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5 facts about Amichai Chikli, the Israeli minister who defended Elon Musk

Twitter’s owner slammed a Jewish billionaire in what many deemed an antisemitic attack. Chickli said it wasn’t antisemitism

This week’s war of tweets over Elon Musk’s attack on Jewish billionaire George Soros involved well-known combatants — and one whose name rings few bells outside Israel.

There’s Musk, who owns Twitter and threw the first tweet on Tuesday; Soros, the target of antisemitic conspiracy theories; Magneto, a Marvel supervillain who, like Soros in real life, survived the Holocaust; and Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, who tweeted that Musk’s attack on Soros was antisemitic.  

And then there’s Amichai Chikli, who on Thursday made perhaps the most surprising statement of the exchange: that Musk’s takedown of Soros — comparing him to Magneto and saying that he “hates humanity,” — was not antisemitic. Further, Chikli claimed, Musk is held in high regard by most Israelis.

Amichai who?

Chikli is the Israeli minister for Diaspora Affairs, responsible for nurturing ties between Israelis and Jews outside Israel. He is also the minister tasked with combating antisemitism. Critics this week said his defense of Musk showed just how ill-suited he is for either responsibility.

On Friday, he doubled down on backing Musk and critiquing Soros, telling the Forward in Hebrew that Jews are most endangered by a “woke antisemitism” perpetuated by the left, and that Soros “is one of the major financiers of organizations that delegitimize the State of Israel and therefore promotes antisemitic discourse himself.”

Chikli did not elaborate on what he meant by “woke antisemitism” or say which organizations he was referring to.

Soros founded the Open Society Foundations, which according to its website, “is the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights.” Recipients of Soros’ philanthropy in the U.S. include the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center. 

Chikli, 41, believes that American Jews have adopted the misguided views of liberal Israeli politicians and media.

Here are five more things to know about Chikli:

1. Born in Jerusalem and raised in Israel, he is the son of a Conservative rabbi and an alumnus of Camp Ramah, a network of Jewish summer camps affiliated with the Conservative movement.

 2. He has said that diaspora Jews’ worries over proposals to alter the Law of Return, which allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel as long as they do not practice another religion, are overblown. Some American Jewish groups are concerned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will restrict immigration. Chikli has called the law “broken.”

 3. He refused to meet with leaders of J Street, the American group that bills itself as “the political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans,” when he visited the U.S. in January. He called the group “hostile to Zionism and the state of Israel.”

 4. He considers himself a bit of a rebel. Chikli was the only right-wing member of the previous Israeli ruling coalition. Now a member of Likud, he used to belong to the rightist Yamina party. Chikli last year accused its leader, Naftali Bennett, of allying with the left and an Arab-Israeli party for personal gain. Yamina then ousted Chikli.

5. He has tried to extend olive branches to American Jews who disagree with Israeli government policies. “We don’t have better ambassadors than the Jewish communities in diaspora,” he told American Jews in January. “Their voice is very important, and they all genuinely love Israel.” 

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