Israel accuses Elon Musk of stoking antisemitism on Twitter after anti-Soros remark

‘The Jews’ trends on platform after billionaire says Jewish philanthropist ‘hates humanity’; Foreign Ministry pans company for taking no action

Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco, January 24, 2023. (Benjamin Fanjoy/AP)
Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco, January 24, 2023. (Benjamin Fanjoy/AP)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday accused Twitter owner Elon Musk of driving up antisemitic rhetoric on his social media platform in the wake of a remark he made against Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

Musk tweeted a day earlier that Soros “hates humanity,” and wrote that the billionaire and progressive megadonor “reminds me of Magneto,” a comic book villain who features in Marvel’s X-Men series.

“The phrase ‘The Jews’ spiked today on the list of topics trending on Twitter following a tweet with antisemitic overtones by none other than the owner and CEO of the social network, Elon Musk,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted on its official account.

It said that Musk’s tweet “immediately led to antisemitic conspiracy theories on Twitter.”

Separately, the ministry’s Director of Digital Diplomacy David Saranga tweeted a screenshot of Twitter trending numbers showing that, on Tuesday morning, there were 27,900 recent tweets using the phrase “The Jews.”

Tweets were “filled with antisemitic conspiracies and hate speech targeting Jews around the world,” Saranga wrote. “Unfortunately Twitter does nothing to address this problem.”

Saranga then cited Martin Niemöller, the German theologian who opposed the Nazi regime and was imprisoned in concentration camps.

“‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me,'” Saranga quoted.

“Niemöller’s words serve as an indictment of passivity and indifference during the Holocaust,” Saranga wrote and noted that the quote is written on the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

The attacks on Soros come as Twitter has faced criticism over its lax hate speech policies in the months since Musk, one of the world’s richest people, bought the platform last year. Soros, the billionaire and progressive megadonor, is at the center of multiple antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Like Soros, the character of Magneto is a Holocaust survivor. Brian Krassenstein, a liberal Jewish journalist, noted that parallel in a reply to Musk’s tweet, writing that “Magneto’s experiences during the Holocaust as a survivor shaped his perspective as well as his depth and empathy,” and that Soros “gets attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with [his] political affiliations.”

Musk responded, “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

CEO of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt called Musk’s remark “dangerous” and encouraging to anti-Jewish extremists.

“Soros often is held up by the far-right, using antisemitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems,” Greenblatt tweeted. “To see Elon Musk, regardless of his intent, feed this segment — comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, claiming Soros ‘hates humanity’ — is not just distressing, it’s dangerous: it will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.

While Musk has railed against progressive policies, what prompted his attack on Soros isn’t clear. On the same day as the tweets, however, Soros’s family investment office cashed out its investment in Tesla, Musk’s electric car company.

Soros, 92, has long been a target of conservatives for backing progressive causes and politicians in the United States and worldwide. In the last decade or so, some of the attacks have echoed antisemitic conspiracy theories, depicting Soros as satanic, accusing him of seeking world control and falsely accusing him of helping perpetrate the Holocaust rather than surviving it as a child.

These conspiracy theories accelerated after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who made Soros a focus of his final campaign ad that year and who has relentlessly portrayed Soros as a villain as he runs for the 2024 election.

Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros answers questions after delivering a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 24, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has reinstated the Twitter accounts of right-wing extremists who had previously been banned, a move that alarmed Jewish anti-bigotry groups. He suspended some of the extremists again after they returned to posting hateful tweets. Extremists have lauded him and he has returned the affection, encouraging some of their theories.

In December, Musk disbanded an advisory group focused on “Trust and Safety” on Twitter, and in March, a study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank found that antisemitism more than doubled on the platform in the months since Musk took it over.

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