Anti-Defamation League reports dramatic rise in antisemitism in U.S.

A new report released by the Anti-Defamation League reveals antisemitic incidents increased 36% in 2022, the highest level recorded since 1979. The report comes as the FBI and human rights groups warn about the growing number of hate crimes in the U.S. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League joined Geoff Bennett to discuss the alarming findings.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    A new report by the Anti-Defamation League reveals antisemitic incidents increased 36 percent in 2022, reaching the highest level recorded in history since 1979.

    The report comes as the FBI and human rights groups warn about the growing number of hate crimes in the U.S.

    Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and joins us now.

    Thank you for being with us.

    And, Jonathan, the ADL found in this report an increase in three categories. Assaults went up by 26 percent. Incidents of harassment increased 29 percent. Acts of vandalism rose by 52 percent.

    What accounts for it? And who is responsible for it?

    Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League: Well, first of all, I would just say, I'm glad we're covering this issue, but I wish we didn't have to.

    But the reality is, antisemitism is a clear and present danger right here, right now in America. And, as you pointed out, not only was '22 the highest year that we have ever seen — and we have done this for almost 45 years — this was the third time in the past four years that we broke a new record, that, literally, the number of incidents has climbed almost 500 percent over the past decade.

    So, what's behind this? I think, number one, antisemitism has been normalized and almost weaponized in the political conversation and in sort of public debates. It's now just common course to use antisemitic tropes about Great Replacement Theory, about who controls Congress, or who controls Wall Street, who is responsible for COVID, and on and on.

    In a world in which conspiracy theories are sort of the coin of the realm, antisemitism, the oldest conspiracy theory, has new life. So I think that's number one.

    I think, number two, we have to acknowledge that extremists feel emboldened. When the former president of the United States feels free to use the kind of language we wouldn't want our children to use or, to be honest, when we see hardened anti-Zionist activists on college campuses openly, aggressively and almost gleefully intimidating Jewish students, something is broken in our society.

    And, truthfully, if you look at the numbers and drill down a bit, the numbers increased dramatically, a 40-plus percent increase on college campuses, almost a 50 percent increase in antisemitic incidents at K-12 schools. Again, I think it's an indication that there's something really sick with our society.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Let's talk more about, that because I too was struck in reading this report about the 41 percent increase of antisemitic activity reported on college and university campuses.

    And doing more reading about it, what I learned was that Jewish students often say that harassment is often compounded when criticism of Israel arises. Tell me more about that.

  • Jonathan Greenblatt:

    Well, look, there's certainly nothing wrong with criticizing policies of the state of Israel. That's common course. That's what it means to live in a democracy. The ADL does that too.

    But the relentless obsession with the Jewish state, the claims that it's somehow committing genocide against Palestinians or responsible for white supremacy, if you think that a country, the only Jewish state in the world, is somehow white supremacist or somehow committing genocide, of course, you — we shouldn't be surprised then when swastikas show up on the Jewish fraternity, or when people feel it's OK to target and victimize openly Jewish students.

    So I think we have got to be able to distinguish between legitimate criticism and delegitimizing a country. That constant hackling and hassling and harassment, it's not unlike what we saw happen to Chinese American and Asian American students just a few years ago, when President Trump hammered and hammered and hammered on the Chinese virus or the Asian flu, and then Asian American people were targeted.

    The same thing happens here. It's wrong no matter who's perpetrating it.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    The ADL is recommending that elected officials aggressively denounce antisemitism, also that the federal and state governments do more to prevent the spread of antisemitism online.

    In what ways? What does that work look like?

  • Jonathan Greenblatt:

    Well, first of all, you're making the right point here, which is we need a whole-of-society strategy to deal with this. It's not just something we can wait for government to solve or hope that a teacher or principal will do it.

    Everyone needs to be involved, because antisemitism isn't just a Jewish problem, just like racism isn't just a problem of Black people, or homophobia talking about LGBTQ people. Antisemitism is everyone's problem. It's a universal concern.

    So, first and foremost, to tackle this, we do need people in public life, elected officials, policymakers, celebrities, to call out hate when it happens. But, secondly, something else you referenced, social media. I would tell you that Facebook is a super-spreader of stereotypes, and it amplifies the antisemitism and other forms of hate.

    So we really think it's long overdue for some kind of government regulation, because, from Facebook, to Twitter, to TikTok, to Instagram, the companies have proven again and again that they're incapable, incapable of regulating themselves, which means we need our elected officials to regulate them, and force them to abide by a modicum of decency, just like we'd expect from any other media company.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

    Thanks for your time.

  • Jonathan Greenblatt:

    Thank you so much.

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