Georgian opposition head calls ruling party’s adviser ‘Dirty Jew’

The anti-Semitic verbal attack came a day before a hotly contested second round of presidential elections, enraging the republic’s Jewish community.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Head of the Opposition and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili went on an anti-Semitic verbal rampage last week in an attempt to gain back lost ground for his candidate for the presidency, which will be decided in elections on Wednesday, said a report in Israel Hayom Tuesday.

The uproar that ensued forced him to then issue an apology in which he stated that he “respects the Jewish people.”

The target of his wrath was Moshe Klughaft, a strategic adviser hired at the beginning of November by presidential hopeful Salome Zurabishvili of the ruling Georgian Dream Party. Her numbers rose considerably after Klughoft added more aggressive tactics to the campaign, using negative campaigning against Saakashvili’s candidate, said the report.

Saakashvili, 50, specifically noted in a TV interview that Zurabishvili had “a Jewish adviser,” and in other interviews as well as Facebook he called Klughaft a “dirty Jew” and “a money-grubbing Jew.” He also accused the Israeli strategist of having made $1.2 million working for the Zurabishvili campaign, which was vehemently denied by the party.

Saakashvili also claimed that the Israeli had worked for “communists” in Romania, thereby tying him to another familiar trope favored by anti-Semites.

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His accusations, which garnered wide publicity, gave rise to fierce pushback from members of the Georgian parliament and representatives of the country’s Jewish community, who published a letter signed by 40 leaders decrying his words.

“We, the Georgian Jews, are outraged and condemn the anti-Semitic and discriminatory statement of Mikheil Saakashvili about the strategic adviser of the ruling party, Moshe Klughaft. This is not the first time that Mikheil Saakashvili has used hate speech against Jews, and therefore we expect a response from political forces, the media and non-governmental organizations.”

The Georgian government upped security around Klughaft and made him a “protected citizen” for the time he will be in the country.

An assassination plot?

The pressure that coerced Saakashvili into apologizing may also force the party that he founded to take more extreme measures against him.

According to a Ynet report Sunday, an Israeli consulting company hired by the ruling party to find corruption among its foes has discovered that Saakashvili was deeply involved in a plot to assassinate the party’s chairman, Bidzina Ivanshvili. Saakashvili and a cousin could reportedly be heard in an authenticated recording discussing how to hire a professional sniper to murder Ivanshvili, who had actually served as Saakashvili’s prime minister during the last year of his two terms in office (2004-2013).

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Suspected of having received financing from a “criminal group,” Saakashvili, who served as a governor in Ukraine from May 2015 to November 2016, was deported to Poland in February and later relocated to the Netherlands.