WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hacked emails show that the Open Society Foundations led by Jewish billionaire George Soros have as an objective “challenging Israel’s racist and anti-democratic policies” in international forums, in part by questioning Israel’s reputation as a democracy.
The documents are available on a website, reportedly backed by Russia, that uses anti-Semitic stereotypes to attack Soros.
They reveal that Open Society, which was founded and is chaired by the hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist, gave nearly $10 million since 2001 to groups advancing the rights of Arab Israelis, with an emphasis in recent years on countering what one document says are Israel’s “restrictive measures” against minorities.
“In recent years the radicalization of public opinion and consecutive Israeli right wing governments have resulted in more restrictive measures against Palestinians within Israel,” a Sept. 1, 2015 review of Open Society’s Arab Regional Office’s work said.
It cites as an example the Jewish Nation State bill, advanced by its sponsors to entrench Israel’s Jewish status, but decried by some Arab Israelis as further marginalizing non-Jewish minorities. The bill has yet to pass.
Among achievements listed in the document, the Arab Regional Office includes increased advocacy by “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” or PCI, in international forums, challenging Israel’s “racist” policies in the face of its reputation as a democracy.
The document advocates the “development of a more organized and efficient PCI advocacy and presence in international forums (UN, EU, US), especially in light of the increasingly limited domestic avenues available for seeking justice.”
“In shifting to international advocacy, PCI’s [sic] are up against Israel and its image as a democratic state before the international community, therefore Palestinian civil society organizations in Israel feel the pressure of filling this gap by strengthening their relations with international actors and systems such as the European Union and United Nations to put their issue on the international agenda,” it says.
“There have been a number of successes in challenging Israel’s racist and anti-democratic policies in the international arena and influencing EU-Israel bilateral negotiations,” the document says.
The emails were posted in recent weeks by DC Leaks, a group Bloomberg News, in an Aug. 11 report, quoted security experts as saying is likely backed by Russia’s intelligence agencies.
In a statement to JTA, Open Society said it reported the hacks to the FBI.
“A number of Open Society Foundations documents, including strategies, work plans, and funding requests, have been published after being removed from an online community that served as a resource for Open Society Foundations staff, board members, and partners across the world,” said the statement. “A security firm reviewed the incident when documents first began to appear online in June and the FBI has been notified.”
Former communists in the Eastern bloc have reviled Soros for years for promoting democracy and free markets in their countries. At the same time some Jewish groups have labeled Soros, a child survivor of the Holocaust, as anti-Israel.
The Soros page on the DC Leaks website, in broken English, notes Soros’ Hungarian Jewish roots. Depicting a sinister-looking Soros presiding over an array of news photos of rioting and violence, it invokes anti-Semitic tropes commonplace in Russia and Eastern Europe, describing him as a “vampire” managing “puppets” and “slaves” who “spill blood of millions and millions people just to make him even more rich.”
Soros is a major backer of the presidential bid of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose campaign has accused Russian intelligence of being behind a deluge of recent embarrassing email dumps. The campaign also has alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin is backing Clinton’s rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump.
An Aug. 6, 2015 document details Open Society’s Arab Regional Office funding of civil society groups in Israel since 2001, amounting to $9,591,801. The group obtaining the most money is Adalah, a legal rights group for Arab Israelis, which received a total of $2,688,561 over the period.
Another grantee is the New Israel Fund, a clearinghouse for Israeli civil rights groups, which received $837,500 from 2002 to 2015.
Notably, the Sept. 1, 2015 Arab Regional Office review depicts as a positive a controversial initiative, the 2007 Democratic Constitution, calling it one of several “important cooperation efforts among leading OCI civil society groups.”
That document, which the review describes as “the most direct and substantive challenge posed by Palestinian citizens to their status in the Jewish Israeli state,” was decried by pro-Israel groups at the time as promoting an outcome that would all but remove Israel’s Jewish character.
Adalah was one of the drafting bodies, and the subsequent controversy was one of several factors that led the New Israel Fund in 2010 to revise its funding criteria to reject any group that “works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel.” The NIF policy was not retroactive. The group continues to fund Adalah.
The Open Society statement to JTA said the documents focused on “big picture” strategies.
“The Open Society Foundations work with Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations to support democracy and human rights in Israel and Palestine,” it said. “We oppose human rights violations on all sides of the conflict and support implementation of international law.”
The release of the Open Society documents was overshadowed by last month’s similar dump by WikiLeaks of Democratic National Committee emails, also believed to have been hacked by Russians. Those emails, revealing antagonism within the DNC toward the ultimately unsuccessful bid by prohibitive underdog Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination, led to the resignation of top DNC officials.
NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog, uncovered among the DC Leaks trove a separate document prepared by Open Society’s European Policy Institute suggesting questions for September 2014 hearings to confirm senior European Union foreign policy officials.
Among the questions are one that promotes labeling products from West Bank settlements and another that favors the ascension of the Palestinian Authority to the International Criminal Court. Israel adamantly opposes both policies.