The all-purpose villain

The all-purpose villain

On Friday, shareholders of two subsidiaries of the Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest family-owned conglomerate, are expected to vote on the merger of these two companies. What raises this story to the level of Jewish news is not that some of our readers may own a Samsung electronic device or even shares in the companies involved. It’s that in the run-up to the vote, one of the sides has sought to support its position by raising the offensive and anti-Semitic canard of Jews and money.

“Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles,” a South Korean news website stated. “It is a well-known fact that the U.S. government is swayed by Jewish capital.”

In Argentina, meanwhile, President Cristina Kirchner compared the “vulture funds” that fought her in a decade-long court battle for repayment of loans to Shakespeare’s Shylock, the vindictive Jewish moneylender who is widely seen as an anti-Semitic symbol. Kirchner’s comments, which she made to students and later tweeted, were denounced by the umbrella organization of Argentine Jews as well as the ADL, which wrote: “She is sending a message to Argentina’s youth that Jews are somehow connected to the economic woes of her country.” (The ADL also denounced the South Korean article.)

The common denominator in these two stories is Paul Singer, CEO of the New York-based hedge fund Elliott Associates, a so-called vulture fund. These funds are often blamed for hurting the poor most when they sue for repayment of bad debt. Singer is a leading opponent of the merger of the Samsung subsidiaries. And he led the charge for repayment of Argentina’s debts.

That Singer is Jewish is the apparent reason for the anti-Semitic outbursts. But as we have seen, haters don’t need actual Jews to spread anti-Semitism. Shakes-

peare didn’t need to know a Jew to create Shylock. And South Korea doesn’t need the existence of a Jewish population to “know” that, as columnist Kim Ji-ho wrote on, “Jewish money has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

In truth, it is hate mongering of the sort going on in South Korea and Argentina that is ruthless and merciless — and, at the same time, so difficult to address. While we are heartened that officials at Samsung condemned anti-Semitism earlier this week, we don’t know whether the bloggers promulgating the vitriol actually believe what they are saying. And we don’t know whether Kirchner is sincere when she invokes the image of Shylock as the villain in her narrative. But we do know that there is a public that is all too receptive to anti-Semitism and tolerant (and even embracing) of those who deliver it. That dynamic needs to change.

As these offensive outbursts occur, it shouldn’t only be the ADL who cries foul. We all need to speak up and join in the condemnation.