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Analysis: Why has there been a surge in anti-Semitic incidents within America?

In recent days, the rapid rise in anti-Semitism within America is dominating headlines. The question remains, why has there been a rapid rise in anti-Semitic incidents now? Anti-Semitism scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld stresses that it is because of the polarization of American society.
Jewish cemetery desecration Photo Credit: Channel 2 News (Screenshot)

In recent days, the rapid rise in anti-Semitism within America is dominating headlines in both Israel and the United States. According to the Anti-Defamation League, 941 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in 2015, which represents a 3 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents from 2014.  Although the ADL has not yet published figures for 2016 and the first two months of 2017, some claim that the anti-Semitism has gotten worse since 2015.

Recently, tombstones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia and in St. Louis. Bomb threats have been made against Jewish community centers and institutions across the United States. The Anti-Defamation League also received a bomb threat. According to the ADL, although there is no evidence that bombs have been placed at Jewish institutions in the US during this recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks, they stressed that “the threats themselves are alarming, disruptive and must always be taken seriously.”

A series of anti-Semitic incidents have also been registered on US college campuses. At Michigan College, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported that Hitler Valentine’s Day cards were distributed that proclaimed, “My love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews.” At Washington University in St. Louis, the Amcha Initiative reported that senators and class council representatives made anti-Semitic comments.  

“American Jewry is being targeted by extremists from multiple sources: on our nation’s campuses, where incessant anti-Israel campaigns have created a climate of intimidation and in New York, home to the world’s largest Jewish community, which reports a spike in anti-Semitic incidents,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated. “Furthermore, social media is being deployed 24/7 by extremists to target and demonize Jews.”

However, the question remains, why has there been a rapid rise in anti-Semitic incidents now? Internationally acclaimed anti-Semitism scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview that the main cause for the recent anti-Semitic attacks is the polarization that occurred during the recent US elections: “It is the general polarized atmosphere that causes the anti-Semitism to flourish.  In a quiet society, the anti-Semites are not aroused as much as they are in a polarized society.  Bernie Sanders contributed to the polarized atmosphere. Trump contributed to the polarization and so did Clinton.  So have the Democrats, the Republicans and don’t forget Obama. Nobody has done so much damage to western values in recent decades as him. There was an outburst in anti-Semitism on the campuses under Obama.”

However, Gerstenfeld claims that anti-Semitism has been a problem in the US for many years and media bias is the only reason why it is being presented as a new phenomenon that occurred as a result of Trump’s election: “The media is not objective. They distort in many ways. We know this because of CAMERA.   They have done major work documenting how the New York Times distorts info on Israel.  Once the information is proven to be distorted about Israel, it is also distorted about at least some other issues.”

In order to prove that anti-Semitism in the US is nothing new, Gerstenfeld noted that the 2015 ADL Survey stated that 24 million American adults are anti-Semitic. He added that if anti-Israeli sentiment is included, the figure increases: “80 million Americans agree with the statement that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the US.” Gerstenfeld told JerusalemOnline that in 2006, there was a shootout in the Seattle Jewish Federation. A Muslim killed one woman and shot 5 others. He added that in 2014, a Neo-Nazi in Kansas City killed 2 people in the Jewish Community Center and shot another person in a Jewish retirement center.

Gerstenfeld added that under the Obama administration, the Black Lives Matter movement rose to prominence and they are “a major promoter of anti-Semitism. They started a program for anti-Semitic things. They created a movement that supports BDS.  Black Lives Matter is not going to desecrate a cemetery or murder Jews like some madman would but it definitely contributes to the hate atmosphere.  It is a movement that hides behind the humanitarian mask.” Given these facts, Gerstenfeld argued that Trump is correct about the American media and the fact that he dealt with it in a clumsy way is a separate issue: “I doubt that the Trump administration has anything to do with the rise of anti-Semitism.”

Former Israel Consul General Yoram Ettinger concurred with Gerstenfeld.  He told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview that he does not believe these anti-Semitic incidents are connected to the recent US election results: “It is part of an ongoing phenomenon throughout the world.”  Ettinger believes that anti-Semitism is less of an issue in the US than it presently is in Europe and the Arab world: “One should not rush to the conclusion that it has to do with the election of a certain president in the US.”

“This threat has been with us for over 3500 years way before the Trump administration has been in Washington,” he noted, adding that there are numerous leftists who are engaged in anti-Semitic activities and that this anti-Semitism has been a problem since the day Judaism became a faith. “Therefore, we should focus on the strategic context.  We should not elude ourselves into thinking that this has to do with a particular phenomenon in the US.”

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