NEW YORK (Jan. 4)
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in 1981 was more than double 1980, according to an annual national survey by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. It was the third straight year that the incidents more than doubled.
In making the survey findings public, the ADL also noted that perpetrators are facing new and stermer measures from legislatures and law enforcement authorities.
The ADL recorded 974 incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism in 1981 in 31 states and the District of Columbia. This compares with 377 such episodes in 28 states and the nation’s capital recorded during 1980.
In addition to the 974, the survey also disclosed a significant increase in the number of bodily assaults and mail or telephone threats against Jews — 350 as compared with 112 in 1980.
CITES THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE
In releasing the results, Nathan Perlmutter, ADL’s national director, commented: “While on its face the statistical increase is profoundly disturbing, the real significance of the phenomenon should not be reduced to a ratio. Cold statistics, whether large or small, are not of primary relevance to individual victims. There is no measure for the shock of confronting a swastika smeared on one’s home or house of worship, nor for the fear and indignity suffered when anti-Semitic threats are received over a telephone.”
He said that New York City, demonstrating sensitivity to such trauma, requires borough police commanders personally to visit all victims of “bias crimes.”
Perlmutter said new and useful steps are being taken in response to the increase in “bias crimes.” Eight states — Arizona, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington–enacted laws during 1981 imposing stiffer penalties on persons convicted of religious or racial vandalism. The ADL, he added has drafted and proposed its own “model” statute for introduction in state legislatures nationwide.
A CONTINUING UPWARD TREND
The latest ADL audit figures show a continuing upward trend in the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents, which have steadily risen since 129 were reported in 1979. New York, for the second straight year, led the nation with 326 reported incidents in 1981, followed by California, with 150, New Jersey with 94, and Massachusetts with 59.
Maryland, which recorded only one incident in its 1980 survey, had 51 incidents during 1981. Other states with a significant number of occurrences were Pennsylvania (50), Michigan (29), Illinois (28), Minnesota (26), Virginia (25) and Florida (24).
The audit, prepared by ADL’s Civil Rights Division and based on reports from the agency’s 27 regional offices around the country, revealed that less than three percent of the 974 incidents involved arson or firebombings; most were swastika daubings, anti-Jewish graffiti and similar acts.
These were in addition to the 350 incidents involving bodily assaults of an anti-Semitic nature against Jews, Jew-baiting harassments or threats by phone or mail directed at individual Jews or Jewish institutions. This class of incident was first monitored last year.
INCIDENTS MUST BE SEEN IN CONTEXT
Perlmutter said that some of the increase in the audit figures resulted from better reporting by Jewish communities and greater attention by police. But he observed that evidence exists revealing that many anti-Semitic incidents go unreported. He asserted that “whatever the number, the incidents must not be seen in isolation but rather in the context of other threats to the Jewish community both here and abroad and in the context of rising levels of violence against persons and property that increasingly characterize our times.”
The ADL survey disclosed that 73 persons were arrested in connection with the anti-Semitic vandalism, with 62 — 85 percent — of them aged 20 or under. Six of the II adults arrested were connected to an aborted plot by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis to bomb a synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee. That episode and the arrest of a terror suspect in Indiana, who claimed membership in the Ku Klux Klan, were the only reported episodes linked to organized hate groups.
Perlmutter observed that the eight states which enacted the new laws dealing with the problem of religiously motivated vandalism had experienced two-thirds of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the audit. Some of these laws call for increased criminal penalties for those found guilty of vandalizing houses of worship or cemeteries. Examples include the measures enacted by Arizona and California.
Other laws require proof of criminal intent to harass, intimidate or terrorize an individual on the basis of race, religion or national origin before a conviction can be obtained. Examples of such measures are those adopted in New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS FOR JEWS
“The new laws demonstrate an effort to control only one of the several threats to Jewish security,” Perlmutter declared, “but there are other problems which have serious implications for Jews.” Among these he listed the following:
* The disturbingly high percentage of Americans who all too readily accept anti-Semitic stereotypes.
* The injection of anti-Semitism into debates on U.S. foreign policy.
* The organized anti-Semitic hate movements in the United States.
* The global anti-Semitic propaganda campaign conducted by the Soviet Union and various Arab regimes, exemplified by a number of United Nations resolutions, including the one equating Zionism with racism.
* The continuing peril confronting the people of Israel, with whose destiny the fate of Jews everywhere is inextricably linked.