Tablet: It's not anti-Semitic to talk about George Soros' criminal justice reform efforts

(AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

Tablet magazine published an opinion piece by James Kirchick Wednesday which points out that people on the left have been leaning a bit too eagerly into knee-jerk claims that criticism of George Soros is always automatically anti-Semitic. Soros, as many Hot Air readers will already know, is a billionaire who spends a lot of his money funding progressive groups with various goals. One of his projects in the last few years has been to elect a group of progressive DAs in cities across the country. This was not a secret. As Kirchick notes, Soros himself wrote a commentary for the Wall Street Journal in July of this year titled “Why I Support Reform Prosecutors.”


Americans desperately need a more thoughtful discussion about our response to crime. People have had enough of the demagoguery and divisive partisan attacks that dominate the debate and obscure the issues…

We spend $81 billion every year keeping around two million people in prisons and jails. We need to invest more in preventing crime with strategies that work—deploying mental-health professionals in crisis situations, investing in youth job programs, and creating opportunities for education behind bars. This reduces the likelihood that those prisoners will commit new crimes after release…

This is why I have supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform. I have done it transparently, and I have no intention of stopping. The funds I provide enable sensible reform-minded candidates to receive a hearing from the public. Judging by the results, the public likes what it’s hearing.

So, again, there’s no secret here. Soros has a lot of money and he’s using some of it to help elect progressive prosecutors because he wants to reform the criminal justice system. And as Tablet notes, the amount of money spent on this effort isn’t small.

Through a combination of direct contributions to candidates, subventions to political action committees, and funding of other third party groups via his Open Society Foundations, Soros has spent upwards of $40 million over the past decade helping to elect some 75 prosecutors in metropolitan areas ranging from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, Manhattan to St. Louis.


As Soros bragged in his WSJ commentary, his effort has paid off, with lots of far-left DAs elected in places like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York City, etc. But the impact of the changes instituted by these prosecutors is not universally loved. San Francisco just recalled DA Chesa Boudin and he has been replaced with a new DA who is promising to put an end to open air drug markets in the city. In Los Angeles, DA George Gascon is currently facing his second recall attempt, though it’s not know whether the latest one will succeed and wind up on the ballot.

The point is, the changes Soros seeks to make are very much a topic of public concern and debate. And yet, discussing Soros’ role in it seems to be forbidden.

A week after Soros published his piece in the Journal under his own name, proudly and defiantly justifying his expenditure of vast sums aimed at sparking a revolution in the administration of municipal criminal justice, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced an amendment to the $750 billion climate and tax bill aimed at stymying this agenda by providing funds for local law enforcement to keep violent criminals behind bars. The measure had no chance of passing, and when the Democrat-led Senate predictably rejected it, Rubio took to Twitter. “The democrats just blocked my effort to try & force Soros backed prosecutors to put dangerous criminals in jail,” he tweeted in complaint.

What followed was the sort of Pavlovian response one has come to expect from progressive politicians, activists, journalists, and other social media impact influencers whenever the name of their benefactor is invoked.

Soros, in case you couldn’t tell, happens to be Jewish, a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with his ideas about criminal justice reform, or with Rubio’s opposition to them. Yet it was this utterly irrelevant detail of Soros’ birth that the progressive hive mind seized upon, spurring its minions to attack an unsubstantiated presumption about Rubio’s motives to the exclusion of his substantive arguments.

Kirchick points to three specific reactions to Rubio’s tweet to make the point but there’s no shortage of these.

I could go on and on because there are so many reactions like this.

Reading through these you’d be half-convinced that the phrase “Soros backed prosecutors” was some kind of fringe conspiracy theory emanating from the Q anon fever swamp. But again this came just a week after Soros described his funding of progressive prosecutors under his own name, saying he’d done so “transparently” and that he had no intention of stopping. As Kirchick points out, the reaction from the left is the worst kind of bad faith argument.

The argument that the mere mention of the name “Soros” is tantamount to antisemitism, which is effectively the position of the progressive political, media, and activist elite, is made entirely in bad faith. Stating the plain and observable fact that some prosecutors are “Soros-backed” is no more of an attack on Jews than the broadcaster Soledad O’Brien’s warning to “full-time Florida residents,” an antisemitic dog whistle about God’s waiting room…

Those engaging in this rhetorical tactic are certainly not pursuing the “thoughtful discussion” that Soros says we “desperately need,” but rather the “demagoguery and divisive partisan attacks” he denounces. Worse, they’re minimizing the threat posed by actual antisemitism by cheapening the accusation.

There is anti-Semitism in the world and it’s dangerous. But disagreeing with Soros isn’t automatically anti-Semitic. Americans can discuss the facts and can even decide they don’t like the changes Soros is trying to make in their neighborhoods. I’d like to think that George Soros understand this even if some of the fans of his criminal justice reform efforts don’t seem to get it.


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