Netanyahu, Elon Musk to meet despite antisemitism claims, ADL row

Musk's acquisition of Twitter has brought substantial controversy, with accusations of amplifying hate speech and antisemitism.

 (L-R) Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk (photo credit: FLASH90, REUTERS)
(L-R) Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk
(photo credit: FLASH90, REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with billionaire Elon Musk during next week’s visit to Silicon Valley hi-tech leaders in San Francisco, despite – or possibly because – of recent controversies surrounding Musk’s social media platform X (formerly Twitter) and his feud with the Anti-Defamation League.

Netanyahu and Musk have a history of interactions, with the Israeli leader previously praising Musk as a “genius” and a visionary in the technological world. In June, Netanyahu announced the establishment of an Israeli policy on artificial intelligence after discussions with Musk and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, aiming to position Israel as a global leader in AI.

Antisemitism is easier on Twitter since Musk took over

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and its transformation into X has brought substantial controversy, with accusations of amplifying hate speech and antisemitism dogging Musk’s leadership.

A study published in March, conducted by CASM Technology and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, revealed a substantial increase in antisemitic tweets and the creation of antisemitic accounts following Musk’s takeover.

Although Twitter did remove some antisemitic content, the removal rate couldn’t match the surge in hate speech, leaving hateful content more accessible on the platform.

Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)

As well, the ADL has tracked massive spikes in racist, antisemitic, and homophobic content and harassment since Musk bought the platform last year and restored extremist accounts banned under the previous management.

This has led to an escalating feud with the ADL, with accusations that Musk is disseminating age-old stereotypes and interacting with users who promote antisemitism and hate.

This tension recently prompted Musk to suggest a poll on the hashtag #BanTheADL, garnering support from far-right groups. Musk also threatened to sue the ADL for billions of dollars, alleging their encouragement of an ad boycott against X, a claim that the ADL vehemently denies.

Musk’s social media use history has been marked by a series of controversial actions and comments, including his reinstatement of banned users linked to hate speech and conspiracy theories. Additionally, his interactions with far-right figures and exchanges with individuals known for bigoted views have raised concerns about his attitudes towards antisemitism and bigotry.

Turning a blind eye?

Unless Netanyahu takes a firm stance against Musk’s alleged condonation of antisemitic discourse, the prime minister risks being seen as ignoring a pressing issue within the Jewish and Israeli world.

Assuming the two are to meet during Netanyahu’s visit to Silicon Valley, an open admonishment of Musk’s behavior would emphasize the Prime Minister’s stance against antisemitism.

If he doesn’t, Netanyahu’s alignment with Musk amid his antisemitism controversies wouldn’t be new for the current government, as Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli previously defended Musk when he criticized Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros, comparing him to Magneto: a famously-Jewish comic book villain known for being a Holocaust survivor whose experiences led him to distrust humanity.

Chikli argued that critiquing Soros wasn’t inherently antisemitic, despite objections from the Foreign Ministry, the ADL, and other Jewish organizations.

“Criticism of Soros – who finances the most hostile organizations to the Jewish people and the State of Israel is anything but antisemitism, quite the opposite!” Chikli wrote on Twitter.