There is No Epidemic of Antisemitism in the United States

Despite the constant refrain from both the left and right (blaming each other), a new ADL survey shows that antisemitism in the U.S. has not risen.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Over the last several years, concern about a purported dramatic increase in antisemitism in the United States has gripped the American Jewish community. There was a particular spike in such concern when Donald Trump got elected, manifested in particular in near-hysteria over a series of bomb threats in 2017 to Jewish institutions that turned out to the product of a disturbed Israeli-American teenager. Murders by right-wing antisemites in Pittsburgh and and Poway further galvanized those concerned that Trump had enabled a massive rise in right-wing antisemitism.

Meanwhile, many Jewish Americans also expressed concern with what they saw as growing antisemitism on the left, manifested in harassment of Jewish students on college campuses for their real or perceived ties to Israel, antisemitism among the leaders the Women's March, the left's embrace of figures with a history of antisemitic statements such as Linda Sarsour, and a seeming revival of Louis Farrakhan's public prominence, including his exchange of pleasantries with a variety of Democratic VIPs at Aretha Franklin's funeral, where he had a seat of honor. Recent antisemitic murders of Jews in the New York area by African-American extremists, along with a more general spike of violence against Orthodox Jews in New York, added to the concern about rising antisemitism from the far left.

As I explained in November 2018, concerns about rising manifestations of antisemitism have been reasonable, as people with strong antisemitic views have become more active, more visible, and more willing to express their views publicly:

More Active
On the right, the internet has given anti-Semites a way of much more easily coordinating than they had in the days of handprinted newsletters and secretive meetings in Days Inn conference rooms. On the left, the rise of hostility to Israel as a major issue for the left has given anti-Semites an opportunity to spread anti-Semitism in the guise of "anti-Zionism".

More Visible
Not too long ago, expression of anti-Semitic sentiments was suppressed by media gatekeepers; mainstream news organizations wouldn't publish anti-Semites, nor would respectable journals of opinion. But now the gatekeepers are in a free-for-all market, and they can't control what is said on blogs, websites, etc., and their own editorial standards have declined. Twitter gives an easy public forum for anti-Semites. And the comments sections of most sites are unmoderated, providing a forum for anti-Semites regardless of the editorial perspective of the site. You won't find a site with more philo-Semitic site than Instapundit, for example, but you will still see some anti-Semitism in the comments. Even this blog, written mostly by Jews, attracts its share of anti-Semitic commentators, more so when it was hosted by the Washington Post.

More Willing to Express their Views Publicly
In our polarized times, the left and right are much less willing to police their "own," focusing instead only on the sins of the other side. The result, for example, is that Harvard and University Chicago professors can publish an entire book that is essentially a long anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, without any damage to their careers or reputation, because the book served the purposes of the political left. Donald Trump can retweet anti-Semitic imagery, not apologize for doing so, and not have any political consequences. Another factor is immigration from the Middle East. Middle Eastern immigrants are arriving from societies in which anti-Semitism is widely accepted, so it's not surprising that Middle Eastern university students who, for example, join Students for Justice in Palestine, are sometimes not embarrassed to engage in openly anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Nevertheless, I have consistently noted the absence of evidence that, despite the rhetoric of an "epidemic" of antisemitism, that there has been any actual increase in antisemitic attitudes among the general public. I've consistently challenged those who claim that Trump, or the far left, or anyone else has caused a spike in societal antisemitism to provide me with any study showing any such thing. No one has provided any. (It wasn't that I knew for sure there wasn't; I just wanted actual social science data, not anecdote and supposition.)

The ADL just released a new study on antisemitic attitudes among Americans. While belief in stereotypes about Jews remains widespread, the ADL found that only 11 percent of American adults believed in six or more of the 11 stereotypes tested, which is tied for the lowest percentage ever. By contrast, the first year the ADL undertook this study, the figure was 29 percent. So much for the constant refrain from the ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt and others that we are living through "the worst period of antisemitism in the United States since the 1930s."

Now, I admit that ADL methodology is far from perfect, but it does provide a basis for comparison, and there has been no spike, or even an increase, in antisemitism because of Donald Trump or anyone else. The problem of antisemitism in the United States is a problem of the far left and far right fringes, and the way social media, technology, partisanship, and the decline of media gatekeepers has allowed them to have a much louder voice. These fringes need to be isolated; the Trump administration shouldn't be giving discretionary media credentials for far-right antisemites, and Bernie Sanders shouldn't be allying with Sarsour, Rashida Tlaib, and company. And of course better security and preemptive work by law enforcement is needed to stop what does appear to be a spike in antisemitic violence. But for those who thought that the U.S. was heading toward the sort of commonplace, mainstream antisemitism prevalent in some European countries, you can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.

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  1. Seeing as Bernstein says there was some fault with the methodology, I checked out the questions. I see where he is coming from.

    The ADL says these are the % of Americans who agree with each of the 11 anti-semitic index questions

    1) Jews stick together more than other Americans – 44%
    (they certainly do, like black Americans or hispanics)

    2) Jews always like to be at the head of things – 25%
    (lots of elite Jews in media/gov’t, more so than % of populace, due to higher IQ and cultural work ethic, but that doesn’t mean they “like” it somehow, it’s a consequence)

    3) Jews are more loyal to Isreal than America – 24%
    (seems to me not so when one considers leftist “cultural” Jews)

    4) Jews have to much power in the business world – 15%
    (see answer to #2)

    5) Jews have to much control and influence on Wall Street – 14%
    (see answer to #2)

    6) Jews are just as honest as other business people [probably false] – 12%
    (cheats don’t get to the top of hierarchies and stay there when there many iterations of interactions where they could be caught cheating)

    7) Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind – 12%
    (tough to say, as all leftists seem to want to be immune to the consequences of their policy proscriptions, and most Jews are leftists)

    8) Jews have to much power in the U.S. – 11%
    (maybe they have just the right amount, or he/she has silly opinions. I would love Ben Shaprio as a senator, but Chuck Schumer is a douche)

    9) Jewish businesspeople are so shrewd that other people do not have a fair chance at competition – 11%
    (see answer to #2)

    10) Jews are more willing than other[s] to use shady practices to get what they want – 10%
    (see answer to #6)

    11) Jews have a lot of irritating faults – 10%
    (that is such a stupid subjective question, that complaining about the proclivities of any group that on average does X or Y is “anti” that person)

    1. You could ask these questions about any race/ethnicity to make an argument for “anti” views as being prevalent in the populace. I wonder what %s you would get if you asked about white people. lol.

    2. Did the same. For several of the questions, they should be asking whether Jews are more likely than other groups to be so. For example, I would answer yes to question #2, but I would do so for the same question asked of person period.

      1. I don’t think “other groups” would be fair either. You’d really have to ask “more than ” for all those other groups or ask “which groups …” and list all the possible groups.

        As soon as you spell out one particular group, that will stick in people’s minds.

    3. 1) Jews stick together more than other Americans – 44%
      (they certainly do, like black Americans or hispanics)

      Really? Then where was the support for my line of edible taleisim and tefillin?

      1. 95% black voting for dems? Affirmative action?

        How many more you need me to list?

      2. Ha ha, I was going to make a similar joke, but you beat me to it.

        1. You snooze you lose. ☺

  2. Glad to hear these data and agree it we could be better.

    I wonder though. . .

    Even though “attitudes” have remained the same, can it be said that people are broadcasting (mainly via social media) more?

    Say I’m rabid (pro or con) Jews and always have been.

    So my attitude hasn’t changed.

    But now I establish a blog and post extreme (pro or con) views.

    So my “attitude” hasn’t changed but since the public has (more) access to my extreme views – which previously they did not have – then one could assume there’s more (pro or con).

    1. “people are broadcasting (mainly via social media) more?”

      How could you reach any other conclusion?

      30 years ago, how was the average Jew hater going to get his views out? Poorly attended marches and mimeographed flyers.

      Now, all it takes is a computer or even just a cell phone. You can even go to the library and post for free. You don’t even need a blog of your own, just a twitter account.

  3. I really wish people would stop collecting all these stats. Even if they aren’t publicized, just asking on forms and such reinforces the very idea of racial groups. As Prof Bernstein has shown with the “Hispanic” label, there is way too much nonsense associated with them. The one-drop rule applies to way too many cases, for example. You get idiots like Lizzie bragging about her American Indian heritage. idiots calling Obama white, on and on it goes.

    And then there’s the very concept of hate crimes. What a mess for a “post-racial” society!

    1. If people that call obama white are idiots, I assume you apply the same standard to people who call him black?

  4. If you want to get down to the real problem of hatred in America it is against White Christians.

    1. Grievance-consumed, broadly intolerant, whining, ready-for-replacement white males are the Conspiracy’s target audience and reason for existence.

      1. Thanks for validating my point!

    2. “If you want to get down to the real problem of hatred in America it is against White Christians.”

      Will nobody cry a tear for the poor, oppressed, much-put-upon White Christians in America? It’s time they got a break!

  5. I am Jewish. I stopped taking the ADL seriously when I was about 10 years old (around 1970). I read one of their books on antisemitism in the US during the 1960s and I thought that they were treating acts of insensitivity (where the actor might regret their actions if the problems were pointed out) as antisemitism.
    The ADL keeps crying that the sky is falling in order to scare people so that they will donate money to the ADL. It’s not as bad as the SPLC, but it is in the same business.

    1. Yes, exactly! Thank you!

  6. better security and preemptive work by law enforcement is needed to stop what does appear to be a spike in antisemitic violence.

    And this spike is a problem, regardless of general attitudes. The fact is that antisemites are not just going on the internet to spew hate, they are physically attacking, even killing, Jews.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to say there has been no rise in antisemitism, based on this survey. An increase in intensity, in willingness to engage in violence against Jews, is as much an increase in antisemitism as an increase in antisemitic attitudes in the general public. Even if the latter has not happened, the former surely has.

    And I think that if Bernstein wants to claim that antisemitism has not increased, he needs to address that issue, and tell us why he thinks the spike he refers to has happened.

  7. The issue is not with Jews as Jews, but with liberal “Jews.” Liberal Jews are objectively bad people, who use existing Jewish tradition and beliefs to give legitimacy to their destructive liberal ideology. Liberals are bad people who seek to destroy the West, so any group that is disproportionately liberal is generally a “bad” group.

    1. Do you honestly think, though, that if Jews were, on average, more conservative than liberal (rather than the reverse situation like we have now) that they would be spared any anti-semitism? All it takes is one liberal Jewish idiot calling for open borders for America but not Israel and the tropes writes themselves.

      1. No, because most true anti-Semites hate Jews irrationally. Hell, they even accuse previously Jewish converts to Christianity as being spies. But disliking Jews as a group because they have disproportionately have power and influence and use that to propagate liberalism is legitimate.

        1. No, you asshole. It’s not legitimate.

          1. Yes, it is, but as an evil leftist yourself, you wouldn’t understand that.

            1. RWH,

              Fuck you, you toxic asshole.

              You contribute nothing here but bile, bigotry, and general nastiness.

        2. “No, because most true anti-Semites hate Jews irrationally”

          Well, I guess you’d know.

  8. Considering the number of Mohammedan “immigrants” which have been brought to our country over the past decade, it is an absolute certainty that anti-semitism has grown along with it. If we imported several million Nazis would there be any doubts?!!

    That is exactly what we have done. It is abjectly absurd to claim otherwise.

    1. Mohammedan

      Reason is morphing into Free Republic.

      1. Would you rather we say “Follower of the religion of peace?”

      2. But is he wrong? If yes, why?

        1. He’s the one making a claim. It’s his job to support it.

  9. Meh, in a big way.

    I don’t care if lots and lots of people believe that Jews want to take over the world, blah-de-blah-de-blah-whatever, or if it’s just a few poorly-adjusted folk.

    I care if any of them believe it strongly enough to be provoked into violence, and to a somewhat slighter extent, if any of them believe it almost-but-not-quite-strongly-enough to be provoked into violence. If the numbers in these two groups are increasing, that’s a problem (both for Jews AND for everyone else, even if everyone else is singing hosannas.)

    1. Yes.

      Probably the number of violent antisemites is too small to show up in this kind of survey. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been emboldened to act on their views.

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