The Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy on Friday decried attacks against Jewish billionaire George Soros, a day after Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli came to the defense of Elon Musk, who came under fire for saying that Soros “hates humanity.”
Musk on Monday compared the philanthropist to a comic book villain, drawing criticism from the Foreign Ministry, the ADL and other Jewish organizations, who said the comments stoked antisemitism. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen later disavowed his office’s statement, though.
Chikli defended Musk on Thursday, 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.”
“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 said.
US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt became the first Biden official to weigh in on the matter, tweeting Friday 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.
Last month, The Times of Israel pressed Lipstadt on former US president Donald Trump’s denunciation of the Manhattan prosecutor who indicted him as having been “hand-picked” by Soros.
“I don’t want to get involved in that because there’s a campaign, but I will say that I’m disturbed by many people and many other countries and individuals who use those kinds of boogeymen. It doesn’t always, but it certainly can have antisemitic implications,” she said, avoiding direct criticism.
Soros is a Holocaust survivor and megadonor to progressive causes, and a common target of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Chikli is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.
Touching off the controversy on Monday, Musk said that Soros “reminds me of Magneto,” a comic book villain who features in Marvel’s X-Men series. The character, like Soros, is a Holocaust survivor.
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. Criticism of Soros – who finances the most hostile…
— עמיחי שיקלי – Amichai Chikli (@AmichaiChikli) May 18, 2023
In a follow-up comment, Musk said, “He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”
While Musk has railed against progressive policies, what prompted his attack on Soros wasn’t clear. On the same day as the tweets, however, Soros’s family investment office cashed out its investment in Tesla, Musk’s electric car company.
The Foreign Ministry linked Musk’s comments to antisemitism.
“The phrase ‘The Jews’ spiked today on the list of topics trending on Twitter following a tweet with antisemitic overtones by none other than the owner and CEO of the social network, Elon Musk,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted on its official account.
It said that Musk’s tweet “immediately led to antisemitic conspiracy theories on Twitter.”
Cohen later disavowed the 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.
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.
These conspiracy theories accelerated after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who made Soros a focus of his final campaign ad that year and who has relentlessly portrayed Soros as a villain as he runs for the 2024 election.
JTA and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report