Amid uproar over antisemitism, Elon Musk wields Starlink in Israel

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Elon Musk has resigned from Apple Inc. after settling with a social media user who posted anti-Semitic content on the social media platform. Even the Walt Disney Company spent millions of dollars in advertising. Adjacent to ads for their products against hateful and racist comments from the site.

Elon Musk, owner of social media platform X. (AP)

But on Monday, Musk was rubbing shoulders with Israel’s political elite, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they toured some of the sites where the Islamist militant group Hamas killed 1,200 people on October 7.

For all of Musk’s stumbles, world leaders have long been powerless to criticize or discredit him: The world’s richest man holds the keys to powerful technological tools. In this case, his satellite internet service provider Starlink is at the heart of the politicians. Starlink was commissioned by Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky woo world leaders with Pentagon officials by providing essential communications services.

“Musk is not just a player to be controlled by the US government. According to Tehila Schwartz Altshuler, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, he is a player in the international system who should have a seat on the UN Security Council. “Elon Musk can easily shirk his responsibilities, because of his power and the fact that he is a player in the global system.

Israel’s communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, tweeted about the deal the ministry is discussing with Starlink, as Musk wore a protective gown and took photos or videos on his phone during a visit to Kfar Aza Kibbutz, the site of some of the worst violence last month. A representative for SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk last month proposed providing Internet access to Gaza, saying Starlink would help support relationships with “internationally recognized aid organizations.” But Karhi rejected the request at the time, saying that “Hamas will use it for terrorist activities.”

Musk, a self-proclaimed purveyor of free speech, often weighs in on political issues at X, which he bought last year for $44 billion. But he may have gone a step further earlier this month after agreeing with an anti-Semitic post that said Jewish people have a “dialectical hatred” of white people. The international response was swift and powerful. The New York Times reports that the exodus of advertisers could cost X up to $75 million in lost revenue this year.

It was unclear how Musk’s trip to Israel came about, whether he was invited by Netanyahu or requested the trip himself. But the generally lukewarm reception in the country has led to calls for anti-Semitic comments on X and a crackdown on satellite chatter.

Starlink now counts more than 4,500 satellites in space, more than half of all active satellites, providing high-speed Internet access to terminals on Earth. Based in Hawthorne, Calif., the closely held company was valued at $140 billion last year and may eventually seek a public listing.

The Starlink service in Ukraine has raised questions about how it could be used in the war between Israel and Hamas. Musk has offered Starlink meals to the country since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the service has been overwhelmed by overwhelming demand.

Last year, Musk suggested that Kiev should hand over the Crimea region to Russia as part of a peace deal. After heavy criticism of his comments, Musk threatened to end support for Starlink in Ukraine, saying SpaceX could not sustain the costs indefinitely. This summer, the Pentagon confirmed that the Ukrainian military is buying Starlink communications terminals for use against Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Musk earlier this year for refusing Ukraine’s request to use the Starlink satellite communications network to shoot down Russian Black Sea vessels in the port city of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea. Musk says he refuses to rule out complicity in “major warfare and conflict escalation.”

As CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. in China, Musk’s business ties have put him at odds with Taiwan, which is seeking a low-Earth orbit satellite system. Musk and his Starlink network are one obvious solution, but Taiwanese don’t trust the billionaire for his pro-Beijing comments.

While Musk’s political views have often landed him in hot water with world leaders, he has made efforts with Israel in recent months. Musk and Netanyahu met in California in September, where the two met to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism that is actually rampant at X. Musk said, “I’m really against anti-Semitism. “I am against anything that promotes hatred and conflict,” he said.

On Monday, Netanyahu showed Musk a video showing atrocities committed by Hamas. The two men spoke on X public broadcasting and agreed to rebuild Gaza and support the Palestinians.

If Netanyahu’s goal is to convince Mukhin of Hamas’ cruelty and hatred of Israel, he may be able to achieve that. But, according to Altshuler, Musk’s ownership of Starlink and X far outweighs his personal beliefs.

Quoting the American political analyst and social media influencer, “We see that X will not remove any neo-Nazi anti-Semitic content and labels from the Iranian president to Jackson Hinkle.” It’s against X’s community standards, which will finance those accounts based on their new ad sharing plan.

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