In Netanyahu’s Israel, Elon Musk’s Antisemitism Is Kosher

In Netanyahu’s Israel, Elon Musk’s Antisemitism Is Kosher

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Photo: Government Press Office of Israel/Anadolu via Getty Images

Earlier this month, someone posted an antisemitic diatribe on Elon Musk’s social-media platform. The X user in question argued that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” He went on to declare that he didn’t give “the tiniest shit” that Jewish populations in the West were coming under threat from resurgent antisemitism. After all, this Jew hatred was coming principally from nonwhite immigrants, and it was Jews who had enabled “those hordes of minorities” to flood Western countries in the first place.

These remarks not only conveyed disregard for Jewish welfare, but also endorsed a conspiracy theory that, just five years earlier, had inspired the deadliest attack ever committed against America’s Jewish community.

There are multiple, reasonable ways to respond to someone posting these sorts of sentiments on your social-media platform. For example, you could ban the poster’s account on the grounds that obstructing the dissemination of hate must take precedence over promoting the open exchange of ideas. Or you could refrain from such punitive action, on the grounds that social-media platforms shouldn’t be in the censorship business (and/or that suppressing antisemitic speech only reinforces conspiratorial resentments).

But Elon Musk chose a third option. He posted a reply to the X user, announcing, “You have said the actual truth.”

This was not out of character for the entrepreneur. Although he was once an Obama supporter, Musk has been playing footsie with the far right for years now. He has peddled conspiracy theories about political donor George Soros, suggesting that the Jewish billionaire’s philanthropies are seeking “nothing less than the destruction of western civilization.” He has suggested that liberals who favor the removal of Confederate monuments want the “extinction” of southern whites (if not of white people writ large). Through his reinstatement of myriad formerly banned far-right accounts, Musk enabled a massive increase in antisemitic speech on X and then threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League for spotlighting that increase.

Given all this, it might seem strange that the prime minister of Israel would take time away from managing his national and personal crises to lend Musk some helpful PR. Yet Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Musk on Monday is consistent with his government’s broader strategy of legitimizing antisemitic political actors abroad, in exchange for their help in abetting Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinians.

When Musk declared that claims of Jewish hate-mongering against white people were “the actual truth,” his platform lost a great many advertisers. These included IBM, Apple, and Disney. Altogether, the exodus could cost X up to $75 million in ad revenue by the end of the year, according to the New York Times. Musk is therefore desperate to shed his newfound reputation as a virulent antisemite (albeit not desperate enough to delete his offending tweet or issue an apology for it).

Instead of disavowing his own antisemitic speech, the CEO has sought to placate powerful Jewish entities by banning certain forms of pro-Palestinian advocacy. In a brazen betrayal of his supposed commitment to free speech, Musk pledged to ban the pro-Palestinian slogan “from the river to the sea” from his platform. In response, the Anti-Defamation League and Israeli government certified Musk as kosher, with ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt praising Musk’s “leadership in fighting hate,” and Israel’s ministry for diaspora affairs thanking the billionaire for “standing on the right side of history.”

The Israeli government further rewarded Musk Monday by allowing him to stand on the right side of Netanyahu, as the two visited an Israeli kibbutz devastated by Hamas on October 7.

The Israeli government’s embrace of an unrepentant promulgator of anti-Semitic speech is unseemly. Israel styles itself as the protector of the Jewish nation the world over. Helping an ally of the American far right with his crisis PR is antithetical to upholding the interests of the Jewish diaspora.

Yet Netanyahu’s willingness to lend Musk a hand — after the latter agreed to suppress certain forms of pro-Palestinian speech — is wholly unsurprising. For years now, Israel has been cultivating alliances with right-wing nationalist political actors throughout the West, including notoriously antisemitic ones. 

Israel’s alignment with the Western far right derives from a combination of geopolitical imperatives and ideological affinity. Israel and far-right parties in Europe share an antipathy for the E.U.’s preciousness about so-called human rights, a commitment to ethnic nationalism, a fear of Muslim immigration, and a valorization of heroic sacrifice in service of one’s people. These commonalities have led several formerly fascistic western parties to develop an admiration for the Jewish state, which they see as a model for their own ethno-nationalist projects.

Yet there is also a transactional symbiosis between Israel and the western right. European parties tarred by their association with fascism are desperate to shed the stigma of their antisemitic reputations. Israel, meanwhile, is eager to thwart any European efforts to frustrate its settlement project in the West Bank. As the Jewish newspaper Haaretz writes, this has led to a “quid pro quo,” in which “Israel gives legitimacy to authoritarian nationalists with disgraceful records on antisemitism, Holocaust denial, and anti-Muslim bigotry, in return for a commitment to Israeli policies.”

The most egregious manifestation of this strategy came in August, when Israel’s ambassador to Romania met with the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians party. The AUR lionizes Romania’s Nazi collaborationist regime, and describes the Holocaust as a “minor issue” in Romanian history. Israeli policy had long forbidden diplomatic recognition of such ultranationalist parties. But the Netanyahu government decided to break that taboo in exchange for AUR leader George Simion’s endorsement of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

More consequentially, Israel has developed warm relations with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who glorifies his nation’s antisemitic World War II–era government and fulminates antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros, and Poland’s Law and Justice Party, which denies its nation’s complicity in the Holocaust. Along with other Eastern European nations, Poland and Hungary serve as a bulwark against adversarial policy toward Israel within the European Union.

In the United States, meanwhile, Netanyahu is an unabashed supporter of the Republican Party in general and Donald Trump in particular. Last year, the Israeli prime minister addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference.

Of course, the GOP does not venerate Nazi collaborators. But its brand of right-wing nationalist politics is nevertheless contrary to the Jewish diaspora’s best interests.

In 2018, Donald Trump warned the public that Democrats “want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they are, to pour in and infest our country, like MS-13” because liberals “view them as potential voters.” Trump went on to say that the caravan of Central American migrants that was then heading toward the U.S. “didn’t just happen,” and that “the Democrats had something to do with it.” Republican cable-news hosts echoed that charge, reporting that Democrats were “plotting a coup” against the U.S. government, using illegal immigrants as their shock troops. GOP congressman Matt Gaetz suggested that migrants were being paid — possibly by George Soros — to “storm the US border @ election time.”

Taken together, Republicans were telling millions of U.S. citizens that the (Jewish-funded) Democrats were orchestrating an invasion of the United States by Central American migrants, so as to steal an election in the immediate term, and permanently disempower real Americans in the long run.

Shortly thereafter, a neo-Nazi who believed that Jews were orchestrating an invasion of the United States by Central Americans migrants — as part of a broader plan to render the white race incapable of reclaiming power in the U.S. — murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

This is not to say that the GOP was responsible for the Tree of Life shooting, either. But the overlap between shooter Robert Bowers’s worldview and that promulgated by Trump’s GOP illustrates the perils that Trumpism poses to Jewish Americans.

If Trump’s party flirted with an endorsement of the great-replacement conspiracy theory, however, it also served Israel’s geopolitical interests, unencumbered by any sense of fealty to international law or Palestinian welfare. Indeed, the Trump administration sought to secure Israel many victories that were supposed to be reserved for a final status agreement with the Palestinians, such as the relocation of America’s embassy to Jerusalem, a recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and normalized relations with many of Israel’s Arab neighbors.

There is no inherent conflict between the interests of Jews in Israel and those who live everywhere else. Yet there is an inescapable contradiction between the values of Israel’s far-right government and those that best serve the Jewish diaspora. As minority populations, diasporic Jewish communities have an interest in pluralism, egalitarianism, and inviolable human-rights protections. By contrast, as the vanguard of a Jewish supremacist project that aims to either ethnically cleanse Palestinians in the occupied territories or subject them to unending apartheid, the current Israeli government is hostile to all of those values. Therefore, its search for allies abroad inevitably leads it into the arms of parties and political figures who are bad for the (diaspora) Jews.

In a better world, Israel would feel no need to align itself with the Musks of this world. By making a good-faith effort to secure peace with the Palestinians and honor its obligations under international law, Israel could liberate itself from the fear of E.U. boycotts or Democratic Party condemnations and pursue the stigmatization of far-right antisemites as energetically as it currently pursues that of the far-left variety.

In the world we live in, however, a man can condemn the Jewish people’s persecution of the white race one day and shake hands with the Israeli prime minister the next.



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