Elon Musk visits Israel after criticism for endorsing antisemitic post

He toured the site of the Hamas assault on Israel and declared his commitment to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of hatred

Reuters
Published : 28 Nov 2023, 06:38 AM
Updated : 28 Nov 2023, 06:38 AM

Elon Musk, the social media mogul assailed for his endorsement of an anti-Jewish post, toured the site of the Hamas assault on Israel on Monday and declared his commitment to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of hatred.

Musk, the owner of the X platform, Tesla and SpaceX, also watched footage assembled from Hamas bodycams, CCTV and other sources of the Oct 7 Hamas killing spree in which Israel says 240 people were taken captive back to Gaza.

As well as meeting families of some of the hostages, he had a live online chat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on X Spaces. Early on Monday, Musk posted on X: "Actions speak louder than words."

On Nov 15, Musk had agreed with a post on X that falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory was speaking "the actual truth".

The theory holds that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a "white genocide".

Following the post, major US companies including Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast suspended their advertisements on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The White House had criticised Musk for what it called an "abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate" that "runs against our core values as Americans".

Musk met families of hostages held in Gaza with Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Herzog said Musk had a huge role to play in the global fight against antisemitism.

“We have to do whatever is necessary to stop the hate," Musk replied, according to a statement released by Herzog's office.

"Essentially these people have been fed propaganda since they were children. And it's remarkable what humans are capable of if they're fed falsehoods, from when they are children, they will think that the murder of innocent people is a good thing.

"That is how much propaganda can affect people's minds,” Musk said, according to the statement.

STARLINK OPERATION

Following the outbreak of the Gaza war, antisemitic incidents in the United States rose by nearly 400% from the year-earlier period, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organisation that fights antisemitism.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia have risen worldwide, including during the Gaza war.

Musk has said X should be a platform for people to post diverse viewpoints, but the company will limit the distribution of certain posts that may violate its policies, calling the approach "freedom of speech, not reach".

Hearing Netanyahu describe the destruction of Hamas, which Israel has set as a war goal, as necessary for any prospective peace with the Palestinians, Musk sounded his general agreement for such objectives during the X Spaces discussion.

"There's no choice," Musk said.

Musk said he believed three things needed to happen in the Gaza situation, according to the president's statement: to kill those who insist on murdering civilians, to teach the new generation not to murder and to try to build prosperity.

When they last met, in California on Sept 18, Netanyahu urged Musk to strike a balance between protecting free expression and fighting hate speech after weeks of controversy over antisemitism on X.

Musk responded by saying he was against antisemitism and against anything that "promotes hate and conflict", repeating his previous statements that X would not promote hate speech.

An Israeli government source described Monday's visit as a follow-up to the September meeting.

Last month, as the war raged, Musk proposed using Starlink to support communication links in the blackout-hit Gaza enclave with "internationally recognised aid organisations".

At the time, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi objected, saying "Hamas will use it (Starlink) for terrorist activities".

But in a new tack on Monday, Karhi said Israel and Musk had reached an agreement in principle whereby Starlink satellite units could only be operated in Israel and Gaza with the approval of his ministry.

In an X post addressed to Musk, Karhi said he hoped the visit to Israel "will serve as a springboard for future endeavours, as well as enhance your relationship with the Jewish people and values we share with the entire world".