According to the most recent data released by the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents are increasing throughout the country and in Arizona. For the third year in a row, Arizona has seen a rise in anti-Semitic behavior.
Last month, the ADL released its annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents: Year in Review, 2018,” which reported a national total of 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents across in 2018. This marks 2018 as the year with the third-most incidents on record since the ADL started tracking such data. Nationally, the number of total incidents dropped slightly; in 2017, the audit recorded 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents.
The ADL’s audit classifies all incidents into three categories: assault, harassment and vandalism. 2018 marked the deadliest known assault on the Jewish community with the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. The ADL reported the shooting as one incident in the audit. The ADL’s standard methodology is to cluster multiple victims into one incident when an action targets a single group in a discrete time and place.
From 2015 to 2018, there has been a 700% increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents across Arizona. In 2015, the ADL Arizona recorded four incidents of anti-Semitism; in 2018 there were 32.
ADL Arizona reported 20 incidents of harassment and 12 incidents of vandalism. ADL Arizona Regional Director Carlos Galindo-Elvira said that one positive drawn from the report is that ADL Arizona had no recorded incidents of anti-Semitic assaults in 2018.
The Arizona portion of the audit noted spikes of anti-Semitic behavior in certain parts of the year. Twelve of the 32 incidents occurred in the final three months of 2018. In December alone, there were six representations of swastikas leading up to Chanukah.
Of all the reported incidents throughout 2018, the majority of them took place in the Phoenix area.
The ADL broke down the variety of locations where anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism took place. Locations included private businesses and retail establishments, private homes and public areas such as parks, streets and schools.
Twenty-one percent of last year’s anti-Semitic incidents took place in K-12 schools, including anti-Semitic comments made by teachers and students bullying their Jewish classmates.
In February 2018, Paradise Valley High School students were photographed lying on the ground in a way that formed a swastika. The students were quickly disciplined by the school’s administration. Paradise Valley High School’s principal, Ian Deonise, condemned the action in a letter to the community.
“This reprehensible and embarrassing display is not indicative of our student body, nor the learning environment at PVHS,” he wrote. “This was an isolated incident of extremely poor judgment by a small group.”
In one incident at a Glendale middle school, one student yelled at another, “You’re a Jew. I’m going to burn you!”
There were also three anti-Semitic incidents involving local politicians in 2018. U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, of Arizona’s 6th District, had a campaign sign defaced with a swastika just before November elections. Phil Lovas, who previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives in both the 4th and 22nd districts, also had promotional materials defaced with swastikas.
Neither Schweikert nor Lovas are Jewish.
“Extremists feel emboldened way more than they ever did in the past,” Galindo-Elvira said. “Along with a more hostile rhetoric toward Israel. Combining these two, it promotes these anti-Jewish stereotypes that are now really in the public discourse.”
He added that the internet allows people to communicate more quickly than ever before and facilitates anti-Semitism.
“I’m often asked by reporters what the Jewish community can do to safeguard themselves from anti-Semitism,” Galindo-Elvira said. “Awareness of these activities helps saves lives, so we encourage more reporting. Vigilance is our best friend.”
In its audit, the ADL recommends numerous policies for combating anti-Semitism. While the bulk of these involve legislative action and increased efforts from law enforcement, two of the recommendations can be implemented at the community or individual level, like speaking out against all forms of hate and promoting anti-bias and bullying prevent programs in schools. JN