Thursday, June 11, 2009

The trouble with George

One of the favorite bugbears of the Greek nationalist and antisemitic blogs is the American financier George Soros. He was born in Hungary, to a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust and emigrated after World War II to Great Britain, where George Soros graduated from the London School of Economics. He later emigrated to the United States, where he made a lot of money as a currency speculator. He is thought to be among the 50 richest people in the world.

Although many people, myself included, do not much care for currency speculators, it is neither his wealth, nor the way that Soros made his money that make him the object of wrath for many Greek (and, to be fair, not just Greek) antisemites. Soros has used his wealth to fund programs to combat poverty in underdeveloped countries, however it is his financial backing of non-profit pro-democracy non-governmental organizations that many like to view as part of an international Jewish (what else?) conspiracy to establish a "New World Order". It is certainly the case that as early as the 1970s, George Soros, directly and through his foundation, gave money to Eastern European dissident groups, thereby earning him the enmity of Europe's communists and fellow travelers. Later on he helped financially those in the Ukraine and in Georgia who wished to assert their respective countries' independence from Russia (the Russian government, of course, supported and funded the opposing sides, as did Russian oligarchs). Additionally, foundations linked to Soros have dispensed money to educational institutions in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Soros' name comes up frequently in Greek nationalist and (openly or disguised) antisemitic on-line publications and blogs (for example, here, here and here). He is said to harbor dark designs for Greece by supporting the expansionist policies of Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, naturally, the state of Israel, all of which aim destabilizing Greece and even annexing parts of Greek territory. Generally no credible evidence is provided to support such claims: For example, the current Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, was educated in the EU through a scholarship provided by a Soros-supported foundation, just like tens of thousands of other Europeans, including many Greeks, who have also benefited from such scholarships. Clearly Mr. Soros must have had great insight into the mind of young Gruevski to predict, many years ago, that he was a worthy investment as he would later rise to become FYROM's Prime Minister and, in gratitude to his benefactor, ready to facilitate Soros' nefarious plans against Greece (Note to those readers who are bereft of humor: this is called irony). Never mind that Soros is too busy making (and enjoying) tons of money to micro (or even macro) manage the day-to-day affairs of his foundations.

The irony here, of course, is that George Soros was also a bitter enemy of former U.S. President George W. Bush, the latter a favorite target of the same people who have been decrying the actions of the United States, in alleged collusion with Turkey, Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Israel against Greek and Greek-Cypriot national interests. In a 2002 interview Soros stated that removing George Bush from office was the central focus of his life and "a matter of life and death". He worked very hard and spent a lot of his money to support the campaign of Senator John Kerry who ran, unsuccessfully, against George Bush in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. He was also a strong supporter of Barack Obama and has funded many of the various leftist groups that are connected to the Democratic party in the United States. So it would be reasonable to surmise that someone who has vehemently opposed the "New World Order"-associated policies of the Bush administration could not, at the same time, be supporting those same policies. Furthermore, he has been a frequent critic of Israeli government policies. But consistency and logic have not been the hallmarks of the political "thinking" (term used loosely) of antisemites. And, after all, we all know how devious those Jews are! (Note: Irony again).

So what is it with Soros that has earned him the enmity of antisemites? Mind you, I don't much like the man myself, I find his heavy-handed involvement in American politics highly annoying and anti-democratic and I certainly don't see eye-to-eye with his world view. But I do not ascribe to him conspiratorial or other motives and certainly no intentions of harming Greece in particular. But since the people who vilify George Soros appear to hold views similar to his regarding the previous U.S. administration and its policies, the only explanation I can come up with is that he has earned their enmity by being a wealthy and influential Jew. And in spite of what antisemites say, ultimately these are the reasons they hate someone.


  1. AnonymousJune 12, 2009

    That's funny, Macedonian antisemites think that George Soros is on Greece's side in the name dispute exactly because of the role of the NGO's he funds.

  2. Indeed! But this is not surprising, as antisemitises anywhere are not bothered by facts or logic when their objective is to associate prominent Jews with conspiracies and other nefarious activities.

  3. Albanian-descended GreekJune 15, 2009

    Well y'know, that's how it goes:
    Jew bad - Greek good.
    -Greek people can do no wrong. Jewish people can do no right.
    -Anybody that doesn't recognize the vast superiority of the Greek people and their right to be pampered, praised and getting blowjobs by every other nation in the universe is racist and zionist scum.
    -Anybody that recognises value and good intentions to Jewish people is Zionist scum.

  4. Well, as you may have noticed I have stayed clear of any comments regarding Greek attitudes towards other nations and peoples in general and instead I have chosen to concentrate on the attitudes of Greeks towards the Jews, which, of course, includes Greeks of Jewish descent. Two reasons for this: First the sad and bloody history of antisemitism in Europe and the disturbing realization that although Greeks have so far managed to avoid becoming embroiled in the worst aspects of antisemitism, as of late they seem to want to make up for lost time. Second, because one can argue that the all other bugbears of Greek nationalism (Turks, Albanians, FYRO Macedonians, Americans, whatever) have, at some point, been in conflict with Greece or at least a faction of the Greek population (e.g. Americans and the communists after WWII) and such conflicts generate a great deal of ill will which sometimes persists for a long time. But there has never been a conflict with Jews, so Greek antisemitism is based on fiction and malice.

  5. Hmmm... I didn't know that he was Jewish. I knew that he was anti-Republican. I am not with the IRS and therefore cannot worry about his income; some of his investment products heard about in Greece are for the birds.

    Now regarding antisemitism, I believe that the main culprit is central Europe. In Greece there have been antisemitic tones in certain aspects of (a) our church and (b) our oil importers and their media. However it is a minor factor rather than a major factor, to paraphrase from graduate school multiple choice exams. In times of failing expectations, people can easily be led to blame scapegoats. I have seen the West (the transatlantic west) to be a scapegoat, but as we have discussed in the past that is hypocritical. A Greek waiter in Rethimno is as much of a guilty party as an arbitrageur in NY. Human greed is human and any attempt to paint ideological, ethnic, racial or ...religious overtones is silly. It happens, but it is silly.

    There are several Greeks that have names indicating that they might be Jewish... You should seek them out and assess wether there is antisemitism in Greece. I fully realize that their numbers are much smaller these days than, say, 70 years ago.

    Back to Soros... his main problem is his seeming affiliation with ...Democrats.

  6. may I also add that a large part of modern day Greeks is of albanian descent, but I consider the above comment by the Albanian descended Greek as ...biased. I was born in Greece, never figured out my DNA makeup, I do not believe I need any pampering or random sexual services, and I typically lookk down upon biased comments.

  7. I will freely admit that I know fewer Greek Jews than I have known American Jews, at least well enough to talk about their experiences with the petty day-to-day antisemitism in their environment. Perhaps this is because many Greek Jews are reluctant to speak out in public and even in private about this, probably due to a mix of fear of retaliation and old-fashioned Greek attitudes of the type "Τα εν οίκω μη εν δήμω". But those with whom I have had this conversation, while acknowledging and expressing concerns about public acts of anisemitism such as antisemitic graffiti, desecration of Jewish monuments and graveyards, occasional antisemitic articles in the mainstream media and such, are most disturbed by the nearly complete lack of reaction by the "silent" majority of Greeks to such acts and words. And while I agree about the scapegoating issue during difficult times, I am still puzzled about the emergence of Jews as scapegoats in Greece, since there's no history of antagonisms or conflicting (real or spurious) territorial or other claims, unlike, as I mentioned previously, with Turks, Albanians, Americans, etc.

    As for Mr. Soros, what I find most ironic (and not a little disturbing) is that the Democratic Party in the United States now has more visible millionaires and billionaires among its active financial supporters than the Republican Party, as Mr. Soros, although more vocal than most, is certainly not alone in his support. Yet they still claim to represent the working people. Go figure...

  8. @Daniel Webster (2nd comment)
    I had assumed (I hope correctly) that "Albanian-descended Greek" was using hyperbole to make a point and that he was not insulting wholesale all Greek people. Because, while there are some (many?) who believe that Greeks can, indeed, do no wrong and deserve to be admired, pampered and generally be shown great deference (don't know about sexual favors), I certainly do not believe that all or even most Greeks think this way. As for our individual genetic makeup, I suspect that if we were to be tested we would find that we are not significantly different than our Balkan neighbors, as a scientific study (as opposed to the pseudo-scientific study that is cited by the inhabitants of the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia) showed ["Correlation between Genetic and Geographic Structure in Europe" in Current Biology 18, 1241–1248, August 26, 2008].

  9. I can't say that my sample of people with what might be Jewish names is statistically significant to draw conclusions. But I have not sensed any particular anxiety. I know of one case in which the wife became Jewish to satisfy an aging mother in law to be. I know a guy who was all tensed up with politics regarding the Museum and its leaders. I know of no one that felt pressured internally or externally to change names (unlike ...George, whom I looked up in Wikipedia after your write- up).

    You may have been visiting Greek blogs. You may have noticed that only a tiny minority shares the belief that Greeks are OK. Of course, you go and leave a pro-Macedonian-Skopian comment you may see a different image. Greeks are not anti semites, nor do they really think in such terms. They often support the ...Palestinians, but more on the theory of supporting the underdog and much less for tever affinity the Palestinians have with the Pelasgians. (By the way, recent excavation in Ashkelon hint to the possibility that Goliath might be quite like a wandering Mycenean warlord).

    Greeks have fallen for the anti immigrant rhetoric of other bizare Europeans. Gastarbeiter I believe they call it in central europe. But that is also a sign of the recession, as few Greeks can really envision survival without Philipino and Albanian (and recently Ukranian help).

    You will find anti Semitic rubbish but it is not mainstream, really. Younger guys know nothing of the Jewish cemetery that became the Salonica University, but older people know the fact. I would be more interested in another statistic: How many Greeks like the central european approach? How does their percentage compare with the percentage of active and silent collaborators in WWII. That is where you may find a little antisemitism.

    What you see as hellenic nationalism in 90% of the local blogs is more a reaction to german sponsored corruption rather than antisemitism... (at least that is what I see with my bias)

  10. I had a Jewish classmate at school whose last name was definitely not Jewish, it had been changed to hide the family's Jewish identity. But I am not arguing that Jews, in general, personally feel threatened or harassed in Greece, I think most are not, which is what Jewish acquaintances also tell me, that they have not encountered personal acts of antisemitism. Nobody has refused to sell them bread, for instance, or repair their cars or has stopped coming to their store because they were Jewish. The problem is elsewhere: When a Jewish cemetery is desecrated, or a Jewish monument is vandalized, or when a Greek Orthodox bishop or a leftist musician makes blatant antisemitic comments to the media, or when a more-or-less mainstream newspaper has on its front page a huge antisemitic title, hardly anyone bats an eye. Imagine if, say, the Catholic archbishop of Marseilles made comments regrading the alleged worldwide Zionist conspiracy similar to Pireaus' Seraphim recent remarks; there would be overwhelming condemnation by church and secular authorities, unlike Greece. Similarly, desecration of monuments or cemeteries elsewhere might elicit marches and public protests, but not in Greece. The bottom line is that Greeks may not be willing to participate in antisemitic acts in significant numbers (that's a good thing, of course) but they also do not consider such acts worthy of commentary or condemnation. And my sense is that many Greeks, although they may find the more extreme antisemitic language or acts of vandalism against Jewish targets distasteful, they nevertheless believe that there must be some truth in antisemitic statements or that acts of vandalism and even violence are brought on by the actions of the targets, that is that the Jews are partly to blame.

  11. all anti-anything is bad. All desecrations are be condemned. However, the emotional and intelectual level of any Seraphim's market target may not be ...outstanding. I would suggest that one should address despicable statements in a way that put the onus on the person making such pronouncements. Drawing a line and drawing attention only to one group of offended parties only plays to the hands of those who would gladly generalize in their racist comments. This sounds confusing but you know what I mean... I am not suggesting appeasement, I am suggesting hitting the idiots where they hurt rather than hiding behind labels.

  12. Yes, I see what you are saying. It is a fine line to draw between holding people accountable for racist statements but, by doing so, giving more publicity that they might otherwise get. My view is that actions, such as destruction of property, public or private, have to have a response, whereas words not always. It really depends who says it and, as you indicate, who the audience is, so maybe Seraphim and his "flock" are too intellectually feeble to bother with.

  13. Granted! The Soros/Greece thing is nothing but fiction, but what a character. He recently admitted to unsuccessfully attempting to drive the HK dollar down and congratulated the HK government for its quick reaction against it. He felt fine with his actions as they were not against the law or regulations.

  14. He is, indeed, quite a character and I certainly disagree with many of his political choices and, from what little I understand of finance, I am not sure I would support his currency dealings either (unless I stood to gain from them financially, of course!). But all this does not make Soros a tool (or instigator, depending on your perspective) of the "worldwide Zionist conspiracy" against Greece.