NEW YORK (Nov. 23)
The incidence of hate crimes in the United States may not be rising, but religion-based hate crimes overwhelmingly are directed against Jews and Jewish institutions. Those were some findings of the FBI’s Hate Crimes Statistics 2003, released Monday. The survey documents 927 anti-Jewish crimes last year — most of them classified as intimidation — comprising more than 12 percent of all hate crimes reported in America.
“In the total number of crimes under the religion category, the anti-Jewish crimes are higher than all the others — and have been each year,” FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told JTA.
This, said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, comes despite the perception that, since 9/11, anti-Muslim attacks have been in the ascendance.
“There’s a feeling that there’s a lot of Islamophobia out there,” Foxman said. “While there is, anti-Jewish hate crimes predominate.”
The 166-page report documented more than 1,300 religion-based hate incidents in 2003. Jews were by far the most frequent targets of such attacks, with anti-Muslim incidents trailing far behind at 149.
That was about the same number of anti-Islamic incidents as the previous year, though it was far fewer than the number of such crimes committed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“We knew that the numbers had stabilized, but they are higher than they were before September 11,” said James Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute. “The environment remains dangerous.”
The FBI did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Overall, the report found that hate crimes remained relatively steady between 2002 and 2003. The 7,489 total incidents last year were just 27 more than took place in 2002, the FBI said — and the 2002 figures were the lowest since 1994.
As a motivating factor for hate crimes, religion was a distant second — along with sexual orientation — behind race. While 16.4 percent of these crimes were motivated by religious animus, more than 52 percent were the result of racial prejudice, most often anti-black.
The FBI has been documenting hate crimes since 1990 under the mandate of the congressional Hate Crimes Statistics Act. A total of 11,909 U.S. law enforcement agencies contributed data to the 2003 survey, a drop from the 12,073 participating agencies the previous year. More than 5,000 U.S. police departments did not participate at all, including those in some large cities.
Because so many law enforcement agencies do not take part, Foxman said, “there’s this gnawing feeling that we’re not getting the whole picture.”
“We still haven’t made it of significant importance for all agencies responsible for law enforcement to report,” he said. The report is “really only a picture of those who cared enough, bothered enough to report.”
And while Foxman does not believe that fuller reporting would necessarily alter the percentages, “the number will be higher,” he said. “One will realize that a lot more communities and people are being touched by” hate.