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Hate crimes targeting Jews hit highest rate in more than 20 years

Anti-Semitic incidents surged 57 percent, according to a new report.

Anti-President Donald Trump protesters carry anti-Nazi signs outside of Trump Tower August 14, 2017 in New York City. (CREDIT: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Anti-President Donald Trump protesters carry anti-Nazi signs outside of Trump Tower August 14, 2017 in New York City. (CREDIT: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Hate crimes and incidents of discrimination against U.S. Jews rose a staggering 57 percent last year, producing the second-highest number of such events in 40 years and the highest in 20 years according to an annual report from the Anti-Defamation League released on Tuesday.

The civil rights organization, which has monitored anti-Semitic hate crimes since 1979, noted almost 2,000 cases of vandalism, harassment, and threats targeting Jews in 2017 — the worst onslaught since 1994, when 2,066 incidents were reported. The 2017 report notably factors in the more than 160 bomb threats called into Jewish centers, all of which were found not credible and many of which have been linked to an Israeli Jewish teenager as well as a non-Jewish man in Missouri who later pled guilty to cyberstalking and anti-Semitic threats.

Even after accounting for that rise, the report paints a bleak picture. Relying on a combination of data from law enforcement and Jewish organizations, along with victim self-reporting, the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents shows an alarming spike. Vandalism in particular appears to be on the rise — the ADL recorded 952 incidents, an 86 percent increase over 2016, where 510 such incidents were reported. Harassment increased as well, up 41 percent. Physical assault, by contrast, dropped by 47 percent.

Those numbers confirm a trend measured early on in 2017 after the ADL’s 2016 report on anti-Semitism indicated a staggering rise in hate crimes targeting Jews. At the time, the organization predicted the numbers would only worsen — something the 2017 report seemingly confirms.

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“It had been trending in the right direction for a long time,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL chief executive, told the New York Times, referencing lower numbers in previous years. “And then something changed.”

He elaborated on that “something” to the LA Times.  “Hate groups and white supremacists feel emboldened, and they are not just coming out online but are also getting involved in political campaigns,” Greenblatt said, pointing to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, where marchers shouted “Jews will not replace us!” and carried torches.

Greenblatt also pointed to “the divisive state of our national discourse” and the anti-Semitism linked to President Trump’s administration. The White House has downplayed rising violence against Jews, in addition to leaving Jews out of a Holocaust remembrance statement last year.

That link between rhetoric and reality echoes something a number of communities have been arguing for more than a year. Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center have documented a sharp increase in hate crimes around the country, many aimed at religious minorities (namely Jews and Muslims), along with the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and people of color more broadly, especially Black and Latinx communities. Data released by the FBI found that hate crimes rose 4.6 percent in 2016 (numbers for 2017 will be released later this year.) Among other notable findings, the FBI report observed a pattern among perpetrators: 46.3 percent were white.

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Last November, leaders from Jewish, Muslim, and queer organizations told ThinkProgress that Trump’s election had sparked a severe uptick in violence aimed at their communities.

“Given the rise of the Trump campaign, white nationalism…it’s not surprising to see the rise in hate,” Ryan Ahari, then a policy analyst with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), said at the time. “They’ve been validated.”

The ADL report reflects the realities Jewish communities are facing and offers data as proof, but others are struggling to even be counted. Earlier this month, a report from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) found that Arab, South Asian, and Muslim communities in the United States are facing a level of harassment not seen in years. One in five incidents reported involved Trump’s name or a slogan, policy, or associated comment linked to the president.

But even gathering that information was a challenge. Suman Raghunathan, SAALT’s executive director, told ThinkProgress at the time that the organization had to rely on a self-reporting system, largely because many members of those communities struggle to trust law enforcement.

“Our communities do not feel safe to report incidents of violence or harassment to the police because they feel the experience may lead to a compounding of their injury at the hands of law enforcement,” Raghunathan said. “The use of an online form and public hotlines that provide legal support have been effective in providing community members an outlet and sometimes even recourse so they are not suffering in silence after an incident.”

Even after accounting for underreporting, the FBI report on 2016 hate crimes noted a 24 percent rise in violence against Muslims, a group the White House has singled out repeatedly.

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Documented rates of rising violence doesn’t seem to be swaying the Trump administration. Earlier this month, the Justice Department proposed getting rid of a 1960s-era “peacemaker” office as part of a larger budget proposal. The office’s purpose? Assisting communities facing racial tensions and hate crimes.