New York, NY, December 12, 2012 … A troubling resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, Iran’s subterfuge on the road toward a nuclear weapons capability, and the lopsided vote at the United Nations to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegation topped the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual list of top issues affecting Jews in 2012.
Also among the Top 10 issues affecting Jews: Israel’s airstrikes aimed at deterring Hamas rockets from falling in southern Israel; the historic re-election of President Obama and unprecedented efforts by the Democratic and Republican parties to woo Jewish voters; a conspiracy theory about Jewish involvement in an anti-Muslim film that went viral; the failure of the Olympic Games to recognize the 40th anniversary of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes; heightened security awareness in the wake of a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., and the deafening silence of world leaders in response to Hamas celebrations calling for the destruction of Israel.
“While it isn’t always true, this year was a year with particular emphasis on events overseas,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “For us at ADL, and indeed for the entire Jewish community in America, which has long assumed responsibility for the well-being of Jews abroad, including in Israel, these are matters of great concern to us and are very relevant to our own organization.
“The shocking attack on Jewish school children in France reinforced for Jews around the world that anti-Semitism is still a serious problem in France and indeed all of Europe,” said Mr. Foxman. “This was hardly an isolated event. Time and again, Jews were the targets of anti-Semitic incidents in communities in a number of European countries, and in three countries virulently racist and anti-Semitic political parties won seats in parliament. Our survey of attitudes toward Jews in 10 European countries revealed that anti-Semitic attitudes are still deeply ingrained on the continent.
“In the United States, after a primary election where several of the presidential candidates attempted to inappropriately mix religion and politics, the presidential campaign made history as an African-American incumbent faced off against a Mormon,” said Mr. Foxman. “Yet both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sought to avoid discussions of race and religion and to focus on the pressing issues facing the country, and their religious and ethnic backgrounds became a less important part of the story. Meanwhile, the Jewish vote was highly prized this election cycle, and both campaigns made unprecedented efforts to reach out to Jewish voters.”
“In Israel, after months of indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities, the Jewish state was forced to defend its citizens with airstrikes aimed at destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza,” said Mr. Foxman. “Before a cease-fire brought the hostilities to a temporary halt, Hamas terrorists had fired more than 1,400 rockets at Israel, including advanced Iranian-supplied weapons at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Much of the world remained silent as Hamas took to the streets to celebrate their supposed ‘victory’ over Israel and the Hamas leadership vowed to destroy the Jewish state.”
Anti-Semitism was resurgent in Europe. Three countries witnessed the rise of anti-Semitic political parties in parliament, and the Jewish community in France witnessed another upsurge in violent attacks. A survey in 10 European countries revealed anti-Semitic attitudes at disturbingly high levels. In April, one in six Hungarian voters cast their ballots for an openly anti-Semitic party, Jobbik, in the national elections. The following month Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn won 21 seats in parliament. And in November, the radical Svoboda (Freedom) party of Ukraine captured 12 percent of the popular vote, giving electoral support to a party well-known for its anti-Semitic rhetoric. But perhaps no country in Europe was more susceptible to violent anti-Semitism than France, where a series of violent attacks left the Jewish community on edge. On March 19, in Toulouse, four Jews were shot and killed at the Ozar Hatorah School by a homegrown terrorist on a motorcycle, whom authorities later identified as Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algeriant. Before he was killed by authorities in a shootout with police, Merah stated that he targeted the Jewish school to avenge “the killing of children” in Gaza.
As new sanctions against Iran’s banking petrochemical and energy sectors took force, the economy floundered under the brunt of the sanctions regime. But the regime remained defiant in its open pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s February 2012 report noted that Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium increased by almost half, significantly shortening the time needed to further enrich the uranium to weapons-grade material, and that Iran had begun production of enriched uranium at a heavily defended installation deep underground. The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran was underscored by the regime’s open embrace of the Hamas assault on Israel, and its promise to supply the Gaza-based terrorist organization with more powerful rockets to target Israeli cities. The European Union and the U.S. adopted additional restrictive measures against Iran in 2012, signaling that pressure would continue to increase on the regime as long as it refuses to take steps to halt its nuclear program.
The United Nations General Assembly, in a lopsided vote that revealed once again the world body’s determined bias against Israel, approved on Nov. 29 an upgrade of the Palestinian delegation from an observer entity to that of “non-member state observer” with a vote of 138 nations in favor, 9 opposed and 41 abstentions. Voting against the resolution were the United States, Israel, Czech Republic, Canada, Panama, Marshall Island, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru. With the resolution, which was vehemently opposed by Israel and the U.S., the U.N. made it increasingly difficult to move the peace process forward. European nations were strongly criticized by Jewish organizations for capitulating to Arab intimidation and pressure for voting in favor of or abstaining to the upgrade and reverting back to the traditional anti-Israel sentiment and lack of objectivity. The U.N. vote could have longstanding implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, enabling the Palestinians to gain recognition in other world bodies while foregoing negotiations with Israel, and possibly enabling the Palestinians to bring charges against Israeli leaders in the International Criminal Court.
After an incessant barrage of rocket and missile attacks on Israeli towns and cities from Gaza, Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defense” in an effort to defend its citizens and destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. During the Israeli military operation, which consisted mostly of airstrikes, more than 800 rockets fell on Israeli towns and cities. Israel’s operation targeted senior Hamas terrorist leaders and managed to successfully destroy weapons factories and rocket-launching sites. The U.S. and Egypt were able to serve as constructive mediators in an attempt to reach a ceasefire, which took effect Nov. 21. The hostilities revealed new dynamics at play in the conflict: The increasing influence of Iran, which provided Hamas with Iranian-made Fajr 5 and Grad 3 missiles capable of targeting major Israeli population centers; and the successful deployment of Israel’s Iron Dome defensive shield, which was able to intercept 389 rockets before they could hit Israeli civilian areas. Egypt continued to play a significant role in advancing the prospects for a permanent end to the rocket attacks on Israel, but questions remained about what role the Muslim Brotherhood-led government would be willing to play in brokering a long-term peace.
The 2012 presidential campaign made history, with an African-American incumbent, Democratic President Barack Obama, facing off against a Mormon challenger, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. Yet, despite their minority status, both candidates did not place an emphasis on their religious and racial identities, and the electorate seemed more concerned about which candidate was most qualified to lead the country out of a crippling economic recession than about matters of race or faith. Both campaigns made unprecedented efforts to woo Jewish voters. Gov. Romney traveled to Israel in June and held fundraisers and meetings in Jerusalem and criticized the Obama Administration’s approach toward the Jewish State, while President Obama argued that the security relationship between Israel and the U.S. had never been stronger. In the end, an estimated 70 percent of American Jews voted to re-elect President Obama. That was slightly less than the 74 percent he received four years ago, but the Jewish vote still contributed to the president’s overall electoral victory and his wins in key swing states, including Florida.
The story cooked up by a Los Angeles filmmaker sounded vaguely implausible – that 100 Jewish investors had been recruited to finance an amateurish yet highly incendiary anti-Muslim film called “Innocence of Muslims” – but by the time the lie was deconstructed, it was too late. The trailer for the film, translated into Arabic and posted on YouTube, sparked violence protests around the world and led to attacks and demonstrations in front of Israeli and American embassies in some two dozen Muslim and Arab countries. While the film was eventually revealed as work of a Coptic Christian with a criminal record and hateful motives, the myth that Jews produced and financed the film in an effort to insult the Prophet Muhammad and Islam had gone viral. The violent mobs provided a backdrop and a cover for the terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staff at the U.S. mission to Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Repeated inappropriate references to religion and divisive faith-based voter appeals marked the 2012 presidential primary campaign. They ranged from Sen. Rick Santorum commenting that President Kennedy’s celebrated speech on separation of church and state made him “want to throw up” to Gov. Rick Perry running a television ad saying “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school … I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage,” as well as prominent conservative pastors questioning the acceptability of Governor Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate based on his Mormon faith. An Interfaith Statement on Religion in Political Campaigns, which was signed by 16 major religious institutions and organizations, called on candidates to refrain from appealing to voters along religious lines and to set an example and to be a leader for all Americans, “of all faiths or of no faith.”
Continuing to show a stubborn insensitivity and callousness to the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Games, the International Olympic Committee refused a request to hold a moment of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Games in London, arguing it would “politicize” the games. While the IOC held several spontaneous commemorations, including a moment of silence in the Olympic Village, the 40th anniversary of the murder of Israeli athletes and coaches at the hands of Palestinian terrorists passed without so much as an official acknowledgement during the main Olympic ceremonies, to the frustration of the Israeli government and the Jewish community. Not everyone remained silent, however. Among those calling publicly for the Munich 11 to be memorialized were President Obama, legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas, U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, the U.S. Senate, Germany, Canada and Australia, and nearly 100,000 individuals who signed on to a petition calling on the Olympic Committee to reverse its decision.
The year began with the news in early January that five Molotov cocktails had been thrown at a Jewish congregation in Rutherford, New Jersey, including one hurled through the window of the rabbi’s residence, forcing him and his five children and parents to flee the building. Coming on the heels of a series of similar attacks, including a fire behind a congregational building in nearby Paramus and swastikas and other graffiti sprayed on a temple on Hackensack, law enforcement officials and community leaders expressed concern that the crimes were connected, and the arrest of a suspect, whom law enforcement described as an individual infected with anti-Semitism, confirmed that assessment. The suspect, Anthony M. Graziano, 20, of Lodi, N.J., was charged with nine counts of attempted murder and other charges in connection with the January 11 firebombing of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, and was also charged in connection with a second firebombing in Paramus, N.J. It was among a number of high-profile anti-Jewish incidents and warnings that kept Jewish communal security an ongoing priority. The hostilities in Gaza raised new concerns about Jewish institutional security in this country and abroad, and as 2012 came to a close, several Jewish communities across the U.S. reported additional anti-Semitic acts, among them the vandalism of a menorah on the quad at Northeastern University, where anti-Semitic fliers were also discovered, and anti-Jewish graffiti on Hanukkah displays in South Florida.
In the aftermath of the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the south, Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization that has vowed to eliminate Israel, held a series of “victory rallies,” in which prominent Hamas officials, including exiled leader Khaled Meshal, vowed never to recognize Israel and to seek to “free the land of Palestine inch by inch.” As the year wound to a close, Hamas was scheduled to hold additional rallies in the West Bank to mark the 25th anniversary of the Islamic movement with public demonstrations in Nablus and Hebron, which promised to provide a platform for more virulently anti-Israel speeches and rhetoric. Despite the maximalist rhetoric from Hamas leaders calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and the takeover of Jerusalem and Haifa and Jaffa, much of the world remained silent, and Israel was faced with the prospect of a possible reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the two major Palestinian political factions, with no peace talks on the horizon.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.