The Anti-Defamation League’s decision to change the way they classify anti-Semitic incidents really sucked the air out of our coverage of the group’s annual report of attacks against Jews. Because they, for better or worse, are no longer classifying the painting of a swastika as an attack on Jews if it is not specifically aimed at Jews, the ADL for the first time in 30 years did not contrast the latest numbers with the previous year, figuring the comparison would be skewed.
But since the ADL isn’t changing the way it treats violent incidents against Jews, I thought it would be worth comparing 2009 and 2008 numbers in that category. Fortunately, the number of attacks on American Jews dropped substantially, down 22 percent from 37 attacks in 2008 to a still far too many 29. The fact that there was no increase in a year that saw Israel invade Gaza and the Madoff scandal explode is a good sign. At the same time, the number of attacks on other groups, especially Hispanic immigrants, seem to be on the rise. Recent statistics don’t appear to be available, but attacks on Latinos rose 40 percent between 2003 and 2007, according to the FBI, and recent horror stories, many involving fatalities, suggest no let-up.
It would be a tragedy if fewer attacks on Jews means no increase in tolerance, but only that hateful bigots have switched to a different target.