Jewish Americans Deserve Better Than The ADL

Jewish Americans Deserve Better Than The ADL

Just another partisan outfit masquerading as a civil rights organization.
David Harsanyi

Anti-Semitism is a serious, albeit relatively small, problem in American life. Still, it’s a shame that the folks at the Anti-Defamation League, self-styled spokespeople of we Jews, are in the business of exaggerating threats when it serves their partisan interests and underplaying threats when they do not.

The ADL’s most recent study on rising anti-Semitism was, as always, carried by a number of media outlets. “Antisemitic incidents in US soar to highest level in two decades,” read one headline atop a picture of angry Tiki-torch Nazis in Charlottesville. “Largest year-on-year increase since 1979 comes as Trump administration is accused of failing to condemn bigotry.”

Anti-Semitism isn’t “soaring” in America, and the ADL knows it.  Among 330 or-so million Americans, the ADL notes that there were 1,986 anti-Semitic reported incidents across the United States in 2017. That’s a 57 percent increase over the 1,267 reported incidents in 2016. Yet the ADL admits a part of the spike was driven by a surge in self-reporting rather than a surge in incidents.

Yet, even if we were to take all of this unscientific survey at face value, it hardly supports the dramatic contention that the number is “soaring.” Put it this way, in 1939 the German-American Bund could pack Madison Square Garden with 22,000 cheering fascists, but today neo-Nazis can barely pull together 200 people for a national conference.

The ADL’s report states that there “were 1,015 incidents of harassment, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, up 41 percent from 2016.” No one should doubt that harassment exists. I’ve been on the ugly end of such efforts myself. And bomb threats are a form of terrorism, a threat of violence used to intimidate entire communities. The thing is that every single one of the bomb threats in the ADL survey were made by a single deranged self-hating Jewish teenager who was arrested in Israel. His actions have little to do with any supposed “soaring” animus towards American Jewry.

It is true that Jews are most often the victims of the rare faith-based hate crimes in America. In 2016, the FBI reported that 21 percent of hate crimes were prompted by religious bias and, of those, 54.4 percent were victims of crimes motivated by an anti-Jewish bias. (The next closest is anti-Muslim crimes, at 24.5 percent.) This consists of 834 total hate crimes against Jews in 2016, the vast majority non-violent. That is 834 too many, of course, but also 834 of among tens of million criminal offenses. Those genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism don’t do anyone a favor by exaggerating the problem.

It should be pointed out, though, that there is a population that runs into anti-Jewish sentiment more than most. The ADL and its activist head, Jonathan Greenblatt, would have you believe that “white supremacy” is the leading cause of anti-Semitism on college campuses throughout the United States. The narrative must be fed, after all. The ADL tells us that from Sept. 1, 2016 to Feb. 1, 2018, “346 incidents” of Nazi types handing out propaganda on campus were recorded. This, according to the ADL, is the most disturbing trend on campuses.

As one of my Twitter followers correctly noted, “The idea that Jews are more likely to encounter white supremacists than aggressively anti-Israel bds groups is utter delusion.”

The BDS movement, for example, embraced not only by most progressive groups these days but also by some school administrations, specifically — and, for that matter, exclusively — targets businesses that deal with the ideologically diverse population of Jews. As the AMCHA Initiative, a group that tracks anti-Semitism on campus, puts it, “BDS campaigns are coordinated internationally by groups committed to the elimination of the Jewish state, including terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, that engage in and promote the murder of Jews worldwide.” How many “incidents” do you think are there on college campuses of the BDS spreading its message?

Unsurprisingly, this effort is associated with the uptick in anti-Semitism on campus. In 2016, researchers at Brandeis University conducted a study concentrating on Jewish undergraduate students at 50 U.S. campuses who had applied to go on the Birthright Israel trip. The study found that CUNY schools and University of California systems had become “hotspots” of hostility towards Jewish students. The more campuses were involved in BDS, the higher their rates of anti-Semitic harassment and hostility, driven by animosity toward Israel.

There is a long history of leftist anti-Semitism and a corresponding history of liberal Jewish groups belittling its importance. Jew hatred, of course, isn’t confined to one fringe. But Nazis and Klansmen remain stigmatized and excluded by the vast majority of political operators. On the other hand, terror-apologists like Linda Sarsour, a leader of the Resistance who claims Zionism is incompatible with feminism, are being increasingly welcomed into the fold of mainstream left-wing activism.

The idea of Zionism being an “inherently white supremacist ideology” has gained some popularity not only on campuses but among a growing group of progressives. While the ADL notes this trend — and it has to be stressed that the ADL does often note instances of anti-Semitism on the Left— it has a bad habit of burying that pertinent news to create a more convenient plot for political purposes.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of the forthcoming book, First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today. Follow him on Twitter.

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