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The ADL’s decision to resume advertising on X is a terrible capitulation

Despite Elon Musk waging a very public war against the organization, the Anti-Defamation League has decided to run back into the belly of the beast.
Jonathan Greenblatt, The Anti-Defamation League CEO and National Director
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO and national director, in a 2018 event in Washington, D.C.Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

An important mantra among Jews is “Never again.” It reminds us of the horrors of the Holocaust and implores us to avoid, at all costs, history repeating itself. It’s a reminder to be vigilant, a reminder that in every generation other groups tried to destroy us, and they ultimately lost. It’s a heavy message to process as a young Jew, but as we come into adulthood, we’re faced head-on with existential opposition. Now such opposition is being aided and abetted by the richest man in the world.

When we Jews are being attacked or persecuted, solidarity is the most powerful tool in our belt.

When we Jews are being? attacked or persecuted, solidarity is the most powerful tool in our belt. But as Elon Musk, the owner of the social media platform X, wages a very public war against a prominent Jewish organization, has restored accounts that had been banned for antisemitic posts and cozies up to authoritarian global leaders, that well-known American Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League, has chosen to run back into the belly of the beast.

Just weeks after being the target of a Musk-led antisemitic hate campaign on X, and being accused specifically by Musk of causing the platform’s advertising revenue to crash and ??“trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic,” the ADL has announced that it will?be resuming advertising on the very same platform.

“To be clear, any allegation that ADL has somehow orchestrated a boycott of X or caused billions of dollars of losses to the company or is ‘pulling the strings’ for other advertisers is false,” the ADL said in a statement. “Indeed, we ourselves were advertising on the platform until the anti-ADL attacks began a few weeks ago. We now are preparing to do so again to bring our important message on fighting hate to X and its users.”

The showdown between Musk and ADL — specifically ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt — began after a meeting Greenblatt had with X CEO Linda Yaccarino in early September about the proliferation of antisemitism on the platform. Greenblatt later posted on X that he and Yaccarino had a “very frank + productive conversation,” but he added that ADL would be “vigilant and give her and @ElonMusk credit if the service gets better... and reserve the right to call them out until it does.”

That’s when Musk, apparently incensed by the insinuation that X could still fail at its supposed mission of combating antisemitism, erroneously accused the ADL of being responsible for a 60% decrease in X’s advertising revenue. He then approvingly engaged with users employing the hashtag #BanTheADL, which had been started by prominent white supremacists. To the white supremacists who use the hashtag online, the?ADL is a proxy for Jews in general. Based on, among other things, Musk using that hashtag and accusing a group that challenges anti-Jewish hate of trying to destroy his company, I had no problem saying it plainly: Elon Musk is an antisemite.

But even in the immediate aftermath of Musk amplifying #BanTheADL, Greenblatt refused to take a strong stance against Musk and the antisemitic mob he’d fomented. In a conversation with The Atlantic days after Musk’s accusations, he showed weakness in the face of overt bigotry.

“ADL has not called Elon Musk an antisemite,” he said. “ADL has not called Twitter an antisemitic platform. ADL is not actively pressuring companies to not participate on Twitter. In fact, up until last week, ADL was advertising on Twitter. So the notion that we were trying to ‘kill the company,’ that’s a fiction.”

Why's that weakness? Because even in the face of overt antisemitism — Musk blaming the ADL for all his company’s declining revenue — Greenblatt wouldn’t say Musk and X as a platform were antisemitic. It seemed liked a real cop-out, and an attempt to keep the door open for future business. Which, as we see now, ended up happening mere weeks later.

Even in the face of overt antisemitism — Musk blaming the ADL for all his company’s declining revenue — Greenblatt wouldn’t say Musk and X as a platform were antisemitic.

Greenblatt was hedging his bets, seemingly trying to maintain a careful harmony between the very powerful Musk as well as the ADL’s fervently Zionist donors who support Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. It’s no coincidence that Musk and Netanyahu had a summit of their own days later.

So when the ADL released that statement Wednesday on its website announcing that it had decided to kiss and make up with Musk, it was a slap in the face to the American Jews who’d gone to bat for them against the billionaire — even in spite of political differences.

“In light of recent events, it feels like a useful moment to clarify the ADL position on X and its leadership,” the statement begins. “As we have noted in our research over the past several years, X — along with other social media platforms — has a serious issue with antisemites and other extremists using these platforms to push their hateful ideas and, in some cases, bully Jewish and other users.”

It’s one thing for the ADL to use the social media platform, but it’s quite another for the ADL to actively spend its money, much of which comes via donations from Jews, with a company who has such an abysmal track record.? The founder and CEO of Center for Countering Digital Hate, a group that Musk has criticized and sued, wrote a column for MSNBC in July in which he wrote, “CCDH’s reporting has shown that the volume of tweets containing slurs have risen by up to 202%; shown that tweets linking LGBTQ+ people to “grooming” have more than doubled; demonstrated that climate denial content and accounts are surging; and revealed Twitter’s failure to act on hate posted by Twitter Blue subscribers.”

In July, The Guardian reported, “The rate of creation of antisemitic accounts more than tripled in the period after Musk’s takeover.”

It’s particularly galling for Greenblatt to get back in bed with Musk when antisemitism and reminders of our deadly past have been cropping up daily. Just this week, a recent interview former President Donald Trump gave to the with right-wing outlet National Pulse gained wide attention in part because, speaking of immigrants, he said, “Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions and insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It’s poisoning the blood of our country.”

“Never Again” means “Never Again.”

Wednesday, a PBS News Hour reporter said, “I checked with a historian, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and she said that language that he’s using ... echoes language used in Nazi propaganda by Adolf Hitler when Adolf Hitler actually said that Jewish people and migrants were ‘causing a blood poisoning’ of Germany.”

While that remark is Trump’s, not Musk, it’s reflective of rising antisemitic sentiment and should be a prompt to the ADL leader that no amount of antisemitism should be tolerated. Also, Musk himself has been promoting anti-immigrant politics, even sharing a post on X supporting Alternative for Germany, a far-right party in that country, which Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has linked to three organizations it says has “extremist” goals. (That elected party is the first to be officially surveilled by the country’s domestic intelligence agency since the Nazi era.)

When Greenblatt was asked on Nicolle Wallace’s MSNBC show Thursday about Trump’s quote and Ben-Ghiat’s response, he replied, “To be frank, I don’t know how much Donald Trump is a student of history or if he even reads books, and what’s on his nightstand. But I do know that the language that he used in that interview is the same or intended to evoke the kind of language that’s been used by many who hold vicious anti-immigrant, racist views like Hitler.”

Greenblatt’s actions and his willingness to make nice with Musk, who tweeted, “Perhaps we should run a poll on this?” in response to a #BantheADL post, make you wonder if Greenblatt himself is a student of history. “Never Again” means “Never Again.” And that means paying to advertise on a platform with an owner who’s letting hate speech flourish is not the way.

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