ADL Responds to Elon Musk: “Profoundly Disturbing”

Greenblatt argued the real issue isn’t the ADL or “the threat of a frivolous lawsuit” but “the safety of the Jewish people in the face of increasing, intensifying antisemitism."
September 6, 2023
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for National Urban League; Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Tuesday that Elon Musk’s recent posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, targeting the ADL are “profoundly disturbing.”

Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported that Musk, who owns X, posted at least 25 times about the ADL over the last several days, which included liking a post from Irish white nationalist Keith Woods, who has reportedly referred to himself as a “raging antisemite” in a deleted 2019 tweet, including the hashtag “#BanTheADL.” Musk also accused the ADL of being “responsible for most of our revenue loss.” “To clear our platform’s name on the matter of antisemitism, it looks like we have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League … oh the irony!” Musk posted on X. He also wrote on the platform that he’s “pro free speech, but against antisemitism of any kind” and that he would not ban the ADL from X “unless they break the law.” Additionally, Musk claimed in a post on X that “the ADL, because they are so aggressive in their demands to ban social media accounts for even minor infractions, are ironically the biggest generators of anti-Semitism on this platform!”

In a statement posted on the ADL’s website,  Greenblatt said “It is profoundly disturbing that Elon Musk spent the weekend engaging with a highly toxic, antisemitic campaign on his platform — a campaign started by an unrepentant bigot that then was heavily promoted by individuals such as white supremacist Nick Fuentes, Christian nationalist Andrew Torba, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others. Finally, we saw the campaign manifest in the real world when masked men marched in Florida on Saturday brazenly waving flags adorned with swastikas and chanting ‘Ban the ADL.’” Greenblatt argued the real issue isn’t the ADL or “the threat of a frivolous lawsuit” but “the safety of the Jewish people in the face of increasing, intensifying antisemitism.

“Musk is engaging with and elevating these antisemites at a time when ADL is tracking a surge of bomb threats and swatting attacks of synagogues and Jewish institutions, dramatic levels of antisemitic propaganda being littered throughout Jewish and non-Jewish residential communities, and extremists marching openly through the streets in Nazi gear,” Greenblatt continued. “All of this is happening in a context of the highest number of antisemitic incidents that ADL has tracked in more than 40 years — and just two weeks away from the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And so, this behavior is not just alarming nor reckless. It is flat out dangerous and deeply irresponsible. We need responsible leaders to lead, to stop inflaming hatred and to step back from the brink before it’s too late.”

Greenblatt also appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday, explaining that the #BanTheADL started after Greenblatt’s August 30 post on X about his meeting with X CEO Linda Yaccarino. “We’re used to this at the ADL. We regularly get attacked by the right and the left,” Greenblatt said. “But this campaign went viral very quickly, with white supremacists, hardened antisemites and other people spreading it across the service. It literally was a trending topic over the course of the weekend.” Greenblatt proceeded to say that he doesn’t think Musk is antisemitic, nor does he think that X is an antisemitic platform. “Hate speech is the price of free speech,” Greenblatt said. “But let’s acknowledge that when Elon Musk and the platform bring people — hardened antisemites — back on, when they validate their rantings, when they algorithmically amplify them and allow it to spread … I have to deal with, as head of the ADL, real world consequences.”

He proceeded to point out the “historic rise” of antisemitism over the past few years and the recent incidents of swatting synagogues and bomb threats against Jewish institutions, as well as the neo-Nazis openly marching in Florida. “Our community is vulnerable,” Greenblatt said. “People are on edge. And when Elon Musk is amplifying these people, it’s very problematic.”

Greenblatt then denied that the ADL was talking to advertisers. “We did call for a pause back in November after the acquisition, and since that initial statement, what we are doing is engaging with the management of the company [X], trying to make it better,” he said.

Separately, Musk shared a screenshot on X of an ADL tweet in November stating that the organization was “joining dozens of other groups to ask advertisers to pause Twitter spending because we are profoundly concerned about antisemitism and hate on the platform.” “Jonathan at ADL kicked off a massive Twitter boycott campaign less than a week after the acquisition closed,” Musk posted on Wednesday. “Literally nothing had changed about the site. Our US revenue is still 60% down from that campaign, but slowly improving.”

Some are defending the ADL in their public feud with Musk. “Like @ADL, [the American Jewish Committee] and the global Jewish community have been fighting rising antisemitism online and in the public square, a goal all social media companies should share,” American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO Ted Deutch posted on X. “Online platforms must realize that pronouncements against antisemitism by senior executives, in this case Elon Musk, aren’t enough to prevent its spread — not when 69% of U.S. Jews experienced antisemitism online in the past year.” He added that “creating a reporting mechanism to specifically identify antisemitism will help build a welcoming —  and safe — virtual town square. Pointing out the rampant antisemitism on X is not “controlling” anyone or threatening X’s business. Platforming bigotry is.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said in a statement, “From the moment that Elon Musk acquired Twitter, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a trailblazer in combating Online Hate and Terrorism, asked to meet with him to detail our concerns about the leveraging of Twitter by anti-Semites and violent anti-Israel groups and individuals. Our efforts, and those of scores of other Jewish organizations focused on these issues, were met with virtual silence. The failure to adopt a robust policy in this area left the social media platform open to Kanye West’s relentless hateful rants against the Jewish people that impacted on tens of millions of users. Now, amidst surging antisemitic hate crimes in the US fueled by relentless Jew-hatred on social media, Musk chooses to threaten to launch a lawsuit, not against antisemites, but against the ADL.” They added: “Mr. Musk — this isn’t leadership, it’s a display of arrogance for which our community loses— whatever the outcome. The SWC reiterates its call for X to meet and begin the long overdue process of degrading, not upgrading, the use of X by anti-Semites and haters.”

International Legal Forum CEO Arsen Ostrovsky posted on X, “Twitter has long been a cesspool of antisemitism. But the campaign targeting #ADL now, has unleashed an unprecedented torrent of Jew hatred. Though white supremacists might be driving this, responsibility rests with #ElonMusk for opening — and amplifying — this floodgate of hate!”

Stop Antisemitism simply wrote, “We have no words” in response to Musk’s post that X could file a lawsuit against the ADL.

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein, on the other hand, told Breitbart News that he is supportive of Musk’s “concerns” about the ADL. “The ADL almost never condemns left-wing antisemites yet has defended radical left-wing Israel-hater and ADL-funder George Soros and praised Jew-hating Israel-basher Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for ‘her commitment to a more just world.’”

Others were critical of both Musk and the ADL. Karys Rhea, fellow at the Jewish Leadership Project, told One America News, “Elon himself sometimes responds approvingly to people who are known antisemites. This hashtag #BanTheADL is not something that Elon Musk as a free speech advocate should be promoting, and it’s a campaign that’s been taken up both by anti-Zionists on the left as well as white supremacists.” But Rhea argued that the criticism against the ADL is “well deserved, not because the ADL is a Jewish organization but precisely because they’ve abandoned their mission as a Jewish organization. They no longer are committed to protecting Jews, they’ve become a partisan racket and mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.” She later claimed in the segment that “the ADL has decided that Musk is their enemy — not the other way around — and so I don’t think we should expect Elon Musk to not comment on that.”

Seth Mandel, executive editor of The Washington Examiner, posted on X, “The groypers tweeting ‘ban the ADL’ are bad people with bad intentions and bad designs. Don’t be fooled, don’t ‘consider their argument,’ they are ghouls who hate you. No nuance.” The ADL defines the term “groyper” as being “a loose network of alt-right figures who are vocal supporters of white supremacist and ‘America First’ podcaster Nick Fuentes.

“I have written more than anyone on the problems of the new ADL under Greenblatt from a Jewish communal perspective, and most [people] here know about the ADL’s campaign against me,” Mandel added on X. “But the ADL and I are arguing over how to keep Jews alive. The groypers want us all gone.” He later wrote in the same thread on X, “Did the ADL make a huge mistake in joining the call for advertising boycott before Musk even had a chance to get his land legs? Unquestionably. Was ADL *responsible* for the boycott or for what became of twitter under Musk? No. So we agree the one Jewish org is being scapegoated.”


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