Anti-Semitic acts fall in U.S., rise elsewhere in world

WASHINGTON — While other parts of the world saw a spike in anti-Semitism last year, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States declined.

There were 1,432 incidents last year in 40 states and the District of Columbia, reflecting an 11 percent decline from last year, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. The decline is partly due to tighter security at Jewish institutions, the ADL said.

New York and California both saw significant drops in the number of incidents.

Nationwide, number of acts of anti-Semitic vandalism fell from 729 to 555, the lowest in 20 years.

Other findings of the report include:

*There were 877 acts of anti-Semitic harassment, including verbal intimidation, threats and physical assaults.

*Sixty-one percent of anti-Jewish incidents occurred in the Eastern region of the United States.

*The Internet continued to play a substantial role in the dissemination of anti-Semitism.

Americans did not buy the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Israel and American Jews were behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or that the attacks were a reaction to Jewish influence in the United States, according to Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.

But that same propaganda helped fuel the increase in anti-Semitic incidents around the world, according to an annual study of global anti-Semitism by Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism.

The current wave of anti-Semitism in Europe is the worst since World War II, said Avi Beker, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, presenting the findings of the Roth Institute's "Anti-Semitism Worldwide."

The Tel Aviv University report, also released this week, shows more than 50 major, violent anti-Semitic attacks in 2001 involving the use of weapons with the intent to kill Jews.

Almost 180 other violent incidents were perpetrated against Jews and Jewish institutions, particularly after Sept. 11 and mainly carried out by Muslims, the report said.

The report also described a "mainstreaming" of anti-Semitism around the world, as anti-Semitic remarks increasingly are heard at many levels of society and government.

Anti-Semitic incidents increased after last summer's U.N.-sponsored anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, which the Arab and Muslim world transformed into "a campaign against Israel and the Jewish people," the report says.

Also, efforts by Jewish communities to win restitution for properties looted during the Holocaust continue to trigger resentment and anti-Semitism.

The Tel Aviv report, which counted only major attacks and violent incidents, used different standards than the ADL survey, which included more minor incidents as well.

Researchers acknowledge that there were "many more hundreds" of minor incidents, such as graffiti, slogans and swastikas painted on walls, or personal insults and harassment.

The Tel Aviv report relates a higher degree of violence, especially against individuals who were obviously Jewish and against synagogues.

"The general atmosphere is very hostile all over the world," said Dina Porat, the Roth Institute's director.

But the atmosphere that allows for public anti-Semitic statements and displays, such as street demonstrations, is not present in the United States, she said.

"There's always been a difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world," ADL's Foxman agreed. "Political anti-Semitism has been a part of the European tradition for hundreds of years."

After a modest decrease in anti-Semitic activity in the beginning of 2002, there was a sharp increase in the number of severe attacks at the beginning of April, especially in France, according to the Tel Aviv report.

Attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutions in Europe are on the rise as the violence in the Middle East continues.