ADL: 2018 Third-Highest Year for Anti-Semitic Incidents Since Tracking Began

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The number of anti-Semitic incidents remained high in 2018, according to an annual audit released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on April 30.

The ADL recorded 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents nationally in 2018, the third-highest total since it began tracking in 1979, although it did represent a 5 percent decline from 2017. There was a surge in 2018 in certain incident categories, including anti-Semitic assaults, affecting 59 victims, more than twice recorded in 2017.

“Jews truly are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to hate in our society,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in an April 30 conference call.

Greenblatt noted that hate seemingly continues to grow in 2019, citing the synagogue shooting near San Diego.

“It almost serves as a punctuation mark for 2018,” he said.

Pennsylvania witnessed 89 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, according to the audit, the fifth-highest number of incidents nationwide. While anti-Jewish activity in Pennsylvania declined 7 percent from 2017, it remains 41 percent higher than the historic statewide average of 63 incidents per year, recorded since 1979.

“We have seen an incredibly rapid increase in anti-Semitism in Pennsylvania since 2016,” said Jeremy Bannett, associate regional director for ADL Philadelphia. Anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Pennsylvania have been above average for the past three years, following a six-year period of near-historic lows from 2010-2015, according to the ADL. For example, there were just 37 anti-Semitic incidents reported in Pennsylvania in 2012.

Of the 89 Pennsylvania incidents, the ADL reported 50 incidents of harassment, up 11 percent from 2017; 37 incidents of vandalism, down 27 percent; and two physical assaults, an increase from zero the year before.

The massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh accounts for one of the assaults. The attack, which claimed the lives of 11 Jewish congregants and injured seven others, is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

Anti-Semitic incidents reported by the ADL include both criminal and noncriminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs. Incidents are compiled using information provided by victims directly to the ADL, law enforcement, partner organizations and the media.

In terms of law enforcement, the ADL collects data for its audit from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, state police and local police departments.

“Even with all that data, we know that the numbers are severely undercounted,” Bannett said, since “individuals often do not know how to identify or report a hate crime.”

There are a number of cities in Pennsylvania that have more than 100,000 residents, such as Allentown, that reported zero hate crimes in 2018, Bannett said.

In 2018, online hate speech spiked 15 percent nationally, according to the audit. After a steady increase since 2016, the ADL started the Center on Technology and Society that monitors hate online and works with companies in Silicon Valley, elected officials and other partners to combat and track cyberhate.

Older methods of distributing hate saw a resurgence.

“We saw an enormous surge in white supremacist propaganda campaigns and flyering incidents [paper flyers distributed containing anti-Semitic messages] nationwide,” Bannett said, and in 2018, there were 249 incidents of flyering and anti-Semitic robocalls done by white supremacist individuals and groups nationally.

One flyer found at a middle school in Philadelphia in November read, “Stop fighting for Jewish lies, and fight a real war to save your race!”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for about half the flyering in Greater Philadelphia, the ADL reported. The Klan has been on the decline for a number of years, but flyering is relatively cheap and garners a good amount of free publicity and media attention, Bannett said. This type of campaigning has become popular among white supremacist groups, who are mixing thse techniques with social media tactics.

“Extremists are preparing their social media strategies as they are preparing their weapons,” said Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism in the April 30 conference call.

The ADL is advocating for the federal government to invest more in combating domestic terror motivated by white supremacists.

About 56 percent of all extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018 were committed by white supremacists, while 23 percent were committed by Islamic extremists, according to ADL data. In 2018, 78 percent of extremist murders in the U.S. were committed by white supremacists.

The federal government invests the majority of its resources in combating Islamic terror, Bannett said, and the ADL is lobbying Congress to pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act that would increase funding to prevent attacks by white supremacists.

The ADL also trains 15,000 law enforcement officials each year on extremism, terrorism, hate crimes and implicit bias, including 1,500 officers in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

Additional reporting by Managing Editor Andy Gotlieb. 

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