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Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to meet Elon Musk amid antisemitism controversy

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in California today meeting with tech leaders before heading to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly. Among those tech leaders is Elon Musk, whose social media platform, X, or Twitter, has been flooded with antisemitic hate in recent weeks, some of it amplified by Musk in his own tweets. The target of many of those messages, it's the Anti-Defamation League, a group that describes its focus as fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate.

Jonathan Greenblatt is CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. We have him here on the line. Jonathan, so what do you make of the Netanyahu-Musk meeting?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: Well, look; I'm aware that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Elon Musk are meeting in San Francisco today. Nothing about the meeting is particularly surprising given Musk's range of business interests like Starlink and SpaceX and Israel's technology sector, which is one of the most innovative and dynamic in the world. But as you said in the opening, Israel and Jews frequently are targets of hateful anti-Zionist and antisemitic invective on Twitter/X. So what I would hope is that they may have a productive meeting about a range of issues, but they will talk about concrete strategies to combat the rampant antisemitism and the grotesque anti-Zionism that dominates the platform.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, we should stipulate that the Anti-Defamation League has been critical of Netanyahu and his government policies. What do you think, though, Jonathan, are the chances that Netanyahu would use his leverage in this meeting today?

GREENBLATT: Well, I would hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu would use his leverage. Look; Israel's the homeland of the Jewish people, regardless of how they vote or what they value or even where they live. And so it's imperative for the prime minister to recognize that what Elon Musk has done - and his platform, even before Elon bought it - is to normalize the kind of ugly antisemitism that we used to associate with Cossacks and Nazis and white supremacists. Now you can see it 24/7 with just a click on X.

MARTÍNEZ: What do you think Musk's reaction would be if Netanyahu, indeed, tried to use his leverage? Do you think he'd get anywhere?

GREENBLATT: Look. I hope the prime minister will bring the receipts. It's not hard to see if you open up the platform and just look at the hashtag that was exploding in the last few weeks, #BanTheADL. This was a hashtag that was started by a range of antisemites and white supremacists and QAnon types after I met with Linda Yaccarino, Elon's CEO, two weeks ago. And you can see hundreds of thousands of mentions, A, with all kinds of ugly invective, the type of thing you wouldn't want your children to see. And yet, again, it's available with a click on X. So I hope the prime minister will push Elon to say concretely what he will do to take the hate off the platform.

MARTÍNEZ: And I think you and your organization are in a weird spot because you try to combat antisemitism on a social media site where the site's owner allows it to happen. So where does that leave you?

GREENBLATT: Yeah. It's a strange situation, indeed, where the owner is sort of a protagonist in this drama. But look; ADL works with all the tech companies from Alphabet to Zoom, all of them, because again, we want to make it - we want to be constructive, and we want to help them get it better. But clearly, Twitter is not trending in the right direction. There's real work to be done to detoxify it, if you will, and we hope that'll start with this meeting.

MARTÍNEZ: Jonathan Greenblatt is national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Jonathan, thanks.

GREENBLATT: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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