The Anti-Defamation League’s newly released audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States contains good news and not-so-good news.
Overall, anti-Semitic incidents in 2013 dropped 19 percent from the year before, “marking one of the lowest levels of incidents reported by the ADL since it started keeping records in 1979,” according to a press release. However, the number of physical assaults on Jews nearly doubled; there were 31 reported in 2013, compared with 17 in 2012.
“There’s always a grain of salt,” said Seth Brysk, the director of ADL’s Central Pacific Region. “On one hand, there’s a nice drop in numbers of reported incidents. On the other, there is a significant rise in the number of assaults. That’s very troubling. We’re always less than sanguine about drops in this type of report.”
The assault data was due largely to New York City registering 22 assaults in 2013 compared to six the year before, according to the New York Daily News.
The annual report, released on April 1, tallied a total of 751 incidents across the country last year, a 19 percent drop from 2012, when the ADL reported 927 incidents of anti-Semitic violence, vandalism or harassment of Jews.
New York and California reported the largest number of incidents, with New Jersey and Florida next in line, though the numbers were down in all four states. In California, the ADL reported 143 incidents in 2013, down from 185 in 2012.
Brysk does not have separate numbers just for the Bay Area, although a release issued by his S.F.-based office cites 2013 incidents including “a South [Bay] synagogue vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti” and “‘Hitler did well’ spray-painted across a barrier along a major highway road” in Los Altos. The report also cites an incident in Los Angeles in which “five male suspects approached a Jewish victim, telling him ‘F—-ing Jews! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!’ before punching him in the throat.”
According to the report, the declines can be attributed in part to the relative quiet between Israel and the Palestinians. When violence erupts there, anti-Israel protests occur here, and those events often cross the line from legitimate criticism to hate speech.
“When those protests ascribe blame to all Jews or call for the destruction of Israel or compare Israel to Nazism, then it’s no longer a critique of Israel or policy,”â€ˆBrysk said. “It’s a way to mask hatred.”
While the 2103 statistics continued “a decade-long downward slide,” Brysk said Jews “far and away are the most singled out in terms of crimes against religious or ethnic groups.”
One major vehicle for Jewish hatred, the Internet, did not factor into the report because it is “unquantifiable.” Nevertheless, the ADL maintains a team that deals with extremism on the Internet, and also offers an online guide to help online users report anti-Semitic hate speech to entities such as Twitter, Google and Facebook.
The ADL, Brysk pointed out, also works to combat anti-Semitism by training and sensitizing law enforcement, and by giving educational courses in tolerance. For example, the ADL’s No Place for Hate initiative will be conducted at 15 schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District during the 2014-15 school year; last week, the initiative was part of the Increase the Peace Community Fair at Hercules High School.
“We like to believe that just as hate is learned it can be unlearned,” Brysk said.