ADL Highlights Top Issues Affecting Jews In 2009
New York, NY, December 17, 2009 … Our nation's first African-American president, the pronounced intensification of global anti-Semitism, continued defiance from Iran, and an unabashedly biased anti-Israel report were among the top issues affecting Jews in 2009, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual list.
"Much of the good news from the past year is, unfortunately, tempered by the bad," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Israel's defensive operation in Gaza was successful in curbing intense Hamas rocket fire, but Jews around the world suffered backlash effects. Israel has taken significant steps toward achieving peace, yet many in the Arab world continually try to delegitimize the Jewish state. There is increased international support to counter Iran's belligerence, however the regime defiantly presses forward with its nuclear weapons program."
"At home, though anti-Semitic attitudes and incidents declined, virulently anti-Jewish views persist and Jews continue to be the most frequently targeted religious group," said Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair. "Troubling episodes like the Holocaust museum shooting contributed to a rise in domestic terrorism and a new wave of hate against Jews and others. Yet there were notable causes for celebration: the ascension of the first African-American to our nation's highest office and the passage of updated federal hate crimes legislation are monumental achievements."
ADL'S TOP ISSUES AFFECTING JEWS
• New Governments in U.S. & Israel
• Global Anti-Semitism Alive and Well
• Domestic Terrorism Thwarted, Threat Remains
• Federal Hate Crimes Bill a Reality
• Goldstone Report Attacks Israel
• Iran Remains Defiant and Belligerent
• Anti-Government Rage & Conspiracy Theories
• America Firmly in Israel's Corner
• Anti-Semite Charged in Holocaust Museum Shooting
• Jewish-Catholic Relations Overcome Strains
New Governments in U.S. & Israel
Political landscapes at home and in Israel underwent dramatic changes as Barack Obama became the first African-American to assume the presidency and Benjamin Netanyahu formed a new Israeli government. Both administrations inherited difficult foreign policy and security issues, and each made significant gestures aimed at peace and reconciliation -- notably President Obama's groundbreaking address to the Muslim people, and Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement of a 10-month West Bank settlement building freeze.
Global Anti-Semitism Alive and Well
Anti-Semitism was a particularly troubling concern for Jews across the globe. In the wake of Israel's operation in Gaza, Jews the world over felt the backlash. Across Europe, a wave of violence saw Jews beaten on the street, Jewish businesses and homes attacked, and demonstrators equating Israelis with Nazis. In Egypt and in much of the Arab world, anti-Jewish themes littered the news media, popular literature and religious sermons. In Venezuela, anti-Semitic vitriol emanated from the highest levels of government down to the protests of the masses.
Domestic Terrorism Thwarted, Threat Remains
Though law enforcement vigilance helped keep the dangers in check, the specter of a growing domestic terror threat looms. In New York, authorities thwarted a plot to bomb two synagogues, while in Illinois, an American convert to Islam attempted to bomb a federal courthouse, later expressing his ambitions to join a Palestinian terrorist organization against Israel. Americans were also suspected of seeking training from extremists abroad. In North Carolina, seven were charged with conspiring to wage "violent Jihad" overseas, while five Muslim American men from northern Virginia were arrested in Pakistan after reportedly trying to "join the jihad" against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Many of these extremists openly expressed hatred of Jews and Israel.
Federal Hate Crimes Bill a Reality
In a monumental achievement that ensures that all victims of hate crimes receive equal protection, President Obama signed into law a comprehensive hate crime bill that provides for expanded federal involvement in investigating and prosecuting hate violence in America. The new legislation closes a critical loophole in previous federal law, and expands protections to previously unprotected categories, including actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
Goldstone Report Attacks Israel
Replete with inaccuracies and distortions, the Goldstone Report had powerful negative consequences for Israel. It played a role in international efforts to delegitimize Israel, accused the Jewish state of war crimes and drew an unwarranted equivalence between Israel's defensive operation and the terrorist actions of Hamas. It further cemented the United Nations Human Rights Council's reputation of anti-Israel bias. Inside the UN itself, Israel continued to be singled out for criticism and diplomatic isolation.
Iran Remains Defiant and Belligerent
After a fraudulent presidential election and violent government crackdown of mass protests, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerical regime retained their grip on power in Iran. Ahmadinejad continued to espouse anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, along with extreme anti-Israel and anti-Western rhetoric. The Iranian regime openly defied international pressure to cease its nuclear program, announcing its intention to construct 10 additional nuclear fuel enrichment plants. Iran also continued to sponsor terrorism against Israel through its proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
Anti-Government Rage & Conspiracy Theories
A current of anti-government hostility swept across the country, creating an atmosphere of rage in America. The fervor manifested in ways ranging from incivility in public forums to acts of intimidation and violence, as well as a resurgent militia movement and the proliferation of anti-government conspiracy theories. Moreover, the national effort to reform health care saw Holocaust comparisons injected into the debate, with some equating President Obama with Hitler and demonstrators hoisting signs employing Nazi imagery.
America Firmly in Israel's Corner
A nationwide survey of the American public demonstrated its continued strong support for Israel, with an increase in support for action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. President Obama described America's bond with Israel as "unbreakable," and American legislators voted overwhelmingly to condemn the biased Goldstone Report and to pressure Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.
Anti-Semite Charged in Holocaust Museum Shooting
After a lone gunman opened fire at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., killing a security guard, his ideology soon came to the fore. The accused shooter, James Von Brunn, 88, is a long-time neo-Nazi and white supremacist who has vehemently expressed his anti-Semitic and racist views for decades. He has held a nearly life-long conviction that Jews were persecuting him, and his stated goal in carrying out the shooting was to "kill as many Jews as possible."
Jewish-Catholic Relations Overcome Strains
The Catholic-Jewish relationship overcame several stumbling blocks during the past year. The excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who publicly questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers was lifted, causing a firestorm and prompting Pope Benedict XVI to strongly repudiate Holocaust denial. The Vatican later demanded that the bishop unequivocally recant his Holocaust denial – though his attempt to do so fell far short. In the U.S., after hearing concerns from Jewish religious leaders, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops removed language from a document that described interfaith dialogue as an implicit invitation to baptism.
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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.