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Recent Brussels, Paris anti-Semitic attacks back up ADL Global 100 poll claims

Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL's recent survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism" mapped out the world's most anti-Semitic countries
Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL's recent survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism" mapped out the world's most anti-Semitic countries

Two recent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe did more to prove to the rise of anti-Semitism than even the Anti-Defamation League's recent survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism," released on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. On Saturday, May 24, 2014 four people were shot and killed at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, shortly thereafter there was an anti-Semitic attack on three Jews in Paris, France. The attack in Belgium was the first such incident in the city of Brussels since the 1980s. With the presence of such virulent anti-Semitic violence, the ADL's study aimed to "survey of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment across the world" seems more real, timely and relevant.

At the Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting in Brussels on Saturday, May 24 three died at the scene, all Jewish, including an Israeli couple Mira and Emmanuel Riva, visiting the Museum from Tel Aviv, and a female volunteer at the museum, the forth a museum receptionist died in hospital of his wounds shortly afterwards. Hours later there was an attack on a rabbi and his two sons in Créteil, Paris, France "outside a synagogue." The attack comes just over a month after the anti-Semitic driven shooting on Sunday, April 13 the day before Erev Pesach at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, where three people were killed by a white supremacist.

In light of the recent anti-Semitic attacks, ADL National Chairman Barry Curtiss-Lusher comment on his organization's survey is even more relevant and important. Curtiss-Lusher expressed; "We hope this unprecedented effort to measure and gauge anti-Semitic attitudes globally will serve as a wake-up call to governments, to international institutions and to people of conscience that anti-Semitism is not just a relic of history, but a current event." ADL National Director Abraham Foxman expressed in a statement about the attack that "While violence against Jews in Belgium is extremely rare, the attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum is another tragic reminder of the frightening atmosphere for Jews in parts of Europe."

Belgium has a Jewish population of 40,000 and according to a Times of Israel article 20,000 lives in Brussels the country's capital. Viviane Teitelbaum, "a Jewish member of the Brussels legislature" stated that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism and "It has been a very difficult place to live." ADL's survey determined that Belgium had only a slight above average "score" with 27 percent; however, from their survey their anti-Israel sentiment was high at 44 percent. The last time there was an attack on the Belgian Jewish community was a 1982 synagogue shooting. France, home to the largest Jewish community in Europe with a population of 550,000 had the "second highest" anti-Semitism "score" in Western Europe according to ADL's survey at 37 percent. France is also seeing the highest number of Jewish emigrations to Israel.

Israel's leadership explicitly called the incident anti-Semitism. Israel's President Shimon Peres declared; "We must act without hesitation against any form of anti-Semitism. The leaders of Europe should lead the struggle against anti-Semitism, which is rearing its head across the continent." The next day when meeting with Pope Francis on his first official trip to the Middle East Peres stated about the attack that; "Only yesterday, criminals shot innocent people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels only because they thought they were Jewish. This is a manifestation that poisons wells and cannot be accepted."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rebuke went further calling the attack not only anti-Semitic, but anti-Israel and a result of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), saying; "This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state. Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored. Our response to this hypocrisy is to constantly state the truth, continue a relentless fight against terrorism and build up our strength."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shared a similar opinion, expressing; "Throughout history anti-Semitism has taken on many forms but at bottom has always been based hatred of Jews merely for being Jews, whoever they may be and wherever they live… That's why activity termed 'pro-Palestinian,' activity that once again, just like in those dark days, calls for the boycott of 'Jewish goods,' and aggressively targets the only democracy in the Middle East, is nothing but anti-Semitic."

In Europe, Jewish leaders see this attack as part of the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent. European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in his statement that; "we are acutely aware of the permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium and across the whole of Europe. European governments must send out a clear message of zero tolerance towards any manifestation of anti-Semitism." Communal leader and head of the Belgian League against anti-Semitism Joel Rubinfeld told the press that the shooting was a because of the country's "climate of hate." Member of the Belgian Jewish community and leader of centrist Parti Populaire Mischael Modrikamen stated; "Sadly, however, the actual attack comes as no surprise to us after years of living in an atmosphere of rampant anti-Semitism that often leads to violence."

European and world leaders were quick to condemn the attack. Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo denounced the attacks shortly after saying; "Our country and all Belgians, no matter their language, origins or [religious] convictions, are united in the face of this abhorrent attack on a Jewish cultural center… Four innocent people were hurt and a deeply symbolic place was struck. The government expresses all its support to our country's Jewish community." Belgium's King Philip also stated that he feels "indignation over this act of violence closely affecting the Jewish community." While France's President Francois Hollande stated; "The anti-Semitic character of this act, a shooting in the Jewish museum in Brussels with the intention to kill, is in no doubt."

The European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton also issued a statement, saying; "I condemn unreservedly the dreadful attack… I send my condolences to the families of the victims and express my solidarity with the Belgian authorities and the Jewish community." United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson stated; "The Secretary-General notes that, while the investigation is ongoing, the location of the attack points to a possible anti-Semitic motivation behind it." Pope Francis in Israel also condemned the attacks; "I am profoundly saddened, my thoughts go out to those who lost their lives in the attack in Brussels, I entrust the victims to God…. In renewing my deep sorrow for this criminal act of anti-Semitic hatred, I commend to our merciful God the victims and pray for the healing of those wounded.""

Still questions remain why did these attacks are happened, why is there a raise in anti-Semitism in the Western Europe. ADL's news survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism," does not look to answer the whys, but does determine the wheres, mapping out the world's anti-Semitic hotspots, giving cultural and demographic details about the state of global anti-Semitic views in the 21st century. The ADL's survey questioned people from 102 countries and eight different geographic regions, and the results determined that 26 percent of the world's population; 1.09 billion people have "anti-Semitic attitudes." It is the most "comprehensive" survey conducted ever, questioning "88 percent of the world's total adult population." Overall 53,100 were questioned in 96 languages from 8 regions of the world. Jewish communal leaders have been questioning however, the results of the survey, saying that there is actually more anti-Semitism in regions where ADL indicated lower levels.

The survey asked 11 questions that according to the ADL are "based on age-old stereotypes about Jews, including classical stereotypes about Jewish power, loyalty, money and behavior." Those questions have been used for 50 years for ADL's survey gauging anti-Semitism in the United States. A person was qualified as having anti-Semitic views if they answered "probably true" to at least six stereotypes asked in the questionnaire. The results in percentage were called a country's or region's anti-Semitism "score"

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman presented the survey to the press on Tuesday, May 6 at ADL's New York headquarters, where he concluded; "Our findings are sobering but, sadly, not surprising. The data clearly indicates that classic anti-Semitic canards defy national, cultural, religious and economic boundaries." The ADL director thinks the survey will be the benchmark survey of today's global anti-Semitism; "The ADL's Global 100 index will serve as a baseline. For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world."

Foxman also described the importance of the survey's findings in the ADL's press release; "For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world. The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially non-existent."

The ADL National Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher also expressed his thoughts on the survey's findings, declaring; "The level of anti-Semitism in some countries and regions, even those where there are no Jews, is in many instances shocking. We hope this unprecedented effort to measure and gauge anti-Semitic attitudes globally will serve as a wake-up call to governments, to international institutions and to people of conscience that anti-Semitism is not just a relic of history, but a current event."

The results identify which countries and regions are the least and most anti-Semitic. The most anti-Semitic attitudes are found in Islamic countries in the Middle East and North African (MENA) regions with a 74 percent score. No surprise the most anti-Semitic region is the West Bank and Gaza at 93 percent. Outside those areas, anti-Semitism remains high in Eastern Europe at 34 percent, in Greece 69 percent of the population displays anti-Semitic views. The Czech Republic is the region's exception at 13 percent. Foxman expressed; "We were profoundly disappointed about the resilience of anti-Semitism in many countries where we had hoped to see lower numbers, particularly some in Eastern Europe that experienced the war and the Holocaust firsthand."

Although the survey found that Western Europe had an average 24 percent anti-Semitic viewpoint, in reality life in Europe is difficult for Jews, and not only in Eastern Europe. European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor commented the "normative Jewish life in Europe is unsustainable… Jews do not feel safe or secure in certain communities in Europe." While EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights determined that a third of Europe's Jews plan to emigrate primarily to Israel.

The least anti-Semitic countries and regions represent 28 percent of the world and they did not have one "probably true" response on the survey's 11 stereotypes questions. Oceania and the Americas are the least anti-Semitic regions, with anti-Semitism at 19 and 11 percent. As for North America, there is a disparity between the U.S. and Canada; only 9 percent of Americans have anti-Semitic views, while in Canada the number is a half more with 14 percent. Considering the pro-Jewish and Israel Stephen Harper government the number is unexpected. The chief executive officer of B'nai Brith Canada Frank Dimant expressed that "I'm a little bit surprised that the figures aren't greater in the United States but I'm not surprised at the 14% in Canada. We have always surmised that it is in that range - that range of 'hardcore.'" The numbers were higher in Canada because of the French Catholic majority in Quebec, where anti-Semitism is at 37 percent. Laos was the least anti-Semitic country on the list at 0.2 percent as well as neighboring Vietnam and the Philippines, and there are practically no anti-Semitic views in the liberal minded Scandinavian countries according to the survey.

The associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper disputes the findings that especially that there is a lack of anti-Semitism in the Scandinavian countries, saying, "You're talking about countries in which shechita (kosher slaughter) is illegal, in which there are Holocaust deniers and generally very negative attitudes [about Jews]. Jewish kids in schools in Scandinavia are bullied because they're Jews. So the idea that Sweden is somehow that shining beacon in Scandinavia, it's just way off." Foxman, although stated to the press that they wanted to be "credible" so in their findings they "were cautious, we were conservative, to understate rather than overstate."

Manfred Gerstenfeld who is a "Dutch-educated Israeli author and former chairman of the steering committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs" believes there are two reasons for the disparity in ADL results and the realities. The survey only measures prejudices not actions, and gauging "anti-Israel sentiment" is limited, and sometimes in the extreme can be enough to a person, country and region as anti-Semitic. In an interview with JNS Gerstenfeld explained; "In the Netherlands, 39 percent of the population thinks that Israel is running a war of extermination against the Palestinians. A genocidal war. Now I don't need 11 questions on prejudices, this single question is enough to define somebody as an extreme anti-Semite. … If you are against the [Israeli] settlements you are not an anti-Semite. If you say Israel is a Nazi state, then you are an extreme anti-Semite."

Jeffrey Liszt from Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, the company that conducted the survey for ADL also brought up the fact that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment is not equal in the minds of those that responded to the survey. The Scandinavian countries might have low anti-Semitic views, but they have high negative opinions of Israel. As the Jerusalem Post pointed out "Israel was viewed unfavorably by 36% of respondent in Denmark, 37% in Norway, and 33% in Sweden."

The religion of the country also determines the degree of anti-Semitism according to the ADL survey; the English speaking world had an average of 13 percent of the population being anti-Semitic. Protestant countries are less anti-Semitic than countries, such are Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden than those who have national religions, and religious majorities, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Muslim or otherwise.

The survey determined that Muslims are the most anti-Semitic group, especially in the MENA countries with 49 percent being anti-Semitic, while Muslims in countries where they are also a minority are more tolerant, especially in European counties and Sub-Saharan Africa. Even though they are also a minority, "Christians in MENA" countries are more anti-Semitic at 64 percent than the rest of the world at 24 percent. Gerstenfeld was pleased that the survey finally revealed that there is wide anti-Semitic view from Muslims all over the world, telling JNS that "The truth is that there is a broad range of Muslim gradations, with very radical ones and moderates at the two extremes." The least anti-Semitic religions according to ADL are Hindus, Buddhists, and those of "no religion."

Most of the anti-Semitism is a result of the world's population not having any contact with Jews, According to the survey 74 percent never even met one, 25 percent of them having anti-Semitic views, and 70 percent an overwhelming majority of the 26 percent of the world's population who are anti-Semitic never even met a Jew. Some of the reasons that globally perpetuate anti-Semitism are a lack of awareness of the Holocaust and the history of the worst anti-Semitic event, and that much of the world's population never even met a Jew and their opinion relies on stereotypes rather than realities. Finally the generation gap is a problem with the younger generation more anti-Semitic than the older generation, who are more knowledgeable of history.

Only 54 percent of those surveyed are "aware" of the Holocaust, with two out of three not knowing about the Holocaust or are Holocaust deniers. Foxman pointed out; "When it comes to Holocaust awareness, while only 54 percent of those polled had heard of the Holocaust -- a disturbingly low number -- the numbers were far better in Western Europe, where 94 percent of those polled were aware of the history." Also there is the knowledge generation gap, with older generation being more "aware" of the Holocaust, proving how desperately Holocaust education needs to be added to school history curriculums. Continuing, Foxman indicated; "At the same time, the results confirm a troubling gap between older adults who know their history and younger men and women who, more than 70 years after the events of World War II, are more likely to have never heard of or learned about what happened to the six million Jews who perished."

The survey also proves that anti-Israel sentiment is the new anti-Semitism or at least, the two opinions are closely linked. Of the 11 stereotypes the most believed at 41 percent in "five out of the seven regions" is that "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in." The second most believed stereotype compromises the age old Jewish control of the money, the economy and business, with 35 percent believing the stereotype that "Jews have too much power in the business world." That stereotype is predominant in Eastern Europe where it first originated and the region has been harboring the sentiments for hundreds of years and a key part of anti-Semitism that originally led to the Holocaust.

There is also a misunderstanding about the total world Jewish population, with an overwhelming majority of 84 percent not knowing the actual percentage of the world Jewish population, a majority over estimating the Jewish population, adding the stereotype that Jews rule the world. Of those results 30 percent think the Jewish population is above 10 percent, 18 percent think it is between 1-10 percent and only 16 percent chose the right answer that Jews represent less than a percent of the global population, in reality Jews are only 0.19 percent of the world population.

Results of the survey by regions:

  • Middle East and North African countries: 74 percent
  • Eastern Europe: 34 percent
  • Western Europe: 24 percent
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 23 percent
  • Asia: 22 percent
  • The Americas: 19 percent
  • Oceania: 14 percent

Most anti-Semitic countries:

  • West Bank and Gaza - 93 percent
  • Iraq - 92 percent
  • Yemen - 88 percent
  • Algeria - 87 percent
  • Libya - 87 percent
  • Tunisia - 86 percent
  • Kuwait - 82 percent
  • Bahrain - 81 percent
  • Jordan - 81 percent
  • Morocco - 80 percent

Least anti-Semitic countries:

  • Laos - 0.2 percent
  • Philippines -- 3 percent
  • Sweden - 4 percent
  • Netherlands - 5 percent
  • Vietnam - 6 percent
  • United Kingdom - 8 percent
  • United States - 9 percent
  • Denmark - 9 percent
  • Tanzania - 12 percent
  • Thailand - 13 percent

Questions asked in the ADL survey:

  1. Jews are more loyal to Israel than this country.
  2. Jews have too much power in the business world.
  3. Jews have too much power in the international financial markets.
  4. Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.
  5. Jew don't care what happens to anyone, but their own kind.
  6. Jews have too much control over global affairs.
  7. Jews have too much control over the United States government.
  8. Jews think they are better than other people.
  9. Jews have too much control over the global media.
  10. Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars.
  11. People hate Jews because of the ways Jews behave.

Even though Jewish communal leaders find some faults and question some of the ADL survey's results and methodology, they say it is an important jumping off point to further more detailed and distinct regional studies. Rabbi Cooper told JNS; "it's important that the ADL did the report…. an important building block," making the global Jewish population aware that "we have a lot of enemies out there." Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs for the American Jewish Committee finds the survey an "enormous panorama photo with so many countries… It's a great picture, but if you're really looking for your own kid, you'll do much better if you have your own photos." ADL is considering embarking on more detailed studies, ADL director of international affairs Michael Salberg expressed interest in further studies; "We might survey a few countries each year or every few years. We are discussing it."


Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes JBuzz & Together with Israel. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are Northern American Jewish news, Israeli news & politics, and Jewish history, religion and cultural news.

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