Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Anti-semitism on Rise After 9/11, According to New Survey by ADL

June 12, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A new Anti-Defamation League survey shows an increase in American anti- Semitism in the wake of the devastating terror attacks of September 11th.

“We are greatly concerned that many of the gains we had seen in building a more tolerant and accepting America have not taken hold as firmly as we had hoped, and to some degree been reversed,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director.

The survey by ADL and Marttila Communications, called “Anti-Semitism in America: 2002,” is based on interviews with 1,000 Americans of different ethnic, religious, age and regional backgrounds. The margin of error was 3 percent.

The interviews were held in late April and early May, just after the Israeli army’s controversial incursion into the Jenin refugee camp.

The ADL has been conducting surveys to measure anti-Semitism for nearly 40 years.

The survey inserts 10 anti-Semitic questions into a group of neutral questions about Jews, and respondents are broken down into three groups according to their level of anti-Semitism.

To be considered “strongly” anti-Semitic one must answer “true” to at least six of the anti-Semitic questions.

John Marttila, president of Marttila Communications, argued that the anti-Semitic index made it “tough to choose six without showing strong anti-Semitic tendencies.”

Marttila also said the new survey was a “more refined, rigorous analysis” than one taken in August 2001, which was never released due to the 9/11 attacks.

The new survey combined the 1,000 interviews with smaller “over-surveys” of African-Americans and Hispanic- Americans, as well as smaller, concentrated surveys among college students and professors.

Among the survey’s most dramatic findings:

17 percent of respondents were “strongly” anti-Semitic, a 5 percent increase from 1998, while 48 percent appeared to hold no prejudice at all, a 5 percent decrease from 1998;

51 percent of respondents believed the Bush administration had tilted too far in favor of Israel;

35 percent of Hispanic-American respondents were strongly anti-Semitic. Furthermore, 44 percent of foreign- born Hispanic-American respondents showed strong anti-Semitic beliefs, compared to only 20 percent of Hispanic- Americans born in America, a new statistic in this year’s survey;

35 percent of African-American respondents had strongly anti-Semitic views, a number consistent with years past.

Only 3 percent of respondents among U.S. college and university students were strongly anti-Semitic, while just 5 percent of professors were strongly anti-Semitic.

In May 2002, 626 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the ADL, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

20 percent of respondents agreed that “Jews have too much power in the U.S. today,” while 24 percent concurred with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the business world.” The figures represented increases of 4 and 3 percent, respectively, from 2001. Among those considered “strongly” anti-Semitic, 72 percent believed Jews wield too much power in the United States.

The figures seem to indicate a shift in anti-Semitic sentiment in America, showing that hatred of Jews today concentrates more on perceptions of Jewish power and political influence rather than the social stereotypes more prevalent in older surveys.

“Political anti-Semitism is more sinister” than social anti-Semitism, “and these numbers are very significant since September 11th,” Foxman said.

“If you see the Jewish lobby and nothing else, if you believe that Jewish influence controls American legislation and foreign policy, then you believe in the most classical anti-Semitism,” he said.

Foxman pointed to ignorance in the media, saying that “the issue is that people are being parachuted in without any knowledge” of issues — both in the Middle East and on other issues of Jewish concern — due to time constraints and a pressing need for coverage.

He also indicated that the “global village” of the Internet was enabling hate to “move very quickly.”

Foxman also responded to a recent poll, which found that fully a third of Arab-Americans believe Arabs were not responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Much of the world “believes that Israel is responsible for 9/11. It is being taught in schools in Pakistan and Jordan,” Foxman said.

The report’s exploration of anti-Semitic attitudes among Hispanic-Americans, specifically those born outside the United States, marks a departure from previous surveys.

A Marttila Communications representative explained that an extra 180 Hispanics were surveyed in order to provide more detailed and accurate information on their rising American population.

Hispanic-Americans now represent 12 percent of the U.S. population. According to the survey, 54 percent of foreign-born Hispanic-Americans receive their news from Spanish-language sources, while a quarter of foreign- born Hispanics never attended high school.

“We have to reach out,” Foxman said. The ADL “has Spanish language as well as church facilitators to deal with this challenge.”

Foxman also said that education is the only known “antidote” for anti-Semitism, citing extremely low levels of intolerance among those with high educational levels.

However, Jewish activists working in the field question the accuracy of the survey’s findings on anti-Semitism among college students and educators.

One activist argued that questions discriminated against the less educated, while leaving little room for the muted anti-Semitism often found in academia under the guise of opposition to Israel, they said.

Others took issue with the ADL’s findings in the Hispanic community.

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding conducted a survey of 500 Hispanic-Americans and 500 Jewish- Americans in March 2001. The foundation’s president, Rabbi Marc Schneier, called the ADL findings “remiss.”

According to the foundation’s poll last year, 35 percent of Hispanic-Americans agree there is anti-Semitism in their community, yet on certain issues — such as Holocaust education — they are quite sympathetic to Jewish interests, the foundation poll found.

While Foxman said ADL poll results have shown the Jewish community to be the most tolerant, the foundation’s poll found that 36 percent of Hispanic-Americans feel there is “anti-Latino” sentiment among Jews.

“There is a perception of an anti-Latino bias among Latin-Americans, and coalition building is a two way street,” Schneier said.

But Schneier did acknowledge that anti-Israel bias in the media may have contributed to a rise in anti-Semitic feeling in recent months.

Outside of language barriers and education, Foxman also speculated that the high degree of anti-Semitism among foreign-born Hispanics could be related to Christian religious teaching in Latin America that blames Jews for the death of Jesus.

Though the Vatican disavowed that teaching in 1965, word has trickled down slowly to congregations in some parts of the world. In addition, in Latin America the Vatican has focused less on education than on fundamental subsistence needs, Foxman explained.

Foxman said the ADL plans to meet with Hispanic leaders. Yet he expressed some pessimism about their anticipated reaction, explaining that efforts to reach out to the African-American community after past polls were dismissed with attacks on the accuracy of ADL’s polling.

Schneier also debated the consistency of African-American anti-Semitic sentiment, “Every major civil rights organization’s head is a friend of Jews and of Israel, now of course this must trickle down to the masses, but it is something that ADL poll doesn’t allow for.”

Foxman also acknowledged that he hoped the oldest Jewish and Hispanic communities, in Miami, could act as “the first ambassadors” on the issue.

Recommended from JTA