Byko: Anti-Semitism up in U.S., down globally. Why?

Rabbi Robyn Frisch at Temple Menorah-Keneseth Chai in Tacony, which has been vandalized recently. The city Commission on Human Relations is investigating the case as a possible hate crime.

In 2015, anti-Semitism rose domestically while declining internationally.

The world's oldest and most enduring hate, anti-Semitism is making a comeback in the U.S., according to traditional measures. One theory blames Donald Trump.

Internationally, some actions by the Israeli government are believed to result in general anti-Jewish feelings. That's probably true and the United Nations is partly to blame.

Domestic hate crime statistics are reported by the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League. International statistics are compiled by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center.

None of the stats are perfect because not all hate crimes are reported and some are misclassified, I'm told by Nancy Baron-Baer, regional director of the local ADL. The stats, however, are useful in determining whether reported hate is trending up or down.

Reporting encompasses everything from vandalized synagogues — such as recent cases in Tacony and Somerton — to the murder of a Jewish businessman on the streets of Paysandu, Uruguay, by an assailant shouting, "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, the United States had a 3 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents reported, from 912 in 2014 to 941, according to the ADL. Of that number, 56 were assaults, an increase of more than 50 percent from the 36 reported in 2014.

Since this was a year before Trump came to dominate the domestic political scene, it's unlikely he's responsible, although anti-Semitic comments are easy to find on white supremacist websites that support him.

"Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic," says Jonathan Greenstein, a well-known spokesman on Jewish affairs. "The election of a white male, no matter who, has emboldened the alt-right movement."

More troubling is a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents on U.S. college campuses, from 47 reported on 43 campuses in 2014, to 90 reported on 60 campuses in 2015, ADL said. That anti-Semitic feelings are rising among collegians is deeply worrisome.

Although anti-Semitism has a long history in the U.S., with Jews earlier being barred from housing, clubs, and certain universities, it has greatly diminished in recent decades.

The ADL found that 19 percent of Americans harbor anti-Semitic beliefs — such as the canard that Jews control Wall Street — but that only 1 percent of Americans are Holocaust deniers. That is very small, but still 3 million people.

"This is one of the safest places on the planet" for Jews, says Greenstein. "Look at Islamic terror here," he says. "It's not necessarily directed against Jews — a gay bar in Orlando, a community center in San Bernardino. They are American targets."

Internationally, in 2014, there were 766 reports of attacks against Jews, the highest number since 2009, according to Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center. In 2013, there were 554 reported incidents. The 2014 surge followed Israel's defensive military operations in Gaza to quell rocket fire.

After that unusual spike, in 2015 the number of reported attacks dropped almost 50 percent, to 410.

Causes of the decline, in addition to quiet in Gaza, according to the report, included the wave of Arab and Muslim migration to Europe, which "captivated the attention of the far right, both on the ground and on social networks."

So hate wasn't less, it was redirected.

Jews represent 0.2 percent of the world's population, and 2.2 percent of the American population.

In its study of worldwide anti-Semitism, the ADL found anti-Jewish sentiment ranging from 74 percent in the Middle East and North Africa to 24 percent in Western Europe to 19 percent in the Americas.

Much of the negative attitude comes from two related sources — Israel's actions, such as attacking Gaza and expansion of settlements; and the U.N., where Israel is a perennial whipping boy.

Last year the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions targeting Israel. Only four were critical of other countries — Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.

Additionally, the World Health Organization condemned Israel as the only violator of mental, environmental, and physical health, U.N. Women cited Israel as the only violator of women's rights, the U.N.'s International Labor Organization condemned Israel as the world's only violator of labor rights.

"Only." Really?

Whatever its faults, Israel is a vibrant democracy and these condemnations are absurd. But the constant drumbeat of U.N. criticism creates a negative image of Israel which melds into a negative view of Jews everywhere.

When the U.N. devotes so much time and effort to demonizing one of its smallest members, and the sole Jewish member, you have to ask: Is this principle, or just hate?

"It's just a front," says Greenstein, "the politically correct way of hating Jews."

At the U.N., that seems to be the case.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977

@StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky