New York, NY, December 28, 2016 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today issued its top 10 list of manifestations of anti-Semitism that have afflicted Jewish communities across the United States and around the world in 2016.
The past year saw the volume of anti-Semitic cyberhate elevated to unprecedented levels. The ADL list included Jewish social media users being targeted because of their faith, anti-Jewish internet memes going viral and consuming the web, the swastika remaining a hate symbol of choice, continuing Iranian and Palestinian incitement, and the threat to European Jewry.
“The various manifestations of anti-Semitism in 2016 served as a stark and sobering reminder that hatred of Jews is not history, it is a current event,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “The reality of the threat to Jewish communities around the world and to the State of Israel was reinforced time and again by rhetoric, incidents and violent assaults.”
Journalists, especially Jewish journalists, received thousands of harassing messages and even death threats as they covered the presidential campaign. The abuse included anti-Semitic graphics, pictures of journalists with their photos superimposed on Holocaust victims, and other disturbing memes. After a four-month investigation, an ADL data analysis found that Twitter was awash with anti-Semitic rhetoric, with more than 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech. ADL’s Task Force on the Harassment of Journalists identified 800 journalists who had been targeted with more than 19,000 anti-Semitic tweets on Twitter.
A disturbing trend of anti-Semitic and other bias attacks took place in communities across the country following the 2016 presidential race. From Philadelphia to Los Angeles, the use of the swastika, including racist and other anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalism and reports of assaults and harassment proliferated. The wave of swastika vandalism was particularly prevalent in New York State. College campuses, religious facilities and homes were particular targets nationwide.
The triple parentheses – or stylized (((echo))) symbol – was a new tactic used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to identify and target Jews on Twitter and other social media platforms. This was a serious manifestation of online hate that allowed extremists and haters to highlight names perceived as Jewish and single them out for harassment both online and off. Google subsequently removed an app that was enabling the echo campaign: an anti-Semitic “Coincidence Detector” browser extension. It was removed after ADL and others notified Google that the app was in violation of the company’s terms of service. In the intervening months, many Jewish and non-Jewish journalists and others around the world co-opted the symbol by using it around their own names on Twitter.
The “alt right,” a loose network of white nationalists actively engaged themselves and moved from the fringes into mainstream consciousness. The term “alt right” came into more general use over the last year as white supremacists became more a focus of media during the 2016 presidential campaign. Extremists and their online supporters, including those associated with the alt right were emboldened by the notion that their anti-Semitic and racist views were becoming part of mainstream society. A number of white supremacists on the alt right publicly voiced support for major presidential candidates, with some endorsing Donald Trump.
Murderous anti-Semitic attacks continued around the world in 2016. In Uruguay, David Fremd, a 54 year-old Jewish businessman, was stabbed to death by a man shouting “Allah Akbar.” The assailant later told authorities that he “killed a Jew following Allah's order.” Jews were also stabbed or threatened with knives or axes in France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In Germany, a man was pushed onto a subway track, but escaped before the train arrived. His assailant said, “I did it because he is Jewish. Next time I'll do it right.” Additionally, reports have indicated that over 100 Jews were physically assaulted around the world this year. A local Jewish club in Santa Fe, Argentina was threatened with a bomb. A bottle with cement inside and a message in Arabic that read “This is a warning, the next one explodes” was sent through the closed windows of the institution, which at the time was empty.
The tenor on many university campuses remained an issue of concern for Jewish and pro-Israel students in 2016, particularly when anti-Israel bias crossed the line into anti-Semitism. At UNC Charlotte, a student displayed a Nazi Flag from his residence hall window, and the campus community’s reaction was swift and supportive of those affected. Several college campuses across the country suffered a wave of anti-Semitic fliers that began printing from their network-connected printers. In addition, dozens of white supremacist fliers were posted at colleges across the country after the presidential election. In New York, several swastikas were found over a few month period at a community college. A best-selling author canceled her talk following pressure from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) campus group to reject the invitation due to Brown University Hillel’s involvement in the event. After the talk was canceled, anti-Semitic graffiti was found scrawled in a dorm hallway. These are just a few examples of how anti-Semitism surfaced in an academic setting this past year. While the majority of Jewish students feel comfortable and unthreatened across the country, the issue of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on campus remained a very real concern in 2016.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made conspiratorial anti-Israel allegations in a speech before the European Parliament that were reminiscent of age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes. Abbas propagated a false and malicious story of “certain rabbis in Israel have said very clearly to their government that our water should be poisoned in order to have Palestinians killed,” and further alleged that Israel is the cause of all global terrorism, claiming, “Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear, there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world.”
July 2016 marked the first anniversary of the Iranian nuclear agreement with the international community. In the wake of the deal, however, the regime did not tamp down its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. The regime remains a belligerent actor that continues to further its support for global terror and promote anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In front of the world’s largest global stage at the United Nations, President Hassan Rouhani made a series of accusations including blaming “Zionist pressure groups” for “having” Congress recently pass legislation to the detriment of Iran. A gallery in Tehran held a Holocaust cartoon contest with support from government ministries. For years, Iranian leaders have lodged accusations of Jewish control over the U.S. government, financial institutions and media. This past year was no different.
Terrorist groups across the globe continued to push anti-Semitic narratives as part of their attempts to incite violence. ISIS videos from this past summer demonstrated how the terrorist group exploits anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments to encourage violent attacks in the West. For example, a propaganda video released by ISIS showed images of alleged brutality by Israeli soldiers, while a narrator criticizes other religious leaders who have argued against the killing of Jewish civilians, and contrasted those moderate views with ISIS’s assertion that all non-Muslims who are not subordinated by ISIS can be killed. As is often the case in Islamic extremist propaganda, most of the reactions of media groups associated with terrorist organizations to the results of the U.S. presidential election included anti-Semitic stereotypes, alleging Jewish control of U.S. politics, saying that the president is a “mule for the Jews” and referred to the American People as “slaves of the Jews.” Domestically, the arrest of an Arizona resident served as a reminder of the link between terror and anti-Semitism. Mahin Khan, who was arrested on July 1 for allegedly plotting to bomb a DMV on behalf of ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban, planned to attack a local Jewish Community Center.
Whether on traditional or social media, anti-Semitic expressions infecting the Arab public discourse around various issues were chillingly observed. A review of the Arabic language social media in 2016 revealed a continuing pattern of demonization of Jews and conspiratorial accusations about a Jewish responsibility behind the violence and carnage in many parts of the Arab world including in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya. Along with such anti-Semitic statements over social media, there was a torrent of offensive images of Jews and Judaism found in the print media with in caricatures depicting Jews in a highly offensive manner. Various opinion pieces also went as far as to claim that the Jews poisoned Islam’s prophet.
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.