Antisemitism in the United States
Antisemitism in the United States has existed for centuries. In the United States, most Jewish community relations agencies distinguish between antisemitism, measured in terms of attitudes and behaviors; and the security and status of American Jews, measured by specific incidents. Antisemitic incidents have been on a generally decreasing trend in the last century consistent with a general reduction of socially sanctioned racism in the United States, especially since World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. Cultural changes from the 1960s onward into the 21st century have caused a large shift in general attitudes such that, in recent years, most Americans surveyed express positive viewpoints regarding Jews. An ABC News report in 2007 recounted that about 6% of Americans reported some feelings of prejudice against Jews. According to surveys by the Anti-Defamation League in 2011, antisemitism is rejected by clear majorities of Americans, with 64% of them lauding Jews' cultural contributions to the nation in 2011, but still a minority holding hateful views of Jews remain, with 19% of Americans supporting the antisemitic canard that Jews co-control Wall Street. Holocaust denial has also only been a fringe phenomenon in recent years, as of April 2018, 96% of Americans are aware of the facts of the Holocaust.
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American viewpoints on Jews and antisemitism
Roots of American attitudes towards Jews and Jewish history in America
Krefetz (1985) asserts that antisemitism in the 1980s seems "rooted less in religion or contempt and more rooted in envy, jealousy and fear" of Jewish affluence, and the hidden power of "Jewish money". Historically, antisemitic attitudes and rhetoric tend to increase when the United States is faced with a serious economic crisis. Academic David Greenberg has written in Slate, "Extreme anti-communism always contained an anti-Semitic component: Radical, alien Jews, in their demonology, orchestrated the Communist conspiracy." He also has argued that, in the years following World War II, some groups of "the American right remained closely tied to the unvarnished anti-Semites of the '30s who railed against the 'Jew Deal'", a bigoted term used against the New Deal measures under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. American anti-Semites have viewed the fraudulent text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a real reference to a supposed Jewish cabal out to subvert and ultimately destroy the U.S.
The most persistent form of antisemitism has been a series of widely circulating stereotypes that construct Jews as socially, religiously, and economically unacceptable to American life. They were made to feel marginal and menacing.
Martin Marger wrote, "A set of distinct and consistent negative stereotypes, some of which can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, has been applied to Jews." David Schneder wrote, "Three large clusters of traits are part of the Jewish stereotype (Wuthnow, 1982). First, [American] Jews are seen as being powerful and manipulative. Second, they are accused of dividing their loyalties between the United States and Israel. A third set of traits concerns Jewish materialistic values, aggressiveness, clannishness."
Stereotypes for Jewish people share some of the content for Asians: perceived disloyalty, power, intelligence, and dishonesty overlap. The similarity in content between stereotypes of Jews and Asians may stem from the fact that many immigrant Jews and Asians both developed a merchant role, a role also historically held by many Indians in East Africa, where their stereotype content resembles that for Asians and Jews in the United States.
Some of the antisemitic canards cited by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) in their studies of U.S. social trends include the claims that "Jews have too much power in the business world," "Jews are more willing to use shady practices to get what they want," and "Jews always like to be at the head of things." Other issues that garner attention is the assertion of excessive Jewish influence in American cinema and news media.
Statistics of American viewpoints and analysis
Polls and studies point to a steady decrease in antisemitic attitudes, beliefs, and manifestations among the American public. A 1992 survey by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) showed that about 20% of Americans — between 30 and 40 million adults — held antisemitic views, a considerable decline from the total of 29% found in 1964. However, another survey by the same organization concerning antisemitic incidents showed that the curve has risen without interruption since 1986.
The number of Americans holding antisemitic views declined markedly six years later when another ADL study classified only 12 percent of the population—between 20 and 25 million adults, as "most antisemitic." Confirming the findings of previous surveys, both studies also found that African Americans were significantly more likely than whites to hold antisemitic views, with 34 percent of blacks classified as "most antisemitic," compared to 9 percent of whites in 1998. The 2005 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America, a national poll of 1,600 American adults conducted in March 2005, found that 14% of Americans—or nearly 35 million adults—hold views about Jews that are "unquestionably antisemitic," compared to 17% in 2002, Previous ADL surveys over the last decade had indicated that antisemitism was in decline. In 1998, the number of Americans with hardcore antisemitic beliefs had dropped to 12% from 20% in 1992.
The 2005 survey found "35 percent of foreign-born Hispanics" and 36 percent of African-Americans hold strong antisemitic beliefs, four times more than the 9 percent for whites." The 2005 Anti-Defamation League survey includes data on Hispanic attitudes, with 29% being most antisemitic (as opposed as 9% for whites and 36% for blacks), being born in the United States helped alleviate that attitude: 35% of foreign-born Hispanics and only 19% of those born in the US.
The survey findings come at a time of increased antisemitic activity in America. The 2004 ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported that antisemitic incidents reached their highest level in nine years. A total of 1,821 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2004, an increase of 17% over the 1,557 incidents reported during 2003. "What concerns us is that many of the gains we had seen in building a more tolerant and accepting America seem not to have taken hold as firmly as we had hoped," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "While there are many factors at play, the findings suggest that antisemitic beliefs endure and resonate with a substantial segment of the population, nearly 35 million people."
An ABC News report in 2007 recounted that past ABC polls across several years have tended to find that about 6% of Americans self-report prejudice against Jews as compared to about 25% being against Arab Americans and about 10% against Hispanic Americans. The report also remarked that a full 34% of Americans reported "some racist feelings" in general as a self-description.
A 2009 study entitled "Modern Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Attitudes", published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2009, tested new theoretical model of anti-Semitism among Americans in the Greater New York area with 3 experiments. The research team's theoretical model proposed that mortality salience (reminding people that they will someday die) increases anti-Semitism and that anti-Semitism is often expressed as anti-Israel attitudes. The first experiment showed that mortality salience led to higher levels of anti-Semitism and lower levels of support for Israel. The study's methodology was designed to tease out anti-Semitic attitudes that are concealed by polite people. The second experiment showed that mortality salience caused people to perceive Israel as very important, but did not cause them to perceive any other country this way. The third experiment showed that mortality salience led to a desire to punish Israel for human rights violations but not to a desire to punish Russia or India for identical human rights violations. According to the researchers, their results "suggest that Jews constitute a unique cultural threat to many people's worldviews, that anti-Semitism causes hostility to Israel, and that hostility to Israel may feed back to increase anti-Semitism." Furthermore, "those claiming that there is no connection between antisemitism and hostility toward Israel are wrong."
The 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews in America released by the ADL found that the recent world economic recession increased some antisemitic viewpoints among Americans. Abraham H. Foxman, the organization's national director, argued, "It is disturbing that with all of the strides we have made in becoming a more tolerant society, anti-Semitic beliefs continue to hold a vice-grip on a small but not insubstantial segment of the American public." Specifically, the polling found that 19% of Americans answered "probably true" to the assertion that "Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street" while 15% concurred with the related statement that Jews seem "more willing to use shady practices" in business. Nonetheless, the survey generally reported positive attitudes for most Americans, the majority of those surveyed expressed philo-Semitic sentiments such as 64% agreeing that Jews have contributed much to U.S. social culture.
A 2019 survey by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 73% of American Jews feel less secure since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Antisemitic attacks against synagogues since 2016 have contributed to this fear. The survey found that combatting antisemitism is a priority issue in domestic politics among American Jews, including millennials.
Antisemitism within the African-American community
Surveys conducted by the ADL in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 all found that the large majority of African-Americans questioned or rejected antisemitism and expressed the same kind of generally tolerant viewpoints as the rest of the Americans who were surveyed. For example, their 2009 study reported that 28% of African-Americans surveyed displayed antisemitic views while a 72% majority did not. However, those three surveys all found that negative attitudes towards Jews were stronger among African-Americans than among the general population at large.
According to earlier ADL research, going back to 1964, the trend that African-Americans are significantly more likely than white Americans to hold antisemitic beliefs across all education levels has remained over the years. Nonetheless, the percentage of the population holding negative beliefs against Jews has waned considerably in the black community during this period as well. In a 1967 New York Times Magazine article entitled "Negroes are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White," the African-American author James Baldwin sought to explain the prevalence of black antisemitism. An ADL poll from 1992 stated that 37% of African-Americans surveyed displayed antisemitism; in contrast, a poll from 2011 found that only 29% did so.
Personal backgrounds play a huge role in terms of holding prejudiced versus tolerant views. Among black Americans with no college education, 43% fell into the most antisemitic group (versus 18% for the general population) compared to that being only 27% among blacks with some college education and just 18% among blacks with a four-year college degree (versus 5% for those in the general population with a four-year college degree). That data from the ADL's 1998 polling research showed a clear pattern. Although the 1998 ADL survey found a strong correlation between education level and antisemitism among African Americans, blacks at all educational levels were still more likely than whites to accept anti-Jewish stereotypes.
Austin App, a German-American La Salle University professor of medieval English literature, is considered the first major American Holocaust denier. App wrote extensively in newspapers, periodicals, and wrote a couple books detailing his defense of Nazi Germany and Holocaust denial. App's work inspired the Institute for Historical Review, a California center founded in 1978 whose sole task is the denial of the Holocaust.
A survey done in 1994 by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) found that denial was only a tiny fringe position, with 91% of respondents agreeing with the validity of the Holocaust and only 1% saying it was possible that the holocaust had never happened.
In March 2019 hundreds of Polish nationalists protested in Foley Square in New York against the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017. Some of the protesters carried antisemitic signs, and engaged in Holocaust denial rhetoric.
There are a number of antisemitic organizations in the United States, some of them violent, that emphasize white supremacy. These include Christian Identity Churches, White Aryan Resistance, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Nazi Party, among others. Several fundamentalist churches, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, also preach antisemitic messages. The largest neo-Nazi organizations are the National Nazi Party and the National Socialist Movement. Many of these antisemitic groups shave their heads and tattoo themselves with Nazi symbolism such as swastikas, SS, and "Heil Hitler". Antisemitic groups march and preach antisemitic messages throughout America.
Nation of Islam
A number of Jewish organizations, Christian organizations, Muslim organizations, and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be antisemitic. Specifically, they claim that the Nation of Islam has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges that NOI Health Minister, Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting blacks with the AIDS virus.
In December 2012, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put the NOI leader Louis Farrakhan on its list of the ten most prominent antisemites in the world. He was the only American to make the list. The organization cited statements that he had made in October of that year claiming that "Jews control the media" and "Jews are the most violent of people".
The Nation of Islam has repeatedly denied charges of antisemitism, and leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, "The ADL ... uses the term 'anti-Semitism' to stifle all criticism of Zionism and the Zionist policies of the State of Israel and also to stifle all legitimate criticism of the errant behavior of some Jewish people toward the non-Jewish population of the earth."
In recent years some scholars have advanced the concept of New antisemitism, coming simultaneously from the Far Left, the far right, and radical Islam, which tends to focus on opposition to the creation of a Jewish homeland in the State of Israel, and argue that the language of Anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are used to attack the Jews more broadly In that view, the proponents of the new concept believe that criticisms of Israel and Zionism are often disproportionate in degree and unique in kind, and attribute this to antisemitism.
In the context of the "Global War on Terrorism" there have been statements by both the South Carolina Democrat Senator Ernest Hollings and the Republican populist columnist Pat Buchanan that suggest that the George W. Bush administration went to war in order to win Israel supporters. During 2004, a number of prominent public figures accused Jewish members of the Bush administration of tricking America into war against Saddam Hussein to help Israel. Hollings claimed that the US action against Saddam was undertaken "to secure Israel." Buchanan said a "cabal" had managed "to snare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests." Hollings wrote an editorial in the May 6, 2004 Charleston Post and Courier, where he argued that Bush invaded Iraq possibly because "spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats."
Noted critics of Israel, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, question the extent of new antisemitism in the United States. Chomsky wrote Necessary Illusions that the Anti-Defamation League casts any question of pro-Israeli policy as antisemitism, conflating and muddling issues as even Zionists receive the allegation. Finkelstein stated that supposed "new antisemitism" is a preposterous concept advanced by the ADL to combat critics of Israeli policy.
Antisemitism on college campuses
Many Jewish intellectuals fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s after the rise of Hitler to power arrived in the United States. There, they hoped to continue their academic careers, but barring a scant few, they found little acceptance in elite institutions in Depression-era America with its undercurrent of antisemitism, and instead found work in historically black colleges and universities in the American South.
On April 3, 2006, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced its finding that incidents of antisemitism are a "serious problem" on college campuses throughout the United States. The Commission recommended that the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights protect college students from antisemitism through vigorous enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and further recommended that Congress clarify that Title VI applies to discrimination against Jewish students.
In February 2015, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and Trinity College presenting results from a national survey of American Jewish college students. The survey had a 10-12% response rate and does not claim to be representative. The report showed that 54% of the 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide who took part in the online survey reported having experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the Spring semester of the last academic year.
A 2017 report from Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute indicated that most Jewish students never experience anti-Jewish remarks or physical attacks. The study, "Limits to Hostility," notes that though often reported in the news, actual antisemitic hostility remains rare on most campuses and seldom encountered by Jewish students. The study attempts to document student experience at the campus level, adding more detailed information to national-level surveys like the 2015 Brandeis and Trinity College Anti-semitism report.:5 The report summary highlights that, though antisemitism does exist on campus, "Jewish students do not think their campus is hostile to Jews" across the campuses surveyed.
The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students provided a snapshot of the types, context, and location of anti-Semitism as experienced by a large national sample of Jewish students at university and four-year college campuses. Inside Higher Ed focused on the more surprising findings of the report, like the fact high rates of anti-Semitism also were reported at institutions regardless of location or type of institution, that the data from the survey suggest that discrimination occurs in low-level, everyday interpersonal activities, and that Jewish students feel their reports of anti-Semitism are largely ignored by the administration. However, not all reception was positive, with The Forward arguing that the study documented only a snapshot in time rather than a trend, that it did not have a representative sample of Jewish college students and that it was flawed because it allowed students to define anti-Semitism (leaving the term open to interpretation).
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published in April 2014 an audit of antisemitic incidents occurring the previous year, with the results finding a decline of 19% for 2013 as part of an about a decade-long slide in attacks. 751 incidents were reported across the U.S., made up of 31 physical assaults, 315 incidents of vandalism, and 405 cases of harassment.
In April 2015, ADL published its 2014 audit of antisemitic incidents. According to it, 912 such incidents took place across the U.S. during 2014. This represented a 21% rise from the year before. 513 incidents were classified as "[h]arassments, threats and events". 35% of the vandalism incidents occurred in public areas. A review of the results showed that during operation Protective Edge there was a significant increase in the number of antisemitic incidents, compared to the rest of the year. As usual, the highest totals of antisemitic incidents were found in states where there is a large Jewish population: New York State – 231 incidents, California – 184 incidents, New Jersey – 107 incidents, Florida – 70 incidents. In all these states, more antisemitic incidents were counted in 2014 than in the previous year.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) organizes Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) designed to collect and evaluate statistics of offenses committed in the U.S. For 2014, 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes were listed, of which 56.8% were motivated by offenders' anti-Jewish biases. 15,494 law enforcement agencies contributed to the UCR analysis.
On Saturday, October 27, 2018, an antisemitic shooter murdered 11 Jewish people in an attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during Shabbat services. It was the deadliest antisemitic act committed in US history. Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City rose sharply in 2018.
NYPD reported a 75% increase in swastika graffiti between 2016 and 2018, with an uptick observed after the Pittsburgh shooting. Out of 189 hate crimes in New York City in 2018, 150 featured swastikas. On February 1 2019 graffiti that read "fucking Jews" was found on the wall of a synagogue in LA.
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