At the beginning of December, Jewish Telegraphic Agency journalist Sam Sokol traded WhatsApp messages with President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about one of the ex-mayor’s favorite targets—the Jewish billionaire George Soros. Sokol’s subsequent piece about this back-and-forth messaging reprises many of Giuliani’s previous charges against Soros. However, in bringing together a number of Giuliani’s accusations against Soros, the story reveals how certain language about Jews and Judaism has become dangerously mainstream over the last four years.
Giuliani seems fixated on Soros’s religion, questioning his Judaism as he has done on other occasions and stating that Soros is “[h]ardly a Jew.” He has asked whether, as a self-professed atheist, Soros could be considered Jewish. And earlier in 2020, Giuliani claimed, “I probably know more about—he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion—synagogue.” It’s stunning that after eight years as mayor of a city with the largest Jewish population in the world, Giuliani has such a limited understanding of how Jews identify as Jewish both from a rabbinic and cultural/ethnic perspective.
More disturbing is the mayor’s proclivity to cast Soros as the embodiment of a host of evils and describe him as the Antichrist. The idea that the Antichrist would be a Jew is an anti-Semitic trope that dates back to early Christian history.
According to Sokol, Giuliani also alludes to the thoroughly discredited charge that, as a 13-year-old boy, Soros collaborated with the Nazis. It is ironic that Giuliani, who considers himself a great supporter of Israel, appears to suggest a Nazi connection to the Jewish Soros because, in recent years, Israel’s most intractable enemies similarly attack the Jewish state for its alleged Nazi-like policies.
In Giuliani’s worldview, all manners of conspiracies lead back to the puppet master Soros pulling the strings that cause harm to humanity. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the puppet masters of conspiracies were members of the prominent Jewish Rothschild family. Today Giuliani accuses Soros of masterminding the election of eight “anarchist” district attorneys in the United States. In the lead-up to President Trump’s impeachment, he charged that Soros controlled the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as well as other U.S. Ambassadors and FBI agents. This charge was leveled as part of a theory that it was Soros, acting to help Hillary Clinton, not Russia, who meddled in the 2016 election.
The President’s personal attorney also sees a wide-ranging plot to steal the 2020 election from President Trump. According to Giuliani, the election technology company Smartmatic is central to the conspiracy to deny the President re-election, and behind Smartmatic is George Soros. Needless to say, these charges have been thoroughly debunked.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that Rudy Giuliani hates Jews or the Jewish people. Yet having Jewish friends and defending the Israeli government does not give anyone license to spin false and reckless conspiracy theories about a well-known Jewish billionaire. These are the exact same kind of charges that budding autocrats such as Orban of Hungary and Erdogan of Turkey have used against Soros in an attempt to take advantage of anti-Semitic sentiments among their domestic constituencies. These are also the sort of conspiracy theories that have motivated the killers of Jews in Poway and Pittsburgh—the same type of conspiracy theories that have plagued Jews for millennia.
Wittingly or unwittingly, Giuliani’s attacks on Soros play into dangerous narratives about Jews. The increasing use by political leaders of tropes about prominent Jews is one of the more disturbing developments associated with today’s era of rising anti-Semitism.