ADL’s blurred snapshot of anti-Semitism

On its face, the conclusion reached in the ADL’s worldwide survey of anti-Semitism is chilling:  One-quarter of our species is anti-Semitic — 26 percent to be precise, or 1.09 billion adults, according to the “ADL Global 100,” released last week.

ADL calls the report  a snapshot of the moment — a baseline against which future surveys can be compared. But is it important to know how many people think Jews have too much power in the business world? (Thirty-five percent of those surveyed believed this stereotype was “probably true.”) Obviously, New York philanthropist Leonard Stern, who funded the study, thought so. The ADL declined to say how much the survey cost.

There is no question that the findings are food for thought, even if we don’t take them as the last word on anti-Semitism in our world. Consider the following:

Some 70 percent of those deemed anti-Semitic never met a Jew. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they had never heard of the Holocaust. Of those who had, roughly one-third said it is either a myth or greatly exaggerated. And according to 41 percent of those surveyed, it was “probably true” that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.”

The headline-grabbing findings are a mixed bag. That Laos, a hermitic communist dictatorship, is the least anti-Semitic place on earth, provides little comfort. But the finding that Greece is the most anti-Semitic place in Western Europe apparently got the Greek government to sit up and take notice. And we hope that country will figure out a way to address  the problem.

And then there are the parts of the report that seem totally  out of focus. The survey found Sweden to be one of the least anti-Semitic countries anywhere, at a reported 4 percent. Yet, in the city of Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest, there was a record increase last year in documented anti-Semitic attacks on its small Jewish community.

The overwhelming anti-Semitism in the Middle East might not come as a surprise.  (Iran had the lowest level with 56 percent; the West Bank and Gaza the highest, with 93 percent.) But the study leaves open the question of the relationship between enmity against Israel in the Middle East and belief in anti-Semitic stereotypes.

As a snapshot, the ADL report is like a picture taken from a satellite. But even if it gives an unclear  image of anti-Semitism around the globe, the report does make clear that anti-Semitic stereotypes endure. It seems that the fertile soil for anti-Semitism is humanity itself.

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