(JTA) – Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States soared 86 percent in the first three months of 2017 after rising by more than one-third in 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
There has been a massive increase in harassment of American Jews, largely since November, and at least 34 incidents linked to the presidential election that month, the ADL said Monday in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents.
This year has seen preliminary reports of 541 anti-Semitic incidents through March. One reason for the jump appeared to be the bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions across the country. An Israeli-American teenager is accused of calling in most of them, and he has been charged in Israel and the United States. He is in custody in Israel.
The 2017 incidents include 380 for harassment, including the 161 bomb threats, an increase of 127 percent over the first quarter of ’16; 155 for vandalism, including three cemetery desecrations, an increase of 36 percent, and six physical assaults, a decrease of 40 percent.
The increase in anti-Semitic acts comes despite a low level of anti-Semitic attitudes among Americans. While there was a 34 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, an ADL survey earlier this month found that only 14 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, told reporters Monday that the numbers reflect growing assertiveness among a hard core of anti-Semites.
“What appears to be happening is the extremists feel emboldened and are spreading their virus,” he said, adding that prominent white supremacists “like Richard Spencer and David Duke find themselves in the headlines, and their noxious ideas started to spread.”
Greenblatt and Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said that a global wave of populism and corresponding backlash against elites is fueling anti–Semitism. Kantor added that resentment of globalization coupled with continuing economic struggles born of the 2008 recession are also contributing factors.
Greenbelt said populist demagogues have been a boon to the extreme right, as “much of their rhetoric has been normalized in the past 12 to 18 months.”
“The social contract that worked well for the past 50 years is no longer in place,” Kantor said at the press briefing on Monday. “We as citizens of the developed world believed every new generation would live better than the previous one, so it is not surprising that well-to-do European societies are dominated by fear rather than values — fear of poverty, fear of migrants, fear for their lives amid terror attacks.”
A study this month from the European Jewish Congress found that violent anti-Semitic incidents worldwide fell to 361 in 2016 from 410 in 2015, a decrease of 12 percent. Kantor attributed the decrease, which was most dramatic in Europe, to ramped-up security at Jewish institutions and more government funding for Jewish communal safety.
In 2016, the ADL report showed a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, with a 34 percent increase of incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment over the previous year. Nearly 30 percent of those incidents, or 369, occurred in November and December.
The states with the highest number of incidents were those with large Jewish populations, including California, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts.
The acts included 720 harassment and threat incidents, an increase of 41 percent over 2015; 510 vandalism incidents, an increase of 35 percent; and 36 physical assaults, a decrease of 35 percent.
Incidents on college campuses stayed mostly static after nearly doubling in 2015, but more than doubled in non-Jewish elementary, middle and high schools. The rise to 235 incidents in 2016 from 114 the previous year represented a 106 percent increase. There have been 95 incidents reported in the first quarter of this year.
The ADL numbers do not include online anti–Semitism, including a wave of anti-Semitic harrassment on Twitter. A 2016 ADL report tallied 2.6 million tweets containing anti-Semitic language between August 2015 and July 2016. Greenblatt said Monday that the anti–Semitism statistics would be “off the charts” if cyber hate were included.
“Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight. At ADL, we will use every resource available to put a stop to anti–Semitism,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “But we also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti–Semitism.”
The ADL has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents since 1979. In the past 10 years, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents peaked at 1,554 in 2006.
Separately, Tel Aviv University’s watchdog on anti–Semitism reported Sunday that the number of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide has decreased by 12 percent in 2016 despite the spike in the United Kingdom and the United States.