‘Hard-core" anti-Semitic attitudes have increased in the United States for the first time in 38 years, according to a new national survey released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.
The rise comes as anti-Semitic attitudes are increasing around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world and Europe, amid continuing violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The report, titled " Anti-Semitism in America 2002," found a 5 percent increase in those who hold "unquestionable" anti-Semitic views. These so-called "hard-core" anti-Semitic numbers rose to 17 percent of Americans (estimated at about 35 million people) from 12 percent in a similar 1998 ADL poll.
By contrast, a 1992 ADL poll reported a 20 percent level of hard-core views, down from the 29 percent found in ADL’s first survey in 1964.
The 2002 survey found a high percentage of staunch anti-Semitic sentiments (44 percent) among foreign-born Hispanics in the U.S.
Surprising was the finding that anti-Semitism on college campuses is "virtually nonexistent," despite major media coverage of anti-Israel activity at universities across the nation.
A contributing factor to the rising tide of anti-Semitism: Arab propaganda blaming Israel and Jews for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Much of the world "believes that Israel is responsible for 9-11," Foxman said. "It is being taught in schools in Pakistan and Jordan."
The latest national survey polled 1,000 American adults between April 26 and May 6. 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.
Respondents were grouped into three categories: "not anti-Semitic," "middle" or "most anti-Semitic, depending on how they answered a series of 11 questions called "The Anti-Semitic Index." That index was developed by the ADL in 1964.
Questions included whether respondents believe "Jews are more loyal to Israel than America" and whether "Jews have too much power in the U.S. today."
Those who agreed with six or more "negative" statements about Jews were labeled "most anti-Semitic." Some criticized the survey’s methodology, saying it was misleading.
Broken down by race in the "most anti-Semitic" category were whites at 12 percent, blacks at 35 percent, Hispanics born in the U.S. at 20 percent, and Hispanics born outside the U.S. at 44 percent.
The 2002 survey found for the first time a strong link between anti-Israel attitudes and anti-Semitism. That presents a source of concern as the mainstream Arab media and satellite news channels continue to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda in the U.S.
"Anti-Israel sentiments are used in this country to fuel, legitimize and rationalize anti- Semitism," said ADL national director Abraham Foxman.
For example, the survey noted that previous polls in 1992 and 1998 found that critical judgments about Israel did not generally foster anti-Semitic beliefs among Americans.
Even among the most anti-Semitic Americans, "who have always been more critical of the Israeli government … these negative feelings about Israel were a consequence of their anti-Semitic beliefs rather than a cause of them," the report explained.
"For the first time, attitudes toward Israel are actually fostering anti-Semitic beliefs among some Americans," the survey revealed.
The report also found that Americans believe that Jews have too much power in the U.S. Twenty percent of respondents agreed with that statement, an increase of 4 percent from a 2001 national survey and a 9 percent rise from 1998.
Among those characterized "most anti-Semitic," about 72 percent of respondents agreed with the statement.
More Americans also appear to be concerned that Jews have too much power in the business world, with 24 percent of respondents saying they do. This was a 3 percent increase from 2001 and 8 percent above 1998.
Among the more disturbing results was the consistent percentage of Americans who believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America, said John Marttila, head of the Boston-based public opinion research firm that has worked on all three ADL polls in the past decade.
From 1964 through 2002, nearly a third of Americans have consistently questioned Jewish loyalty to the U.S. The figure was 30 percent in 1964, reached a high of 35 percent in 1992, and is now 33 percent.
"It’s a simple expression of anti-Jewish feelings," Marttila said. "One of the most remarkable findings in the 40 years of ADL research on this topic (and one of the most telling indicators of anti-Jewish prejudice in the United States) has been the question of fundamental Jewish loyalty to the U.S."
For the first time, the ADL report focused on America’s growing Hispanic community. Foxman said he was surprised by the findings which showed that many Hispanics still believe that Jews killed Jesus, the basis for historic Christian anti-Semitism.
Foxman cited two factors for the high percentage of anti-Semitic views among foreign-born Hispanics: the failure of the Catholic Church to educate its flock about the 1964 Vatican teachings called Nostra Aetate, which absolves the Jews of deicide; and the failure of this insular group of Hispanics to expose themselves to more tolerant cultural values in the U.S.
Foxman said the ADL would step up its outreach to the Hispanic community, stressing that education is the only antidote in such places as Los Angeles, Miami and New York, where Jews and Hispanics live side by side.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said his group’s national survey last year was similar to the ADL levels of Hispanic anti-Semitism, but said the ADL failed to ask if Latinos believe there is an anti-Hispanic sentiment in the Jewish community.
Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, president of the Hispanic Federation of New York City, told The Jewish Week that the results did not surprise her. She attributed the high percentage of foreign-born Hispanic anti-Semitism to a lack of exposure and information about Jews.
"I would like them [the anti-Semitic numbers] not to be as high," she said. "I’d like to make better bridges."
Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said he was surprised by the findings because his group has "the most positive relations with the Hispanic community."
"I have not seen heavy-duty anti-Semitism in the Hispanic community," Miller said.
The ADL report found that anti-Semitic attitudes among African Americans, "while still high, have remained stable since 1992: hovering at 35 percent. In the 2002 survey, blacks are nearly three times more likely than whites to fall into the most anti-Semitic category," the report stated.
Rabbi Schneier agreed that there is still a problem among blacks but that relations have improved "dramatically on the leadership level. Every major civil rights organization is a friend of the Jewish people and a friend of Israel," he said.
One piece of good news in the ADL report was the extremely low level of anti-Semitism found on campus.
"While the past year has seen incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses and campus demonstrations in opposition and support of both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ADL’s first survey of college students and college faculty finds that levels of anti-Semitism among both groups are extremely low," the report said.
"Importantly, while criticism of Israel is high relative to the national population (especially among college faculty) there is no corresponding evidence of significant anti-Semitic sentiment."
However, the finding seems to contradict reports by college students at universities across the U.S. who told The Jewish Week that anti-Israel sentiments on their campuses had indeed become anti-Jewish as well.
The survey found that 35 percent of Americans fell into the "middle" category, defined as having some faintly prejudiced views but not any strident bias. Forty-eight percent of the country was deemed prejudice-free, which is down from 53 percent in 1998.
In other findings, the report stated that:
Tolerance rises as educational levels increase. "More educated Americans are much less likely to hold anti-Semitic views."
Intolerance breeds intolerance. "If a person is generally intolerant, then he or she is much more likely to hold anti-Semitic views."
Political ideology and party affiliation do not drive anti-Semitic attitudes.
Contrary to widely held belief, economic distress in the U.S. does not trigger anti-Semitic beliefs.