U.S. Jews More Fearful of Antisemitism After Israel-Gaza Fighting

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A demonstrator at a protest in Vienna, Austria in May.
A demonstrator at a protest in Vienna, Austria in May.Credit: Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Concern over antisemitism in the United States has grown significantly since last month’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, with 41 percent of American Jews indicating that they were “more concerned about their personal safety” than prior to the outbreak of hostilities.

According to a new survey conducted on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League watchdog group late last month, 53 percent of American Jews “witnessed more behavior or conduct deemed antisemitic in the three-week period at issue than before the recent violence” while a full 60 percent witnessed behavior or statements they considered antisemitic, either in person or online, as a result of the conflict. This is largely in line with previous ADL polling, which found that 63 percent of US Jews had “experienced or witnessed antisemitic behavior or comments at some point in the prior five years.”

In addition, 18 percent of respondents stated that they had experienced a deterioration in one or more personal relationships due to conversations about the recent violence.

The online survey, which was conducted by YouGov from May 25-June 1, polled a “nationally representative sample” of 576 American Jews over the age of 18 regarding their experiences since May 10. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

According to the ADL’s Center on Extremism, antisemitic incidents in the United States “more than doubled during the May 2021 military conflict” before eventually returning to normal levels. 

Pro-Israel supporters protesting in Los Angeles in May.Credit: Jae C. Hong / AP

“ADL logged 251 incidents from May 11 -- the official start of military action -- through the end of the month, an increase of 115 percent over the same period in 2020,” the group said in a statement. In total, there were 305 antisemitic incidents nationwide during the month of May.

Moreover, the rise cannot be solely attributed to the conflict, the Center on Extremism cautioned, noting that “when incidents that include explicit references to Israel or Zionism are excluded, the number still increased by 15 percent in the 20-day period of May 2021 compared to the same time period in May 2020.”

The ADL’s polling also found that a majority of American Jews deemed statements denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state or comparing it to Nazi Germany to be antisemitic. 67 percent of US Jews also agreed that protesting Israeli actions outside a synagogue was antisemitic.

Asked which groups did the most to address the recent rise in antisemitism, American Jews gave low marks to a variety of groups. The Biden administration led with 42 percent of Jews agreeing that its actions have greatly or somewhat helped, followed by civil rights groups at 37 percent, Congressional and state Democrats at 35 percent, non-Jewish faith leaders at 29 percent and, in last place, Republican elected officials at 23 percent.

Three quarters said that they wanted the White House to take more action to deal with the problem, with nearly four out of five stating that Congressional and state officials affiliated with the Republican and Democratic parties should do something to address rising antisemitism.

Late last month, President Joe Biden condemned the violence, tweeting that “the recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop.”

His comments came the same day as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he was directing state police to reinforce security at Jewish institutions in the New York City area.

“People are literally afraid to walk the streets,” an orthodox State Assemblyman told The New York Post at the time. 

Antisemitic incidents also increased across Europe during the fighting. In Germany, the local Jewish community called on Berlin to step up protection of Jewish institutions throughout the country after Israeli flags were burned in front of two synagogues while in Austria, a non-Jewish woman was assaulted for reading a Jewish history book on the subway. 

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