The Slatest

For Netanyahu and His American Friends, Criticizing Israel Is the Only Anti-Semitism That Matters

Netanyahu, Orbán, and others paying their respects.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Raoul Wallenberg memorial garden in Budapest on July 19, 2017.
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

During a conversation about Google in China on Fox Business today, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert launched into a rambling non sequitur about financier George Soros, saying, “George Soros is supposed to be Jewish, but you wouldn’t know it from the damage he inflicted on Israel and the fact that he turned on fellow Jews and helped take the property that they owned.”

Putting aside the unfounded accusations—pushed by Roseanne Barr,* Donald Trump Jr., and others—that Soros turned over fellow Jews to the Nazis in wartime Hungary when he was a child, Gohmert is arguing that because of his support for groups critical of Israeli policies, he is a perpetrator rather than a victim of anti-Semitism.

This is an absurd position but is one that the prime minister of Israel unfortunately seems to agree with.

Barak Ravid reports for Axios today that Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is negotiating with the government of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán over a controversial planned Holocaust museum. The museum has been criticized by Jewish groups in Hungary and around the world as an attempt by Orbán’s government to whitewash the role of Hungarians in the Holocaust and portray them solely as innocent victims of the Nazi occupation. The director of the library at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, told Reuters, “The museum concept clearly avoids addressing the role and responsibility of … Hungarian leaders of that era for the plight of the nation’s Jews, and their eventual abandonment to the hands of Nazi Germany. … It is implied that Hungary was actually a nation of rescuers. This is a grave falsification of history.”

Netanyahu is a close ally of Orbán, one of the dwindling number of staunchly pro-Israel leaders within the EU. The Israeli government backed Hungary last year, contradicting its own embassy in Budapest, when Orbán was accused of fomenting anti-Semitism with an advertising campaign targeting Soros.

Officials in the Israeli foreign ministry, who object to the new museum and have apparently been shut out of the discussions, worry that Netanyahu is working to help Orbán save face. The prime minister similarly reached a deal with Poland in July after it passed a controversial law making it illegal to accuse the country of complicity in the Holocaust. After Poland agreed to drop prison sentences for those convicted under the law, Netanyahu issued a joint statement with his Polish counterpart praising Poland’s wartime resistance to the Nazis, eliding any discussion of the culpability of some Poles in the killing of Jews during that period.

As Ravid notes in his Axios piece, Netanyahu “needs the support of the central European governments—mainly Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic—inside the EU” and is willing to look the other way as those countries whitewash the history of the Holocaust or use age-old tactics to smear prominent Jews.

As shown by previous statements about some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters, for the prime minister, as well as his backers in Washington, criticism of Israel is the only form of anti-Semitism that matters.

Correction, Dec. 7, 2018: This post originally misspelled Roseanne Barr’s first name.