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July 20, 2015 0

Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe: History Repeating Once Again

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The anti-Semitism news from Europe in over the past year has been ter­ri­ble: Jews mur­dered in Paris and Copen­hagen, syn­a­gogues attacked by mobs and fire­bombed, and increas­ing Jew­ish emi­gra­tion attrib­uted to fear of more attacks.

A new poll on anti-Semitic atti­tudes, how­ever, may offer some rea­son for opti­mism amid an oth­er­wise bleak picture.

The Anti-Defamation League poll, a follow-up to our 2014 sur­vey of anti-Semitic atti­tudes in more than 100 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries, found sig­nif­i­cant decreases in big­oted views toward Jews in France, Bel­gium, and Ger­many, where anti-Semitic vio­lence has been a promi­nent issue.

The sur­pris­ing results in these three coun­tries prompted us to look deeper into pos­si­ble rea­sons and to con­firm the results.  The ini­tial results were con­firmed and the new data we obtained sug­gest pos­si­ble explanations.

What did we find in all three coun­tries?  Respon­dents had height­ened aware­ness and con­cern about vio­lence against Jews and a stronger sense of sol­i­dar­ity with the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties.  Over half of French respon­dents had heard polit­i­cal lead­ers con­demn anti-Semitism, and majori­ties in all three coun­tries noted their gov­ern­ments had been more active in com­bat­ting anti-Semitism.

For decades, ADL has urged pub­lic fig­ures in Amer­ica and around the world to denounce anti-Semitism when inci­dents occur. In the U.S., lead­ers at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment make such state­ments and we have seen decreases in anti-Semitic atti­tudes here in our decades of domes­tic polling.

Over the past year, we have also seen strong and sus­tained denun­ci­a­tions of anti-Semitism in France by Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Manuel Valls and Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, where the most pro­nounced drop in anti-Semitic atti­tudes was found among the Euro­pean coun­tries sur­veyed.  In Ger­many, Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel head­lined a rally against anti-Semitism in Sep­tem­ber.  Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel, who took office in Octo­ber, has been out­spo­ken against anti-Semitism and hon­est about lax­ity of pre­vi­ous governments.

Such actions should be emu­lated by all Euro­pean leaders.

It is cer­tainly pos­si­ble that peo­ple were sim­ply less will­ing to express agree­ment with anti-Jewish state­ments, while still har­bor­ing such atti­tudes. Respon­dents reported sim­i­lar lev­els of anti-Semitism among peo­ple they know com­pared with 2014, a per­cep­tion which is often a proxy for peo­ple hold­ing anti-Semitic views them­selves.  Even if that is the case, greater ret­i­cence to express anti-Semitism would still be a pos­i­tive development.

The good news must be tem­pered by the sober­ing con­cern that we do not know how deep and last­ing these pos­i­tive shifts will be.  The trau­matic effects of the recent vio­lence in France, Bel­gium and Ger­many may fade and the reluc­tance to express anti-Semitic atti­tudes may recede.  Addi­tional polling over time will tell us.

Other poll results showed how much anti-bias work remains to be done.

For the first time, the ADL poll mea­sured Mus­lim atti­tudes in Bel­gium, France, Ger­many, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.  An aver­age of 55 per­cent of West­ern Euro­pean Mus­lims har­bored anti-Semitic atti­tudes. Accep­tance of anti-Semitic stereo­types by Mus­lims in these coun­tries was sub­stan­tially higher than among the national pop­u­la­tion in each coun­try (rang­ing from 12 to 29 per­cent), though lower than cor­re­spond­ing fig­ures of 75 per­cent for Mus­lims in the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA) in ADL’s 2014 poll.

The index is made up of 11 clas­si­cal stereo­types about Jews.  In con­sul­ta­tion with schol­ars, ADL set a stan­dard in which respon­dents had to agree with six or more of these stereo­types in order to be described as har­bor­ing anti-Semitic atti­tudes.  To be sure, any one ques­tion may be sub­ject to dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions.  How­ever, agree­ing with at least six of these state­ments makes clear one’s biased atti­tude toward Jews.

On most conspiracy-related state­ments, e.g. “Jews have too much con­trol over global affairs,” results for Euro­pean and MENA Mus­lims showed lit­tle dif­fer­ence.  How­ever, on neg­a­tive state­ments about Jew­ish char­ac­ter, e.g. “peo­ple hate Jews because of the way they behave” and “Jews think they are bet­ter than other peo­ple,” Euro­pean Mus­lims scored sub­stan­tially lower than MENA Muslims.

Reduc­ing vio­lent attacks on Jews and Jew­ish insti­tu­tions must clearly be the first pri­or­ity in the bat­tle against anti-Semitism, but chang­ing atti­tudes counts.  While we do not see a cor­re­la­tion between high num­bers of vio­lent inci­dents and high lev­els of anti-Semitic beliefs, Jews feel freer to live openly as Jews when they are con­fi­dent of being accepted in their soci­eties, not just in the absence of secu­rity concerns.

The fight against anti-Semitism must be waged in the pub­lic square and at schools, as well as by law enforce­ment.  Polit­i­cal lead­ers must set the tone and devote the polit­i­cal cap­i­tal to encour­ag­ing every sec­tor of soci­ety to engage together to com­bat the scourge of anti-Semitism.  Civil soci­ety and the busi­ness com­mu­nity, edu­ca­tors and jour­nal­ists, reli­gious lead­ers and stu­dents, par­ents and chil­dren, law enforce­ment offi­cers, pros­e­cu­tors and jurists must all join the battle.

Large majori­ties of respon­dents in Bel­gium (68 per­cent), France (77 per­cent), and Ger­many (78 per­cent) agreed that, “Vio­lence against Jews in this coun­try affects every­one and is an attack on our way of life.”  We should not set­tle for less than 100 per­cent, and that requires clear and con­sis­tent rein­force­ment that threats to Jews are assaults on the well-being and sense of secu­rity for the whole society.

Let us hope the improve­ments found in our poll grow in effect, expand across Europe, and even­tu­ally through the rest of the world.

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July 15, 2015 0

Public Figures and Petty Hatred

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Here at the Anti-Defamation League, we get it all the time. Most recently when we crit­i­cized Jar­ryd Hayne, a for­mer Aus­tralian rugby star and now a run­ning back on the San Fran­cisco 49ers, for revis­it­ing the ancient charge blam­ing Jews for the death of Christ.

Colum­nist Jef­frey Gold­berg tweeted, “Maybe not the best use of ADL’s time?”

With all that is going on in the world of a seri­ous nature, some say, is that what ADL should be focus­ing on?  Let’s be clear: We deal every­day with the larger issues. On the very day that the Jar­ryd Hayne mat­ter sur­faced, we issued a strong state­ment about the Iran nuclear arrangement.

Still, the crit­ics are miss­ing the point. The anal­ogy I would draw is to the approach taken by New York Police Com­mis­sioner Bill Brat­ton when he assumed the posi­tion for the first time in 1993.

The year before, there had been over 2,000 mur­ders in New York City. All kinds of solu­tions for this huge prob­lem had been sug­gested and tried with­out success.

Brat­ton took a counter-intuitive approach: Focus first not on the big crimes but on the every­day petty ones, like graf­fiti and bro­ken win­dows. Peo­ple chuck­led at this bizarre approach, but it worked. The mur­der rate went into a pre­cip­i­tous decline, even­tu­ally total­ing 333 in 2014.

Bratton’s logic: The cli­mate of tol­er­ance for crime reflected in the small stuff opened the way for the truly hor­ren­dous acts. Clean up the cli­mate and you will clean up crime.

This is a les­son that ADL learned many decades ago in its strug­gle against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred. When pub­lic fig­ures, whether politi­cians, enter­tain­ers, ath­letes or oth­ers say hate­ful things and they go unan­swered that helps cre­ate a cli­mate recep­tive to broader hate and even vio­lence. There­fore, stand­ing up every time pub­lic fig­ures express hate, rather than being incon­se­quen­tial, is, in fact, among the more impor­tant things one can do to make this a bet­ter society.

When I get asked about some of the major con­tri­bu­tions that ADL has made to Amer­ica over the past cen­tury, I often focus on this point. We have not rid this coun­try of hate, obvi­ously. But we have made it unac­cept­able for pub­lic fig­ures to engage in hate­ful speech with­out a strong reac­tion from the pub­lic and dif­fer­ent sec­tors of soci­ety. This has reduced the level of hate­ful pub­lic speech and made for a health­ier society.

I, of course, rec­og­nize that there are oppo­site trends at work because of the inter­net and social media. The chal­lenge of deal­ing with hate speech through these media is pro­found, one that we and oth­ers work on every day.

Still, the basic con­cept of stand­ing up against hate speech as a social good remains as impor­tant as ever. It rests on the idea that lead­er­ship mat­ters — that set­ting an exam­ple for oth­ers to emu­late is a good thing.

It reflects a belief in the fun­da­men­tal good­ness of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Pro­vide them the infor­ma­tion, show them that hate­ful com­ments hurt large groups of peo­ple, and they will respond.

Along these lines, I often say that the sin­gle most impor­tant ini­tia­tive ADL took in its long his­tory was the Anti-Mask law that was passed in Geor­gia in 1950. This was a time when the KKK was ram­pant and cre­at­ing havoc. The Klan’s right to march was pro­tected by the First Amend­ment. The law we pro­posed, which was enacted, said they couldn’t march anony­mously, their faces hid­den by those men­ac­ing hoods.

Once they no longer were incog­nito, they lost their pow­er­ful aura. Peo­ple rec­og­nized their neigh­bors. The mys­tery of the Klan — a key to their power — had been evis­cer­ated. The Klan’s decline began.

The les­son for us was pro­found. Bring issues of hate to pub­lic atten­tion, reveal the haters and stand up against hate wher­ever it appears.

Noth­ing petty about that.

June 24, 2015 0

The Time to Address Gun Violence is Now

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Last week in Charleston, we were trag­i­cally reminded yet again that domes­tic extrem­ists pose a seri­ous threat to our soci­ety. And the threat they pose is mag­ni­fied many times over when extrem­ists like self-confessed shooter Dylann Roof have firearms.

Sim­ply put, guns in the hands of extrem­ists — guns in the hands of white suprema­cists, guns in the hands of big­ots — are a clear and present dan­ger. To this dan­ger, we must add the threats posed by other shoot­ers with mal­ice in their hearts and guns in their hands: school shoot­ers, work­place shoot­ers, fam­ily and domes­tic vio­lence shoot­ers, as well as all the oth­ers respon­si­ble for so many thou­sands of gun deaths each year in America.

Our nation can no longer afford to ignore this dan­ger. We face seri­ous chal­lenges when it comes to the cur­rents of racism, hatred and prej­u­dice that harm and divide our soci­ety, chal­lenges that won’t be resolved overnight. But we must also con­front and deal urgently with the plague of gun violence.

When it comes to guns, Amer­i­cans can no longer afford to look the other way, or to shrug and say we are pow­er­less to change the sit­u­a­tion. For us at the Anti-Defamation League, we have rec­og­nized the dan­ger of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of guns in our soci­ety as long ago as 1967. And in 1971 and again in 1999 we urged new restric­tions on gun pos­ses­sion, includ­ing the adop­tion of fed­eral and state ini­tia­tives designed to make it more dif­fi­cult for chil­dren and extrem­ists to access guns.

If “now is not the time” was ever a valid argu­ment to avoid dis­cussing the issue of gun vio­lence, its valid­ity has now van­ished. Now is the time; now must be the time. We have to find a way. We have no choice.

There are peo­ple in this coun­try of com­mon sense and good will who have been try­ing, against great obsta­cles, to find ways to deal with the issue of gun violence.

Five years ago, ten major law enforce­ment agen­cies stepped for­ward to cre­ate a Part­ner­ship. These promi­nent insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Asso­ci­a­tion, and the National Sher­iffs’ Asso­ci­a­tion, expressed a shared com­mit­ment “to address the per­va­sive nature of gun vio­lence and its hor­rific impact on com­mu­ni­ties across Amer­ica.” They argued, accu­rately, that “the cri­sis of gun vio­lence in our coun­try neces­si­tates a sus­tained, coor­di­nated, and col­lab­o­ra­tive effort involv­ing cit­i­zens, elected offi­cials, law enforce­ment and the entire crim­i­nal jus­tice system.”

Polit­i­cal lead­ers from both par­ties, such as for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Sen­a­tor Orrin Hatch and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nancy Pelosi, have also called for changes in our cur­rent system.

In the after­math of the mass shoot­ing in Charleston, Pres­i­dent Obama repeated what he said after 20 chil­dren and six edu­ca­tors were killed at the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut, call­ing once again for “common-sense gun reforms.”

Point­ing out, sadly, that this was the 14th time in his pres­i­dency that he has addressed the nation after a mass shoot­ing, he said that even if some of the reforms rec­om­mended after New­town would not have pre­vented the Charleston mas­sacre, “we might still have more Amer­i­cans with us. We might have stopped one shooter. Some fam­i­lies might still be whole.”

In the past, too few of the men and women we count on to lead our nation have answered the call to action issued from these pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment offi­cers. That must change. We no longer have the lux­ury of inac­tion, if we ever did. We must join together in a sus­tained effort.

Address­ing gun vio­lence means impos­ing sen­si­ble stricter con­trols on firearms, such as com­pre­hen­sive back­ground checks of all pur­chases of firearms, dan­ger­ous weapons and ammu­ni­tion — includ­ing pur­chases at gun shows — and man­dat­ing rea­son­able wait­ing periods.

It also means bet­ter data col­lec­tion and research on the causes and pre­ven­tion of gun vio­lence, and — as lead­ing law enforce­ment agen­cies have pre­scribed — “clos­ing gaps in the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, includ­ing those that enable felons, minors, per­sons with men­tal ill­ness and other pro­hib­ited per­sons to access firearms, and those that allow the traf­fick­ing of ille­gal guns.”

These reforms do not need to, and should not, demo­nize law­ful gun own­ers, nor should they inspire more irre­spon­si­ble, inac­cu­rate and odi­ous analo­gies to Nazi Ger­many or stig­ma­tize those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

The time has come for us to come to grips with this prob­lem. It is not enough to con­demn the Charleston shooter and mourn the vic­tims. We owe it to those vic­tims and to our­selves to find a way mean­ing­fully to advance gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion efforts before there is another tragedy.

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