ADL Audit Finds Anti-Semitic Incidents Remain Constant; More Than 1,500 Incidents Reported Across U.S. in 2003
New York, NY, March 24, 2004 … The number of anti-Semitic incidents remained at a consistent and disturbing level in 2003, according to newly released statistics from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The annual ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued today, counted a total of 1,557 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States in 2003, as compared with 1,559 incidents reported in 2002.
"Though the number of anti-Semitic incidents has remained virtually unchanged in the United States, the levels continue to be disturbing and unacceptable," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, and author of Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism. "While we take comfort that America has not witnessed the kind of raw manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred that has plagued parts of Europe and other nations in recent years, there is a consistent wellspring of anti-Semitic activity in the United States that continues to concern Jewish communities."
Anti-Semitic incidents included in the Audit comprise physical and verbal assaults, harassment, property defacement, vandalism and other expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment. Among the most serious incidents reported in 2003 were an arson attack that destroyed a Holocaust museum in Indiana, the attempted firebombing of a synagogue in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and swastikas and epithets spray-painted on the walls, driveway and a congregant's car at a Jewish community center near Phoenix, Arizona.
In early 2003 Mel Gibson announced the making of his forthcoming film, "The Passion of the Christ." What followed was a nearly year-long controversy that elicited hateful anti-Semitic e-mails and letters to ADL and other Jewish organizations, as well as journalists, religious leaders and those who commented critically on the film.
"As the controversy over Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" continued to be debated on the American scene, ADL and others who were speaking out about it received a barrage of hate mail filled with ugly anti-Semitism," said Mr. Foxman. "While these messages were not included in the total count, since messages sent on the Internet are very difficult to quantify, the hate mail was an indication of the anti-Semitic feelings that were stirred as a result of the Jewish concerns about the film."
The 2003 Findings
For reporting purposes, the ADL Audit divides anti-Semitic incidents into two categories: Vandalism, such as property damage, cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti; Harassment, including threats and assaults directed at individuals and institutions.
· Vandalism: After reaching historic lows in 2002, the number of incidents of vandalism against Jewish community institutions, synagogues and property increased substantially in 2003. The activity comprised a total of 628 acts of vandalism, an 18 percent increase over the 531 acts reported in 2002. Vandalism accounted for 40 percent of the total incidents reported.
· Harassment: The 929 acts of harassment represented a nine percent (9%) decline from the 2002 figure of 1,028. Harassment accounted for 60 percent of the total incidents reported in 2003.
Continuing a trend, states with the most total incidents included New York (364, up from 302 in 2002); New Jersey (209, up from 171); California (180, down from 223) Pennsylvania (117, up from 101); Massachusetts (102, down from 129), Florida (102, up from 93) and Connecticut (70, up from 41). Among those states with the highest numbers, only New York and New Jersey experienced more vandalism incidents than harassments.
Among the more violent attacks in 2003:
- In Terre Haute, Indiana, a Holocaust museum memorializing children who were victims of Nazi medical experimentation was destroyed by arson (November).
- In Wildwood, New Jersey, a bullet was fired through the front door of a synagogue. No one was injured (July).
- In Arizona, at a Jewish community center outside Phoenix, swastikas and expletives were spray-painted on the walls, driveway and a congregant's car (April).
- In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue by three youths (July).
- In Long Island, New York, "Heil Hitler," F--- the Jews" and pornographic images were drawn on property of a Jewish center (August).
Hate on the Internet
The Internet continued to play a substantial role in the dissemination of anti-Semitism, with hate literature being transmitted through hundreds of sites on the Web and through bulletin boards, chat rooms and e-mail messages. While Internet messages are not generally categorized as incidents of hate in the ADL Audit, specific threats aimed at Jewish synagogues and institutions via e-mail were counted. Still, it is virtually impossible to quantify the number of anti-Semitic messages online.
Web sites operated by anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are easily found on the Internet and provide haters with the ability to reach a potential audience of millions with literature and recruitment materials. These sites also can serve as an impetus for anti-Semitic incidents; for instance, anti-Semitic fliers can be downloaded from Web sites and distributed by anyone with a computer and a printer.
Anti-Semitism on Campus
Reversing a troubling three-year trend, the number of anti-Semitic acts on campus decreased, with a total of 68 incidents reported, compared with to 106 in 2002. The 2003 incidents on campus comprised 40 acts of harassment, and 28 acts of vandalism. "After three years of progressively worsening trends on campus, we are finally seeing a reversal in the numbers, which we believe is a product of more proactive measures by campus officials and Jewish students to confront the problem head on," said Mr. Foxman.
Many of the 2002 incidents grew out of anti-Israel or "anti-Zionist" demonstrations or other actions in which some participants engaged in overt expression of anti-Jewish sentiments. While anti-Israel activism continued unabated on campuses in 2003, the demonstrations were less characterized by the kind of anti-Semitic invective that had tainted campus activism in previous years. Anti-Israel demonstrations are not counted in the Audit unless they clearly include overtly anti-Jewish language or conduct.
About the ADL Audit
The Audit identifies both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs. Compiled using official crime statistics, as well as information provided to ADL's 30 regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders, the Audit provides an annual snapshot of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported.
For more information or to speak with an expert on anti-Semitism, contact the ADL Media Relations Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.