Elon Musk, under fire for amplifying antisemitic content on X, accompanied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to a town devastated by the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
The Tesla Inc. and SpaceX chief executive officer was briefed by local and military officials in Kfar Aza, where dozens of people were killed. He also met with victims’ families, including relatives of a 4-year-old girl who was freed by Hamas on Sunday, according to a statement by Netanyahu’s office.
Musk’s trip to Israel will also include meetings with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog. It comes as major brands including Apple Inc. and Walt Disney Co. have stopped advertising on his social media platform over concerns of increasing antisemitism and hate speech since he took over Twitter last year.
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The billionaire has defended himself from what he labeled “bogus media stories” after he endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory earlier this month on X, which drew condemnation from the White House.
Musk’s post came around the same time Media Matters published a report showing ads from companies including IBM Corp. and Apple next to pro-Nazi content on the social media platform. X has sued the liberal watchdog group for allegedly trying to drive away advertisers.
Video of Musk showed him wearing protective gear over his suit and occasionally stopping to take pictures as he walked through bullet-scarred buildings in the town, which lies on the border with Gaza. Musk nodded as Israeli officials described the attacks to him.
During the trip to Israel, Musk will meet executives from the country’s technology sector and join Netanyahu to discuss topics including artificial intelligence on Spaces, X’s live audio streaming service, Netanyahu’s diplomatic adviser Ophir Falk said.
The Israeli government has been holding talks with Musk over setting up Starlink, which provides satellite-based internet, to back up its wartime communications. Musk last month angered Israeli officials by saying he could provide Starlink to aid organizations in the Gaza Strip. He later walked back the comment.
Israel is waging war against Hamas, which the US and the EU have deemed a terrorist organization, after militants killed about 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages in an Oct. 7 attack. Around 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and much of the Mediterranean enclave’s been reduced to rubble.
The fighting has paused during a temporary ceasefire that began on Friday to allow the release of hostages in exchange for Israeli-held prisoners.
While Musk has drawn support from notable figures including hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, criticism of the famously outspoken billionaire shows little sign of dying down. UK premier Rishi Sunak in a Bloomberg TV interview on Sunday became the latest to speak out against Musk, in careful criticism that stopped short of the full-throated condemnation by US President Joe Biden.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, attended a march against antisemitism in central London. The Israel-Hamas conflict has exacerbated community tensions and led to a spike in antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric on social media.
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