'National embarrassment': Elon Musk's Israel kibbutz tour prompts anger at Netanyahu

X and Tesla owner filmed in Kfar Aza with Israel's Prime Minister weeks after anti-Semitic comments led to backlash

Elon Musk visits destroyed kibbutz in southern Israel

Elon Musk visits destroyed kibbutz in southern Israel
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Anger is mounting in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he and X owner Elon Musk toured a kibbutz devastated by Hamas on Monday.

While mass protests against proposed judicial changes were previously seen as the biggest challenge to Mr Netanyahu's leadership, criticism of his response to the October 7 attack on southern Israel has overshadowed them.

Since the attack, he continues to face criticism over his failure to meet displaced families and his handling of the hostage crisis, in which 240 people were taken captive by Hamas in Gaza. Following a series of releases, about 180 now remain in captivity.

Mr Netanyahu toured Kfar Aza on Monday, walking with Mr Musk through the wreckage of torched buildings. In one photo, the men stand next to an abandoned cot surrounded by members of the army.

Netanyahu is a national embarrassment,” wrote one X user.

“This is what our PM is doing whilst Israelis are praying for their loved ones to be released from captivity in Gaza. Chatting to Elon Musk, the man who profits from a platform full of anti-Semitism and fake news about Jews and Israel.”

In footage released by Mr Netanyahu's office, Mr Musk can be seen filming the facade of a destroyed home, before walking through the bullet-riddled house.

Much of the criticism surrounding the visit centred on rising hate speech on X, with Jewish users noting little has been done to combat rising anti-Semitism on the platform.

“Hard to stomach welcoming someone who just days ago endorsed a virulently anti-Semitic trope, has dabbled for years in anti-Semitism and has turned this platform into a cesspool of hate,” wrote Amy Spiro, a journalist with The Times of Israel.

“Blatant anti-Semite & publisher of anti-Semitism Elon Musk should be persona non grata in Israel. Instead, Netanyahu – plumbing new depths of amoral sycophancy – gifts him a PR visit to the kibbutz devastated by Hamas,” wrote Esther Solomon, editor-in-chief of the Haaretz newspaper.

“Profane, venal, bilious, both of them.”

The Prime Minister's office said the pair visited the home of Ofir Leibstein, killed in the Hamas attack, and were briefed on the events of October 7 by local council chairman Yossi Keren and army representative Liad Diamond.

They then went to the home of Avigail Idan, four, who was released from Gaza on Sunday evening. Both her parents were killed.

They also toured an area for young people “which suffered most of the horrors on October 7,” the statement continued.

Families of the more than 200 hostages taken into Gaza have spent weeks camped out in central Tel Aviv, holding daily rallies to draw attention to the plight of their loved ones.

Many have been vocal in criticising the government, and Mr Netanyahu in particular, with crowds gathering outside his residence in Jerusalem and family home in Caesarea.

The Prime Minister, who visited Gaza on Sunday, has yet to visit Israelis displaced by the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people across the south, and displaced thousands more.

He met families of Israeli hostages late last month, after threats they would begin sit-ins if not met by members of the war cabinet.

Mr Musk also met Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who said the X owner would “need to act to combat rising anti-Semitism online”.

“Unfortunately social media platforms – including some you lead – harbour so much of the age-old disease of anti-Semitism,” Mr Herzog said in a tweet following the meeting, thanking the billionaire for a “candid and open conversation”.

Families of hostages held in Gaza also attended the meeting, holding photos of their loved ones in captivity.

“You have an important role in preventing the spread of hatred against Jews and the denial of the horrors of the October 7 massacre. We should work together on this,” the President added.

Mr Musk's recent anti-Semitic comments triggered several prominent companies to suspend advertising on X.

He quoted a post accusing Jews of hatred against white people as “the absolute truth”. IBM withdrew adverts from the platform after they were placed next to others promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

His comments ignited fury both on and off X, with the White House joining the debate.

“We condemn this abhorrent promotion of anti-Semitic and racist hate in the strongest terms,” said spokesman Andrew Bates.

“It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of anti-Semitism in American history at any time, let alone one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Over the years, Mr Musk's companies have received billions of dollars in US government subsidies and signed lucrative contracts with US government departments.

Amy Spitalnick, head of the New York-based Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said Mr Netanyahu's embrace of Mr Musk “undermines Jewish safety”.

“This is now the second time Bibi has given cover to this raging anti-Semite – just after Musk’s explicit embrace of conspiracy theories directly responsible for the mass murder of Jews and others,” she said.

“Make no mistake: normalising Musk directly undermines Jewish safety.”

Updated: November 28, 2023, 5:45 AM