Religion Unplugged

American Anti-Semitism Is Growing From New, Surprising Sources

Adjunct Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON — Reports about surging anti-Semitism in Europe have increased in the past decade. Vandalism, violence and persecution of Jews are widespread across many European countries, each with somewhat differing politics and national histories, specifically with regard to 20th century Nazism and the Holocaust.

But what do Americans think? Is America experiencing Europe’s growing anti-Semitism? That was the center of discussion at a conference hosted earlier this month by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, featuring experts on anti-Semitism in Europe and results from a May 2019 poll of Americans

For example, the poll found that instead of anti-Semitism becoming normalized, most Americans think anti-Semitism is increasing in the U.S. (and see it as a problem in society). But 20% don’t believe 6 millions Jews died in the Holocaust, and those respondents are more likely to be young.

“America is facing a shocking spike in anti-Semitism and, in addition to traditional sources on the extreme right, this time it includes left-wing progressives and Islamists,” the Hudson Institute said in its press release about the event.

Many of the speakers focused on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Jews living in the UK today have become Europe’s No. 1 security risk, according to Mitchell Silber, former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the New York Police Department. He continues to be actively involved in projects to better protect Europe’s Jewish communities.

This situation has happened, in no small part, because of the toxic policies of Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has “infected Labour with radicalism,” Silber said.

Another important point, made by Silber as well as by several other speakers, is that throughout Europe, anti-Semitism equates directly to anti-Israel views. Although various individuals or groups may claim that they don’t dislike Jews but abhor Israel, the fact remains—across the board—that Europe’s anti-Semitism represents adamant opposition to Israel policies, and in more than a few cases, to its very existence.

With that in mind, unsurprisingly, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement is extremely active against Israel. Its influence, particularly in British colleges and universities, is robust.

Meanwhile, and more directly related to the broader point of discussion, some 1,600 attacks on Jews took place in the UK in 2018 alone.

Hon. Elan Carr, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, spoke eloquently about the rather deceptive idea that there is a “new” anti-Semitism. He shook his head. “It’s just the same old thing,” he explained.

Ancient accusations against Jews, such as the infamous “blood libel,” are newly packaged in such twisted guises as “Israelis are child murderers,” and “Jews have infected Palestinian children with the AIDS virus.”

Carr went on to underscore other old defamations that are currently being recycled in new forms, including insulting and inaccurate descriptions of Judaism, Jew blaming, and efforts toward economic isolation of Jews, such as the BDS movement’s intentions toward Israel.

He added that today’s “anti-nationalist” criticism of Israelis’ patriotic, celebratory attitude toward their country is nothing more than another form of anti-Semitism. No such complaint is ever spoken about French or Arab or Chinese nationalism.

The best-selling author of Hate: The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism in France (and What it Means for Us), Marc Weitzmann, traced the beginnings of today’s virulent strain of French anti-Semitism to the 1990s, when dozens of Algerian terrorists relocated in France and began to multiply their ranks exponentially. This was soon followed by the 2000 demise of Israel’s “Peace Process,” marked by the deadly Second Intifada in Israel.

The first reported murder of a French Jew took place in the early 2000s, after which anti-Semitic violence escalated, year after year, in intensity.

That rising tide culminated in late 2015, when on one terrible night, Nov. 13, the deadliest 21st century terrorist attacks on French soil were carried out across Paris. During the massacre at the Bataclan Concert Hall, 90 victims were shot dead, along with around 40 more in coordinated shootings in cafes and restaurants; more than 400 were injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The attackers believed that the Bataclan was owned by Jews. In fact, it had been sold by its Jewish owners just days before the grisly attack.

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who serves as Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Europe, is based in Paris. She cited shocking numbers: 1 to 3 violent acts against Jews take place every day in France and Germany; 1 out of 5 Jews have been personally attacked in some way; 1,799 acts against Jews took place in 2018.

Rodan-Benazquen admonished the audience to put pressure on U.S. authorities to strategize and target anti-Semitism, and to confront it in its every form. Like the other speakers, she explained that the three roots of anti-Semitism in Europe are the far right (including white supremacism), the far left (ala Britain’s Corbyn), and radicalized Muslims.

“Listen to the victims and don’t make excuses for the perpetrators. Build coalitions and pay attention to hate speech, Rodan-Benazquen concluded, in her fervent appeal to America, “And learn from what’s happening in Europe!”

Which brings us back to the Hudson conference’s initial question: “Is America Experiencing Europe's Growing Anti-Semitism?” A hopeful answer to that important question came from a poll taken by McLaughlin & Associates.

Thankfully, despite some unavoidable evidence to the contrary—including the worst attack on a synagogue in U.S. history—the poll’s positive answers offer some timely good news to America’s Jews.

The following (thanks to Hudson Institute) are some of McLaughlin’s major findings:

* Contrary to fears that anti-Semitism has become normalized in the U.S., most voters are familiar with anti-Semitism and believe it is increasing. In an open-ended question, 62% of participants described anti-Semitism as a hatred of Jews or bigotry.
* Religious intolerance is seen as the leading cause of anti-Semitism (25%), followed by Muslim extremism (19%).
* Attempts on college campuses to shut down pro-Israel speakers is viewed by a majority (54%) of likely voters as anti-Semitic.
* The Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement is seen as anti-Semitic by a majority of likely voters by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. A plurality of respondents think the U.S. should oppose BDS campaigns.
* It is not Islamophobic to criticize Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her views on Israel, noted 63% of respondents, and 40% of likely voters have an unfavorable opinion of Congresswoman Omar, while 21% have a favorable opinion.
* The Democratic party is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism within its own party, respondents noted by a 2-to-1 ratio (48% to 22%).
* A solid majority (57%) of respondents want Israel to be the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.
* An overwhelming majority (80%) believe it is true that in the Holocaust 6 million Jews were targeted and exterminated. Respondents under 40 years of age were 31% less likely to believe that the Holocaust occurred.
* By a 2-to-1 ratio, likely voters have a favorable opinion of Israel. A majority believes that U.S. support of Israel is “about right” or “too little.”

The McLaughlin national survey was conducted in May among 1,000 random, registered and likely voters in the 2020 election.

Read in Religion Unplugged.