The dishonest – and ironic – attempt to blame the campus protests on George Soros

There is clearly an element of opposition to the ongoing protests on college campuses, rooted in familiar party political rhetoric. For example, the political right's hostility toward college professors and its demands that students be brainwashed into practicing liberal politics are a regular undercurrent in the discussion. There are certainly real disagreements at play and a complex tapestry of issues surrounding the First Amendment, but there are also familiar partisan slights and innuendos.

That includes one that is both ironic, given the context, and deeply misleading.

The New York Post offers the most useful distillation of the claim in the headline of a story published on Friday: “George Soros is paying student radicals who are fueling the nationwide explosion of Israel-hating protests.” This claim that the students are being funded by Soros – a Holocaust survivor who is a favorite bogeyman of the right thanks to his hefty donations to left-wing groups – has been picked up and repeated. elsewhereat.

In itself, this is a reflection of the idea that student activism is necessarily insincere, or a consequence of fooling young people. Claims that Soros is the driving force behind political or social movements have also been identified as such intertwined with anti-Semitism or explicitly anti-Semitic, given historical tropes about wealthy Jewish people controlling the world.

So here this anti-Semitic framework is being deployed to undermine protests on college campuses… which have been repeatedly labeled anti-Semitic.

More importantly, it's simply not true. Or rather, the connection between the protests and Soros's Open Society Foundations (OSF) funding is so tenuous as to be clearly contrived.

You could start by asking what Soros is theoretically paying for. After all, these are just kids setting up tents on a college campus. Is the claim that Soros plans students at Columbia University (for example) and directs the $68,000 tuition?

No. The New York Post article suggests other ways in which this generosity apparently manifests itself.

“Soros and his acolytes' money has been critical to the protests in Columbia that sparked the national copycat demonstrations,” it reads, going on to describe the scene in Columbia: “students sleeping in tents apparently owned by Amazon ordered and enjoyed delivered pizza, coffee from Dunkin', free $12.50 sandwiches from Pret a Manger, organic tortilla chips and $10 rotisserie chickens.”

The “tents from Amazon” bit is a nod to a theory floating around on right-wing social media that someone is buying all these tents for students, as if it would otherwise be impossible for a student to buy a $20 tent on her own. Mind you, there's no evidence that the other things mentioned were purchased by a billionaire donor, but the New York Post recently joked about it by referring to the food as “luxurious” while they wonder “[w]ho or which organization is behind the food delivery.” Clearly, no average individual could have purchased Dunkin' donuts.

But back to that 'money of Soros and his acolytes'. At no point does the Post article show how this so-called money has been critical. Instead, it simply lists organizations that have been involved in the protests to some extent and traces their funding back to the OSF.

Take the group US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The Post claims it has a fellowship program involving three people who have attended meetings on college campuses. To illustrate, the three are identified as “paid protesters” – suggesting that their motivation for participating is the money and not the beliefs that led them to seek the grant in the first place.

“George Soros and his far-left followers are paying agitators who are fueling the explosion of radical anti-Israel protests at universities across the country,” the story hyperventilates. Finally, it is described how.

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is registered with the IRS as Education for Just Peace in the Middle East (EJP). And EJP has done that too receive subsidies from OSF.

The largest was $300,000, given in 2018. During that fiscal year, EJP taken just over $1 million in revenue. It spent about $1.3 million, meaning it operated at a loss. In fiscal year 2019, it had net assets of about $165,000 — meaning much of that OSF grant had necessarily already been spent.

EJP also received a grant from OSF of $150,000 in 2021 and a two-year grant of $250,000 in 2022. The suggestion from the New York Post (and published this week by the Wall Street Journal) is that this money will go to those “paid demonstrators” would go. ” But money is fungible. During those years, the organization also spent an additional $2.4 million, of which at least $2 million was not OSF money.

If the campus fellows identified by the New York Post were paid the same as those currently eligible to apply for those positions, the total one-time cost to the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights was approximately $10,000. It is also not clear that the identified individuals are still fellows; they were listed on the website in June, but the term of service appears to have ended in December. (An email to the organization did not receive a response at time of publication.)

The New York Post story also accuses Students for Justice in Palestine of being “Soros-funded” and fundamentally involved in the protests. (That the protests only spread nationwide after the Columbia encampment was raided by police undermines the idea that this is being driven from the top, but so be it.) So where does the Soros money come from?

The story claims it is backed by the Westchester People's Action Coalition Foundation, or WESPAC. And WESPAC received $132,000 once from the Tides Foundation. And the Tides Foundation has received millions in funding from OSF over the years.

It is true that the Tides Foundation received this more than 11 million dollars in OSF grants since 2017. It is also true that the Tides Foundation reported $298 million in revenue…in fiscal year 2017 alone. OSF's reported grants total less than 0.3 percent of Tides' revenues from 2017 to 2022.

Regardless, Students for Justice in Palestine denies that it receives any money from WESPAC, nor is there any public indication that this is the case. In a statement to The Washington Post, a representative for the group indicated that the foundation “does not fund or influence our organization's political activities, but instead extends its legal tax-exempt status to us to support our mission.”

“We refuse to address unsubstantiated claims about our funding in the midst of a genocide funded, militarily supported, and politically supported by the United States,” the statement concluded.

The group Jewish Voice for Peace, also mentioned in the New York Post article, has done so received grants from OSF in recent years, both on its 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), the latter of which may deal with political advocacy. But here too it is about scale. From 2017 to 2022, the two organizations received $875,000 from OSF and spent $19.6 million during the same period. The OSF money constituted less than 5 percent of the total money spent.

All of this is still in its early stages, as we must do when assessing specific claims. If we take a step back, the accusations don't become any more convincing. George Soros (or rather the foundation he founded) a few years ago gave money to organizations to influence the protests that arose in response to the six-month war in Gaza? Even if OSF's money went directly to those three campus fellows' $3,300, we're left thinking: What? That even though none of them are going to Columbia, this is all their fault? That it's somehow intentional?

What we should think is of course somewhat simpler. That Soros is a nefarious figure bent on using his wealth to reshape the world in his image, an impulse that manifests here in that he is somehow the driving force behind the protests (or at least on the somehow the donut donor). They are just vague insinuations that tap into worn-out rhetoric and a pre-existing deep-seated reaction to the Jewish billionaire.

There is a term for these types of accusations.

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