Europe and the USA

When anti-Semitism and Islamophobia join hands: The racist vortex

The campaign against George Soros is fuelling a dangerous symbiosis between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, argues political scientist Farid Hafez

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.

Hungarian anti-migrant billboard campaign featuring a picture of George Soros and the caption, "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh" (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
The Muslim and the Jewish "other" – a centuries-old image: ″today, the ′international Jewish conspiracy′ has joined the ′Islamisation conspiracy′ in the minds of many followers of the far right. Once again, there are many who want a pure white and Christian Europe. And in the past few years that has proven deadly,″ writes Hafez

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".

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