Antisemitism in the United States
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Antisemitism in the United States has been a problem for Jewish Americans and other Americans for centuries, although acts of Jewish persecution in the U.S. has lacked the extent and severity of its counterpart in Asia and Europe, where Jews endured pogroms and other massive acts of violence culminating in the Holocaust. Jewish Americans have flourished since colonial times in what later became the U.S, which before the Second World War had a general history of racism directed to non-Christian, non-northwest European groups. While today the U.S. has the second-largest Jewish community in the world, before the late 19th and early 20th century they were a much smaller minority. Moreover, antisemitic occurrence has been on a generally decreasing trend in the last century consistent with a general reduction of socially sanctioned racism in the United States, especially since World War II and the Civil Rights Movement.
As racism in general in the U.S. persists, so does antisemitism. In the United States, most Jewish community relations agencies draw a distinction between antisemitism which is measured in terms of attitudes and behaviors and the security and status of American Jews which is measured by specific incidents. An ABC News report in 2007 recounted that about 34% of Americans reported "some racist feelings" in general as a self-description. According to surveys by the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism is rejected by clear majorities of Americans, with 64% of them lauding Jews' cultural contributions to the nation in 2011, but a minority holding hateful views of Jews remain, with 19% of Americans supporting the antisemitic canard that Jews co-control Wall Street in 2011. As well, Holocaust denial in recent years has been only a fringe phenomenon with less than ten percent of Americans expressing either opposition or ignorance to the historical record.
- 1 American viewpoints on Jews and antisemitism
- 2 Antisemitic incidents
- 3 Holocaust denial in the United States
- 4 Antisemitic organizations
- 5 African-American community
- 6 Avowed racists
- 7 College campuses
- 8 New antisemitism
- 9 Hate crimes against Jews in the U.S.
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
American viewpoints on Jews and antisemitism
Roots of American attitudes towards Jews
Krefetz (1985) asserts that antisemitism of the eighties seems "rooted less in religion or contempt and more in envy, jealously and fear" of Jewish affluence, and of the hidden power of "Jewish money". Historically, antisemitic attitudes and rhetoric tend to increase when the United States is faced with a serious economic crisis.
The most persistent form of antisemitism has been a series of widely circulating stereotypes that constructed Jews as socially, religiously, and economically unacceptable to American life. They were made to feel marginal and menacing.
Martin Marger writes "A set of distinct and consistent negative stereotypes, some of which can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, has been applied to Jews." David Schneder writes "Three large clusters of traits are part of the Jewish stereotype (Wuthnow, 1982). First, [American] Jews are seen as being powerful and manipulative. Second, they are accused of dividing their loyalties between the United States and Israel. A third set of traits concerns Jewish materialistic values, aggressiveness, clannishness."
Statistics of American viewpoints
Polls and studies over the past two decades point to a steady decrease in antisemitic attitudes, beliefs, and manifestations among the American public. A 1992 survey by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith showed that 20 percent of Americans—between 30 to 40 million adults—held antisemitic views, as against 29 percent in 1964. However, another survey by the same organization concerning antisemitic incidents shows that the curve has risen without interruption since 1986.
The number of Americans holding antisemitic views declined markedly six years later when another ADL study classified only 12 percent of the population—between 20 to 25 million adults—as "most antisemitic." Confirming the findings of previous surveys, both studies also found that African Americans were significantly more likely than whites to hold antisemitic views, with 34 percent of blacks classified as "most antisemitic," compared to 9 percent of whites in 1998. The 2005 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America, a national poll of 1,600 American adults conducted in March 2005, found that 14% of Americans - or nearly 35 million adults - hold views about Jews that are "unquestionably antisemitic," compared to 17% in 2002, Previous ADL surveys over the last decade had indicated that antisemitism was in decline. In 1998, the number of Americans with hardcore antisemitic beliefs had dropped to 12% from 20% in 1992.
"What concerns us is that many of the gains we had seen in building a more tolerant and accepting America seem not to have taken hold as firmly as we had hoped," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "While there are many factors at play, the findings suggest that antisemitic beliefs endure and resonate with a substantial segment of the population, nearly 35 million people."
The 2005 Anti-Defamation League survey includes data on Hispanic attitudes, with 29% being most antisemitic (vs. 9% for whites and 36% for blacks); being born in the United States helped alleviate this attitude: 35% of foreign-born Hispanics, but only 19% of those born in the US.
The survey findings come at a time of increased antisemitic activity in America. The 2004 ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported that antisemitic incidents reached their highest level in nine years. A total of 1,821 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2004, an increase of 17 percent over the 1,557 incidents reported during 2003.
A 2009 study entitled "Modern Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Attitudes", published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2009, tested new theoretical model of anti-Semitism among Americans in the Greater New York area with 3 experiments. The research team's theoretical model proposed that mortality salience (reminding people that they will someday die) increases anti-Semitism and that anti-Semitism is often expressed as anti-Israel attitudes. The first experiment showed that mortality salience led to higher levels of anti-Semitism and lower levels of support for Israel. The study’s methodology was designed to tease out anti-Semitic attitudes that are concealed by polite people . The second experiment showed that mortality salience caused people to perceive Israel as very important, but did not cause them to perceive any other country this way. The third experiment showed that mortality salience led to a desire to punish Israel for human rights violations but not to a desire to punish Russia or India for identical human rights violations. According to the researchers, their results “suggest that Jews constitute a unique cultural threat to many people’s worldviews, that anti-Semitism causes hostility to Israel, and that hostility to Israel may feed back to increase anti-Semitism.” Furthermore, "those claiming that there is no connection between antisemitism and hostility toward Israel are wrong."
The 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews in America, released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), found that the recent world economic recession increased some antisemitic viewpoints among Americans. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, argued, "It is disturbing that with all of the strides we have made in becoming a more tolerant society, anti-Semitic beliefs continue to hold a vice-grip on a small but not insubstantial segment of the American public." Specifically, the polling found that 19% of Americans answered "probably true" to the assertion that "Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street" while 15% concurred with the related statement that Jews seem "more willing to use shady practices" in business. Most Americans expressed philo-Semitic sentiments, with 64% of those surveyed agreeing that Jews have contributed much to U.S. social culture.
An ABC News report in 2007 recounted that past ABC polls across several years have tended to find that about 6% of Americans self-report prejudice against Jews as compared to about 25% being against Arab Americans and about 10% against Hispanic Americans. The report also remarked that a full 34% of Americans reported "some racist feelings" in general as a self-description.
However, another survey by the Anti-Defamation League showed that the number of antisemitic incidents has risen continuously since 1986 with only one decline in 1992. One explanation for the seeming contradiction between the two sets of data is, on the one hand, an increase in the rate of general violence in the United States and the emergence of groups such as extremist skinheads, and, on the other hand, an intensification of anti-Jewish hostility among African Americans.
Escalating hate crimes targeting Jews and other minority groups prompted passage of the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act in 1990 and spurred 41 state legislatures, as of 1998, to enact a patchwork of laws providing for police training about bias crimes, stiffer jail terms for perpetrators, and mandatory hate-crimes data collection by law enforcement. From 1979 to 1989 the ADL recorded more than 9,617 antisemitic incidents, including 6,400 cases of vandalism, bombings and attempted bombings, arsons and attempted arsons, and cemetery desecrations. The tally peaked at 2,066 in 1994, but declined over the next three years, consistent with the downward trend in national crime statistics. According to 1996 Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, of 8,759 hate crimes recorded that year, 13 percent were antisemitic.
Holocaust denial in the United States
One of the new forms of antisemitism is the denial of the Holocaust by revisionist historians and neo-Nazis. Holocaust denial serves as a powerful conspiracy theory uniting otherwise disparate fringe groups (e.g., Liberty Lobby, various Klan factions, neo-Nazis, the Aryan Nations and other Identity groups, racist skinheads, etc.).
General lack of historical knowledge of the treatment of Jews in Europe before and after World War II and the Holocaust provides a possible fertile ground for Holocaust denial. Lack of education among many Americans also plays a role. However, a survey done in 1994 by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) found that denial was only a tiny fringe position, with 91% of respondents agreeing with the validity of the Holocaust.
There are a number of antisemitic organizations in the United States, some of them violent, that emphasize Aryan white supremacy. These include the Christian Identity Churches, the Aryan-White Resistance, the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazis, and gangs of skinheads. Several fundamentalist churches, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, also preach antisemitic messages. The biggest Neo Nazis are the National Nazi Party, and the National Socialist Movement. Many of these antisemitic groups shave their heads and tattoo themselves with Nazi signs like swastikas, SS, and "Heil Hitler". Antisemitic groups march and preach antisemitic messages all over America.
The 1998 ADL survey also found a correlation between antisemitism and sympathy for right-wing antigovernment groups. Although antisemitism has declined over the past 35 years, the activities of some antisemitic groups have intensified, possibly a result of increasing marginalization of antisemitic viewpoints. From 1974 to 1979, membership in the Ku Klux Klan rose from a historic all-time low of 1,500 to 11,500, and throughout the 1980s various Klan factions allied themselves with more explicitly neo-Nazi groups like the Aryan Nations (see neo-Nazi movements).
The founding (1979) of the California-based Institute for Holocaust Review helped popularize the antisemitic notion that the Holocaust was a hoax. During the mid-1980s, groups like the Posse Comitatus (organization) espoused antisemitic rhetoric. From 1986 to 1991 the numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads grew tenfold, reaching approximately 3,500 distributed among more than 35 cities. And the mid-1990s saw the formation of paramilitary citizens' "militias" (see militia movement), many of which were accused of circulating antisemitic conspiracy theories and preaching religious bigotry.
Organized hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazi organizations remain unremitting sources of anti-Jewish hostility and significant factors in assessing the intensity of antisemitism in America today.
There are instances in which hate group members and associates engage in violence or vandalism to fulfill the aims of the hate groups themselves. Relative to the total number of incidents committed in America, such examples are rare. In addition, there is the potential for hate group propaganda-particularly the most vicious and incendiary examples-to inspire unaffiliated individuals to commit acts of terror in pursuit of their own aims. Such acts are also relatively rare. However, the propaganda produced by the myriad of American hate groups can potentially affect the impressionable young, the disaffected, and those looking for a scapegoat to explain away their problems. Thus, a culture of hate, shielded by First Amendment protections, exists on the fringes of American society.
In spite of the strong Jewish participation in the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, the Black power movement introduced considerable friction into African American-Jewish relations, especially when a native form of Islam attracted African Americans in search of an identity, while part of the Muslim world was at war with the Jewish state.
In a 1967 New York Times Magazine article entitled "Negroes are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White," the African-American author James Baldwin sought to explain the prevalence of black antisemitism. Recent data, however, suggest that the phenomenon is more complex and not necessarily that well understood. As with the broader public, the overall level of antisemitism among blacks has declined over the last three decades, but the decline has been slower among blacks than among whites. And, although the 1998 ADL survey found a strong correlation between education level and antisemitism among African Americans, blacks at all education levels were still more likely than whites to accept anti-Jewish stereotypes. These have figured prominently in the rhetoric of some black leaders, most notably the influential Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
According to Anti-Defamation League surveys begun in 1964, African Americans are significantly more likely than white Americans to hold antisemitic beliefs, black Americans of all education levels are significantly more likely than whites of the same education level to be antisemitic. In the 1998 survey, blacks (34%) were nearly four times as likely as whites (9%) to fall into the most antisemitic category (those agreeing with at least 6 of 11 statements that were potentially or clearly antisemitic). Among blacks with no college education, 43% fell into the most antisemitic group (vs. 18% for the general population), which fell to 27% among blacks with some college education, and 18% among blacks with a four-year college degree (vs. 5% for the general population).
Nation of Islam
A number of Jewish organizations, Christian organizations, Muslim organizations, and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be antisemitic[who?]. Specifically, they claim that the Nation Of Islam has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African slave trade. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges that NOI Health Minister, Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting Blacks with the AIDS virus, an allegation that Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad has denied.
The Nation of Islam has repeatedly denied charges of antisemitism, and NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, "The ADL... uses the term 'anti-Semitism' to stifle all criticism of Zionism and the Zionist policies of the State of Israel and also to stifle all legitimate criticism of the errant behavior of some Jewish people toward the non-Jewish population of the earth."
One politician who has promoted himself by pandering to the antisemitic feelings of the public is David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan member who was elected to the Louisiana state legislature in 1989 and, in 1992, offered his candidacy for the governorship of Louisiana and the Presidency of the United States. In the gubernatorial elections, Duke obtained a majority of the white vote in Louisiana but a minority of the total vote. In the 1992 Republican presidential primaries, he performed poorly and quickly dropped out of the race.
Although his prejudices may be more explicit than most, Duke is not the only American politician to display antisemitic sentiments. Former President Richard Nixon believed that "[m]ost Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.” Nixon told his advisor Charles Colson that "[t]he Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.” He also suggested that Jews as a group were unwilling to serve in the military and more likely to desert: “I didn’t notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don’t know how the hell they avoid it,” he said, adding: “If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters.” "He and his aides seem to make a distinction between Israeli Jews, whom Nixon admired, and American Jews."
On April 3, 2006, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced its finding that incidents of antisemitism are a "serious problem" on college campuses throughout the United States. The Commission recommended that the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights protect college students from antisemitism through vigorous enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and further recommended that Congress clarify that Title VI applies to discrimination against Jewish students. According to Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, political activity focused on the Middle East on American college campuses "is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state."
In recent years some scholars have advanced the concept of New antisemitism, coming simultaneously from the Far Left, the far right, and radical Islam, which tends to focus on opposition to the creation of a Jewish homeland in the State of Israel, and argue that the language of Anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are used to attack the Jews more broadly. In this view, the proponents of the new concept believe that criticisms of Israel and Zionism are often disproportionate in degree and unique in kind, and attribute this to antisemitism.
In the context of the "Global War on Terrorism" there have been statements by both the Democrat Ernest Hollings and the Republican Pat Buchanan that suggest that the George W. Bush administration went to war in order to win Jewish supporters. Some note these statements echo Charles Lindbergh’s 1941 claim before the US entered World War II that a Jewish minority was pushing America into a war against its interests. During 2004, a number of prominent public figures accused Jewish members of the Bush administration of tricking America into war against Saddam Hussein to help Israel. U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings (D-South Carolina) claimed that the US action against Saddam was undertaken 'to secure Israel.' Television talk show host Pat Buchanan said a 'cabal' had managed 'to snare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests.'"  Hollings wrote an editorial in the May 6, 2004 Charleston Post and Courier, where he argued that Bush invaded Iraq possibly because "spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats."
Criticism of "new antisemitism" findings in the United States
Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, considers the concept "new antisemitism" to be false, since it is in fact old antisemitism that remains latent and recurs whenever it is triggered. In his view, the current trigger is the Israeli situation, and if a compromise were achieved there antisemitism would decline but not disappear.
Noted critics of Israel, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein question the extent of new antisemitism in the United States. Chomsky has stated that the Anti-Defamation League casts any question of pro-Israeli policy as antisemitism; Finkelstein stated supposed "new antisemitism" is a preposterous concept advanced by the ADL to combat critics of Israeli policy.
Hate crimes against Jews in the U.S.
Escalating hate crimes targeting Jews and other minority groups prompted passage of the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990 and spurred 41 state legislatures, as of 1998, to enact a patchwork of laws providing for police training about bias crimes, stiffer jail terms for perpetrators, and mandatory hate-crimes data collection by law enforcement. From 1979 to 1989 the ADL recorded more than 9,617 antisemitic incidents, including 6,400 cases of vandalism, bombings and attempted bombings, arsons and attempted arsons, and cemetery desecrations. The tally peaked at 2,066 in 1994, but declined over the next three years, consistent with the downward trend in national crime statistics. According to 1996 Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, of 8,759 hate crimes recorded that year, 13 percent were antisemitic.
Data from 2002 to 2008 showed a fluctuating but mostly steady amount of antisemitic hate crimes in the U.S. For example, 1,039 such incidents occurred in 2002 compared to 1,027 in 2006 and 1,055 in 2008.[verification needed]
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