The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
As regular VC readers know, I write with some regularity about antisemitism. As such readers also know, I tend to focus more on left-wing antisemitism, and sometimes write about exaggerations of antisemitism on the right. My interlocutors sometimes accuse me of doing this for ideological reasons, that I "like" the right and "dislike" the left. Well, I actually don't like right-wing antisemites. At all. To say the least.
But there is another reason why my writings skew the way they do, which is my sense that those concerned most with antisemitism, in particular the Jewish community in both its organizational and individual manifestations, tend to focus on (and indeed sometimes exaggerate the scope of) right-wing antisemitism, and ignore, neglect, or downplay left-wing antisemitism.
A new survey of American Jews confirms my instincts (I excluded the "don't knows" below). For the record, my response to each of these would be "moderately serious threat":
In your view, how much of an antisemitic threat does the extreme political right represent in the United States today?
Very serious threat 49%
Moderately serious threat 29%
Slight threat 11%
No threat at all 9%
In your view, how much of an antisemitic threat does the extreme political left represent in the United States today?
Very serious threat 15%
Moderately serious threat 21%
Slight threat 28%
No threat at all 34%
In your view, how much of an antisemitic threat does extremism in the name of Islam represent in the United States today?
Very serious threat 27%
Moderately serious threat 27%
Slight threat 31%
No threat at all 14%
A few things stand out here. First, about half of American Jews think extreme right-wing antisemitism is a very serious threat, and another 30% thinks it's a moderately serious threat. So it's not like there is a lack of concern about right-wing antisemitism that somehow needs correcting with blogging and other educational activities.
On the other hand, the statistics for antisemitism on the extreme left and from radical Islamists are remarkable. For example, Great Britain is the second-closest country culturally to the U.S., after Canada. One of the two major parties has been taken over by an antisemite, and his ideological compatriots are a growing force in the Democratic Party. There have been a series of overtly (and well-publicized) antisemitic acts on college campuses arising from the extreme left. Some Democratic politicians openly admire antisemites ranging from the overt (Farrkhan) to the somewhat more subtle (Omar). But 34% of American Jews see no threat at all.
With regard to radical Islam, there have been several murders of Jews and attacks on Jewish institutions emanating from radical Islamists over the last two decades, and Al Qaeda chose to attack New York City on 9/11 in part from antisemitic motive. Antisemitic violence in Europe, including well-publicized murders, comes primarily from Islamists. But 45% of American Jews see no threat at all or only a slight threat from extremist Islamists.
Note also this question:
Over the past five years, do you think antisemitism in the United States has…
Increased a lot 43%
Increased somewhat 41%
Stayed the same 12%
Decreased a little 3%
Decreased a lot 1%
There is, in fact, no good empirical evidence that antisemitism has increased *at all,* much less a lot, though extremist antisemites have become more vocal, organized, and more able to get a platform now that mainstream gatekeepers in the media no longer serve that function. Have they become more violent? Probably somewhat, but that's a different question than whether antisemitism overall has increased.