SAN JOSE, Calif. - Dozens of protesters on Monday honked horns and waved Israeli flags outside San Jose Mineta International Airport as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched down on his way to meet billionaire businessman Elon Musk.
Netanyahu’s office said their meeting will include discussions about artificial intelligence. It comes at a time when Musk is facing accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
He has also been the target of a nine-month wave of mass protests against his deeply contentious effort to reduce the power of Israel’s Supreme Court.
Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition unveiled the overhaul of the Supreme Court earlier this year, saying it was necessary to rein in an unelected judiciary they believe wields too much power.
Critics say the plan — which would weaken the Supreme Court — is a profound threat to Israeli democracy and that it would concentrate power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies.
And those critics, many of who were Israeli, were out in full force outside the airport, carrying signs that said "Shame on Netanyahu" and "Saving Israeli Democracy."
"We're fighting for Democracy in Israel," said Avi Sachs, who would not describe the organization he was with. "The current Israeli government is trying to create a dictatorship. And we are trying to support the democracy that Israel always had."
Sachs said the protesters plan to follow Netanyahu around on his trip, including his visit to Tesla in Fremont. Protesters there also said that Musk has his own set of problems and they wondered why Netenyahu would meet with him.
Dozens of protesters on Monday honked horns and waved Israeli flags outside San Jose Mineta International Airport as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched down on his way to meet billionaire businessman Elon Musk. Sept. 18, 2023
The Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil-rights organization, has accused Musk of allowing antisemitism and hate speech to spread on X. Its director, Jonathan Greenblatt, said Musk had "amplified" the messages of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who want to ban the league by engaging with them recently on X.
In a Sept. 4 post, Musk claimed that the league was "trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic." In other posts, he said the league was responsible for a 60% drop in revenue at X and said his company would have "no choice" but to file a defamation lawsuit against the group.
"Oh the irony!" he wrote.
X, however, did file a lawsuit against another group that has studied the proliferation of hate speech on the platform.
In August, it sued the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, accusing it of violating X’s terms of service by improperly collecting a vast amount of data for its analysis. The lawsuit claims the group’s research highlighting an increase in hate speech on the former Twitter since Musk took over cost the company millions of dollars of advertising revenue.
But analysts who track Twitter have argued that Musk’s chaotic changes to the platform — including jettisoning its well-known brand name — have led to a decline in interest from advertisers.
Greenblatt says his group is "willing to work" with X and last week met with the company’s chief executive, Linda Yaccarino. Both Musk and Yaccarino have recently posted messages saying they oppose antisemitism.
Netanyahu’s office said his first U.S. stop — in San Francisco — will include meetings with other tech leaders to discuss artificial intelligence. It did not identify the executives.
From there, he heads to New York, where he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with President Joe Biden and other world leaders, his office said. They include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Protesters carry signs that read "Democracy Now" to greet Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at Tesla in Fremont. Sept. 18, 2023
Protesters carry signs that read "Shame on Netanyahu" to greet Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at Tesla in Fremont. Sept. 18, 2023
Dozens of protesters on Monday honked horns and waved Israeli flags outside San Jose Mineta International Airport as Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched down on his way to meet billionaire businessman Elon Musk. Sept. 18, 2023
The Associated Press contributed to this report.