The nomination and election of Donald Trump has caused a record spike in anti-Semitism. That is the narrative many Jewish groups and the media have promoted since the Republican primaries.
Here’s an unfortunate fact for those continuing to press this narrative: it keeps on being proven false.
First, let’s take the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) report on “online hate,” which was written in response to waves of social media harassment sent to journalists over the course of the primary season and election. The ADL’s concern over the phenomenon was sparked by the hoards of Twitter users attacking liberal journalists like Julia Ioffe and Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times, though they did at least solicit the input of conservatives who had been at the receiving end for some time, myself included. I served on the ADL’s task force, and the results surprised those of us who assumed Trump had overturned a rock of latent anti-Semitism in America: a mere 1,600 accounts were responsible for two-thirds of the tweets. Pair that information with reports that many of the pro-Trump accounts present on Twitter before the election were based in Russia, and suddenly a story about American waves of anti-Semitism becomes something else entirely.
After the election, reporting on acts of anti-Semitic vandalism finally hit the mainstream. Despite the fact that Jews have been the number one target of hate crimes according to FBI reports since long before Donald Trump, the mainstream media and its liberal news consumers finally decided to take an interest post-November.
While stories like this out of Warwick, N.Y. in October about anti-Semitic vandalism were relegated to the local news, suddenly a few toppled headstones in Brooklyn were nationally known within hours of first reports in March, before the police could make a determination about their cause (which turned out to be due to disrepair).
Other cases of vandalism made famous post-election turned out to be hoaxes as well: a menorah in Arizona turned into a swastika wasn’t the handiwork of white supremacists, given the mug shot of one of the accused. And the swastika spray-painted on a man’s home in Upstate New York was put there by the homeowner himself.
In addition to the supposed increase in anti-Semitic vandalism (which has only been reliably reported by the New York Police Department), there were also widespread threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the United States. With two arrests, we now know the perpetrators weren’t Trump-voting white supremacists, but a liberal journalist with an axe to grind against an ex-girlfriend and a troubled American-Israeli Jewish teen. The breakthrough in the case only came after President Trump sent the FBI to Israel to aid in the investigation.
Despite what we know about many of these attacks on the Jewish community over the course of the last months, Jewish groups like the ADL and the Anne Frank Center on Mutual Respect, inexplicably refuse to back down from their claims that Trump’s election fueled a supposed surge in anti-Semitism. It’s becoming increasingly clear to many observers that both groups, currently led by former Democratic staff members (of the Obama administration and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, respectively), are more interested in partisan politics than the missions of the organizations that now employs them.
What might these groups be paying attention to instead? A left=wing Jewish group is featuring a speaker at their next confab with a far more documented trail of anti-Semitism than any of Donald Trump’s inner circle or political appointees, for starters. With a record number of attendees present, the supposed Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) will hand the microphone over to a convicted terrorist with the blood of two Jewish Israelis on her hands from a 1969 bombing in Jerusalem. The only national Jewish group to express their discontent over the selection thus far is StandWithUs. If any others wish to retain any shred of credibility, they may want to consider following that organization’s lead.
Like every other aspect of American life, an unfortunate side effect of the Trump-effect has been the total politicalization of everything, including how Jewish groups with a mission to fight anti-Semitism operate. For their own sake, not to mention the rest of the Jewish community, here’s hoping these Jewish professionals and organizations leave politics to politicians and focus on the task their donors are funding instead.
Bethany Mandel is a regular columnist for The Forward. Follow her on Twitter @bethanyshondark