Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By Daled Amos


No one says that the ADL has not done good work. Just last month, the ADL pursued the removal of The Sbarro Bomber on Social Media
A notorious terrorist who is on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists was kicked off of several social media platforms this week after ADL sounded the alarm about her gratuitous, hateful and terrorizing social media presence. ADL provided to Twitter and Instagram information about the social media activities of Ahlam al-Tamimi, an international fugitive wanted for her key role organizing and carrying out Hamas’s 2001 suicide bombing at a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem.
And last week, the ADL joined in criticism of The New York Times for demonizing Israel in what should have been a positive story :

But according to the ADL, the most concerning culprit in the rise of antisemitism is the right-wing, and the individual they blame for that is Donald Trump. In a 2017 Press Release, the ADL reported a 86% spike in antisemitic incidents, during the first 3 months of 2017 alone:
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL reports that there has been a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews, particularly since November, and a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools.
The press release goes on to make clear that they connect this spike to Trump:
The 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere played a role in the increase [of antisemitic incidents]. There were 34 incidents linked to the election. For example, in Denver, graffiti posted in May 2016 said “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.” In November, a St. Petersburg, Fla., man was accosted by someone who told him “Trump is going to finish what Hitler started.”

ADL head Greenblatt had already made abundantly clear what he thought of Trump. In a March 2016 article, he seemed to struggle to support his argument that No, Donald Trump is Not Adolf Hitler:
But while Trump’s stereotyping and bullying are truly troubling, he is not Hitler. He lacks an all-encompassing ideology like Hitler; he commands no paramilitary force like Hitler. He has no organizing principle like Hitler’s anti-Semitism. He has no genocidal ambitions.
Apparently, Greenblatt could not bring himself to just say that Trump was not a racist nor an antisemite.

Antisemitism By The Numbers?

In March 2017, Seth Frantzman -- oped Editor and Middle East affairs analyst at The Jerusalem Post -- took a look at that 86% jump in antisemitic incidents that the ADL reported. Frantzman looked at the data of an ADL Audit: US Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged in 2016-17... ...and makes the following chart of total antisemitic incidents during the Obama presidency, leaving out 2016, since results during that year could be made out to be tainted by the increase in antisemitism during the leadup to the election:
The total number of antisemitic incidents during that 7 year period is 7,034 and Frantzman draws some different conclusions:
First, where was the outcry, by either the ADL or the media over those over 7,000 cases of antisemitism?
 o  Over those 84 months of Obama's presidency, that comes out to 84 (83.7) incidents per month during those 7 years -- again, why no outcry? 

o  Frantzman teases out the number of actual antisemitic assaults during those 7 years, noting the increase in attacks during Obama's last years. The number nearly doubled between 2009 and 2015, while rising from 17 in 2012 to 56 in 2015 (more than tripling) -- yet again, why no outcry?

How Much Antisemitism Can One Person Be Responsible For?

Getting back to that 86% spike the ADL audit found over the first 3 months of 2017, Frantzman critiques it from a different angle in another article: 86% Rise in Antisemitism in America? Half of It Caused by One Jewish Israeli. According to that ADL Audit:
In the first quarter of 2017, preliminary reports of the 541 anti-Semitic incidents included: • 380 harassment incidents, including 161 bomb threats, an increase of 127 percent over the same quarter in 2016; 
Frantzman claims that the claimed increase of 86% is overstating the case because one person was responsible for them -- a Jewish Israeli. The 86% is based on the increase in incidents from the first quarter of 2016 (291 cases) to 2017 (541cases) But if you remove those 161 bomb threats, the increase from 2016 (291) to 2017 (380 cases) is 31%.
A 30% increase is still very high, but it is not as staggering as 86%. The ADL report bases its claim of a surge on the increase from 2015 to 2016 of 942 to 1,266 -- an increase of 34%. Frantzman compares the 1,266 in 2016 with the similar 1,239 incidents during the Obama administration and makes the case that there is no surge:
When something is the same as six years ago, it is not a “surge.” It is “historical levels.” When half of the surge in “antisemitism” is caused by a Jewish teen, the data shouldn’t be used for the purposes of discussion. We don’t track racism against black people in America by keeping data on every time a black rapper uses the n-word, do we? We track racism based on actual racist attacks. But when it comes to antisemitism we throw out the rules, and try to record as much as possible, even recording more than 100 incidents of “antisemitism” allegedly caused by a Jewish teen. That data should be thrown out.

Antisemitism As Perception

Lawyer David Bernstein also addresses Correcting the ADL’s False Anti-Semitism Statistic, pointing to the methodology the ADL itself says it uses:
Incidents are defined as vandalism of homes/businesses/public areas, or harassment or assault on individuals or groups, where either 1) circumstances indicate anti-Jewish animus on the part of the perpetrator or 2) the incidents result in Jews perceiving themselves as being victimized due to their Jewish identity. Any vandalism against Jewish religious institutions or cemeteries is also included. [emphasis added]
Bernstein writes that as a result of the increase in "perceived threats" in the Jewish community in 2017, between Trump's election victory and the bomb threats, it is likely that "ambiguous" incidents were reported to the ADL. As examples, Bernstein cites a case of cemetery vandalism that turned out to be a case of old stones falling over and the case of a "drunk and mad" individual with no antisemitic intent, according to the police. The ADL removed the first case from its list, but not the second. In another point, Bernstein notes that when the ADL compares incidents of antisemitism on college campuses, it reports an increase from 108 incidents in 2016 to 204 incidents in 2017, but does not delineate between those by alt-right nationalists who supposedly inspired by Trump and leftist anti-Israel activists, who are not -- allowing Trump to be blamed for all of them.
Lastly, since Bernstein is writing in 2018, he can pick up on a point that is raised by Frantzman and carry it one step further.
While Frantzman in 2017 pointed to the increase in antisemitic assaults during the final years of the Obama administration, Bernstein notes that
despite showing a 57 percent increase in incidents overall, from 1,267 [in 2016] to 1,986 [in 2017], the ADL study shows a 47 percent decrease in physical assaults, from 37 to 19. This is obviously inconsistent with the meme that 2017 saw a surge in violent anti-Semitism. 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. [emphasis added]
He concludes that he is neither a supporter of Trump nor an apologist for him. Rather, his point is that "the Jewish community’s assessment of the dangers of anti-Semitism should be based on documented facts, not ideology, emotion, partisanship, or panic."

Can Hate Crimes Be On The Rise If Assaults Are Going Down?

Also in 2018 is an article by Robby Soave, a senior editor at Reason, who writes The Media Keeps Saying Anti-Semitism Spiked 57% Under Trump, but That Statistic Is Really Misleading.
He points to an article in The Washington Post that repeats the common accusation that not only is there a major increase in antisemitism, but Trump is to blame:
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the incidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes jumped nearly 60 percent in 2017, the biggest increase since it started keeping track in 1979. What made 2017 so different? It was Trump's first year in office. [emphasis added]
At issue is what the ADL is actually measuring.
The ADL statistic captures anti-Semitic "incidents," which is a much broader category of behavior than "hate crimes" or "attacks." Incidents include things like bullying in schools—which is bad, but usually not indicative of criminal conduct.
There are 2 issues at work here. First of all, do all of the incidents being reported actually qualify as actual "hate crimes" -- or do we now suffer from the domestic equivalent of overusing the accusation of "war crimes"? Secondly, if the results of ADL reports are going to be used to associate these antisemitic attacks on Trump, then a distinction should be made by the ADL to distinguish between right-wing and left-wing antisemitism -- based on the unlikelihood that the left-wing antisemites are taking their cue from Trump.

What Qualifies As Right-Wing Violence, Anyway?

This year, in April, another came out questioning the ADL's methodology. It addresses the issue of perception, but not of the victim of the incident but of the person behind it. In Business Insider, Anthony L. Fisher, their politics columnist, makes a distinction in extremist incidents between "violent incidents committed by people with ties to extremist groups or ideas" vs. "incidents motivated by extremist views where violence actually occurs, is attempted, or is substantially plotted -- but are not actually targeting minorities." Fisher is not arguing with the ADL claim that ultrarightist groups account for a disproportionate number of hate crimes and acts of terror. What he is arguing is that the number is still being inflated. Fisher and his colleagues examined over 500 cases, defining extremist violence as "incidents where police reports, court documents, or news articles presented evidence that the incidents were motivated by extremist viewpoints." They came to the conclusion:
Many of the ADL's 'extremist incidents' are not motivated by bigotry or politics. They're often extremists killing other extremists.
He gives some examples
A member of a racist extremist group who is a methamphetamine dealer and kills a rival dealer, o  A white supremacists who kills either rival white supremacists, or even allies they suspect of being police informants o  A former neo-Nazi who killed his roommates when they made fun of his converting to Islam
These may still be classified by the ADL as "extremist killing." --
But by painting its findings with such a broad stroke, the ADL data might lead some to conclude that there are significantly more hate crimes and terrorism in the US than actually transpire. Based on the incidents cited by the ADL, in most years, extremists are just as likely to kill each other, their criminal associates, or their family members as they are to kill people in protected identity groups.
Armed with this distinction, Fisher and his colleagues went through incidents reported over a 10-year time period from 2009 to 2018 and found:
The ADL identified 414 extremist incidents during that 10-year period. Of those, I found just 240 met the criteria that it constituted actually attempted violence and involved a perpetrator with verifiable or self-identified extremist beliefs against a member of a marginalized or targeted group or their property. That's 58% of the ADL's count. [emphasis added]
Fisher, like the other critics, does not see his critique as a way of supporting or advocating for Trump. He sees a need for greater accuracy in the labeling of right-wing extremist violence. Violent extremists generally inspire each other, and the publicity they get in the media is exploited as a recruiting tool. Seen this way, inflated statistics have the potential to embolden and encourage other extremists whose goal is to terrorize the public with the apparent extent of their violence --
It's not dissimilar to ultranationalists cherry-picking statistics regarding violence perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. The bigger the number, the more likely the public is to be cowed by a sense of dread.
Fisher, in particular, makes a point of saying upfront that he is not accusing the ADL of deliberately trying to create a particular impression with their data. Not all of the critics of the ADL's methodology are quite that generous. But the fact remains that similar to human rights groups that maintain a certain "halo effect" giving added validity to their accusations, the ADL, too, gets a certain amount of respect, which attaches itself to the numbers in its reports -- easily turning its data into a political weapon. For example, the radical left-wing group Bend The Arc has decided to helpfully point out "far-right extremists and politicians" and reveal "who's inciting antisemitism."
As an example of their 'work' in ferreting out antisemites, here is an example where Bend The Arc uncovered over 30 antisemites -- at a conservative conference.
We don't need this kind of weaponization of antisemitism by such fringes groups for political purposes, tearing the Jewish community apart. All the more reason for the ADL to be more cautious and take more care in what it counts as antisemitism and how it documents it. As Bernstein pointed out:
the Jewish community’s assessment of the dangers of anti-Semitism should be based on documented facts, not ideology, emotion, partisanship, or panic.



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