Note on Evaluating Anti-Semitic Incidents
Overt and obvious expressions of anti-Jewish animosity are certainly
easiest to categorize as anti-Semitic incidents and the vast majority
of incidents in the Audit reveal overt expressions of anti-Semitism.
Swastikas spray-painted on synagogues or on tombstones in Jewish
cemeteries, and epithets like "dirty Jew" directed against people
wearing identifiable Jewish clothing (such as yarmulkes), are all
clear evidence of anti-Semitism. More difficult to classify are
situations such as when a Jewish institution is vandalized without
any specific anti-Semitic graffiti. For the purposes of this report,
any deliberate and gratuitous destruction of Jewish property (such
as broken windows or display cases) brings the act into the sphere
of the Audit. Therefore, a stone thrown at a synagogue window,
even without any markings of anti-Semitic intent, is considered
anti-Jewish hostility. While there may not be conclusive evidence
to that effect, ADL makes judgments based on likelihood and probability.
ADL generally counts as anti-Semitic harassment the distribution
of neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic materials to individual Jews,
or the placing of such items on their property. This also holds
true if the material is sent to a Jewish institution or posted
in a public area.
A series of related incidents, such as anti-Semitic graffiti
on neighboring Jewish properties in one night, or a mass mailing
of anti-Semitic material to a particular neighborhood, counts
as one incident, even though many people may be affected.
ADL also receives complaints of anti-Semitism directed at non-Jews.
In ADL's view, anti-Semitic slurs, threats or vandalism "mistakenly"
carried out against targets thought to be Jewish, or purposefully
directed against non-Jews believed to be sympathetic
to Jewish causes, are clearly signs of anti-Semitic behavior
and deserve inclusion in the Audit.
Anonymously reported incidents represent an obstacle to maintaining
the Audit's integrity. ADL seeks to corroborate reports
of anti-Semitic activity to assure accuracy and to respond effectively
and counteract such acts. While it is relatively easy to authenticate
acts of vandalism against Jewish institutions or in public areas,
verifying incidents of verbal harassment and slurs proves more
challenging. Absent any additional follow-up information to
support anti-Semitic intent, these reported incidents may be
left out of the Audit.
ADL does not include cases of alleged employment discrimination
in hiring, firing or promotion, unless the situation includes
evidence of overt anti-Semitism. A claim of discrimination in
itself, based on inferences of anti-Semitism because of alleged
unequal treatment in work assignments or denial of time off
for holiday observance, is not considered an incident for the
purposes of the Audit. Such claims involve a different
kind of anti-Semitic problem which, while hurtful to the complainant,
are nevertheless distinct from overt expressions of anti-Jewish
From year to year, ADL strives to maintain a consistent policy
of evaluating anti-Semitic incidents in an effort to make accurate
and reliable comparisons. There are times, however, when a significant
shift in the types of anti-Semitism reported emerges, which requires
a rethinking of Audit procedure. In response to the explosion
of Internet use in the past few years, ADL has instituted the following
policy on evaluating Internet-related incidents:
Anti-Semitic hate messages, threats or harassment received by
electronic mail are treated as if they were sent by traditional
mail and are therefore considered anti-Semitic harassment. These
messages are sent deliberately from one person to another in an
effort to intimidate and frighten. As with mass mailings or local
distribution of hate literature, an anti-Semitic E-mail sent to
a large number of recipients is classified as one incident.
Hate-filled sites on the World Wide Web are not included as anti-Semitic
incidents in the Audit. Much like the hate-filled propaganda
newspapers published around the country, a Web site is a publication
whose authors and points of view are often known prior to viewing.
It should be noted, however, that unlike these other publications,
they are available to millions of computer owners. While Internet
users may be offended by reading Jew-hatred on the Aryan Nations'
Web page, they should not be any more shocked than if they found
it in a traditional source, such as the publications The White
Patriot and The Klansmen.
The paramount purpose of the ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents
has always been to provide one way of measuring the various forms
of anti-Semitism prevalent in the United States. Communities and
their elected and law enforcement officials can use this reliable
analysis of anti-Semitic activity as a baseline criterion for evaluating
these incidents. In this way, the Audit serves as a tool
that tells part of the story of anti-Semitism in America.