More Americans are buying into antisemitic bile. What does this say about our society?

In 2018 and 2019, antisemitism became a major threat to American society, with a significant increase in incidents and the horrific massacre of Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The ADL has been researching antisemitic attitudes since the 1960s, so to understand this moment, the ADL began a new study on American attitudes toward Jews.

Then the polls seemed to disagree: Only 11 percent of Americans had strong antisemitic views, one of the lowest numbers ever recorded. But this was not really contradictory.

First, we believed that while the general American public had never been anti-politician, the 11 percent who subscribed to hate sports were about 30 million adults. In a country of about 7.5 million Jews, this was a serious discovery in itself.

What seems to have changed was the willingness of some 30 million people to act on those beliefs more than ever before.

Remember the environment at the time: the rise of political polarization, the rise of hate speech on social media, and the disturbing rhetoric coming from the Trump White House. Americans with what they didn’t like it anymore, but it seemed that those who were already infected with the beliefs felt more courageous to act on them.

Unfortunately, the situation has gotten worse since then: A new ADL survey, conducted in September and October of last year, revealed a sharp deterioration in the attitudes of non-Jewish Americans toward their neighbors. they are Jewish.

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The survey found that 20 percent of people have a high level of cynicism, which is a dramatic increase from 11 percent in the previous survey and the highest number we’ve seen in years. thirty. Today, 66 million American adults believe there are six or more antisemitic categories on the ADL Index, the highest rate since 1992 and very close to the highest in the highest achieved of 29 percent in 1969.

This suggests a general trend we haven’t seen in decades. It is reflected in popular culture, the explosion of anti-Semitic incidents, and the growing lack of shame about publicly demonstrating anti-Semitism – a loss of shame that is also new.

We at the front expect such results – however the data is still amazing and profound. There is an alarming rise in antisemitic sentiment and hatred by almost every metric to levels not seen in decades.

We are talking about a large number of people who subscribe to some of the most dangerous ideas about Jews – ideas that have historically led to violence. For example, the idea of ​​Jewish sovereignty fueled horrific anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., as well as last year’s hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas.

Social media has served as a major medium for spreading this virus. It has distributed such poison without restriction to all parts of the world. Meanwhile, elected officials and political candidates of both parties have given great credence to the idea that Jews are “more loyal” to Israel than the US.

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Our research also found anti-Israel rhetoric contributing to an increase in antisemitic incidents as well. It should not surprise us that Jewish rule can cause people to be possessed by demons. Indeed, our latest poll found that 39 percent of respondents believe that Israel treats the Palestinians at least “the way the Nazis treated the Jews”—a claim that is clearly false. lies and slander.

Also, let’s not forget the shocking anti-semitism statements made by several celebrities in the past year, including music legend Kanye West, who praised the Jews for “dominating” the music industry and taking advantage of artists for profit. When a world-renowned musician like Kanye gives voice to the children of hateful – and I should note, false – antisemitic tropes, his words are amplified to his millions of followers and far and wide, reinforcing the systems. of the faith of those who were already infected with antisemitic. ideas, and involve others in the process.

It comes at a time when antisemitic incidents are at historic levels — in 2021, the ADL counted the highest number of incidents in the 40-plus years we’ve been tracking data — a shocking increase of antisemitic sentiment in America should provide yet another warning. up call that there is something wrong in society, that we have reached a dangerous level of inflection.

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Like all forms of hatred, anti-Semitism does not come from a single source and there is no magic wand we can wave to stop it. We need leaders from all walks of life to speak out against it. And more than anything, leaders need to meet the occasion by showing a willingness not only to criticize the other side’s role in increasing antisemitism, but their own.

This investigation should serve as a warning to the entire country. We need actionable strategies to deal with dissent, and for most Americans this action must begin by confronting the public and their political parties. There is no silver lining in the fight against antisemitism: it will take a different approach to dealing with this complex and ancient hatred.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “It Can Happen Here.”


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