ADL Antisemitism Report Stats Questioned by Jewish Community
JNS.org – The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) decision to count a teenager’s alleged spate of bomb hoaxes targeting American Jewish institutions as antisemitic incidents has prompted criticism from some Jewish community officials.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper — associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) — told JNS.org that because the individual who has been indicted for the incidents purportedly suffers from mental illness, he would “not categorize these as antisemitic hate crimes.”
The ADL reported on April 24 that antisemitic incidents in the US “jumped 86 percent” in the first quarter of 2017, with 70 percent of the total classified as “harassment incidents,” 42 percent of which were the over 100 bomb threats allegedly made by the Jewish dual citizen of America and Israel.
Aryeh Tuchman — associate director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism — told JNS.org that the report included the bomb threats because “when an incident has a major terrorizing effect on Jewish communities, we can’t ignore it.”
Kenneth L. Marcus — president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — disagrees with that assessment.
“Given what we now know about these threats, it seems highly unlikely that they were motivated by antisemitic animus,” said Marcus. “However, we do not yet know enough about the perpetrator to have a full understanding of why he did what he did.”
Prominent constitutional attorney Nathan Lewin said that if the “disturbed Israeli-American boy” was the perpetrator, the faux threats “would not satisfy the FBI’s definition of hate crimes,” which states that a hate crime is one “based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin.”
The ADL’s report also stated that early 2017 has seen “155 vandalism incidents, including three cemetery desecrations, an increase of 36 percent.”
Tuchman said that represented an increase from “one cemetery desecration in all of 2016.”
However, JNS.org found that there were at least three desecrations of Jewish cemeteries in the first quarter of 2016. Two separate attacks occurred at Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Conn., where a total of 35 tombstones were toppled. The third attack occurred at Indiana’s Fort Wayne Jewish Cemetery, where more than 50 gravestones were damaged.
Marcus said some recent reports of antisemitic incidents “are what one might call ‘shark stories,'” where the population fears an increase in attacks due only to increased media coverage, rather than a spike in incidents.
The total annual number of antisemitic incidents nationwide has fluctuated significantly in recent years, according to the ADL’s annual tallies. The number increased 2 percent in 2010, fell 14 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2013, then jumped 21 percent in 2014, 3 percent in 2015, and 34 percent in 2016.
Tuchman said the ADL “believe[s] the 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere may have played a role in some of the increase.”
“Antisemites, especially on the extremist right, have felt emboldened to act on their prejudices,” he said.
Prof. Eunice G. Pollack, a historian of antisemitism and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, is concerned some of Trump’s opponents are distorting the issue.
“Those deemed progressive hope to distance themselves from accusations of anti-Jewish bias by attaching it only to the Right,” she said. “But the [college] campuses — where malignant antisemitism and anti-Zionism have intensified and spread in recent decades — are hardly dominated by the ‘alt-right.’”
Marcus agreed that while “some incidents can be attributed to the ‘alt-right’ community,” the anti-Trump camp “also includes an antisemitic edge to it.”
Cooper said, “All of us have to remember that if we have any chance of marginalizing antisemitism and motivating our neighbors to help us, it cannot be turned into a Left or Right issue.”