Anti-Defamation League briefs Israeli Knesset on Internet Hate

Press Release
Jerusalem, February 21, 2008 – Citing the widespread use of hate on the Internet, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Israeli high tech companies to utilize their ingenuity to develop technology to confront anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry on the Web.

“The unintended result of the Internet is the dissemination of hate globally in nano-seconds under the protection of anonymity,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director in a briefing before the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, on February 19, 2008.

“The vicious anti-Semitism and bigotry found on the Internet has reached a level unparalleled in history considering the web’s scope. We urge Israeli high tech companies to utilize their ingenuity to help develop technologies for the consumer to be able to differentiate between information, misinformation and disinformation,” Mr. Foxman said.

Mr. Foxman also shared with the committee the latest ADL statistics on anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, which have declined for the third consecutive year in 2007. Mr. Foxman noted, however, that there was a steady number of troubling incidents in US high schools and university campuses.

According to ADL statistics released to the Knesset, there were some 1,350 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States in 2007, representing a 13 percent decline from the 1,554 reported in 2006. This was a 12 percent decline from the 1,757 reported in 2005.

“While the downward trend in numbers of incidents is clearly welcome, and may reflect some degree of success of security programs and preventative countermeasures, it does not justify complacency,” Mr. Foxman told the committee.

Mr. Foxman said that over 200 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in U.S. high schools and some 80 at U.S. college campuses, where anti-Israel events often turned into ugly spectacles of anti-Semitism.

“When they start holding up placards saying ‘Death to the Jews’ or equating Israeli policies with Nazis, then the line has clearly been crossed,” Mr. Foxman said.

One in three Americans, Mr. Foxman noted, believe that US Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States, and that an ADL survey showed that some 15 percent of U.S. citizens hold anti-Semitic attitudes.

“This may not sound like a large number, but it represents some 35 million people,” Mr. Foxman said.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism and racism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.


Full Text of the Speech

Anti-Semitism in the United States
Presentation to the Knesset Committee on Diaspora Affairs
Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

February 19, 2008

“As often as I am asked to speak on anti-Semitism, I can’t help thinking each time how tenacious and unyielding this cancer remains – “the longest hatred,” as it was called by Professor Robert Wistrich of Hebrew University in his excellent book of that title. What has given this irrational prejudice such a long life, and kept it alive even after the Holocaust, when rational people would have thought it could not raise its monstrous head again?

Of the many theories and interpretations offered by writers and psychologists, none is more revealing or accurate as this simple fact: it is useful. It provides an easy scapegoat for frustrated individuals or demagogues in denial about their own failures. It offers a handy explanation for the otherwise inexplicable, and a target at once easily identifiable and vulnerable.

And it is a convenient vehicle for exploiting the all-too-human willingness to believe in conspiracies. Witch hunting still lives, even if witches do not.

As I speak to you today about anti-Semitism in the United States, let me be clear: the anti-Semitism in the United States is not the anti-Semitism of Europe. Not to suggest that there haven’t been periods of significant bias against Jews, in society and in institutions. It is not ancient history.

Only sixty years ago, there were quotas for Jews, if unofficial, in universities, banking, and other business.

I always remember the story of Lionel Trilling, one of the nation’s great literary critics. As an undergraduate at Columbia, he decided to pursue a doctorate in English literature. When he went to his advisor, he was told that this was a mistake, that real understanding of British literature was only possible for Anglo-Saxons, not Jews. Fortunately, Trilling ignored the advice.

Still, America in the last 50 years has become a place where Jews are completely equal as citizens, completely comfortable in their skins as Americans. And this is reflected in their full involvement in communities around the country, on every level of cultural, communal, business and political activity.

Having said this, when the Knesset meets to hear about anti-Semitism, more often than not the focus is on anti-Semitism in Europe, the Middle East and South America, rather than the U.S.. Undoubtedly, that will be so again this time, but America now needs to be a focus as well.

Not only because of new, emerging challenges, but also because any problems arising in America, the place where Jews can most freely work to help protect Israel and combat anti-Semitism abroad, take on greater significance if they might lead to any lessening of American Jewish activism.

This new challenge of anti-Semitism in America takes two forms: daily heart-rending incidents and classic political anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Let me talk about both. For over 25 years, ADL has systematically tracked reported incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism, including swastika defacements, against synagogues, other Jewish institutions and private Jewish property, as well as harassment, including physical and verbal assaults directed at individuals in the United States.

Our report for 2007, to be released soon, will show a decline for the third consecutive year. While not all the numbers from each of our 50 states are in, the League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents counted more than 1,350 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States last year, representing a 13 percent decline from the 1,554 reported in 2006. This, in turn, was a 12% decline from the 1,757 reported in 2005.

Here are a few examples of these incidents:

– Denver, Colorado: Rocks and tomatoes thrown at synagogue office door, breaking door’s glass and several windows. Eggs thrown at synagogue window bearing Star of David (March);

– Chicago, Illinois: 70 headstones and 5 benches overturned and swastika etched onto mausoleum at Jewish cemetery (May);

– Victoria, Texas: Swastikas and “Heil Hitler” painted on front of synagogue (June);

– Bronx, New York: Synagogue vandalized on 3 occasions over several weeks; 17 windows broken (July);

– Lakewood, NJ: A Jewish teenager, identifiable by his wearing a yarmulke, suffered serious injuries when he was severely beaten by several men and youths who yelled “F—ing Jew” as they attacked him (November);

Each of these hate crimes causes great anguish not only to the targeted victims, but to the larger Jewish community. While the downward trend in numbers of incidents is clearly welcome, and may reflect some degree of success of security programs and preventive countermeasures, it does not justify complacency.

In 2007, for the third straight year, the Audit recorded a troubling number of incidents – over 200– at American public schools. School-based incidents took the form of swastikas and hate graffiti painted or written on desks, walls and other school property, as well as name-calling, slurs, mockery, bullying and assault – some directed at teachers, as well as at Jewish students.

And for the second year in a row, ADL recorded over 80 anti-Semitic incidents on U.S. college campuses. In many of these college incidents, the expression of anti-Semitism flowed from anti-Israel activity, both from left-wing groups on campus and from Muslim groups and individuals. Anti-Israel events, in and of themselves, are not counted as anti-Semitic incidents. But when placards equating Israeli policies with Nazis are displayed or protestors against Israeli policies yell “Kill the Jews,” the line has clearly been crossed.

It must also be noted that our Audit does not include the number of anti-Semitic websites and expressions that are occurring at an alarming rate over the Internet. Sadly and disturbingly, these are just too many to track. Every day we see literally thousands of blogs, e-mails and Web sites, and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace where conspiracy theories about alleged Jewish power have now infiltrated the mainstream.

Many of these sites include Internet radio shows and downloadable music and games with anti-Semitic themes and propaganda. With its speed, its ubiquitous and inexpensive reach, and its facility for recruitment and for reaching young people, the Internet is presenting us with one of our biggest challenges in the fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.

The decline in the number of overall anti-Semitic incidents came in a year marked by the results of an ADL national survey showing that the number of Americans who hold anti-Semitic attitudes remained constant. The ADL 2007 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews in America found that 15% of Americans – or nearly 35 million adults – hold views about Jews that are “unquestionably anti-Semitic.”

Previous ADL surveys over the last decade had indicated that such attitudes were in decline. Ten years ago, in 1998, the number of Americans with hardcore anti-Semitic beliefs had dropped to 12% from 20% in 1992. Again, these are not the numbers we see in Europe, where our surveys show anti-Semitic attitudes showing up in 30 to 50 percent of the population, depending on the country. But nevertheless we continue to be concerned that the success we had seen moving toward a more tolerant America appear not to have taken hold as firmly as we had hoped.

As noted, the larger political threat to Jews comes from lethal anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. These theories are a part of American life. We come to expect this kind of thing from extremist groups like the KKK, Aryan Nations, and the Nation of Islam. They for a long time accuse Jews of sinister control of America.

We expose this hate with the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of our countrymen reject these extremist groups and their ideology.

It is another matter when it comes from the mainstream. The most significant event in this regard was before America entered World War II. Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator hero, led the group opposed to U.S. intervention in the European war, “America First.”

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Lindbergh blamed the efforts of the powerful Jews in America who are trying to drag us into war against the Nazis to save their own interests. This resonated with many Americans who had been bombarded every Sunday night with anti-Jewish conspiracy notions from the popular radio priest Father Coughlin of Royal Oak, Michigan.

Now, fast forward to the first Gulf War. Pat Buchanan on a TV talk show says that the only people who want America to go to war against Saddam Hussein are “Israel’s amen corner.” Everybody understood whom he meant.

Well, this accusation died on the vine. It wasn’t a ripe moment for anti-Semitism because everyone understood why we were going to war — Saddam was in Kuwait, we had a strong U.N. resolution and a very broad international coalition. Buchanan’s effort to find a sinister Jewish force behind the war was deemed ridiculous.

Now fast forward again to the current war in Iraq — a different environment. No understanding of why we were going to war: great anxiety about motives. And this, of course, came at a time of heightened anxiety in the country after 9-11. Fears of more Islamist terror. And then talk of an Iranian nuclear bomb. In other words, a “perfect storm” for finding the true hidden powers behind the policy.

And so came Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, who in 2003 blamed neo-conservative Jews for bringing us the war In Iraq. No matter that all the decision makers — George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Condi Rice are not Jewish. No need for rational thinking when it comes to blaming Jews.

Soon, thereafter came a double-barreled attack, first from the heart of the academic establishment and then from a former president. Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard in essence cast U.S. policymaking in conspiratorial terms, though with a patina of scholarship.

Why does America support this country Israel that is allegedly responsible for all the Middle East problems? Because the Israel lobby — read Jews — controls American Middle East policymaking to serve Israel’s interests against the interest of the U.S. and that lobby stifles any open discussion in this country.

Now in their book, as opposed to their paper, they soften the tone of the charges and make qualifications, but the bottom line is no different. In an interview published just last week in the newsletter CounterPunch Professor Mearsheimer is quoted saying “the Lobby is pushing policies not in the U.S interest and not in Israel’s interest either ” and “we as Americans should care how the Lobby influences U.S.-Middle East policies, because it sometimes influences them in a way which is not in the best interests of the U.S.” He went on to explain “We don’t believe there is a New Anti-Semitism. We believe there is not a lot of Anti-Semitism in the U.S. or in Europe itself. And that charge is leveled at critics of Israel like us and Jimmy Carter, because it is an effective way of marginalizing and sidelining us.”

And Jimmy Carter added his vast credibility to this when in his book “Palestine: Peace or Apartheid,” he makes similar accusations about the stifling control of policymaking and discussion by the Israel lobby.

It was this unmistakable odor of anti-Semitism, and its source from within the American Establishment, that motivated the publication of my book, The Deadliest Lies, refuting their pernicious accusations. It was and remains necessary to expose and condemn this anti-Jewish assault in scholarly camouflage because, unlike the rabid and self-proclaimed haters who have no credibility with the American public, these prejudiced professors are finding a more serious hearing for their distortions, which then gain undeserved legitimacy.

Probably the best responses to these outrageous charges have come from long-time policymakers themselves. George Shultz wrote a long introduction to my book in which he cut through the fantasy world of how decisions are made as envisioned by Mearsheimer and Walt.

Similarly, people like Dennis Ross, Ned Walker, Leslie Gelb and others, long involved in the nitty gritty of U.S. Middle East policy, have made clear that there’s nothing in these assaults they can recognize as to how policy is actually made in the U.S.

For us, it is dangerous and tragic when these accusations against American Jews arise in America, in the establishment. It is particularly dangerous because not enough good people have stood up against these assaults.

Do I think it will lead to greater anti-Semitism in the U.S.? I don’t know, but I surely cannot and will not be complacent about it. I worry about these ideas circulating among college students and others. It’s my business and our history as a people to take this seriously.

In conclusion, what should we all be doing? We need to continue to work together to highlight the dangers of anti-Semitism, not only to Jews but to the well-being of democratic societies. We need to strengthen laws on hate crimes and monitoring of hate crimes.

We need to educate against hatred. We need to have leaders speak out. We need to reassure Jewish communities that they will be protected. We need to recognize that demonizing Israel has consequences. We need to oppose stereotypes of Muslims, but we also must demand that Islamic leaders speak out unequivocally against terrorism and hatred of Jews.

In the last century, the great struggles of free societies against the two totalitarian threats — Nazism and communism — were also struggles to fight against the virulent anti-Semitism of those extreme systems. So today, if the great challenge that the free world faces is that from Islamic extremism, one of its core elements is this latest totalitarian threat to the Jewish people.

We can win this struggle, but we must understand the threat. And we must work together in ways that we have not done until today. Thank you.”


One Response to Anti-Defamation League briefs Israeli Knesset on Internet Hate

  1. Where is Net-Neutrality when we need it? There is too much damn free speech going on with the Internet. Hopefully they will get into gear and censor hateful and insensitive comments that disparage certain groups of people that are above criticism.

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