Anti-Semitic Attacks in U.S. Decline for Second Year Running

NEW YORK - The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States dropped in 2006 for the second year in a row, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report released yesterday. The report says 12 percent less incidents of harassment, threats and assaults were recorded in 2006.

However it also notes that the percentage of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism rose by eight percentage points in 2006.

The report found there were 1,557 incidents in 2006, as opposed to 1,757 incidents in 2005.

Several violent attacks took place last year, however, including a shooting at the Jewish Federation offices in Seattle in July that killed the center's assistant director and wounded five. Witnesses said the shooter forced his way through a security door and said, "I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel," before shooting. Naveed Afzal Haq, 30, pleaded not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and other charges.

ADL director Abe Foxman said that while the decrease in anti-Semitic incidents is encouraging, the fact that a central Jewish institution was a target is a sobering reminder that anti-Semitism in America is not a thing of the past.

In what the ADL described as other troubling incidents of 2006, two Jewish men in Arizona were beaten by at least six people shouting anti-Semitic insults, and arson at the office of the Holocaust History Project in Houston caused more than $1 million (760,000) in damage.

Synagogues remained a target in several cities, with swastikas and spray-painted messages: "Kill the Jews" and "Burn with the rest of them."

The annual report tracks incidents against the Jewish community, individuals and institutions such as synagogues in 44 states and the District of Columbia, which includes Washington, D.C. The data comes from official crime statistics as well as information provided to the ADL's regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders.

ADL leaders also pointed to tighter security at Jewish institutions for the drop in incidents. The installation of security cameras, round-the-clock surveillance, secure doors and other enhancements serves as a deterrent to vandalism and other acts of hate, Glen Levy, ADL's national chair, said in a statement.

The report notes that a reason for the decline in anti-Semitic incidents is the fact that illegal immigrants drew the attention of hate groups in 2006.

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, Foxman said. Muslims also continue to be a target of those groups.

The greatest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. were logged in New York (284), New Jersey (244), California (204), Florida (179) and Massachusetts (96).