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The Media Keeps Saying Anti-Semitism Spiked 57% Under Trump, but That Statistic Is Really Misleading

The Anti-Defamation League's report actually showed that attacks decreased in 2017 from 2016.

ADLMatthew Hatcher/ZUMA Press/NewscomIn the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last week, many in the media claimed the attack happened amidst a climate of rising anti-Semitism: a 57 percent spike in anti-Semitic hate in 2017, fueled by the ascendance of Donald Trump to the presidency.

While it's true the anti-Semitic alt-right had a period of increased activity last year—and that Trump's divisive rhetoric about minorities, the media, and globalism certainly doesn't help matters—the evidence for the oft-cited spike is weak.

The figure comes from a report by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. It was released back in February, but is making the rounds once again following the terrible violence in Pittsburgh. A representative piece in The Washington Post, written by GQ's Julia Ioffe, argued that "According to the Anti-Defamation League, the incidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes jumped nearly 60 percent in 2017, the biggest increase since it started keeping track in 1979. What made 2017 so different? It was Trump's first year in office."

Ioffe went on CNN and said that Trump "has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did," a comment that drew widespread condemnation. She subsequently apologized for using "hyperbole," but she held her ground on the underlying point. "I will add, though, that it is not a coincidence that the number of anti-Semitic attacks has jumped nearly 60% in 2017," she wrote on Twitter.

But Ioffe mischaracterized the statistic. The New York Times did as well; a March 2018 piece about the ADL's report leads with the sentence, "Anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise, up 57 percent in 2017 from 2016."

The ADL statistic captures anti-Semitic "incidents," which is a much broader category of behavior than "hate crimes" or "attacks." Incidents include things like bullying in schools—which is bad, but usually not indicative of criminal conduct.

Indeed, classroom and campus incidents were partly responsible for the spike, according to the ADL: "The sharp rise, reported in ADL's Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row."

But, as Volokh Conspiracy blogger and George Mason University Law Professor David Bernstein pointed out, there's actually a lot of left-wing anti-Israel sentiment on many university campuses. I don't think all criticisms of the state of Israel are inherently anti-Semitic, but it's quite possible a large number of the documented incidents in this category were perceived that way by pro-Israel students—and the originators would have been leftist activists, not Trump lovers.

The ADL report came up with three subcategories of anti-Semitic incidents: vandalism, harassment, and assault. An increase in vandalism accounts for much of the overall increase, but Bernstein doubts that all of the included incidents were actually examples of anti-Semitism. The harassment category also saw an increase, largely due to a series of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the U.S. made by a disturbed Israeli teen. It's not at all clear that these threats were motivated by anti-Semitism.

Finally, the assault category saw a 47 percent decrease.

Compiling reliable data on hate crimes and bias incidents is tricky business, as I have noted previously. A big issue is that better reporting—more people submitting more reliable information—often masquerades as an increase in the thing being counted. It could be that in the first year of the Trump administration, watchdog groups are simply better attuned to the anti-Semitism that already existed in America.

This does not mean Trump is off the hook: His enemy-of-the-people rhetoric about the media, immigrants, societal elites, globalism, etc., is wildly irresponsible, and conservative media should stop engaging in anti-Semitic dog whistling. But we ought not to make sweeping claims about a Trump-fueled rise in anti-Semitism since the data are not all that convincing.

Photo Credit: Matthew Hatcher/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...there's actually a lot of left-wing anti-Israel sentiment on many university campuses.

    Still counts! Leftwing bad behavior toward the Jews can't be discounted just because it's limp dick progressive whining college kid bullshit.

  • NashTiger||

    So Antifa and Occupy are taking their cues from Trump now also.

    That guy is Really persuasive

  • ||

    Anti-semitism and anti-Israel sentiment are not the same thing.

  • damikesc||

    There is seldom even the tiniest sliver of difference.

  • ||

    Actually, there is. One involves the hatred of an entire religious/cultural/ethnic group, the other involve opposition to the policies and actions of the government of a single country.

  • ||

    Thus it is possible that some people hate Israel because it is full of Jews but then they would hate jews anywhere. OTOH plenty of anti-semites think Israel is a wonderful idea because, well, it means "those people" are living "over there" instead of "over here". They probably wish that more of "them" would go "over there", preferably, I suppose, all of "them". The more literally biblically minded of them are looking for the day when they all die in the Armageddon.

    Most of them can be dismissed as cranks who will never cause physical harm to anyone however offensive their opinions are. The more homicidally minded ones, of course, will not be satisfied until all of "them" are dead, no matter whether they are "over there" or "over here".

  • JesseAz||

    Which is why the anti-Zionists on campus often remain quiet about Hamas paying Palestinians money for stabbing Israelis randomly on the street. Totes not the same.

  • ||

    Why has everyone kept quite about the fact that

  • JesseAz||

    Compare that fact to the coverage if any retaliation attack by IDF. Not even close to the same media exposure. But you seem to know that, so you must be intentionally stupid.

  • ||

    Being an anti-Zionist is not the same thing at all as being anti-semitic. Zionism is a specific belief about a Jewish homeland based on the interpretation of prophecy contained in certain religious texts. It is an opinion that many people consider controversial. Disagreement with that opinion is quite common.

    There are plenty of Jews, very religious ones as well as very secular ones, who are anti-Zionists.

  • Echospinner||

    If you are actually interested

    Zionism in its classic form is strictly non religious. It has nothing to do with prophecy. It began as a reaction to the pogroms and later events in Europe.

    Hertzel and others took a national approach. As nationism grew in Europe the idea was that Jews were a displaced nation.

    Turns out they were right.

    Prophesy in Judaism perhaps means something different from other religions. But that is a different discussion.

    You seem interested in this stuff so that is why I replied

  • ||

    Just as people criticize the policies and actions of the US government without hating Americans or the actual nation of America there are those who criticize the policies and actions of the Israeli government without hating Americans or the actual nation of Israel.

    William F Buckley once pointed out that to read or hear anti-Israel statements you needed to go no further than the Israeli press or Israeli opposition politicians.

  • ||

    "...without hating Americanseither Israelis* or Jews or the actual nation of Israel.

    *Israeli and Jew are not synonyms. A significant number of Arabs, both Christian and Muslim stayed in Israel and are nominally considered to have full political, religious and civil rights.

  • BYODB||

    You're correct that criticism of Israel does not equate to anti-Semitism, but does the Democratic parties affiliation with men like Farrakhan make it more or less likely that at least some of the rhetoric is anti-Semitic vs. simply pro-Palestinian?

  • ||

    Farrakhan lies at the fringe of the Democratic Party in the same way that some extreme Christian fundamentalists lie at the fringe of the Republican Party.

    They want his follower's votes so they won't say anything negative about him. That's politics, man. If you don't like it, don't bitch.

    OTOH, maybe you just follow a different mystical old dude* in the sky than Farrakhan does.

    *Actually, technically, you follow the same mystical old dude in the sky, you just believe a different set of prophets have had the whole truth revealed to them.

  • BYODB||

    So you would agree that the so-called 'fringe' of the Democrat party does indeed have anti-Semites, and that they don't call him out because they want the anti-Semite vote? Curious that anti-Semites on the left are tolerated, while those on the right are vilified. One might hope it would be recognized for what it is regardless of which party they 'support'.

  • Echospinner||

    Tzivi Lipni the opposition leader was IDF and Mossad agent. She served in the unit who took down Black September

    Her parents were Irgun

    If it hit the fan those lefties at Haaretz would be right on the front lines with their units

    Not the same as some jerk at Berkeley talking about boycotts

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Anti-Semitism was at an all time high under Nazis, that are of course Socialists.

    The Lefty media leaves that out.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Did you finish all your homework?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Your Mom said that my extra credit in her ass was delightful.

  • JFree||

    a 57 percent spike in anti-Semitic hate in 2017

    Color me gobsmacked. I could have sworn it was no more than a 46% spike

  • Jummy||

    There was no spike whatsoever.

  • Eddy||

    "The Media Keeps Saying Anti-Semitism Spiked 57% Under Trump, But That Statistic Is Really Misleading"

    Let's shorten that headline:

    "The Media Keeps...Misleading"

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    She subsequently apologized for using "hyperbole," but held her ground on the underlying point. "I will add, though, that it is not a coincidence that the number of anti-Semitic attacks has jumped nearly 60% in 2017," she wrote on Twitter.

    It sounds like somebody needs to learn the difference between correlation and causation.

  • Rossami||

    For someone claiming to make her living via statistics, she needs to learn a lot more than that. For example, it would also be nice if she learned the difference between what you actually measure and what you think you measured. According to the report's own methodology and supporting data:
    - incidents were measured that included many things that were not "attacks" (anti-Semitic or otherwise)
    - true attacks actually went down
    - incidents which were initially suspected to be anti-Semitic but later debunked were nevertheless included
    - and most frustratingly, this was a measure of reported incidents. The study authors admit to but made no attempt to correct for the possibility of self-reporting bias. That factor alone invalidates their purported conclusions.

  • TuIpa||

    Antifa activity spiked under Trump too.

  • damikesc||

    Islamic murders on Americans spiked under Bush, technically. :)

    Shootings of gay night clubs --- mass spike under Obama...

  • DiegoF||

    "The Media Keeps Under Trump, But Really!"

  • colorblindkid||

    What the Democrats and media do when it comes to fear-mongering and playing up irrational fears of hate crimes and white supremacists is IDENTICAL to what Republicans and Fox News do with illegal immigrant gangs and Muslims. All are statistically negligible threats to anybody.

    There are more people murdered by previously deported illegal immigrants every year than in hate crimes. Pick which one to focus on to scare people into voting.

  • Nihil||

    While it's true the anti-Semitic alt-right had a period of increased activity last year [...]

    Robby, I can tell you from personal experience anti-Semitism is not limited to one side of political spectrum.

  • BYODB||

    Of course, nevermind that the so-called alt-right laments that socialism hasn't been implemented yet in the United States. Curiouser and curiouser.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Media math for beginners:

    Statistic = lie

  • Jummy||

    True enough, but this wasn't an adjustment. They manufactured their entire claim from what they knew to have been a hoax.

  • Dillinger||

    ADL not worthy of citation.

  • Dillinger||

    >>> the anti-Semitic alt-right

    you're afraid of six idiots in a truck.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>I don't think all criticisms of the state of Israel are inherently anti-Semitic

    not all "left-wing anti-Israel sentiment on many university campuses" is mere criticisms of the state

  • ||

    Actually, yes, it is.

    It may be misguided romanticism of the plight of the Palestinians but none of it is based on actual "hatred of the Jews".

  • BYODB||

    None at all, huh? That seems about as likely as no crimes against a Jew could possibly be a hate crime. I.E. not at all likely.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>but none of it is based on

    dude the data you would need ...

  • JesseAz||

    So which Muslim aligned organization are you being paid by? It's obvious from your shotgun approach of lies you're paid for your posts.

  • ||

    Wow, if I had only known someone would pay me I would have demanded something.

    I suggest you learn some history instead of taking biblical texts too literally.

  • Nardz||

    The suggestions of a typical progressive who hates Jews for having the temerity to exist and defend themselves is worth less than 0.

    Begone to Gaza, bitch.

  • Mr. JD||

    Anti-Semitism has never been more partisan in this country. While Trump is more pro-Israel than his predecessors and has Jews in his family, Democrats are more eagerly hanging around Louis Farrakhan and bashing "greedy evil capitalists", which Jews are often said to represent.

    No wonder Robert Bowers hated Trump so much.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    If there's a spike, blame the Obama imports.

  • BYODB||

    If Trump is inspiring more anti-Semitism, it's because the left is pissed off that Trump is doing well by Israel and that's pissing off the far-left into violence. That this isn't the narrative says a lot, considering that it's the only possible way it could be true. It's an open secret that Democrats loathe Israel, and their friendly relationship to Farrakhan says a lot.


    Keep in mind that I don't think rhetoric necessarily leads to violence, and that people who are inclined to gun down a synagogue are probably lunatics that would do so regardless of what Trump or anyone else says.

  • Kivlor||

    So... mentioning Soros is now an anti-semitic dog-whistle?

  • colorblindkid||

    A bunch of reporters, serious major reporters, spread a story about "Jewish leaders" in Pittsburgh condemning Trump and saying he's not welcome there.

    The group was actually a progressive activist group literally funded by Soros and run by his son. Like wtf people. Are you trying to prove the anti-Semites right? The criticisms of George Soros are more accurate than the deranged criticism of the Koch brothers by Democrats and the press for the last decade.

    I'm so fucking sick of everybody being so stupid and the insane double standards and hypocrisy in the press.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Yes. "Soros" is short for Jew Bankers.

  • Echospinner||

    Easier to spell than Rothschild

  • Nardz||

    The fact that y'all equate Soros to all Jews is an indictment of your bigotry, not that of others.

  • Echospinner||

    This goes back very far.

    Read Shakespeare, the book of Esther, the Protcols of the Elders of Zion, we could go much deeper. Anti Semitic crap is buried in history.

    What happened at Squirrel Hill is an indictment. Do not worry, not you.

  • Jummy||

    I thought "1%" was short for Jew Bankers.

    Do we like Jew Bankers now?

  • Jummy||

    The Koch brothers wish they had a demagogic trope like that one to silence critics with, I bet.

  • Paloma||

    Trump is a creep, but he's not responsible for EVERY damn bad thing in the country.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Without on-going anti-Semitism, what function would the ADL serve?
    They'd be about as useless as the SPLC.

  • Echospinner||

    Given the last couple thousand years I would say they should be comfortable signing a long term lease on the office space.

  • Jummy||

    If one person treats you like a jerk, it could be them or it could be you. If everywhere you go you're treated like a jerk, it's definitely you.

  • Jummy||

    The marquee claim the ADL presents in their report, that there had been a 60-80% increase in antisemitic hate crimes in 2016 over the previous year, is not "misleading". It was wholly premeditated, deliberate lie. If it were any other advocacy organization, the scandal of it would eclipse the report itself and the organization be cast permanently to the margins of the public discourse.

    The entire "increase in antisemitic incidents" is attributable to two-hundred hoax bomb threats perpetrated by a Jewish Israeli man. The hoax threats were perpetrated in February, 2016. The perpetrator was arrested in early April. The ADL published their report nine months later. This is one of those cases where the attribution of incompetence is significantly less plausible than the attribution of malice. The ADL are disinformationists who should never be listened to again.

  • JRuss||

    The life long full spectrum bigot Trump is who he says he is: a Nationalist, and he also is NOT, through purpose or ignorance, the arbiter of it's universally understood actual political meaning of Nationalist; Self Proclaimed Nationalist Herr Trump; a1930, noun and adjective, from German Nazi, abbreviation of German pronunciation of Nationalsozialist (based on earlier German sozi, popular abbreviation of "socialist"), from Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei "National Socialist German Workers' Party," led by Hitler from 1920.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Most of the Judenhass activity I'm hearing about is coming from the Hamasshole's "BDS" campaign. Leftards are all for it of course, they've hated Jews ever since Marx itself, because Jews who maintain their own culture and traditions tend to resist the leftards' social engineering efforts.

    -jcr

  • jjjjj||

    The average anti-Soros ranter probably doesn't even know Soros is Jewish

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