If there were a Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy, Abraham
Foxman would have been a great candidate. The director of the Anti-Defamation
League, who once
interpreted even International Holocaust Remembrance Day as an expression of
the Gentiles' latent desire to see Jews dead, has published a new
survey on anti-Semitism in Europe [.pdf]. One of the assertions respondents
were asked to agree or disagree with was "Jews are more loyal to Israel than
to this country"; an affirmative response was considered indicative of anti-Semitism.
Indeed, doubting the loyalty of a minority is not nice. And the fact that
many Zionists would affirm that assertion, or at least expect a Jew
to be more loyal to Israel than to his country of residence, is a weak excuse
for agreeing with such a characterization of all Jews. But let's put things
in perspective: even if about half of Europeans say it's "probably true" that
Jews are more loyal to Israel, not a single European party is pledging to revoke
Jews' citizenship unless they prove their loyalty. I haven't heard of such
a demand toward any other native minority either, in Europe or elsewhere. Even
the late Joerg Haider did not go that far.
There is one exception, of course. The foremost campaign slogan of Avigdor
Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party has been "No Loyalty – No Citizenship,"
which is aimed at Israel's Arab minority. Thirteen percent of Israelis gave
Lieberman their vote. What does Abe Foxman have to say about that? Well, Foxman
Lieberman, describing him as harmless: "He's not saying expel them. He's not
saying punish them." Not at all: he's just demonizing them and threatening
to deprive them of their citizenship. No big deal.
So a private person who doubts the loyalty of Jews in a telephone interview
is a dirty anti-Semite to Foxman. But a major political party that publicly
defames Arab Israelis and pledges to revoke their citizenship gets a pass from
the director of the Anti-Defamation(!) League, purportedly committed to "Fighting
Anti-Semitism, Bigotry, and Extremism"!
A Biased Survey
The ADL survey as a whole deserves some critical
analysis. Conducted for the second time in seven European countries, the survey
consisted of a short list of assertions respondents were supposed to take a
Note that respondents were given only two choices: they had to refer to each
assertion as either "probably true" or "probably false." All the assertions
were phrased in a way that "probably true" was the choice considered anti-Semitic.
This suffers from the notorious "confirmatory bias," which "inclines people
toward accepting assertions, rather than thinking more extensively and seeing
the flaws in those assertions" (see Jon
Questionnaire Quality" [.pdf]). A serious survey would have phrased some
of the assertions in the negative to overcome this natural bias. But the ADL
followed its own bias: anti-Semitism should always be found, and the more the
better. In fact, if some of this bias, as research indicates, is due to the
desire of individuals of lower social status to defer to individuals of higher
social status, this could explain why the ADL's survey consistently found that
levels of anti-Semitism were higher among people who did not continue education
beyond the age of 17.
One also wonders whether the assertion "Jews still talk too much about what
happened to them in the Holocaust" (note the suggestive adverb "still"!) has
much to do with anti-Semitism (cf. Yehuda
Elkana's [.pdf] classical "The
Need to Forget" [.pdf]). And what on earth made the ADL waste two of their
six questions on almost identical assertions ("Jews have too much power in
the business world" and "Jews have too much power in international financial
markets"), which almost always yielded the same result (correlation coefficient
0.922). Was there a shortage of anti-Semitic assertions?
Just a couple of weeks ago, Foxman – not a man of understatement – made it
to the headlines by decrying "a
pandemic of anti-Semitism" as a consequence of Operation Cast Lead: the
crisis was "the worst, the most intense, the most global that it has been in
most of our memories."
Operation Cast Lead began on Dec. 27, 2008. Now the ADL survey was conducted
Dec. 1, 2008-Jan. 13, 2009; that is, its last third was conducted during the
devastation of Gaza. If there is an "anti-Semitic pandemic" due to the Gaza
events, as Foxman claims, a serious survey should have made a clear distinction
between data collected before and after the outbreak of that "pandemic."
Actually, the ADL should have simply read its own survey to see the necessity
of making such a distinction: one of its findings is that "23 percent of those
surveyed say that their opinion of Jews is influenced by the actions taken
by the state of Israel."
At any rate – careful scientific distinctions aside – if all this were true,
a survey conducted partly after the outbreak of the Gaza atrocities would be
influenced by the alleged "pandemic" and show a significant rise in anti-Semitism.
Was this the case? Not quite. Actually, as the ADL admits, "A comparison with
the 2007 survey indicates that over the past two years levels of anti-Semitism
have remained steady in six of the seven countries tested." Who was the party-pooper?
Great Britain, of course, home of some of the most effective initiatives to
"The United Kingdom was the only country in which there was a marked decline"
in anti-Semitism. Steadiness in six continental countries, a marked decline
in the UK – and this in a survey conducted partly during an alleged "pandemic"
of anti-Semitism. Go figure.
Don't Confuse Us With Facts
Obviously, the survey was reported widely in
the Israeli media. In fact, much like anti-Communism in the U.S. during the
1980s, anti-anti-Semitism is (Jewish) Israel's national religion. Every non-Jew
is an anti-Semite, potentially if not actually – be it a bad-tempered waiter
in a French restaurant or even
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan. Anti-Semitism is our best excuse: We do not believe in
peace because all Arabs are anti-Semites. We must attack Iran because all Muslims
are anti-Semites and want to annihilate us, and the rest of the world is anti-Semitic
and doesn't care if we are annihilated. And of course every criticism of Israel's
occupation is purely anti-Semitic.
Obviously, reports of steady or declining levels of anti-Semitism is not what
Israelis want to hear: anti-Semitism should always be on the rise, to boost
our national cohesion.
Therefore both Ha'aretz (Feb. 11, Hebrew)
and YNet (Feb. 10, Hebrew)
used the partial data of "31% of Europeans Blame the Jews for the Economic
Crisis" as an ominous headline. Both focused on the absolute figures of 2009
and kept the inconvenient trend to a marginal penultimate paragraph. Even then,
Ha'aretz journalist Natasha Mozgovaya went out of her way to translate
the ADL's "marked decline" in British anti-Semitism as "a small decline" (not
even bothering to mention what it was compared to), whereas YNet omitted the
adjective and wrote just "a decline." And both followed the ADL summary and
quickly "balanced" the overall positive trend by emphasizing the negative fraction
of the findings.
Make no mistake: some level of racism, including anti-Semitism, does exist
in any society; racist Israel is the last place to deny that. But just like
real anti-Semitism undermines the Palestinian cause, so do biased surveys and
manipulative declarations about anti-Semitism undermine the struggle against
racism. And Foxman criticizing one form of racism while supporting another