Musk has launched a full-front war against the ADL, claiming that it opposes free speech in calling for the elimination of vicious anti-Semitic content on the platform. He even falsely blamed the NGO for destroying the platform’s ad base, threatening to sue it for the $4-billion in lost revenue. He offered no evidence to support the claim. The lawsuit seems yet another one of Musk’s empty threats designed to intimidate the targets of his wrath.
Our US advertising revenue is still down 60%, primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ADL (that’s what advertisers tell us), so they almost succeeded in killing X/Twitter!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 4, 2023
Progressives have rightly attacked the ADL because of its shameless pandering to its pro-Israel billionaire donors. The #droptheadl hashtag is a brillinat social media response to its attacks on groups like Black Lives Matter, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Council for Islamic Relations, who it called anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic. Rather than fight this scourge, it exploits it in an effort to promote Israeli interests.
Musk’s attack on the ADL and his #stoptheadl hastag are, on the other hand, shameless and self-interested. He doesn’t believe the ADL suppresses free speech. It criticizes the type of hate speech in which he revels. That’s what annoys the hell out of him. That a group should have the temerity to take him on and call him for the hater he is: that’s too much.
Remember when Musk tried to weasel out of his $44-billion purchase of Twitter by claiming it was hiding millions of fake accounts? The company held his feet to the fire, proved his claims were wrong, and forced him to cough up the full price. Now the company’s revenues are tanking because of him. Because of decisions he made. Because he’s let his playtoy becomes a Boys Club for sleazebag neo-Nazis and their ilk. He always wants to blame someone else for the mess he’s made.
Netanyahu will dress up his meeting with the Twitter owner as an effort to bridge the gaps between the two sides. He will issue a statement saying that he raised the issue of anti-Semitism with Musk and that the latter promised to make every effort to address it. He will give a kosher seal of approval and declare he’s heard no evidence of anti-Semitism during the meeting. In other words, a clean bill of health from the ‘Top Jew’ for the raving anti-Semite.
But this is like not the main reason for the meeting. First, Netanyahu loves basking in the spotlight with billionaires, whether they be Ron Lauder, Arnon Milchan, James Packer or the Falic brothers? A bit of their luster rubs off on him and presumably impresses his Israeli voters. This tweet offers an example:
Had an insightful talk on AI with @elonmusk, whose genius & impact on humanity are formidable. I will soon assemble experts to develop a national AI strategy for Israel. Just as we turned Israel into a cyber powerhouse, we’ll repeat that success in AI!
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) June 5, 2023
This is an obsequious attempt to curry favor with one of the few individuals more narcissistic than he is.
There are also business and military opportunities to discuss during the meeting. The IAF maintains one of the most advanced missile programs in the world, along with 200 nuclear warheads. Musk’s SpaceX is now contracting with NASA to lift immense payloads into space. Its Starlink satellites offer global communications capability. Israeli defense contractors and Musk’s various companies could undoubtedly forge commercial ventures to share or purchase some of each others’ technology. Israel is also at the forefront of developing AI battlefield weaponry. That too could offer synergies with SpaceX or Starlink. It’s worth noting that Israel’s assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist, Moshen Fakrizadeh was purportedly directed via a satellite operating an AI-aided machine gun.
Musk too, has his own agenda: he knows he is seen by much of the world as a white supremacist, anti-Semite hosting a site riddled with hate, homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A certificate of kashrut from the Israeli PM, who touts himself as a leader of world Jewry, would be a huge victory. Conversely, it would mean a defeat for the ADL and all groups fighting against hatred and intolerance on social media platforms.
Bibi and Biden: Will they? Won’t they? They will.
An even more important meeting is now scheduled between Netanyahu and Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, where the Israeli PM is scheduled to speak. Facing nearly a year of angry protest by pro-democracy advocates, he is besieged by critics at home. A little limelight at the UN, including a meeting with the leader of a superpower, would go a long way to distract from his troubles. Bibi likes the grand gesture. Meeting with Biden would be just the boost he needs.
Israeli government sources leaked to the Times of Israel that such a meeting would take place (though Biden refused a White House visit). However, State Department was quick to qualify the leak by saying that no such visit had (yet) been scheduled. Bibi is a shrewd political operator. He knows that if he travels to the UN and no meeting happens, he will look like a fool. He would not go unless he was certain Biden would meet him.
This would be a major mistake for the Biden administration: it will ratify the judicial coup the current Israeli government has engineered. It would legitimate the destruction of what little is left of Israeli democracy. It would give a US blessing to the destruction of the Israeli judicial system and the rule of law, which is a pillar of democratic societies. It will make Israel a more dangerous force in the Middle East.
Biden is never one to let morality stand in the way of political interests. In preparation for the 2024 election, he wants two things: a normalization pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia; and Israel’s admission into the visa waiver program. I’ve written here and in Middle East Eye about the prospective dangers of both. But Biden, who abandoned a campaign promise not to permit Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman get away with murder in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, arranged a fawning visit to the Kingdom last year. He wanted an increase in Saudi oil production to cool US inflation. MBS refused.
Biden has little interest in preserving Israeli democracy. He could get letters from a thousand Nobel laureates and it wouldn’t make a difference. Possibly, if he got a letter from 100 members of Congress protesting the meeting, that might register. But there is no chance of that happening.