New York, NY, December 18, 2008 … A historic election at home, a devastating terror attack in India, the 60th anniversary of the Jewish State, Iran's relentless nuclear aspirations, more anti-Israel bias at the U.N. and conspiracy theories linking Jews to the global financial crisis were among the top issues affecting Jews in 2008, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual list.
"The past year has proven a decidedly mixed picture, with historic breakthroughs and damaging setbacks," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The devastating attack in Mumbai targeting Westerners and Jews reinforces the grave threat that terrorism poses to the world, while the global economic crisis once again brought out those who blame all the world's ills on the Jews. Israel celebrated a major milestone, but faces threats in numerous forms."
"At home, the election of Barack Obama represented a triumph against racism, though it did not mark its elimination," added Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair. "White supremacists and other bigots used the opportunity as a clarion call to swell their ranks and spread their hatred. Meanwhile, racism and xenophobia plague our country, as immigrants continue to be targeted simply because they are immigrants."
ADL'S TOP ISSUES
• Terror in Mumbai
• Barack Obama's Historic Victory
• Iran Still the Antagonist
• Israel's 60th Birthday
• The Global Economic Crisis
• Anti-Israel Bias at the U.N.
• Pope Benedict XVI: Catholic-Jewish Relations
• Jewish-Hispanic Ties Strengthened, Immigrants Targeted
• Jewish Groups, Courts Weigh In On Social Issues
Terror in Mumbai
The devastating assault against a number of high visibility targets in Mumbai, India - including an attack on the Chabad house that killed the rabbi, his wife and four other victims - was a tragic reminder that terrorists often single out Jews wherever they may be in the world.
As seen after the 9/11 attacks, the "big lie" was again disseminated in an ugly rumor that the Israeli security agency, Mossad, was responsible for the Mumbai attacks.
Barack Obama's Historic Victory
The American people chose Barack Obama to be the first African-American president in the nation's history. The victory represented a triumph against prejudice, but does not signal the end of discrimination in our nation. Obama's administration inherits a crowded agenda with critical issues of pressing importance, including, at home, religious freedom and immigration reform; and abroad, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Iran Still the Antagonist
The Iranian regime continued its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, while its president railed against Israel and the West. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a hate-filled diatribe at the U.N. General Assembly, in which he invoked classic anti-Semitic canards of Jewish domination of finance and media. He pointed to Jews as the source of upheaval in the economy and in international conflicts, and declared that America and Israel would soon collapse.
Israel Turns 60
In a major milestone, Israel marked 60 years since its founding. Amid countrywide celebrations, world dignitaries, including President George W. Bush, joined Israeli leaders in Jerusalem to celebrate the birth of the Jewish State.
The Global Economic Crisis
In the wake of the collapse of major investment banks, there was a dramatic upsurge in anti-Semitic statements posted to Internet discussion boards devoted to finance and the economy. As the financial crisis intensified globally, so did anti-Jewish invective and conspiracy theories, demonstrating once again that age-old canards about Jews and money are never far from the surface.
Compounding the situation, New York businessman Bernard Madoff defrauded investors – including Jewish charities and institutions – of billions of dollars in an alleged Ponzi scheme of unprecedented scale. The full impact of this scandal on the Jewish community is yet to be determined.
Anti-Israel Bias at the U.N.
Bias against Israel at the United Nations persisted in many forms and in many forums. Examples included: the Security Council's failure to condemn the heinous terrorist attack on Israeli seminary students in Jerusalem; the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights blaming Israel for worsening conditions in Gaza, while giving a pass to Hamas; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu's report, mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which concluded that Palestinians are paying the price for the West's guilt over the Holocaust.
Pope Benedict XVI: Catholic-Jewish Relations
Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the United States was a historic event, as he became the first Pope to visit an American synagogue. The pontiff reaffirmed the importance of the Catholic-Jewish relationship, one that faces challenges. Jews continue to work with the Vatican in an effort to open the Church's Holocaust-era records and shed light on Pope Pius XII's role during the war.
Jewish-Hispanic Ties Strengthened, Immigrants Targeted
Jewish support for immigration reform – and for Hispanics caught up in a wave of violent hate crimes – has strengthened ties between the Jewish and Hispanic communities. The murder of two Ecuadorean immigrants in separate attacks in New York, as well as the fatal beating of a Mexican immigrant by white teenagers in Pennsylvania, evoked united responses from communities.
A national poll in October showed that concerns about racial tensions have declined sharply over the past 15 years, and that two-thirds of Americans view the country's population growth due to immigration as "an advantage for America."
Jewish Groups, Courts Weigh In On Social Issues
Jewish organizations contributed significantly, through public advocacy and amicus briefs, to a series of important court decisions on social and cultural issues. In Florida, the state supreme court struck down two proposed amendments that would have eliminated long-established religious freedom protections from the Florida Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court held, for the first time, that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to have a gun for private use, despite arguments that such a ruling would make guns more readily available to extremists and domestic terrorists.
Jewish groups adopted differing positions on controversial decisions by two state supreme courts, California and Connecticut, prohibiting bans on same-sex marriage, and also addressed the fallout from a California ballot proposition that sought to reverse that state's position.