ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Chikli doubles down on Soros attacks despite criticism rhetoric is antisemitic

Foreign Ministry said to have intervened ahead of Diaspora minister’s visit to Canada next week after Ottawa complained he was only meeting far-right representatives

Likud MK Amichai Chikli speaks at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud MK Amichai Chikli speaks at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli doubled down on his criticism of George Soros on Monday, claiming that the Jewish billionaire had done immense damage to Israel, despite recent widespread criticism that using similar rhetoric was an antisemitic trope.

The comments come the same day as a report that the Foreign Ministry had to intervene ahead of Chikli’s trip to Canada next week after complaints from the hosts that he would only be meeting with representatives of the far-right.

Chikli, whose ministerial portfolio includes combating antisemitism abroad, on Monday tweeted a screen grab of an opinion piece by staunch Israel supporter Alan Dershowitz published in the Wall Street Journal titled “Elon Musk is right about George Soros and not anti-Semitic.”

“‘No sin­gle per­son has done more to dam­age Is­rael’s stand­ing in the world, es­pe­cially among so-called pro­gres­sives, than George Soros.’ Thank you Professor Dershowitz for telling the simple truth,” Chikli tweeted.

The row comes a week before Chikli is expected to visit Canada. The minister was invited by the Israel Allies Caucus, a Christian body represented in parliament by Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis. Lewis is seen as an extreme right figure in Canadian politics.

The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site Zman Yisrael reported on Monday that Canadian parliamentarians contacted Israeli diplomats to express displeasure about Chikli’s plans.

The parliamentarians complained the visit was not organized “according to protocol, without an official invitation from the relevant minister and in response to an event by a right-wing organization perceived in their eyes as extreme,” read an internal document sent to David Rott, the deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North America office.

After the intervention, Chikli changed his schedule and will now be meeting with mainstream Canadian representatives too.

Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros answers questions after delivering a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 24, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Touching off the Soros controversy last week, Musk said that the Hungary-born billionaire “reminds me of Magneto,” a comic book villain who features in Marvel’s X-Men series. The character, like Soros, is a Holocaust survivor.

In a follow-up comment, Musk said, “He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

The ADL, other Jewish organizations, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry all said Musk’s comments stoked antisemitism, although Foreign Minister Eli Cohen later disavowed his ministry’s statements. “There will be no more tweets like that,” Cohen told Channel 14, in a rare instance of a minister refuting a statement from their own ministry.

Chikli, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, then came to Musk’s defense, saying, “As Israel’s minister who’s entrusted on combating anti-Semitism, I would like to clarify that the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli citizens see Elon Musk as an amazing entrepreneur and a role model.”

Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco, January 24, 2023. (Benjamin Fanjoy/AP)

“Criticism of Soros – who finances the most hostile organizations to the Jewish people and the State of Israel – is anything but anti-Semitism, quite the opposite!” Chikli wrote on Twitter.

Soros, 92, has long been a target of conservatives for backing progressive causes and politicians in the United States and worldwide. In the last decade or so, some of the attacks have echoed antisemitic conspiracy theories, depicting Soros as satanic, accusing him of seeking world control and falsely accusing him of helping perpetrate the Holocaust rather than surviving it as a child.

US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt weighed in on the matter on Friday, tweeting that “irrespective of how one feels about George Soros’s politics or policies, it is entirely disingenuous to deny that many ad hominem attacks on him rely on classic antisemitic tropes and rhetoric.”

“In bygone eras, the antisemites invoked the Rothschild family to advance their conspiracies about Jews. Today they use Soros to do so,” she said.

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