ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Musk apologizes for endorsing antisemitic post, curses advertisers boycotting X for it

Back from Israel, social media platform owner says any who try to ‘blackmail’ him by withholding ads can ‘go f**k yourself’; suggests some Jewish groups have funded Hamas affiliates

Elon Musk wears a symbollic dog tag in honor of Israeli hostages onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images via AFP)
Elon Musk wears a symbollic dog tag in honor of Israeli hostages onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images via AFP)

Elon Musk called his recent endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory “foolish” and said he was “sorry for that post” on X, the social media platform he owns and renamed from Twitter.

But speaking at the New York Times Dealbook Summit on Wednesday, Musk also struck back, in expletive-laden language, at the advertisers who have fled the platform over his post.

And the mogul, fresh off a trip to Israel where he toured a community ravaged by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, also suggested that some Jewish organizations have funded Hamas-affiliated groups under what he said was the guise of “perception of persecution.”

Musk’s comments came during an hourlong interview with Jewish New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin at the business conference. Musk reserved his biggest vitriol for advertisers including Disney that have suspended their spending on X after Musk endorsed another user’s articulation of the antisemitic “Great Replacement” theory.

“If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself,” Musk said.

“Hey Bob, if you’re here in the audience, sorry, that’s how I feel,” he added, in an apparent reference to Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Earlier in the day, Iger said Disney’s decision to leave X came after the company decided the site was “not something for us” because Musk took “the position he took, in quite a public manner.”

Elsewhere during the interview, Musk expressed regret for his Nov. 15 tweet in which he called a user’s antisemitic post “the actual truth.”

“I should have, in retrospect, not replied to that particular person and I should have written in greater length as to what I meant,” Musk told Sorkin.

“I mean, look, I’m sorry for that post. It was foolish of me,” he added. “Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I’ve ever done. And I’ve tried my best to clarify six ways from Sunday, but you know at least I think it’ll be obvious that in fact far from being antisemitic, I’m in fact philosemitic.”

The user Musk responded to had written, in an echo of the Great Replacement theory, “Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them. I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s— now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities [they] support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much.”

Musk attracted widespread criticism and condemnation for his reply to the tweet, which came amid a global rise in antisemitism in the wake of Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

But on Wednesday he continued to defend the sentiments he said he meant to express in the post, saying his point had been that Jews fund groups that “essentially promote any persecuted group or any group with the perception of persecution” and claiming without evidence, “This includes radical Islamic groups.”

Musk did not offer any specifics about the groups he was referring to or the nature of their support for radical Islamic groups.

Since Oct. 7, some far-left Jewish groups have allied themselves with pro-Palestinian activists in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which would leave Hamas in power; those groups have drawn criticism from Jews and others who argue they are working against Jewish interests.

(Musk has also feuded with one prominent Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League civil rights watchdog, whose CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has both condemned and praised Musk and was in the summit’s audience.)

“The Jewish people have been persecuted for thousands of years. There is a natural affinity, therefore, for persecuted groups,” Musk said. “Everyone here has seen the massive demonstrations for Hamas in every major city in the West. That should be jarring. Well, a number of those organizations receive funding from prominent people in Jewish communities.”

Musk continued, “It’s unwise to fund organizations, to support groups that want your annihilation.” He then prompted applause by adding, “Let’s say you fund a group and that group supports Hamas, who wants you to die. Perhaps you should not fund them.”

US billionaire Elon Musk, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, take a tour of Kfar Aza, November 27, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Discussing his recent tour of Israeli sites that were attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7, Musk said his trip had been planned in advance of his controversial tweet and was “not an apology tour.”

He showed off a dog tag he wore around his neck reading “Bring Them Home” that he said had been given to him by a parent of one of the hostages held in Gaza. (Malki Shem-Tov, whose 21-year-old son Omer is a hostage, gave Musk the necklace during their meeting in Israel.)

“I said that I would wear it as long as there is a hostage still remaining. And I am,” Musk said.

Content on X, formerly Twitter, has gained increased scrutiny since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, when the terror group launched a cross-border attack from the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. At least 240 other people of all ages were abducted and taken as hostages to Gaza. Israel responded with a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and toppling it from power in Gaza and securing the release of the hostages.

Musk’s relationship with Jews was a hot topic at the summit. In addition to Iger, US Vice President Kamala Harris was also asked about his antisemitic tweet, responding, “I have nothing to say.” (The White House has condemned Musk for the tweet, which it called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”)

US billionaire Elon Musk meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and representatives of families of hostages held in Gaza during his visit to Israel, November 27, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

And Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed Musk’s recent visit, saying he “appreciated” the mogul’s appearance but stopping short of saying he believed Musk would effectively fight antisemitism on X.

Musk also praised the X feature known as Community Notes, user-generated information meant to add context to tweets. Community Notes has displayed antisemitic misinformation in the past.

Later in his talk, Musk suggested that those concerned about antisemitism on X should widen their lens. “In terms of antisemitic content, TikTok is rife with that,” he said.

Disney, IBM and other big brands stopped advertising on Musk’s platform after a report by liberal advocacy group Media Matters said their ads were appearing alongside pro-Nazi content and white nationalist posts. X has since sued Media Matters, saying the Washington-based nonprofit manufactured the report to “drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.”

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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