More than half of American Jews said they encountered antisemitism following the start of May’s violence in Israel and Gaza, according to a survey released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League.
Its findings suggest a dramatic uptick in the number of Jews who have witnessed antisemitic behavior, or heard or read an antisemitic comment. A January survey found that about the same proportion of Jews had witnessed antisemitism over a much longer period — five years.
The survey also found that about 40% of American Jews said they were “more concerned about their personal safety” in the aftermath of the violence between Israel and Hamas and because of a rise in antisemitic incidents in the U.S.
“At times of unrest or violence between Israel and armed terrorist groups, we have historically seen a spike in antisemitic incidents, but this year the surge was particularly dramatic and violent,” said the head of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, in a statement. “The antisemitic attacks we’ve witnessed in the streets and on social media in the past few weeks are weighing heavily on the American Jewish community.”
The ADL, using the survey firm YouGov, asked 576 Jewish American adults about their experiences with antisemitism from May 25 through June 1, and weighted the responses to reflect the demographic makeup of Jews across the U.S.
The group also asked respondents what they considered to be antisemitic. For 75%, saying Israel should not exist as a Jewish state was antisemitic. Slightly fewer — 70% — thought that comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis was antisemitic, and 67% of respondents thought that protesting Israeli actions outside of an American synagogue was antisemitic.
The period of May 11 through 31, which overlapped with the rocket fire between Israel and Hamas, saw more than twice the number of antisemitic incidents in the U.S. — 251 — compared to the same days last year, according to the ADL.
And over the last few weeks, many incidents of antisemitism have been highly-visible, including a brick thrown through the window of a Kosher pizza restaurant in Manhattan, a swastika carved into the door of a synagogue in Salt Lake City and an episode in Los Angeles during which Jewish diners were attacked and pelted with bottles.
Locally and nationally, politicians have taken note. A day after four Democrats in the House of Representatives asked President Joe Biden to lead a “united, all-of-government effort to combat rising antisemitism in this country,” the president released a statement of his own. “We cannot allow the toxic combination of hatred, dangerous lies, and conspiracy theories to put our fellow Americans at risk,” Biden said in a press release on May 28. “The Department of Justice will be deploying all of the tools at its disposal to combat hate crimes.”
Journalists and others have raised questions about the methodology of tracking such instances, as antisemitism definitions vary by person, and baselines are often lacking or inconsistent. Those questions persist even as some Jews have expressed feeling abandoned in a time of need, and that their plight has not spurred the immediate and widespread outrage that has followed recent attacks on other minority groups.
Reaction to this year’s conflict in the Middle East has differed somewhat from the past, in that more Americans — mostly Democrats — have voiced criticism of Israel and expressed support for the Palestinian cause. In April, Human Rights Watch deemed Israel guilty of crimes of apartheid in a widely-discussed report.
More recently-elected representatives, like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have lambasted Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians and pushed to condition military aid to the Jewish state. Republicans have taken the opportunity to accuse Democrats of failing to appreciate Israel’s security needs and the scourge of antisemitism.
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, said on May 27 that antisemitism was being “completely ignored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and former Miami Heat player Ray Allen spoke at a virtual rally last month to condemn bigotry in Jewish communities.
Europe has also seen seen an upsurge of antisemitic incidents tied to the Middle Eastern conflict, including the vandalism of synagogues and desecration of memorials to victims of the Holocaust.
Survey: More than half of American Jews encountered antisemitism after Middle East violence