The need for an integrated policy-planning tool regarding anti-Semitism
- Many organizations monitor anti-Semitic phenomena and their work is commendable. But additional indicators, beyond the number of incidents, are necessary to assess discomfort levels among Jews and signal intervention priorities to policy makers. To illustrate this need, let’s consider three kinds of phenomena that can’t be identified per se as anti-Semitic and generally pass under the radar of observers. From a policy planning perspective, they are of critical importance in drafting appropriate directions for action.
- Attempts to ban Jewish practice. New attempts to ban circumcision in Belgium, which follow last year’s ban on kosher slaughter and seek to criminalize parents who circumcise their sons, are not anti-Semitic per se but they certainly affect the lives of Jews and their ability to feel accepted as normative citizens. It stigmatizes local Jews as adepts of anachronistic, barbaric, and criminal practices, limits their ability to live a full Jewish life, and may harm the long-term sustainability of organized Belgian Jewry.
- Roaring silences. The reticence of politicians to issue condemning statements following anti-Semitic crimes, terror attacks in Israel, or anti-Jewish slogans chanted during political demonstrations is not overtly anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, their silence bears on how Jews perceive their acceptance (or lack thereof) in the country and is a critical indicator for policy makers.
- Denials. The French justice system’s December 2019 decision to declare the murderer of Sarah Halimi “not criminally responsible” as he was under the influence of marijuana at the time is legitimately not counted as an anti-Semitic incident. (Mrs. Halimi was a 65-year-old retired physician who, in 2017, was beaten in her Paris apartment and defenestrated by her drug-addicted neighbor, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack). Yet, many local Jews perceive this judicial ruling, which is one of a series, as a signal that French politicians, either fearing Muslim youth violence or motivated by electoral interest, can’t anymore be fully trusted to protect their lives.
The three dimensions of JPPI’s Anti-Semitism Index look at 1) anti-Semitic attitudes; 2) anti-Semitic incidents; and 3) Jewish attitudes regarding anti-Semitism. This year’s main new findings pertain to the United States:
- Security threats significantly affect the lives of Haredi Jews.
- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) estimates that 13 per cent of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States last year were carried out by white supremacists. This means that the vast majority were not. Diffuse, inchoate hatred that’s hard to tie directly to an ideological stream is very difficult to target.
- Nevertheless, even if anti-Jewish hatred derives from various sources (white supremacists, far-right extremists, radical Islamists, Black Israelites, the far left, BDS advocates), the threat that demands special attention and could have the most critical impact on Jewish thriving in North America comes from white supremacists. White supremacists are organized, draw on a constructed ideology, are deeply-rooted in the American cultural landscape, and respond to widespread anxieties spurred by an inevitable demographic shift.
Among the main findings for Europe are:
- Local governments could do more for Jews to increase their security.
- Security threats significantly affect the lives of European Jews: the participation of Jewish communities in their general societies is reduced and 41 percent of Jews aged 16-34 have considered emigrating from Europe because of anti-Semitism over the last 5 years.26
- As a result of anti-Semitism and other factors, Europe’s Jewish population is declining. If nothing is done, a significant number of European Jews will relocate to more hospitable environs; others will decrease their Jewish profile and distance themselves from Jewish communal life.