, Mazsihisz boycotted state commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the 1944 deportations over concerns the government was “whitewashing” the state’s complicity.

But Orban is at pains to stress his “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, his supporters pointing to a new law outlawing Holocaust denial and state funding for Jewish-themed films like Oscar-winner “Son of Saul.”

“No government has done more to fight anti-Semitism in Hungary,” his spokesman said in a blog post on Thursday.

Hungary to pull ‘anti-Semitic’ Soros campaign ahead of Netanyahu visit

The Hungarian government said Wednesday it will end a billboard campaign against Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros deemed “anti-Semitic,” three days before before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the country.

The posters show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

Leaders of Hungary’s 100,000-strong Jewish community have said the campaign is provoking anti-Semitism.

Since the posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces around the country last week, as well as on television, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” and Stars of David daubed on them have been reported.

On Tuesday, Soros released a rare statement saying he was “distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign.”

In a statement the government said that the anti-Soros campaign had reached its goals and was no longer necessary, according to Hungarian news outlets. The statement noted that a new law regulating the display of political posters in public places was due to come into effect on July 15.

Hungarian television network ATV cited Wednesday a leading member of the Orban’s ruling Fidesz party as saying Netanyahu’s upcoming visit prompted the move as well as preparations for an international water polo tournament scheduled to start on Thursday.

Netanyahu will meet with Hungarian Prime Minister is Viktor Orban in the capital Budapest in what will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the end of communism in 1989.

Israel’s ambassador to Hungary slammed the campaign over the weekend for “sowing hatred” and suggested it evokes memories of the Holocaust.

However, on Sunday the Foreign Ministry clarified that while it condemns bigotry against Jews, it was not defending Soros, who it described as defaming Israel and undermining its right to defend itself.

Hungarian Pime Minister Viktor Orban gives a joint press conference in Budapest on July 4, 2017 during a summit of the Visegrad group countries and Egypt. (AFP Photo/Attila Kisbenedek)

“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in the statement. “This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.

“In no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” Nahshon added.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the walk-back came at the behest of Netanyahu.

Orban and government officials say that Hungary has a policy of “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, and that the poster campaign is about increasing awareness of the “national security risk” posed by Soros.

On Friday Orban accused Soros of being a “billionaire speculator” who wanted to use his wealth and civil groups that he supports to “settle a million migrants” in the European Union.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

How George Soros became a Jewish symbol

In the 1990s, George Soros used his wealth to support the growth of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. His Open Society Foundation launched numerous NGOs, most notably the Central European University in Budapest, all of which contributed to educating a new generation in the ways of the West.

During one of my visits to Budapest at the time, I found local Jewish leaders who spoke disparagingly of him. Despite the fact that Soros was a Hungarian Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, he appeared not at all interested in directly supporting the revival of Jewish life in Budapest, and did not contribute to it. How ironic, then, that today’s Hungarian Jewish Community, the largest in Central Europe, has come to embrace George Soros. Not Soros the man, but Soros the symbol.

The current Hungariangovernment, led by the FIDESZ party, most likely looking ahead to a battle with the right-wing Jobbik party in next year’s parliamentary elections, has made Soros a feature of its campaign advertising. Identifying outside targets that appear to threaten traditional values is a common political tactic in Hungary and other European countries. But in this case it has adverse consequences for Hungary’s Jews.

András Heisler, president of Hungary’s Jewish Federation, has appealed to Prime Minister Orban to stop this anti-Soros campaign. He allows that it is not explicitly anti-Semitic — some might disagree — but nevertheless warns that it “is very apt for stirring uncontrolled emotions, among them anti-Semitic ones.” Indeed, posters of Soros in Budapest and across the country have been defaced with explicitly anti-Semitic graffiti.

The poster campaign follows on a speech delivered by Orban in June that praised Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s wartime fascist leader, as an “exceptional statesman.” Horthy’s role in the disenfranchisement and persecution of Hungary’s Jews is well-documented in the country’s Holocaust Museum.

How do we explain this behavior?

On numerous occasionsofficials of the Hungarian government have vocally opposed the extreme right-wing and openly anti-Semitic Jobbik, which today is the main opposition party. FIDESZ apparently wants to maintain its status as a respectable, mainstream political party. It may believe that support for restoring Jewish cemeteries — an initiative that is undeniably laudable — and a close relationship with the government of Israel will mute its international critics. But, sadly, it seems that FIDESZ leaders have concluded that one key to reelection is espousing the narrative of the extreme right, and hence the scapegoating of Soros. Whether or not this strategy proves successful, there is little doubt that everyone is the loser.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to arrive in Budapest on July 17, on the first official visit ever to Hungary by an Israeli prime minister. Even so, there is no indication that the government acknowledges that the anti-Soros campaign is over the top, though its belated decision to remove the Soros posters in advance of Netanyahu’s arrival is potentially good news, especially if they do not appear again after the Israeli leader goes home.

One would expect that strong bilateral relations between Israel and Hungary could positively affect the Hungarian government’s domestic policies toward the Jewish community. If the government considers the sensitivities voiced by local Jewish leaders with the gravity they deserve, confronting anti-Semitism in Hungary would get the official boost that it assuredly needs.

Rabbi Andrew Baker is the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) director of international Jewish affairs.

SOROS COMPARES HUNGARIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIM TO NAZI PROPAGANDA

 

Jewish American billionaire George Soros said the current Hungarian government campaign against him evokes “Europe’s darkest hours,” referring to Nazi German propaganda.

“I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of antisemitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign,” Soros said in a statement issued in his name on Tuesday, according to reports.

 

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has paid for a nationwide campaign vilifying Soros over his support for efforts to allow migrants to enter the country. Jewish leaders there say the campaign against Soros has stoked antisemitic sentiment in the country.

Billboards posted nationwide show a grinning Soros, who was born in Hungary, and the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.” Many of the billboards have been defaced with antisemitic graffiti.

Soros has said that the government is misrepresenting his views on immigration ahead of the 2018 elections.

“As a survivor of the Holocaust who hid from the Nazis in Budapest and later was himself a refugee, Soros knows first-hand what it means to be in mortal peril,” said the statement issued on his behalf. “He carries the memory of the international community’s rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. … It is from the crucible of those experiences that his empathy for refugees from war-torn Syria and elsewhere was born.”

“Soros’s position is entirely consistent with mainstream European values. The claim that Soros is promoting a scheme to import a million illegal immigrants into Europe is Victor Orban’s fantasy,” the statement also said.

Hungarian Jews and Israeli lawmakers have called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel an official visit to Hungary scheduled for July 18, to protest the campaign against Soros and remarks by Orban in praise of Hungary’s World War II-era antisemitic leader Miklós Horthy.

It would be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since Hungary disavowed Communism in 1989.

Israel’s ambassador to Hungary on Sunday issued a statement denouncing the Hungarian government’s campaign against Soros. Israel’s Foreign Ministry later released a clarification saying that the statement was meant to address the resulting antisemitism, not defend Soros, who, it said, “continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

Soros is frequently vilified by European right-wing politicians for his support of pro-democracy efforts through his Open Society Foundations, and by pro-Israel activists for his support of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups consistently critical of Israeli policies.

Who’s afraid of George Soros?

VIENNA, Austria (AFP) — The world has a new puppet master.

From his New York home, US financier-cum-philanthropist George Soros has manufactured Europe’s migration crisis, backed a coup in Macedonia and sponsored protests in Hungary.

At least that’s what his detractors say, and there are many.

From the Kremlin via Skopje to the power corridors of Washington, the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre is the favorite bete noire of nationalists around the globe.

Listed by Forbes magazine as the world’s 29th richest man, Soros and his Open Society Foundations (OSF) stand accused of political meddling by seeking to push a liberal, multicultural agenda.

Nations like Poland that once bestowed the 86-year-old with their highest civilian honors are now calling him an enemy of the state who wants to destroy their sovereignty.

This photo taken on April 9, 2017 shows people marching holding up an EU-flag close to the headquarter of the governor FIDESZ party at Heroes Square as students, teachers of the George Soros-founded Central European University and their sympathizers protest in downtown Budapest. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

The attacks have been particularly virulent in his birth country Hungary, which on Tuesday is set to pass a controversial anti-NGO bill seen as directly targeting the OSF.

“To go on what you read and hear these days, Soros seems to be responsible for every political upheaval,” said German political analyst Ulf Brunnbauer.

“He makes an excellent scapegoat for increasingly authoritarian regimes as someone who’s invested a lot of money into philanthropy and represents capitalism.”

Another Hungarian law hastily approved in April threatens to shut down the Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) in Budapest.

Across Hungary, government-backed billboards have popped up showing the magnate as a puppeteer pulling the strings of an opposition politician, a motif associated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

“His (religious) background is irrelevant to the central issue, which is that an increasing number of governments… see Soros’s networks as a threat to democracy,” Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesman of populist premier Viktor Orban, wrote in a recent blog post entitled “Myths and facts about Hungary and George Soros.”

Orban — a one-time recipient of a Soros scholarship — has accused his former benefactor of using “predator” NGOs to flood Europe with Muslim refugees and create a “transnational empire.”

‘Gift to my enemies’

Born in Budapest in 1930, Soros survived both the Nazi and Soviet occupation before eventually moving to the US where he made his fortune from hedge funds.

His dealings were not without controversy.

In 1992, the Wall Street trader became known as “the man who broke the bank of England” when his aggressive speculation against the sterling sent it crashing out of the European exchange mechanism.

He also has a 2002 conviction of insider trading in France, a verdict he described as a “gift to my enemies.”

Marked by his experience of totalitarian regimes — “I have seen the damage done when societies succumb to the fear of the ‘other,’” he wrote in the New York Times in March — Soros created his foundation in 1984 to help countries move from communism toward democracy.

Since then, he has poured billions of euros into ex-Soviet satellite states for programs ranging from finance, health and justice reforms, to promoting the rights of minority groups and keeping tabs on government corruption.

This photo taken on April 4, 2017 shows students, teachers of the George-Soros founded Central European University and their sympathizers protesting in front of the university in Budapest. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

He also backed pro-democracy groups in the color revolutions in central and eastern Europe, and vowed to spend $1 billion in Ukraine to help save it from “Russian aggression.”

Moscow’s “concept of government is irreconcilable with that of open society,” Soros said recently.

This kind of “interference” has earned him powerful enemies.

Earlier this month, Orban likened Soros’s description of Hungary as a “mafia state” to a “declaration of war.”

The Kremlin has accused Soros of fermenting violent uprisings and banned the OSF in 2015 as part of a massive NGO clampdown.

Europe’s migration crisis, which erupted that same year, has also deepened the rift between the pro-refugee OSF and anti-immigration nationalists.

Call for ‘de-Sorosisation’

Macedonia in January saw the emergence of a “Stop Operation Soros” movement, spurred on by the authoritarian ex-premier Nikolas Gruevksi calling for the country’s “de-Sorosisation.”

The head of Poland’s governing right-wing party Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Soros wanted to create “societies without an identity,” while Romania’s ruling party leader alleged the tycoon had “financed evil” by sponsoring recent mass protests.

This photo taken on April 9, 2017 shows a banner hanging over the Budapest tunnel, as students and teachers of the George Soros-founded Central European University protest in Budapest with their sympathizers. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

On the other side of the Atlantic, the far-right news website Breitbart — whose co-founding member Steve Bannon is an aide to US President Donald Trump — runs almost daily anti-Soros stories.

A petition signed by nearly 60,000 Americans called for the philanthropist — who backed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential race — to be arrested “for standing in the way of making America great again.”

While hostility to Soros is not new, its intensity is unprecedented, said OSF’s Eurasia director Leonard Benardo.

“The OSF as an institution and George Soros as a person condemning corruption have always faced pressures from governments that have an illiberal cast,” he told AFP.

“What is different about now is the ferocity and tenacity of the response.”

Incidentally the attacks come at a time when the OSF only spends a faction of what it used to.

“What we’re witnessing is that democracy is not only about institutions, that you can have largely free and fair elections and yet still have great anxieties and problems when it comes to forms of open society.”

Hungarian state TV airs Iranian leader calling George Soros ‘evil Zionist-American’

(JTA) — A public broadcaster in Hungary broadcast an Iranian leader attacking George Soros as “an evil Zionist-American multi-billionaire,”  spurring condemnation from Hungarian Jewry.

On Wednesday “Hirado,” the main news show of the state MTVA channel, also included quotes from Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader in Iran, saying that Soros was responsible for destabilizing and defeating former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime.

Critics of the broadcast, including Mazsihisz, the umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities, said it risks stoking anti-Semitic sentiment.

Soros, a Hungary native whose pro-democracy philanthropies have funded groups opposed to the policies of the right-wing Hungarian government, recently became the subject of hostile statements by top Hungarian politicians. The Jewish-American billionaire also funds various Israeli NGOs, many with a critical attitude toward the Israeli government’s policies.

Mazsihisz condemned the inclusion of the quote by Khamenei, saying in a statement Friday that it echoes the purest and most common form “of anti-Jewish sentiments in the Hungarian extreme-right media.” The umbrella group also noted that the MTI state news agency declined to quote or report on its statement because of what Mazsihisz said were concerns it might “damage the credibility of the state media and its business interests.”

Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of Mazsihisz, labeled the broadcast as “anti-Semitic incitement during prime time.”

Even before the broadcast, the campaign against Soros was “not free of anti-Semitism and should be stopped in order to prevent hatred,” Radnoti said in a statement. “The hatred which is now spread with taxpayer money.”

Others, including the leader of Hungary’s Chabad-affiliated EMIH Jewish group, have said the government has not displayed any anti-Semitic tendencies in its fight with Soros.

A government campaign against George Soros splits Hungarian Jews

George Soros

(JTA) — On a recent Sunday, eight far-right activists filmed themselves on what they called a “raid” on the Aurora Jewish community center in Budapest.

Sporting crewcuts and black clothes, the men affixed posters with a crossed-out picture of the Hungary-born Jewish American billionaire George Soros to the entrance of the building, which along with having a Masorti, or Conservative, synagogue, also serves as the headquarters for a gay rights group, a Roma advocacy lobby, a hotline for immigrants and several other nongovernmental organizations with liberal agendas.

The activists then spray-painted the words “Stop Operation Soros” on the sidewalk opposite Aurora’s front door.

“Time permitting, we will say hello again,” read an article published about the action on May 2 on the website of the ultranationalist Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement. The menacing article did not mention Jews, but did note the Roma and gay rights activity at Aurora, which it falsely claimed is financed by Soros.

To Adam Schonberger, a Hungarian Jew who runs Aurora, the raid was an anti-Semitic attack arising from a campaign that is being led in billboards, television ads and speeches by Hungary’s right-wing government against Soros. In recent months Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is critical of the European Union’s federalist and progressive agendas, has flagged as “dangerous” Soros’ promotion of those plans by funding grassroots activism and some higher education frameworks in Hungary.

Occurring in a conservative society that is still struggling with the complicity of its wartime governments in the murder of nearly half a million Jews during the Holocaust, the campaign against a Jewish billionaire has prompted warnings that Orban’s crusade against Soros is anti-Semitic. Earlier this month Frans Timmermans, a senior EU official, suggested that the Hungarian government is channeling anti-Semitic sentiment to delegitimize a powerful critic of its nationalist policies.

That view, however, is not shared by the main leaders of Hungary’s 100,000-strong Jewish community. In interviews with JTA, its leaders rejected allegations that the government is using anti-Semitic dog whistles consciously. At the same time, they warned that the campaign against Soros may embolden anti-Semites regardless of the government’s intentions.

“Orban is not anti-Semitic. His government is not anti-Semitic,” said Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of the Mazsihisz Jewish umbrella group in Hungary. “I believe that Soros was selected as a target because he is a progressive billionaire regardless of the fact that he’s Jewish.”

Yet Orban failed to stop the anti-Soros campaign even after it appeared that the rhetoric “may have a possible anti-Semitic interpretation,” Radnoti added, saying the prime minister “should have known that this campaign of hatred and scapegoating would increase anti-Semitic feelings.”

Soros, an 86-year-old banking and investment magnate who survived the Holocaust in hiding in Budapest, is not particularly known for funding Jewish causes in Hungary — or anywhere else.

In Hungary, Soros has given away approximately $400 million since the early 1990s — part of a $12 billion expenditure, according to the Open Society Foundations, which is Soros’ network of organizations throughout Eastern and Central Europe. Much of the money has gone to supporting progressive causes, including the promotion of minorities and multiculturalism. But other programs offered tuition to needy students – including Orban, who studied at Oxford in 1989 on a scholarship provided by a Soros-funded organization.

Soros is best known in Hungary for opening the Central European University, which he founded in 1991. Orban’s government is promoting legislation that could lead to its closure.

The conflict between Soros and Orban, who have long tried to avoid a collision, escalated in 2015 when the prime minister clashed publicly with leaders of the European Union over Hungary’s refusal to take or let in hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including refugees, from the war-torn Middle East.

Under attack from Brussels over the migrant crisis, as well as his crackdown on foreign funding from Norway and beyond for Hungarian nongovernmental organizations, Orban lashed out at Soros, accusing him of trying to flood Europe with foreigners. Soros hit back with a defiant statement that won him some acclaim, but also deepened resentment toward him on a continent where Muslim immigration and extremism is leading far-right parties to unprecedented gains.

“Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle,” Soros said.

Upping the ante, Orban gave a speech last month at the European Parliament calling Soros a “financial speculator” who is now “attacking Hungary and who — despite ruining the lives of millions of European people with his financial speculations” is nonetheless “received by the EU’s top leaders.” The scathing rhetoric was followed by the appearance in Hungary of posters demonizing Soros, which are widely believed to be printed and distributed by nationalists with the government’s blessing.

And that’s a problem, according to Radnoti, because it risks awakening anti-Semitic sentiments that Radnoti believes Orban neither shares nor seeks to embolden.

“The problem is not that Soros was selected as a public enemy because he is Jewish,” Radnoti said. “The problem is that in a country like Hungary, which has a xenophobia and anti-Semitism problem, the government should have known better than to take someone who happens to be Jewish and make him a public enemy over his globalist politics. It’s not anti-Semitic, it’s just irresponsible.”

Compared to the Hungarian Jewish leaders, Timmermans went too far, said Janos Gado, an editor of the Hungarian Jewish monthly Szombat.

“The leftist, Social Democrat EU politicians are failing to understand the nature of the new right wing to which Orban belongs,” he said. “It’s not dictatorial, it’s authoritarian. It’s not racist, but it is illiberal. So they refer to it in anti-fascist terminology that frankly does not apply to the situation.”

Notwithstanding, Soros has inspired much anti-Semitic rhetoric in Hungary and beyond. In Poland, a far-right nationalist at an anti-immigration rally in Poland set fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew that he later said represented Soros. And in March, the American radio host Alex Jones, a Donald Trump supporter, ranted about “the Jewish mafia” that he said was run by Soros.

But Hungary has not seen any significant increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric or incidents since the escalation of the fight between Orban and Soros, according to Daniel Bodnar, chairman of the  board of the TEV watchdog on anti-Semitism in the country. The group’s annual report, which was published this month, noted surveys suggesting hostility toward Jews has not increased this year.

“The government’s motivations are definitely not anti-Semitc,” Slomo Koves, the leader of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH Jewish group, told JTA. “So when Jewish community leaders inject themselves into the debate about Soros, they are in a sense appropriating his politics and associating them with the Jewish community. Not only is this a misrepresentation of the spectrum of opinions held by Hungarian Jews, it is also a dangerous game.”

While many Hungarian Jews who support liberal causes view Soros favorably, other Hungarian Jews take issue with some of his positions and actions – including his funding for groups seen as anti-Israel.

In addition to funding Israel-based organizations critical of their country’s policies — notably Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem — Soros’ Open Society Foundations have donated millions of dollars to groups that NGO Monitor, a right-leaning group in Israel, calls anti-Israel. They include Al-Haq and Al Mezan, Palestinian groups that promote boycotts against Israel.

Hungarian Jews were widely critical when Soros’ Central European University extended an invitation in 2015 to Joseph Massad, a Palestinian academic from Columbia University who has said Israel does not have a right to exist as a Jewish state.

“It was absolutely scandalous,” said Laszlo Seres, a Jewish journalist for the Heti Világgazdaság who has written critically about Soros, calling him a “self-hating Jew.”

(In 1995, Soros wrote that “I am proud of being a Jew,” but added that in the past he had “suffered from the low self-esteem that is the bane of the assimilationist Jew.”)

Yet even Soros’ Jewish critics feel uncomfortable in the face of the government-led campaign against him, Seres said.

“First of all, Soros despite all the problems connected to the man has donated to a lot of worthy causes in Hungary,” Seres told JTA. ”And the government’s hysteria around him, well, it’s ugly and counterproductive. It makes it very difficult to criticize him.”

Demonization of Soros recalls old anti-Semitic conspiracies

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In most nations, having a billionaire financier and philanthropist would be a source of great pride, a person many elected officials would want to cozy up to.

Not for George Soros.

The demonization of the American-Hungarian billionaire and Holocaust survivor has spread from Hungary and Moscow across Europe and into the United States, with the 86-year-old increasingly accused by nationalists of using his money to force his liberal values, including support for refugees, on their societies.

And it’s not just those on the fringes, but elected officials who are attributing all manner of sins to Soros, a political strategy that seems aimed at de-legitimizing projects that Soros has supported in Central and Eastern Europe’s transition to democracy.

This groundswell began in late 2015, as large numbers of migrants and refugees were arriving in Europe. A far-right nationalist at an anti-refugee rally in Poland set fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew as a crowd chanted slogans against Islam and the European Union. The man said the Jewish figure represented Soros.

An effigy of an Orthodox Jew is torched at an anti-Islam rally in Poland in November 2015 (YouTube screenshot)

It wasn’t always this way. In 2012, Poland’s then-president, Bronislaw Komorowski, bestowed one of the country’s highest orders on Soros, thanking him for his contributions to a nascent democratic civil society after communism.

Soros’ donations have advanced human rights, the rule of law, public health, LGBT and Roma (Gypsy) rights, education and even improved transportation. Many of the leaders turning against him now — including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — got scholarships from Soros in the 1990s to study in the West or received research grants.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD), gives a press conference at the party's headquarters in Bucharest, December 11, 2016. (AFP/Daniel Mihailescu)

Officials today are much more likely to accuse Soros destroying their countries.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, claims Soros and his work “have fed evil in Romania.”

Krystyna Pawlowicz, a lawmaker with the ruling conservatives in Poland, called him the “most dangerous man in the world” on Radio Maryja, a Catholic broadcaster. She said his foundations “finance anti-Christian and anti-national activities.”

Soros is also hated by conservative forces in the United States, who often describe him as “evil” or a “globalist” who manipulates societies for his own gain.

Sociologists see such rhetoric, which gives Soros almost supernatural abilities to destroy traditional societies, as a modern manifestation of old anti-Semitic conspiracies amid new populist rage against elites and the European Union.

“It’s a witch hunt that is being promoted by authoritarian right-wing populists,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, a sociologist and director of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.

“And there is an undertone of anti-Semitism behind it. Because he promotes liberal values, has a Jewish background and is a billionaire, he is the perfect figure for explaining to hard-core voters why the world is the way it is,” he said.

Kucharczyk, whose institute receives some Soros funding, said in places like Russia and Poland, where anti-Semitism has deep roots, Soros is “a very useful enemy to have.”

Soros says his fight against intolerance is rooted in his own experience of living through the Nazi occupation of Hungary — which his family survived by hiding their Jewish identities. He has given away $12 billion to date, according to his Open Society Foundations.

Of that, $400 million has gone to Hungary, where Orban, the prime minister, has taken steps that could force the closure in Budapest of the acclaimed Central European University, which Soros founded in 1991 to help support the region’s emerging democracies.

Orban has described Soros as an “American financial speculator attacking Hungary,” who has “destroyed the lives of millions of Europeans.”

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives to address a press conference after attending a European Parliament plenum session on the situation in Hungary, on April 26, 2017 in Brussels. (AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand)

Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, said he found that language anti-Semitic — prompting an angry reaction from the Hungarian government, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying Budapest’s disputes with Soros have “absolutely nothing to do” with his Jewish origins.

Laura Silber, a spokeswoman at Soros’ Open Society Foundations, said Orban’s attacks on Soros are an attempt to distract Hungarians from the country’s real problems.

“Orban is using George Soros as a scapegoat in an effort to deflect attention from issues of real importance to the Hungarian people, such as the country’s deteriorating health care and education,” Silber said.

The Associated Press requested an interview with Soros, but Silber said he wasn’t giving any interviews.

Rafal Pankowski, head of Never Again, an anti-racism organization in Warsaw, says the “current tendency to see Soros as a central figure in an alleged global Jewish conspiracy” is growing along with a rise in xenophobia and hate speech.

“Soros is a convenient target for those who reject liberal values and the vision of an open, pluralist society,” said Pankowski, who gets no Soros funding. “Anti-Semitism is a core element of nationalist identity across Eastern and Central Europe.”

The anti-Soros mood is particularly strong in Macedonia, where many right-wingers blame him for a political crisis that has dragged on for two years over a massive illegal wiretapping operation of top leaders that has revealed wrongdoing. A group called Stop Operation Soros, or SOS, emerged in January.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, speaks with lawmakers in parliament in Warsaw, Poland, January 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Poland’s ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has accused Soros of trying to destroy traditional societies by forcing multiculturalism on them.

“The ideas of Mr. Soros, ideas of societies that have no identity, are convenient ideas for those who have billions, because such a society is extremely easy to manipulate,” Kaczynski said.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, sees the rhetoric as “reminiscent of previous anti-Semitic patterns.”

“This is not to say that Soros should be above criticism. But there are certainly other elements involved that go beyond legitimate and specific criticism and focus on his Jewish roots,” Weitzman said. There’s a need by some “to create a global manipulative Jewish monster which can be blamed for all the evils and problems.”

EU official (White Freemason): Hungarian prime minister’s crusade against George Soros is anti-Semitic (LOL….)

(JTA) — A leading official in the European Commission — one of the European Union’s governing bodies — implied that efforts by Hungary’s prime minister to shut down a university founded by George Soros are anti-Semitic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long harbored animosity toward Soros, a Jewish financier billionaire who was born in Hungary and has donated millions of dollars to liberal causes. Orban is now defending controversial legislation that many see as an attempt to shut down the Central European University in Budapest, a highly respected university Soros founded in 1991.

On Wednesday, Orban told the European Parliament that Soros is an “American financial speculator attacking Hungary” who has “destroyed the lives of millions of Europeans.”

The following day, European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmerman, a center-left Dutch politician, agreed when asked if he thought Orban’s comments sounded anti-Semitic.

“I understood that exactly the same way and was appalled,” Timmerman said, according to Euractiv.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called on Timmerman to resign for his assertion.

Hundreds of academics around the world have protested Orban’s legislation, which are amendments to the Hungarian National Higher Education Act. The fight is seen as a battle between Orban’s nationalist priorities and Soros’ “open society” outlook.

Orban is a supporter of President Donald Trump and his immigration policies.