World Anti-Semitism Seen As ‘Pervasive’ And ‘Persistent’

ADL global poll findings are startling, as ultra-nationalist parties gain traction across Europe.

05/14/14
Staff Writer
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Gravestones defaced in a Jewish cemetery in Herrlisheim, France, near the German border. Getty Images
Gravestones defaced in a Jewish cemetery in Herrlisheim, France, near the German border. Getty Images

Anti-Semitic stereotypes are so pervasive that fully 26 percent of adults surveyed worldwide — representing an estimated 1.09 billion adults — are “deeply infected,” even though 70 percent have never met a Jew.

That was the finding of the Global 100 Index released this week by the Anti-Defamation League. It is said to be the first such comprehensive poll of its kind about anti-Semitism worldwide.

“For the first time, we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a written statement. “The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially non-existent.”

As might be expected, more adults living in the West Bank and Gaza — some 93 percent — hold anti-Semitic attitudes, more than any other place in the world. Throughout the Middle East and North African countries, 74 percent of those polled agreed with the majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes presented on the survey. In countries outside of this region, the average index score was 23 percent.

Adults with the fewest anti-Semitic beliefs live in Laos — just .2 percent accepted those stereotypes. Foxman noted that countries with few Jews tend to have lower rates of anti-Semitism, but said the data does not give any indication as to why Laos came in so much lower than the runner-up, the Philippines, which polled at 3 percent.  

“While it is startling to see how high the level of anti-Semitism is in the Middle East and North African countries, the fact of the matter is even aside from those countries, close to a quarter of those polled in other parts of the world is infected with anti-Semitic attitudes,” Foxman said in the statement.

Among all the religious groups tested, it was found that more Muslims — 49 percent — believed anti-Semitic stereotypes than other religious groups. However, where a person lived tended to be a stronger factor than religion in determining the existence of anti-Semitic attitudes, the study found.

In addition, those under 65 were less likely to hold anti-Semitic views than older respondents.

Although the survey concretized the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism worldwide, the fact that such views are so extensively held is not surprising. At the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum this week, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently retired chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, said the resurgence of anti-Semitism — especially in Europe — places the very future of the Jewish communities there in doubt.

He said anti-Semitism is bad for all minorities and argued that Jews must work with other targets of bigotry to stop it because “the victim cannot stop the crime by himself.”

One of the most startling findings is that just one generation after the Holocaust, two-thirds of adults surveyed said they had either never heard of the Holocaust (46 percent) or do not believe historical accounts to be accurate.

Foxman called the fact that only 54 percent of those polled had heard of the Holocaust a “disturbingly low number,” noting that the numbers were “far better in Western Europe, where 94 percent of those polled were aware of the history.”

“At the same time, the results confirm a troubling gap between older adults who know their history and younger men and women who, more than 70 years after the events of World War II, are more likely to have never heard of or learned about what happened to the 6 million Jews who perished,” he said.

To gauge whether a person holds anti-Semitic views, the survey asked respondents about 11 Jewish stereotypes. If they answered “probably true” to at least six of them, they were considered to hold anti-Semitic views. The most widely accepted stereotype: Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country in which they live. Fully 41 percent of those surveyed said it is “probably true.” It was the most widely accepted stereotype in five out of the seven regions surveyed.

The second most accepted stereotype: Jews hold too much power in the business world. Some 35 percent of respondents said it is “probably true.” That view is most prevalent in Eastern Europe.

A total of 53,100 adults were surveyed — a random sample representing 88 percent of the world’s total adult population — in 102 countries from last July through February.

In a news conference, Foxman told reporters that in the past, the ADL had judged a respondent to be anti-Semitic if he or she agreed with five of the 11 stereotypes. He said the organization decided to “set the bar higher” because it “frequently gets accused of seeing anti-Semitism everywhere, and we are very conscious of credibility.”

Foxman said that had the ADL used five as a barometer of anti-Semitism, 34 percent of the world’s population who would be considered to hold anti-Semitic views.

The poll was conducted by First International Resources in Fort Lee, N.J. The margin of error for most countries, where 500 respondents were selected, was plus or minus 4.4 percent. In some larger countries, where 1,000 interviews were conducted, the margin of error was 3.2 percent.

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ADL officials said they hope the poll will be a call to action.

“The level of anti-Semitism in some countries and regions, even those where there are no Jews, is in many instances shocking,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL’s national chair. “We hope this unprecedented effort to measure and gauge anti-Semitic attitudes globally will serve as a wake-up call to governments, to international institutions and to people of conscience that anti-Semitism is not just a relic of history, but a current event.”

Among the countries harboring high anti-Semitic attitudes are Iraq at 92 percent; Yemen, 88 percent; Algeria and Libya, both 87 percent; Tunisia, 86 percent; Kuwait, 82 percent; Bahrain and Jordan, 81 percent; and Morocco, 80 percent.

On the low end of the scale were, in addition to Laos, the Philippines, 3 percent; Sweden, 4 percent; the Netherlands, 5 percent; Vietnam, 6 percent; the United Kingdom, 8 percent, the United States and Denmark, 9 percent; Tanzania, 12 percent; and Thailand, 13 percent.

In Greece, where 69 percent of adults were found to hold anti-Semitic beliefs, Foxman said he has spoken with the prime minister and that the ADL has been invited to come to the country to try to re-educate the population to combat anti-Semitism.

France had the second highest rate in Western Europe at 37 percent. Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, told The Jewish Week that he was “not totally surprised” by the findings.

“Ask any French citizen and you will be told there is no discrimination against Jews for housing or jobs and that it is worse for Muslims and blacks,” he said. “But we Jews hear three sources of anti-Semitism: the extreme right — and we anticipate that the National Front, a right-wing party in which there are Holocaust deniers, will gain increased support; on the extreme left there are anti-Zionists and those who promote a boycott of Israeli products, and we consider them the new address of anti-Semitism; and in the suburbs there is a hatred for Jews — if you have a kipa and come out of a synagogue, you may fear violent attacks. There is a reason for this fear. As you can see in Toulouse, it can become dramatic.”

He was referring to the March 2012 shooting in which a Muslim radical killed three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school, which sparked a rash of other anti-Semitic assaults — more than 90 in the 10 days that followed the shooting.

“We have the biggest Muslim community in Europe, and it may be one of the reasons [for the anti-Semitism], as well as a bad economic situation, which contributes to hatred,” Cukierman added. “A bad economic situation contributes to hatred of Jews; the unemployed look for a scapegoat.”

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Not only is the National Front gaining strength in France — in March elections it won an unprecedented dozen town halls and more than 1,000 city and town council seats in municipal elections — but it is now attempting to broaden its anti-immigrant message from the Atlantic to the Aegean to gain seats in the European Parliament. Voting for the 751-seat body takes place over four days beginning May 22.

The economic downturn across Europe has helped fuel far-right parties across the continent, from the United Kingdom’s Independence Party to Greece’s Golden Dawn. And Marine LePen, leader of the National Front, has made no secret of her desire to shift the political discourse towards far-right issues to establish a firm foothold on the body politic.

Anti-Semitism manifests itself not only in violence and rhetoric, but in action. Just last week in Latvia, where the ADL found anti-Semitism rate to be 28 percent, a sign was hung on the outside gate of a nursery school in Riga, Latvia, that read simply “Judenfrei,” the German word used by the Nazis meaning “free of Jews.”

Meanwhile in the unrest in Ukraine, both sides are playing the anti-Semitism card to woo support, and Jews complain that they are being used as pawns. The Jewish Agency for Israel said 777 new Ukrainian immigrants have arrived in Israel since January — a 142 percent increase over the comparable period a year ago. More than 200 new immigrants have registered for May flights, and June reservations are continuing to grow, it said.

The ADL survey also found that of the 74 percent who said they’ve never met a Jew, 25 percent harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

And although Jews comprise just 0.19 percent of the world’s population, 30 percent of those surveyed said they believed Jews to be between 1 and 10 percent of the world’s population. Another 18 percent guessed they made up more than 10 percent. Only 16 percent accurately said Jews represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population. 

stewart@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

05/29/2014 - 11:15

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As a Greek, I feel offended from this research. It is true, although that we have quite a lot of antisemites but the fact that somenone beliefs that Jews hold lots of money and can influence politics in their countries, doesn't mean that he is an antisemite. In Greece, conspiracy theories are very popular amongst people either right winged or leftists. This research doesn't show whether people are antisemits but what do they believe about Jews.

More than ever new ways of educating peoples over the world are needed. It is tragic that we cannot, in view of modern communication and travel, overcome this hostility between people. History has shown how power mongers and dictators turn us against each other for their own gains. Many say this hatred of others is ingrained. Enough! Where are the programs???? Statistics are great but hopefully they will be studied and utilized to develop programs to end anti-Semitism all over the world(and other anti's as well) It is destroying our lives!

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