Elon Musk, Rudy Giuliani and the return of antisemitic conservative conspiracy theories

Elon Musk, Rudy Giuliani and the return of antisemitic conservative conspiracy theories

Attacks on Jews by high profile figures are emblematic of antisemitism in conservative and libertarian discourse.

Antisemitic incidents worldwide rose by 22% over the past year and there was a 48% increase in those events being violent.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli cited these statistics on Monday in response to a review of his ministry’s spending.  He said 68% of the antisemitic discourse on social media is “new antisemitism,” a demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel.  

But the most discussed case of alleged antisemitism this week came from libertarian and conservative sources.

A tweet by Twitter CEO Elon Musk attacked Jewish billionaire and progressive megadonor George Soros. Musk tweeted that Soros “hates humanity,” and “reminds me of Magneto,” a comic book villain who features in Marvel’s X-Men series.

Like Soros, the character of Magneto is a Holocaust survivor. Brian Krassenstein, a liberal Jewish journalist, noted that parallel in a reply to Musk’s tweet, writing, “Magneto’s experiences during the Holocaust as a survivor shaped his perspective as well as his depth and empathy,” and that Soros “gets attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with [his] political affiliations.”

Musk responded, “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.”

Soros, 92, has long been a target of conservatives for backing progressive causes and politicians in the United States and worldwide. In the last decade or so, some of the attacks have echoed antisemitic conspiracy theories, depicting Soros as satanic, accusing him of seeking world control and falsely accusing him of helping perpetrate the Holocaust rather than surviving it as a child.

Musk’s tweet was followed by a sharp spike in antisemtic tweets, with Israel’s Foreign Ministry noting that the phrase “the Jews” appeared in tens of thousands of tweets the following day, the vast majority of which were antisemitic in nature, and that Twitter’s management “is not doing anything about it.”

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has reinstated the Twitter accounts of right-wing extremists who had previously been banned, a move that alarmed Jewish anti-bigotry groups. He suspended some of the extremists again after they returned to posting hateful tweets. Extremists have lauded him, and he has returned the affection, encouraging some of their theories. In December, Musk disbanded an advisory group focused on “Trust and Safety” on Twitter, and in March, a study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank found that antisemitism more than doubled on the platform in the months since Musk took it over.

‘Get over the Passover’

Another high-profile attack on Jews was cited this week in a court case against Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became an aide to former president Donald Trump.

Giuliani mocked Jews for observing Passover, according to a lawsuit filed by a former assistant who is accusing him of sexual assault and harassment.

“Jews want to go through their freaking Passover all the time, man oh man,” Guiliani once said, according to the complaint “Get over the Passover. It was like 3000 years ago. The Red Sea parted, big deal. It’s not the first time that happened.”

Musk and Guilani are among the high-profile libertarian and conservative voices whose language is infiltrated with anti-Jewish conspiracy subtexts.

A conference run by a right-wing US think tank in the UK this week included debate about “cultural Marxists” and “globalists”, which are often used as code for Jews.

Writing in the Guardian, Peter Walker noted the term cultural Marxism, used as a term of abuse in a speech on Monday by the UK Conservative MP Miriam Cates,

had its origins in a conspiracy theory that Marxist scholars of the Frankfurt school in interwar Germany, many of whom were Jewish, devised a program of progressive politics intended to undermine western democracies.

“While there is little debate that the idea of cultural Marxism has antisemitic overtones and is closely linked to the far Right, it is not uncommon for British politicians to use it.

“Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, who also spoke at the National Conservatism event on Monday, was criticised by Jewish groups for doing so in 2019. The following year, 26 Tory MPs wrote a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph accusing the National Trust of being beset by “cultural Marxist dogma”, Walker wrote.

 Huw Davies, a sociologist at Edinburgh University, said politicians use the term thinking it gives them an of intellectual veneer of credibility, without understanding its implications.

“It should horrify them that it is in the manifestos of racist mass murderers like Anders Breivik. It’s often accompanied by the language of disgust and disease, metaphors like it has ‘infected’ our schools and universities. It implies that these institutions need to be restored to purity, need to be cleansed,” he said.

READ MORE

Diaspora Minister says 48% rise in violent antisemitic incidents since 2022 (Ynet)

Elon Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity’ and likens him to a comic book villain Holocaust survivor (JTA)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Slams Musk’s Tweet of Having ‘Antisemitic Feeling to It’ (Haaretz)

Lawsuit claims Rudy Giuliani said, ‘Get over the Passover. It was like 3000 years ago.’ (JTA)

Why are terms linked to antisemitism being used at UK conservatism event? (Guardian)

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Photo: Elon Musk and the Twitter logo. (Muhammed Selim Korkutata / Anadolu Agency)