The total number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States fell by 14 percent in 2012, continuing a three-year trend of incremental declines, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued July 22.
The ADL Audit reported a total of 927 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. in 2012 including assaults, vandalism and harassment, marking a 14 percent decline from the 1,080 incidents reported in 2011.
The 2012 total included 17 physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 470 cases of harassment, threats and events, and 440 cases of vandalism. The Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to ADL in 35 states and Washington, D.C.
The ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents has been conducted annually in the United States since 1979.
“It is encouraging that in the past few years we have seen a fairly consistent decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “While these numbers only provide one snapshot of anti-Semitism in America, to the extent that they serve as a barometer the decline shows that we have made progress as a society in confronting anti-Jewish hatred. Still, it is disturbing that there are so many incidents in America, and we must remain vigilant in responding to them and in encouraging law enforcement and the public to report these incidents as much as possible.”
Despite the overall decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, the complete picture is more complex. For even as anti-Semitic harassment, threats and events declined – to 470 incidents in 2012, from 731 in 2011 – other categories remained at a similar level or increased substantially.
“While we cannot point to any single explanation for the fluctuations from year to year, the declines of the past several years occur within the context of the continued proliferation of hatred online,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair. “Unlike years ago, when racists handed out pamphlets on street corners or sent them through the mail, the Internet provides racists and bigots with an outlet to reach a potential audience of millions.
“This explosion of viral hate is impossible to quantify, but it may have led to a migration of sorts where the haters and bigots are more likely to take to the Internet to express themselves anonymously, rather than acting out in a public setting,” added Mr. Curtiss-Lusher. “The danger, of course, is that these online expressions can inspire and fuel real-world violence.”
According to the ADL Audit, the most dramatic increase was reported in the anti-Semitic vandalism category, which experienced a 33 percent increase – with a total of 440 incidents reported in 2012, compared with 330 in 2011. While the majority of those incidents took place on public property or individual homes, Jewish institutions were targeted in 13 percent of the total vandalism incidents.
Moreover, physical assaults – often among the most disturbing anti-Semitic incidents because they involve person-on-person violence – remained at a similar level, with 17 incidents in 2012, compared with 19 incidents in 2011.
Continuing a consistent trend for many years, the states with the highest totals were those with large Jewish populations:
• New York State, with 248 incidents in 2012, up from 195 in 2011;
• California, with 185 incidents, down from 235;
• New Jersey, with 173 incidents, up from 144;
• Florida, with 88 incidents, down from 111;
• Massachusetts, with 38 incidents, down from 72.
• Pennsylvania, with 37 incidents, down from 38.
The annual ADL Audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions across the United States, using data reported to the League’s 30 regional offices and law enforcement across the country.
While the Audit does not include criticism of Israel or Zionism, such reports are included if they cross the line from legitimate criticism to anti-Semitism by invoking classic anti-Jewish stereotypes or inappropriate Nazi imagery and/or analogies. Public expressions of anti-Israel sentiments that demonize Jews or create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation for U.S. Jews are counted.
Such slurs were particularly present during Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s November 2012 military campaign against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
At a demonstration in Atlanta, one protester held a sign that read, “Israel, the new Nazis” while another held a sign that had a Star of David pictured with a swastika in its center. Similar offensive messages were displayed at rallies in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale.
While there has been a proliferation of anti-Semitic expression online, general anti-Jewish-expressions are not counted for the purposes of the Audit unless they target a specific individual.