Elon Musk’s Opportunity on Antisemitism

From The Epoch Times
Sept. 15, 2023

Elon Musk has a rare opportunity to make a significant contribution to the fight against antisemitism—if he chooses to take it. Those of us deeply concerned with rising antisemitism should all hope that he decides to become part of the solution rather than an abettor of the problem.

For those who haven’t yet tuned into the current brouhaha, Mr. Musk has found himself embroiled in a dispute with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It started shortly after Mr. Musk acquired X, then known as Twitter. The ADL joined a lengthy list of leftist groups advocating an advertiser boycott to protest Mr. Musk’s advocacy for free speech. In the ensuing months, that boycott has cost X—and thus Mr. Musk—significant amounts.

Mr. Musk recently struck back, calling out the ADL for the boycott and piggybacking on a campaign to “#BantheADL.” This action played well in the Internet’s most antisemitic fever swamps where the hashtag campaign originated.
At this point in the story, clarity on a number of points is critical:

First, there’s no evidence that Mr. Musk himself is antisemitic. There is, however, significant evidence that he’s far less attuned to both the danger of rising antisemitism and the mindset of horrific antisemites than are large parts of the Jewish community. That’s eminently reasonable—just as it’s reasonable that, having been born and raised in South Africa, Mr. Musk is acutely sensitive to (and vocal about) the dangerous racial tension and rhetoric roiling that country.

Second, the ADL possesses one of the most valuable brand names in both mainstream American Jewry and the fight against hatred in the United States. The ADL developed that brand equity the hard way—it spent much of the 20th century fighting to defend Jews from antisemitic threats and collaborating with other important anti-hatred civil rights organizations.

Third, today’s ADL is a very different organization coasting on that brand equity, betraying its legacy, and doing more to harm America’s Jewish community than to help it. Like far too many once-great American organizations that historically leaned to the left, the ADL has dropped both pretense and fidelity to its mission in favor of promoting an extremist Woke party line.

Fourth, there are multiple hard-core Jew-hating cadres thriving in the social media space, including on X. These degenerate trolls will rally momentarily behind any prominent figure embroiled in any dispute with a visible Jew or identifiably Jewish organization.

Taken together, though Mr. Musk’s grievances with the ADL are likely largely legitimate, his public pursuit of the dispute is emboldening some of the most horribly antisemitic voices in the Xsphere (formerly Twittersphere).

That confluence creates obvious dangers and a somewhat subtler opportunity emerging from the various Jewish thinkers and organizations who’ve been complaining about the ADL for years (I’m proud to count myself among them). Stated simply: Though the ADL has a brand name universally associated with the fight against antisemitism, and though most of the ADL’s small donors are committed to that fight, today’s ADL is a net contributor to the problem.

Today’s ADL does a few things well. It heaps opprobrium on antisemites it dislikes on other grounds, almost exclusively because their politics lean to the right. Its patina lends credibility to antisemitic leftists possessing any modicum of deniability while savaging anyone to the right of center for any imagined slight. It sells indulgences to celebrities who have embraced antisemitism. And it’s a fundraising juggernaut.

Today’s ADL is also terrible at some important things: fighting actual antisemitism, warning American Jews about the dangerous source of rising antisemitism, and defending genuine friends of the Jews whose politics fail to conform to leftist pieties.

For those truly in the know, even the ADL at its best suffered from a dangerous bias: Though often zealous in its protection of non-religious Jews, the ADL never much cared for traditional or religious Jews. As a result, few religious Jews or organizations have ever had much love for the ADL. As the ADL has drifted ever further from its historic mission, more and more religious Jews—or even observance-friendly Jews—have gone beyond mere criticism to found organizations truly dedicated to the fight against antisemitism.

When Mr. Musk speaks out against the ADL, he rallies a sizable swathe of today’s American Jewish demographic that has long known what Mr. Musk has discovered: Today’s ADL is a Woke grift, happy to sell out America’s Jews in the cause of its preferred politics and the lining of its own pockets. Furthermore, like so many prominent monopolists, the ADL sucks up all the oxygen in the room, making it far harder for those truly fighting antisemitism to secure resources or work effectively.

Mr. Musk’s current dustup with the ADL hands him a rare opportunity to do an end-run around the ADL, reach out to newer organizations truly committed to fighting antisemitism, and promote free speech while fighting against hatred. Mr. Musk must now choose among three options:

Like so many others before him, he can say his mea culpas and buy an indulgence from the ADL, who (for the right price) will declare him reformed.

Like so many throughout history, he can continue empowering dangerous antisemites while divorcing himself from the consequences of that empowerment.

Or he can blaze a new trail. He can reach out to the many Jewish writers, activists, and organizations truly committed to the fight against antisemitism, sideline the ADL, and become an important part of the solution to a real problem of rising hatred.

I hope he makes that third choice. If he needs a guide into that world, I’d be happy to volunteer.


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