This week, major media outlets (The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, etc.) have all been citing a study from the Anti-Defamation League that claims there’s been a 57% increase in “anti-Semitic incidents” in 2017, an increase the organization blames solely on President Donald Trump.
The study shows no such thing, as David E. Bernstein wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy.
“There are several problems with relying on this study for Trump-bashing, however,” Bernstein wrote. “The first is that the study includes 193 incidents of bomb threats to Jewish institutions as anti-Semitic incidents, even though by the time the ADL published the study, it had been conclusively shown that the two perpetrators of the bomb threats were not motivated by anti-Semitism. One can only guess why the ADL chose to inflate its statistics in this way, but none of the explanations speak well of it.”
The ADL report is about reported incidents, rather than actual incidents. There is obviously some overlap, but reports don’t necessarily equate to true events. Some of the ADL’s documented increase could simply be due to more reporting as compared to a time when people felt less secure reporting an incident.
The ADL statistic doesn’t just include actual anti-Semitic incidents, as Bernstein wrote at Tablet Magazine, “but any incident that results ‘in Jews perceiving themselves as being victimized due to their Jewish identity.’” This goes back to the bomb threats. The threats may have been made to Jewish institutions, but it was not actually due to anti-Semitism.
“Relatedly, 2017 saw an unusually high level of concern in the Jewish community over perceived threats, a result of both Trump’s victory and the JCC calls,” Bernstein reported. “This likely led to an increase in ambiguous incidents being reported to the ADL as anti-Semitic. We know, for example, that one purported example of anti-Semitic cemetery vandalism turned out to be just old stones toppling over from poor upkeep (the ADL deleted that one from its tally), and another turned out, according to police, to be the product of a “drunk and mad” individual with no anti-Semitic intent (the ADL did not delete that one from its tally).”
The ADL report also includes 204 anti-Semitic incidents that occurred on college campuses, nearly double the amount in 2016. But the ADL doesn’t distinguish between members of the alt-right and Leftist pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel activism.
Bernstein also points out that even though the ADL counts an overall surge of “anti-Semitic incidents,” actual physical assaults against the Jewish community dropped 47%.
“This is obviously inconsistent with the meme that 2017 saw a surge in violent anti-Semitism,” Bernstein wrote. “Physical assaults are also the most objective sort of incident to document, which adds to concerns about the robustness of the rest of the data.”
It’s also disingenuous — and perhaps dangerous — to place blame solely on Trump for anti-Semitism, when the Left tolerates Louis Farrakhan, who each year delivers a “Saviours’ Day” address to thousands of followers.
During this address, Farrakhan spouts anti-Semitic sentiments, such as “the powerful Jews are my enemy.” As CNN’s Jake Tapper notes, “The difference between Farrakhan and some members of the alt-reich whose heinous bigotry has received a lot of attention this past year: Farrakhan has a much larger following and elected officials meet with him openly."
The ADL clearly had an agenda in pushing its faulty statistic, and the media was all too eager to run with it in order to attack Trump.