ADL: US anti-Semitism down 12% in '06

According to group, Ku Klux Klan focusing more on Hispanics and immigrants.

anti semitism 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
anti semitism 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Attacks and vandalism targeting Jewish individuals, synagogues and institutions in the United States were down 12 percent in 2006 compared to the year before, according to the annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents of the Anti-Defamation League released Wednesday. The drop represents the second year in a row in which the total number of anti-Semitic incidents decreased in the US. While he noted that the decline was "encouraging," ADL National Director Abe Foxman noted that "there is also an onslaught of anti-Semitism out there in blogs, e-mails and Web sites, and most significantly in conspiracy theories about alleged Jewish power which have even penetrated the mainstream, that simply cannot be quantified." The audit divides anti-Semitic incidents into two categories, harassment and vandalism. The downward trend was driven by a steep decline in incidents of harassment, while vandalism rose slightly. Harassment, in which the ADL includes "violent acts of anti-Semitism, and physical or verbal assaults directed at individuals and institutions," fell from 1,140 incidents in 2005 to 879 in 2006, a drop of 23%. Vandalism, including "property damage, cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti," rose from 617 incidents in 2005 to 667 in 2006, an 8% rise. One of the causes for the fall, according to the ADL, was the temporary refocus of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi organizations in the US on the immigration debate, leading these groups to target Hispanics and immigrants rather than Jews. Thus, the audit discovered just 77 incidents of anti-Semitic "extremist group activity" in 2006, down from 112 such incidents in 2005. "The national immigration debate caused extremist groups to partially refocus their energies away from their traditional objects of hate and onto other minority groups, particularly immigrants and Hispanics," according to Foxman. "One recent example of this is the surprising resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. So while we find any downward trend in the numbers on anti-Semitism encouraging, there is no cause to celebrate just yet." Another cause in the drop is increased awareness and security in the Jewish community, with Jewish community centers and other institutions beginning to install security cameras, secure doors, round-the-clock surveillance "and other enhancements [which] serve as a deterrent to vandalism and other acts of hate, [and] may be having an impact on the numbers," said ADL National Chairman Glen S. Lewy. "The situation in Israel and threat of terrorism at home have prompted many communities to revisit security and forge closer relationships with law enforcement," he added, "and law enforcement is more cognizant than ever of the potential threats facing Jewish community institutions." The geographic spread of incidents seemed to follow the areas of large Jewish population, with the most incidents taking place in New York state (284, after a 25% drop from 2005), followed closely by New Jersey (244, after an 8% drop), California (204, after a 17% drop) and Florida (179, following a 10% drop). While the numbers of incidents have fallen, 2006 was marked by several violent anti-Semitic attacks. Among those cited in the audit were the shooting attack at the Seattle Jewish Federation in July by 30-year-old Pakistani-American Naveed Afzal Haq that left Federation executive Pamela Waechter dead and three others wounded; the $1 million in damages sustained following arson at the Holocaust History Project in Houston in March; the beating of two Jewish men in Phoenix in November by six assailants using chains, brass knuckles and boots; the spray-painting of swastikas on North Miami Beach synagogues, a bookstore and a kosher supermarket; and the smashing of eight publicly-displayed Hanukkah menorahs in California, New York and Texas in December. "While it is good that the numbers are going down," said Lewy, "every anti-Semitic attack is one too many. It is disturbing that there are still an average of about four anti-Semitic attacks per day in America."