By Sami Lagati, Licra
The French conservative magazine Valeurs Actuelles published a series of articles focused on George Soros, where he is described as “the billionaire conspiring against France”. In the 16-page long piece, published on 10 May 2018, three journalists link George Soros to the financing of a number of illegal activities, including “supporting terrorism” and “world disorder”.
This is not the first time Soros has come under attack. In fact, the US-Hungarian billionaire of Jewish descent has increasingly become the focus of a litany of accusations from far-right parties and movements in Europe. The ‘investigation’ pieces in Valeurs Actuelles accuses Soros of promoting the migration of millions of people to Europe to dismantle its states, of encouraging what the far right calls the “Islamisation” of Europe, and of being a key player in “destroying Western European traditional values”.
The Open Society Foundation’s “plans of destruction”
George Soros, described by the magazine as ‘megalomaniac’, is the founder of the Open Society Foundation (OSF), an organization to which he has given over $32 billion since 1979. OSF offers international grants to projects which aim to strengthen democracies worldwide. The existence of these grants prompted Valeurs Actuelles, along with other far-right organizations, to call OSF a “tentacular organisation”. It accuses it of seeking to remove borders and encouraging mass migration. Through these recriminations against OSF, many also attack its funder, described as an “animal” and “predator” who is aggressively trying to exploit vulnerabilities around the world and control the global policy through his foundation.
In the wake of these beliefs Valeurs Actuelles wrote that France is in George Soros’ “path of destruction”. The reporters accused him of carrying out a “secret war” against France by funding a number of NGO projects, including a research grant given to the French National Council of Scientific Research (CNRS) for an investigation called “Police and visible minorities: Identity controls in Paris”. International well-known organisations such Reporter without Borders and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) are dubbed by the magazine as the “disinformation supporting Soros”. Greenpeace has also been attacked for practicing “intellectual terrorism” because Soros has started to provide funding to them.
The magazine also accused the billionaire of having “dangerous links” in Africa and of using the OSF to plot against Vincent Bolloré, a French tycoon who has built a business empire on the continent. While OSF is supporting the United Nations Agenda for the promotion of human rights and development in Africa, earlier this year, Vincent Bolloré was detained by French authorities for corruption. The BBC reports that a Bolloré Group subsidiary allegedly undercharged for work helping two African presidents gain power in return for lucrative contracts.
Puppeteers and octopuses
When Soros is attacked, his Jewish descent is generally barely mentioned, but the way he is often described fits perfectly into the antisemitic tropes of the Jewish elite controlling and manipulating the world through their money and power.
The “puppeteer” metaphor, for example, is often used by the far-right to illustrate their belief that wealthy Jewish people run the world by manipulating political and financial leaders as puppets.
“As our investigation shows, the thirst of George Soros to increase his control to destabilise the West, which is already weakened by migration flows, is insatiable. A question comes up: when will French leaders open their eyes and carry out something to avoid his tentacular influence?”, writes Valeurs Actuelles.
Another metaphor, used to exemplify hidden Jewish power, is the octopus with its tentacles grabbing and controlling worldwide finance and, through that, all segments of society. These representations, which are often associated with Soros, are not new. Similar graphic images were published in French newspapers in the 1930s and frequently used by the Nazis, such as images depicting a large octopus’ head marked with the Star of David holding the earth within its tentacles. And today, these keep being shared on social media, with a modern twist.
Mass Immigration and Fear of Islamisation
Alongside antisemitic tropes, the article in Valeurs Actuelles also presents dangerous anti-Muslim remarks.
“[George Soros] the activist of migratory flood wave and Islamism,” the magazine writes.
Far-right groups frequently connect migration with what they call “Islamisation”. But statistics based on nationality (in France, data on ethnicity and religion are not collected in the census) show that most foreigners living in France come from another EU member state. Moreover, since 1981 the number of immigrants and foreigners coming to France has decreased. Currently, in 2018, non-French nationals represent around 7.2% of the total population – contrary to the 30 percent cited by anti-migrant movements. On top of this, research has widely shown the positive impact of migration on France’s economic growth.
The French-Muslim community often suffers from discrimination and ostracism. Muslims are presented as a monolithic bloc and Islam is often believed to be the reason for terrorist attacks. But investigations have revealed that regarding recent terror attack in France, the perpetrators have been French-born unemployed and excluded people, who were particularly vulnerable to online propaganda inciting them to kill.
Still, Valeurs Actuelles criticises OSF for funding programmes that are combating anti-Muslim sentiments. “We have identified 15 OSF major programmes supporting political and social activities including 5 concerning migrants and/or the fight against racism and Islamophobia,” the magazine writes. “George Soros does not hesitate to provide funding to the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France for a study on the situation of Muslim people in 11 European cities […]. Money seems to be flowing.”
Accusation of anti-Muslim and antisemitic rhetoric
The publication of this piece in Valeurs Actuelles prompted a number of responses which criticise the paper for disseminating both antisemitic conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim tropes. But the magazine did not retract the articles. In an opinion piece in the same magazine, the French-Israeli lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel asked “Is it permitted to criticise a Jew without being antisemitic?”. To which he replied, defending the magazine: “Well, yes, it is indeed possible as it is allowed for Valeurs Actuelles to release that article on George Soros”. Clearly, it is possible to criticise a Jewish person without being antisemitic, however this should be done without resorting to old stale myths that have been used to persecute Jews for hundreds of years. The opposite of what Valeurs Actuelles did.