When anti-Semitism and Islamophobia join hands: The racist vortex
There was probably a time when the current leader of the Hungarian conservative party, Fidesz, Viktor Orban, was quite grateful to George Soros. Back in 1988, as a 25-year-old fresh law graduate, he became a member of the Central-Eastern Europe study group funded by the Soros Foundation. A year later, he received a Soros scholarship to study British liberal political philosophy at Pembroke College, Oxford University.
And in more recent times, Soros donated $1m to Orban's government to cope with the environmental disaster in the town of Devecser, which was flooded with toxic sludge from a nearby aluminium factory in 2010.
But today, Orban has no words of gratitude for Soros. Rather, he has launched a vicious campaign against his former benefactor. And while his aggressive rhetoric is verging on anti-Semitism, the Hungarian prime minister has also – strangely enough – managed to weave in Islamophobic threads into his verbal attacks on Soros. And surprisingly (or not), this symbiosis of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia has been well received elsewhere in Europe and even the US.
A symbiosis of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Although Orban is said not to be anti-Semitic himself but rather deeply opportunistic, he has turned his former benefactor Soros into the ideal scapegoat for the Hungarian government's failures. Pushing for illiberal policies and anti-EU reforms, Orban has been using Soros' name in his populist rhetoric on a regular basis. He has been pandering to anti-Soros conspiracy theorists in Eastern and Central Europe, many of whom hold anti-Semitic views and enthusiastically spread their theories about "Jewish conspiracies" to dominate the world.
Orban has not shied away from using anti-Semitic tropes, talking of Soros' "wealth, power, influence and a network of NGOs" and has called him a "billionaire speculator." It was no surprise that when his government launched an anti-immigration campaign spreading posters of Soros with the slogan "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh," some of them got defaced with anti-Semitic statements like "Stinking Jew".
Anti-Soros politicians in Eastern and Central Europe have also joined in the chorus, with one Polish MP calling him "the most dangerous man in the world".
While propagating anti-Semitic stereotypes, Orban has also managed to accuse Soros and the EU of wanting to "Muslimise" Europe. In a speech in late July, he said that the "Soros Empire" is using "money, people and institutions to transport migrants into Europe".