In an era when acceptance of Jews in virtually every facet of society in the United States is universal, discussions about anti-Semitism are often understandably shelved in favor of those about prejudice toward other, less successful minority groups. But when one looks around the globe, it’s clear that anti-Semitism is alive and thriving.
Any doubts about that were removed by what may have been the most ambitious effort ever to quantify levels of prejudice. The international survey of attitudes toward Jews by the Anti-Defamation League published last week has removed any doubt about the virulence of anti-Semitism.
The ADL Global 100 Index of Anti-Semitism is based on polls of adults in 101 countries plus the Palestinian territories. It contains few surprises, but confirms what has already been widely understood to be true about the persistence of bias against Jews. That 26 percent of all respondents across the globe agreed with at least six out of a list of 11 anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews is hardly remarkable. Nor is the fact that this hate is largely concentrated but not exclusive to the Middle East and North Africa, where 74 percent hold such views, and is most prevalent among Muslims (49 percent worldwide and 75 percent in the Middle East and Africa), who are, ironically, held in even lower esteem by those polled than the Jews.
The survey did not directly establish whether the persistence and widespread nature of anti-Semitic attitudes could be directly linked to hostility to Israel. Indeed, some of the results may point in another direction since the people of Holland have one of the lowest indexes of anti-Semitic attitudes (5 percent) in the world while also harboring great hostility to Israel. Similarly, Iran has become Israel’s most virulent and potentially dangerous foe in the Middle East while actually having the lowest level of anti-Semitic views in the region, albeit a still alarmingly high rate of 56 percent.
Among the fascinating details to be gleaned from the survey is the fact that 70 percent of those who hold anti-Semitic views have never met a Jew, most wildly overestimate the number of Jews in the world (instead of the fraction of a percent they invariably guess it to be vastly greater), and that more young people doubt the Holocaust while harboring fewer anti-Semitic views.
While a deep dive into the numbers provides a fascinating look at the way the world thinks with often perplexing results, there is no doubt about one hard and fast conclusion: the grip of anti-Semitism on the inhabitants of Planet Earth 70 years after the Holocaust remains powerful and perhaps impervious to reason.
Why single out one of the world’s tiniest populations for such hatred? To that question, the survey offers no answer, as ADL national director Abraham Foxman admitted to the Wall Street Journal. Like traditional staples of anti-Semitism such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the justification for these noxious attitudes come from a variety of often contradictory frames of reference about Jewish activity, most of which are rooted in myth rather than reality.
Anti-Semitism has survived the death of European theocracies, Nazism, and Communism and metastasized into a belief system embraced by Muslims and Arabs, and remains a deadly force. Though some might claim the existence of Israel (specifically allegations about its behavior) has become the single greatest motivating factor for anti-Semitism (judging by the survey, the Palestinians are the most anti-Semitic people in the world), that assertion must be placed up against the fact that the attitudes that indicate hostility to Jews long predate the birth of the Jewish state or its coming into possession of the West Bank in 1967.