Why is anyone taking the Anti-Defamation League’s survey on global anti-Semitism seriously?
Like catnip to a calico tabby, the ADL’s recent “findings” that one-quarter of the world is anti-Semitic has indeed thrown much of the Jewish press into a feeding frenzy. As if confirming what some — read, conservative — Jews have been telling us all along, the ADL’s “data” paints a grim picture of the world’s prejudices against us. “Disturbing,” as ADL chief Abraham Foxman pointed out.
But anyone who receives charity solicitations in the mail (and I assume that’s all of us) should have immediately been suspicious. Just in the last week, I’ve been told by an environmental group that environmental crises are worsening, by a pro-Israel group that anti-Israel crises are worsening, and by a pro-Tibet group that anti-Tibet policies are worsening. This is what nonprofits do: they make the case for why they are important.
Yet somehow this latest development campaign was taken as fact by pundits, tweeters, and politicians around the globe.
If this reading seems overly cynical, let’s look at the survey itself. As Noah Feldman — the bête noire of a certain kind of unreconstructed Jew, and, by way of disclosure, a friend of mine — pointed out a few days ago, the survey “stacked the deck.” It asked vague questions without context. It used an outdated survey methodology that could provoke, rather than merely measure, anti-Semitic sentiment. And worst of all, Feldman pointed out, it asked repetitious questions and then scored respondents based on how many questions they answered affirmatively. If you think Jews have too much power in “the business world” and “finance markets,” that’s two strikes, not one.
Nor did the survey ask about any other prejudices. Many people are xenophobic. They don’t like Jews, Muslims, blacks, gays. You name it, they don’t like it. But the ADL Survey simply categorizes such people as anti-Semitic.
Feldman wisely demurs when it comes to the specific questions the ADL asked, saying they are “problematic” and “not at all clear.” But I’m not so wise. I’m going to take the quiz right now.
Are Jews more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in? Well, some Jews definitely are. At the very least, it’s weird (is it not?) that many synagogues have Israeli and American flags in their sanctuaries, that Jews around the world march in pro-Israel parades, and that so many Jews give so much money to pro-Israel organizations. I think this statement is “probably true.”
Do Jews have too much power in the business world? Well, what’s meant by “too much”? We do certainly have disproportionate power, relative to our population. Do we use it for nefarious, Elders of Zion type purposes? No, but that’s not what the question asks. As a purely statistical matter, Jews have “too much” power in the business world relative to our numbers. That’s two.
Do Jews have too much power in international financial markets? As Feldman pointed out, this is a repetitive. Though here, I think, the answer is no – and the question gets a little closer to the ‘Jewish banker’ meme of anti-Semitism. OK, good. I’m glad I’m not a 100% anti-Semite.
‘Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.’ In my opinion, “probably true.” The Forward offices are still deluged by Holocaust memoirs and micro-histories. Many of us still carry the emotional scars of genocide. You can forgive us for talking too much about it – but admit it, we do.
‘Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.’ False, but probably just because of wording. Every group cares more about its “own kind.” Which is exactly why knee-jerk tribalism – like that seen in response to the ADL Survey – is so problematic. Anyway, I’m 3-2, if you’re counting.
‘Jews have too much control over global affairs.’ Again on “too much.” Too much for the world’s good? Too much for our numbers? This one is a toss-up, and I’ll answer no, but just by a hair.
How about too much “control over the United States government”? Here, the answer must be yes, proportionally speaking. How many U.N. resolutions does the U.S. think it can veto before, at some point, this canard becomes impossible to resist? 4-3.
Do Jews think that they are better than other people? Deuteronomy 14:2. Need I say more?
Do Jews have “too much control” over the “global media”? Proportionally yes. 6-3. Note I am now anti-Semitic, according to the ADL.
Are Jews “responsible for most of the world’s wars?” No.
Do “people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave?” I’m not even sure what this question means. I get the point: the point is, if you think Jews deserve to be hated because of how we behave, then you, yourself, are anti-Semitic. What you should believe is that Jews are hated because of how they are, or who they are, or whatever. Of course, that’s a convenient position to take, because then anytime Jews behave badly (like the settlers who torched a Palestinian orchard last week for Lag B’Omer) that can’t possibly be the real reason anyone hates Jews.
I’m going to abstain from question 11, then, because I find the question itself to be offensive. Some Jewish behavior is hateful, and I refuse to give it a pass.
So there you have it: my score is 6-4-1. I’m an ordained rabbi, a lifelong Jewish educator — and an anti-Semite according to this survey.
Now, admittedly, if “too much” were more clearly defined, I wouldn’t make the cut. But then, if this survey weren’t a transparent effort to boost the importance of the ADL’s mission, I might take it more seriously.
The ADL is a wonderful organization in many ways, and it does great work around the world. It is also a massive charitable organization with an aging donor base and retiring executive director. I’m not trying to bash the ADL here; I’m trying to bash the finger-wagging opinionators who took these results at face value.
Let’s all grow up a little. Restaurants, politicians, nail salons, and charities all trumpet the importance of their work. It’s called “demand creation.” And just as you shouldn’t believe the latest disorder advertised by a drug company, so too should documents like this be taken with a grain of salt. Especially when the response it provokes is fear, outrage, or worse.