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ADL Survey Finds Antisemitic Attitudes Spiking at ‘Alarming’ Rate

Antisemitism in the United States has risen at an unprecedented rate over the last several years, fueled by tropes and misinformation shared on social media, statements from politicians and anti-Israel sentiment sometimes used as a cover for anti-Jewish hatred.

In fact, a comprehensive survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that since 2019 prejudice against Jews has doubled, rising to the highest level seen in decades.

“What these findings represent, what they tell us, and what creates such urgency is the fact that large, huge numbers of Americans hold dangerous, false ideas about the Jewish people,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

He spoke at a virtual press conference held January 12 to discuss the survey conducted earlier in the fall in collaboration with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and One8 Foundation, which among its goals seeks to make Judaism enjoyable and relevant to the American Jewish community and increase understanding of Israel among all Americans.

The results came from 4,000 adults surveyed from throughout the U.S. across geographic and ethnic and religious lines.

Greenblatt called the results “alarming” and, even though researchers found only 3% of Americans subscribe to all 11 antisemitic tropes about which they were questioned, that represents more than 8 million people, more than the number of Jews in the United States.

Among the most startling findings was that 20% of all those surveyed agreed with six or more of the 11 anti-Jewish tropes, “significantly” higher than the more than 11% in 2019. Over 20% believe “Jews have too much power”; 21% agree “Jews don’t care about anyone other than themselves”; and 53% said Jews will go out of their way to hire other Jews. About 85% of Americans believe at least one antisemitic trope, while back in 2019 only 61% did so.

“While it is very encouraging that the vast majority of our country doesn’t hold these ideas, 50-plus million people is worrisome and it means we’ve got work to do,” said Greenblatt.

Matt Williams, vice president of the ADL’s Center for Antisemitism Research, said two “classic, fascist” tropes stood out: that Jews had too much power and were “too clannish and stick together.”

Although the survey did show a striking rise in prejudice against Jews, Williams said people now are more likely to be honest in their opinions than years past, which could have affected the numbers.

Greenblatt cautioned that just because someone may subscribe to one of the statements doesn’t necessarily mean they are antisemitic. Some may view something like Jews sticking together and supporting one another as a positive attribute. However, he said that overall, the findings present a troubling picture that ultimately could lead to the type of violence seen at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh or Poway in California.

Israel also has colored the opinions of some Americans, with 18% stating they are uncomfortable being with someone who supports Israel, a sentiment that is particularly strong among young people, although those ages 18-30 are less likely than older generations to believe anti-Jewish tropes.

40% of those surveyed at least slightly believe that Israel treats Palestinians like the Nazis treated Jews.

While Greenblatt noted that disagreeing with an action of the Israeli government doesn’t mean that person is an antisemite or even is anti-Israel—he pointed out the ADL itself has had its disagreements with both Israeli and American government policies—but in some instances that criticism of Israel is used as “a sleight of hand” to express a hated of Jews in a seemingly acceptable manner.

While he noted that statements and actions negatively impacting Jews have come from both the left and right of the political aisle, the ADL first began tracking a disturbing spike in antisemitic attitudes in 2016, with rhetoric from former President Donald Trump, such as there were some “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville or his campaign’s tweet superimposing a six-pointed star on a campaign poster of Hillary Clinton.

Although his actions may not have been intentional or Trump himself an antisemite, those actions “emboldened” extremist groups who spread them across lax and often unregulated social media. “Social media has been a super spreader,” said Greenblatt.

While Williams said that “antisemitic attitudes in the United States are widespread and likely increasing” the phenomena hasn’t happened in a vacuum, and corresponds with rising prejudices against other groups, including Blacks, Asians, Muslims and the LBQTQ community. “When conspiracy theories masquerade as news,” said Greenblatt, “we shouldn’t be surprised there is antisemitism against Jews.”

By Debra Rubin

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