The ADL came out with its annual report of antisemitic incidents, which reached an all-time high of 2,717 in the United States last year. The ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. 1,776 incidents were categorized as harassment, either verbally or in writing, with antisemitic conspiracy theories, slurs, or stereotypes. This increased 43%, up from 1,242 in 2020.
Another 853 incidents were categorized as vandalism with an antisemitic intent, or which had an antisemitic impact on Jews. Swastikas were present in 578 of these incidents. Acts of antisemitic vandalism increased 14% from 751 in 2020.
A total of 88 incidents were categorized as assault, namely physical violence, accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. Antisemitic assaults increased 167% from 33 in 2020. Eleven of the assaults in 2021 were perpetrated with deadly weapons.
Although the 2021 number was the highest total, it was not the highest increase in number of incidents or the percentage of incidents that have occurred. For example, the number of incidents increased from 1,267 in 2016 to 1,986 in 2017. This was a 64% increase per year. During the time of the second Obama administration, there were 3,873 reported incidents, while during the Trump presidency there was 7,998 incidents, more than double the number.
I do not believe that people are more antisemitic today than they were between 2012-2016. Although the number of antisemitic incidents increased while Trump was president, it still has continued post-Trump presidency.
My belief is that the norms of civility are being lost. People may have had antisemitic feelings, however, until recently, it was not considered civil and proper to make such comments. Now, anything goes. You can say what you want. The more outlandish the better. It is not a coincidence that 2017 was the year of the rally in Charlottesville, where Neo-Nazis and other supporters were brazen enough to scream antisemitic comments at a torch-lit rally. It was a scene from the 1930s. Some politicians have made a career of making outrageous statements, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump, AOC, and Ilhan Omar. A good example of this tone is Ms. Greene’s statement last week about the Catholic Church’s policy of helping undocumented immigrants: “What it is, it’s Satan’s controlling the church.”
Could an elected official have ever thought of saying something like that ten years ago? However, the Trumpian base loves it. There are many progressives who also enjoy the inflammatory rhetoric of their own elected officials. Social media is a cesspool for anti-Jewish tropes on both the left and the right. You can malign any group without consequences.
One of the reasons why Joe Biden won the election was that the country was longing for a time of civility. Although he won, the figures from the ADL indicate that the situation has not gotten better. The polarization in the country has made the situation worse. Even if you want to give the protestors the benefit of the doubt that they were not attempting to overturn the election by force when they went inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021, that attack would not have happened if there was civility.
This should be the time when there should be bipartisan support for civility. Fortunately, there are members of both parties who are trying to tone down the rhetoric. People can disagree without being enemies. However, there are other members of both parties who are attacking these voices of reason. I guess it should not be surprising that one of my fellow columnists, who is a Trump supporter, is part of that group who is attacking those who want to act with civility, since this has become a mantra for many Trumpians. He claims that “civility is over.”
These Trumpians who want to continue on this path of lack of civility should not complain that there is an increase in antisemitic incidents. If these hate groups are given free reign on Twitter and other social media outlets and the dividers become fully in charge, you will look at the numbers today as the good old days. The lack of civility will lead to senseless hatred. As Jews, we know the effects of senseless hatred throughout our history. The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred.
The bottom line is that we must encourage civility instead of touting those who think that the only way to “fight back” is to be ill-mannered.