ADL AUDIT SHOWS DECLINE IN ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS IN
1996 WHILE ANTI-SEMITISM AND HATE MESSAGES GROW ON THE INTERNET
Washington, DC, February 26, 1997...For the second straight year the
number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in the United States declined,
according to the ADL 1996 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents released by the
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today at the National Press Club. A total
of 1,722 incidents were documented, a seven percent decrease from the 1995
total of 1,843.
According to the Audit, 781 acts of vandalism occurred in 1996, representing
a seven percent increase over last year's figure of 727; acts of harassment,
threat or assault, however, declined 15% to 941 from a 1995 total of 1,116.
"This two-year drop is the first multi-year decline of anti-Semitic
incidents in 10 years," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
"It tells us that the combination of law enforcement action and educational
outreach is an effective one-two counterpunch that is reaping results in
the traditional arenas where anti-Semites are active.
"However, in arenas yet to be quantified -- the Internet and E-mail
-- anti-Semites, racists and bigots are having a field day," said Mr.
Foxman. "Electronic hate is the dark side of technology, and anti-Semites
have particularly taken to the medium. Our challenge is to reach millions
of computer users with messages of truth and tolerance."
Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses declined at the same time
that students were targeted by anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers on the
Internet. 90 incidents were reported in 1996, a drop of 28 from the previous
States with large Jewish populations continue to have the highest totals
of anti-Semitic incidents: New York - 328, down from 370; New Jersey -
238, up from 228; California - 186, down from 264; Florida - 123, down
from 152; Massachusetts - 106, up from 85.
Among the most serious incidents reported nationwide were:
*The detonation of an explosive device at the door of a Jewish Center
in New York City.
*Arson attacks against Jewish property, including a synagogue and community
center, in New York, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona and Connecticut.
*The shooting inside a Wisconsin synagogue by two men with a BB gun
during morning prayers.
*More than 100 tombstones were toppled over a three-night period at
four Jewish cemeteries in the Chicago area.
*A rash of swastikas spray painted throughout the nation's capital,
"Every act of anti-Semitism reaches beyond its victim to the community
at large," said David H. Strassler, ADL National Chairman. "We
are encouraged that these acts have been met by strong community responses
-- from Jewish and non-Jewish citizens -- who have said no to hate."
Mr. Strassler cited the literal erasing of hate messages in Washington,
DC and the display of lighted menorahs by Christian neighbors of a Jewish
family whose home was attacked on Chanukah in Newtown Township, PA.
Harassment, Threats, Assaults and Vandalism Continue Trends of Past
For the sixth straight year, acts of anti-Semitic harassment outnumber
incidents of vandalism. The 941 incidents of harassment, threat or assault
represent 55 percent of the total number of incidents. Of these, 733 incidents
or 78 percent were directed against individuals, continuing the troubling
predominance of such "in your face" attacks. 208 harassment incidents
were directed against institutions, e.g., threatening phone calls to a Jewish
community center or hate mail sent to a synagogue.
This category of incidents covers a large variety of intimidating and
hostile acts, ranging from anti-Semitic comments made in passing, up through
serious violent and personal criminal attacks where anti-Semitic bias is
the motive. Holocaust-denial advertisements in college newspapers, speeches
containing blatantly anti-Semitic language or imagery, the distribution
of anti-Semitic flyers in a neighborhood, neo-Nazis rallying in Jewish neighborhoods,
hate mail sent to a synagogue or a bomb threat phoned to a Jewish institution
all are also examples of harassment incidents. Although not all incidents
counted in the ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents as anti-Semitic harassment
are crimes, they nonetheless represent overt and painful expressions of
Jew-hatred, which remain far too common.
Vandalism incidents were much more likely to occur on public property
than private or institutional property. This pattern continues a trend
seen over the previous six years. Four hundred and seven of the incidents
of vandalism reported in 1996 involved defaced public property and only
117 were attacks against Jewish institutions. The remaining 257 were directed
against private Jewish property. Vandals opt for the more numerous and
harder-to-protect public locations rather than the generally better secured
and aware Jewish institutions. In recent years, such institutions have
also become better protected by more intensive law enforcement action.
The number of incidents occurring on college campuses has continued
to decline. Most notable was a slackening in the campaign of recent years
by Holocaust deniers to publish advertisements and articles in student newspapers.
Some examples of anti-Semitic incidents on campus:
· At the University of Miami, on December 6, less than 12 hours
after University President Edward T. Foote had lit the first electric "candle,"
a 15-foot menorah on campus was pushed into a lake.
· On January 22, Seth Greenberg, the coach of the Long Beach State
University men's basketball team, prepared for a game against New Mexico
State University. Upon opening his greaseboard to diagram plays for his
team, he discovered "Seth, get ready for an ass-kicking, you Jew bastard,"
written on the board in red.
· In February, anti-Semitic materials were found in books in
the library of San Diego State University. A month later, swastikas were
placed on the door to a Jewish student's dorm room.
· In April, at Georgetown University, in the nation's capital,
hate mail about Jews and Israel was received by the student newspaper.
· In June, "Stormtrooper," SS lightning bolts, swastikas
and other anti-Semitic graffiti was found on the title pages of books in
the Hebrew and Yiddish literature sections in the University of Chicago
Anti-Semitism Seeps Into the Internet
A relatively new element in the overall picture of anti-Semitism in
the U.S. is "electronic hate" -- bigotry transmitted over the
Internet. The Internet's growth has been remarkable. By the end of 1996,
an estimated 35 million people worldwide were using it with thousands more
going on-line each day. Tens of millions of different types of transactions
daily pass through the copper and fiber-optic cables that tie its components
together in a worldwide network.
Unfortunately, amid the torrent of information on the Internet, a disturbing
stream of hate-filled vitriol directed against religious, ethnic, racial
and cultural minorities flows unimpeded. Anti-Semites have been particularly
active in exploiting the medium. They use the Net to reach an audience
many times larger than any they could have ever previously hoped to reach
with their flyers, rallies and shopworn canards, creating a troubling, persistent
anti-Semitic background noise that pollutes the Internet. What was local
is now global, potentially accessible by everyone who uses the Internet:
the young and old, the sophisticated and naive.
Since the Internet is an unregulated environment, anyone can start a
site and publish anything. The reputable and the disreputable exist side
by side. Internet technology gives eager propagandists a variety of ways
to spread their message. The World Wide Web -- offering text, images, sound
and animation -- can replace or supplement the newsletters and other publications
produced by hate groups. Audio copies of speeches or radio broadcasts can
be placed on line for downloading (copying) to the user's machine for later
playback or can be heard in "real time" -- as they are transmitted.
By 1996, a number of notorious extremists with long histories of anti-Semitic
activism were exploiting the possibilities of the Web. The nature of the
Internet makes it very easy for haters to strike. Unlike the people who
venture out in the night to spray swastikas on tombstones or synagogues,
Internet bigots can spew their hatred without ever running the risk of being
identified. They can work far outside the neighborhoods in which they live.
Anonymity, a key part of Internet culture, plays a role in encouraging
on-line hate. There is no requirement that a person accurately identify
him or herself. Newsgroup hate messages are more like anonymous phone calls
or letters that can be sent simultaneously to hundreds or thousands of people.
E-mail is essentially a private, person-to-person technology but it,
too, can be adapted to the task of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda. Mass
mailings are simple -- and require no postage. It is merely a matter of
compiling a mailing list and sending a message. It is possible to mail
hate messages to the private mailboxes of large numbers of people. From
time to time, enterprising haters have managed to mass-mail hate materials
to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people without revealing their identity.
Prepared by the Research Department of the ADL Civil Rights Division,
the Audit includes data from 41 states, the District of Columbia and the
U.S. Virgin Islands, which were reported to ADL regional offices by victims,
law enforcement officers and community leaders.
The 44-page survey also includes charts, graphs, photographs and other
Editor's Note: Copies of the Audit are available from the ADL Media Relations
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.