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A distorted portrait of Palestinian 'anti-Semitism'

With a discriminatory system that includes two separate legal systems, what is a Palestinian supposed to answer when he’s asked if Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind? The ADL’s world anti-Semitism survey presents a distorted view of the world.

By Inna Michaeli

Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox Jews and a mosque's minaret. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox Jews and a mosque’s minaret. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – a Jewish-American organization whose goal is to combat anti-Semitism – and in practice, to promote Israeli hasbara – published a worldwide survey on anti-Semitism last week. The survey is unprecedented in its scope (53,100 people were surveyed in 102 countries) and purports to establish a reliable database on global anti-Semitism.

In practice, the survey seeks to establish an objective “truth” according to scientific standards vis-a-vis public discourse and the educational system, for journalists, policymakers, international institutions and more. The power to determine the “truth” is political, one that invites a certain suspicion – especially when it comes from a political body affiliated with the Israeli Right.

The main finding of the report is that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are the most anti-Semitic in the world. Of course, not all of them; the ADL labeled only 93 percent of the Palestinian public as anti-Semitic. What did the Palestinians do to receive such an honor?

The survey’s authors stood before the challenge of giving the term “anti-Semitism” an operational definition: that is, to translate an ambiguous term into precise, measurable criteria. This is how they arrived at their list of 11 statements with which respondents were asked to agree or disagree. The statements included: “Jews think they are better than other people”; “Jews have too much control over the global media”; and “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.” Answering affirmatively to six of the 11 questions bestows upon the respondent the title of “anti-Semite.”

Surprisingly, the Palestinians tended to answer affirmatively to declarations such as, “Jews have too much power in the business world.” The fact that Palestinians are a captive market to the Israeli economy – their economic development is critically limited by Israel, as enshrined in the Paris Protocols of the Oslo accords – is of no relevance to the ADL.

ADL promo for its world anti-Semitism survey.

ADL promo for its world anti-Semitism survey.

Even Israel’s frequent use of the Holocaust as a way to fend off criticism of the occupation should not stop Palestinians from wanting to talk about Jews in the Holocaust. That is, if they want to be considered part of the enlightened, non anti-Semitic world. Even the thoughtfulness and sensitivity of the Israeli army and the settlers – the Jews whom Palestinians meet on a day-to-day basis – did not prevent Palestinians from agreeing with the statement that, “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” Even agreeing with the statement that, “people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave,” won the Palestinians some anti-Semitism points.

It’s not that the behavior of a certain cultural group – horrific, violent and criminal as it may be – excuses stereotypes based on ethnicity, religion or nationality. The point is that it is impossible to examine issues of anti-Semitism, or racism in general, when it is disconnected from its political, economic, social and cultural context.

The ADL’s insistence on conducting research in a political vacuum is apparent in the sense of entitlement among American Jews who feel they can judge anti-Semitism in other countries without taking into account the various ways Jews in those countries understand anti-Semitism. The pretension of examining the meaning that people attribute to Jews in a way that is disconnected from the world of meanings in which they live, fails on an intellectual and research-based level, not to mention that it is politically manipulative.

What does anti-Semitism have to do with us?

The absence of Israel from the survey is particularly evident. It is possible that its findings would have forced the authors to have a deeper conversation on the essence and expressions of anti-Semitism. It is possible that it would invite questions more troubling than pointing one’s finger toward the ultimate Other – the Arabs and the Muslims. The ADL’s rhetorical laundering, such as “anti-Semitism as a global phenomenon,” does not prevent the survey from conforming to the wide-spread demonization of the West’s Other – the Muslim – as evil facing Western, enlightened society. The reduction of anti-Semitism into a collection of stereotypes constitutes a stereotypical — and superficial — outlook of anti-Semitism and racism in general.

People on the left in Israel tend to think of contemporary anti-Semitism as a tool of silencing criticism of the occupation. The cynical use of anti-Semitism does caus the more critical elements in the population to leave this important issue for conservatives with a right-wing agenda. But even worse: in Israel today there are no critical tools for analyzing and discussing anti-Semitism, especially in its current form. However, the way in which Jewish identity, Jewish nationalism and Jews in general are seen in Israel is inextricable from the political reality – one that many of us seek to change.

Israel is characterized by a range of ideologies and practices that make Jewish identity exceptional. I’m talking about laws that create different legal and administrative categories for Jews, regarding military conscription due to their Jewishness, on burying the dead in different areas due to their Jewishness or non-Jewishness, on restricting the purchase of land and assets based on Jewish identity, and so on.

When it comes to Holocaust awareness, while only 54 percent of those polled had heard of the Holocaust — a disturbingly low number — the numbers were far better in Western Europe, where 94 percent of those polled were aware of the history. – Abe Foxman

Foxman, head of the ADL, does not seem to dwell on the fact that Western Europeans have more knowledge of the history of the Holocaust since they, well, had a hand in the matter.

In addition, intellectuals and activists, Mizrahis and Palestinians (among them Ella Shohat, Aziza Khazzoom and Edward Said) described the racism from Ashkenazis toward Mizrahis as a reproduction of the racism Jews experienced from their non-Jewish neighbors in Europe. The Jews of eastern and central Europe, as people who were marked as East, as the Orient, projected that orientalization on Jews from Arab countries and the Middle East.

Thus we see a sequence of anti-Semitism that was tied historically, socially and geo-politically between different expressions of racism, Orientalism and colonial violence toward the Semitic groups – the “Other” of the West. All this, of course, does not bother the Anti Defamation League, which refrains from dealing critically with anti-Semitism and its roots, and sticks to a narrow and Eurocentric definition.

While critical media outlets, such as Mondoweiss, The Guardian, Bloomberg View and Amira Hass at Haaretz, have pointed out the methodological problems as well as the manipulative aspects of the survey, they won’t stop it from becoming a successful piece of propaganda. I suggest taking the survey as an invitation to deal with anti-Semitism critically – in a way that doesn’t fall in line with Orientalism, Islamophobia and the other foundations of modern racism.

No, Abe Foxman, America is not out to get the Jews
Dispelling modern myths of Muslim anti-Semitism

Read this article in Hebrew on “Local Call.”

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    1. Rab

      Conveniently, the writer ignores the overt anti-Semitism in Hamas’s charter, an organization which won the vote in Gaza several years ago and has been kept down by the PA in Judea and Samaria out of fear they would take over there as well.

      The author neglects to mention the TV programs targeted at children encouraging the killing of Israeli Jews.

      The author forgets to discuss the hagiography surrounding most Palestinian terrorists for their crimes targeting Israeli civilians. The more killed or the more brutal the murder, the greater the respect bestowed upon the murderous Palestinian.

      The writer also doesn’t mention typical anti-Jewish tropes available in a great deal of the anti-Israel activism that we see among the gadoodles of anti-Israel groups around the world.

      The writer omits mention of the anti-Semitic actions of the UN Human Right Council, driven by Arab and Muslim states in particular – the same ones which work hand in hand with Abbas’s government – which have managed to make Israel the only country in the world on the Council’s permanent agenda, and which receives over half of the voted resolutions on which the Council decides. The Arab and Muslim states, together with their friends in the non-aligned movement also create such outrages as one sees in UNESCO which has voted on 88 resolutions against Israel and zero against all other nations.

      The excuses given by these organizations, along with the multiple NGOs that attack or up-play Israel’s supposed misdeeds while ignoring real human rights violations elsewhere or playing them down, is that Palestinian society has asked them to act in this way on their behalf.

      And, the author also forgets, Palestinian Christian anti-Semitism which has been brought out to the world in the form of Kairos.

      Etc., etc., etc.

      What the author should focus on is not all the apologia for a hatred of Jews that has been prevalent for 100 years and which is so profound that when Jews were a tiny minority in the land, they were targeted for killing, maiming, eviction and destruction multiple times. Instead, the author should focus on acknowledging the problem so that this society can address it. And, with all due respect, as the history points out, this hatred precedes the “occupation.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Peter

        I’d wager, Rab, that the rate of people answering these loaded questions in a way to ‘qualify’ as anti-whomever among people ethnically cleansed, occupied, oppressed, and routinely terrorized by whomever’s “defence forces”, murdered by whomever’s “defence forces” and illegal settlers…. would be predictably rather higher than most of the world.
        This study is very highly sensitive and not very specific. It is carefully constructed to inflate antisemitism and scare Jews the world over into rabid zionism.
        My own Jewish friends who’ve lived and worked in the West Bank… going as friends and not as occupiers land thieves, have found Palestinians to be wonderfully welcoming of them.

        Reply to Comment
        • Haifawi

          Ya, I can second this. The only anti-semitism I’ve encountered in the West Bank was from a few ISM europeans, settlers who called me ‘not a real Jew,’ and this one palestinian dude who was just visiting from where he was born and raised…TEXAS

          I think the solidarity activists have done a lot to help in this regard. no longer are the only jews that palestinians meet either settlers or soldiers. it has helped to move the discourse to anti-zionist as opposed to anti-jewish.

          Reply to Comment
        • David

          Notice how deftly Peter steps to one side to let Rab’s comments fly through without a comment. This is so typical of this insane political correctness that is blindsiding so many people. We hear the ‘profound’ counter argument that “I know a number of Palestinians who are very lovely people”. G-d help us when the penny drops.

          Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          My questions are “loaded?”

          Everything I wrote is either in the news regularly or accepted by mainstream historians. That Inna Michaeli could write an essay about Palestinian anti-Semitism without touching on these issues is problematic for her argument.

          Regarding Jewish “friends” who are treated nicely by Palestinians with whom they share political viewpoints, hospitality is a long tradition in the Middle East (read the Torah). Also, why wouldn’t people who seek to share the struggle against Israel with the Palestinians be treated well? The poll shows it’s anti-Semitism that infects Palestinians, not stupidity.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Zakkai

      George Orwell or Joseph Heller, writing their best political satire, could not do better than the ADL survey & spin and reactions thereto. Ms. Michaeli, while refuting specific claims made by the ADL, remains captive to their ideology: to wit, that we Jews as a people can’t possibly have collective faults that get us into trouble. Stereotypes can’t possibly have any factual basis; oh no.

      Reply to Comment
      • Inna

        Hi Ben. Not only stereotypes tend to have factual basis, they often even actively create it. Plus, people often internalize stereotypes about themselves. However, to quote myself, “It’s not that the behavior of a certain cultural group – horrific, violent and criminal as it may be – excuses stereotypes based on ethnicity, religion or nationality.” – it’s HIGHLY relevant for the political analysis, but it is not excuse. However, if you believe that racism can be justified because the subjects of racism behave badly and/or because they have some intrinsic genetic or cultural “collective faults”, we really don’t have any common grounds to even begin a discussion.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Well, let’s see if we can begin a discussion despite your attempt to slam the door on one right away. If I observe that men tend to be more agressive and commit much more violent crime than women; that there are cultural/genetic roots for that phenomenon; and that this is a legitimate topic for discussion and consciousness-raising, since we want individual men to examine and improve their conduct, while policymakers formulate global solutions to the problem of excessive male violence — then, am I automatically an evil sexist-racist-etc. bastard who must be silenced and fired from any job he holds? Be careful Inna, I’m trying to lure you down a slippery slope here.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Tzutzik

      Let’s try the same tests for Islamophobia instead of anti-Semitism by substituting only a few key words and asking people the following questions requiring them to respond with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

      “Muslims think they are better than the infidel (the rest of humanity)”; yes or no?

      “Muslims are treated too leniently by the global media”; yes or no?

      Muslims talk too much about what happened to Palestinians in the Nakbah”; yes or no?

      I guess the author of this article would say that people answering ‘yes’ to all three of the above questions are not Islamophobic? Am I right?

      If not, why not? Surely one has to be consistent, NO!?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Khaled Khalid

      I read somewhere in the survey the “High levels of Anti-Semitism found in the Inuit people of the Arctic.” Really? I’ve never heard such childishness. (I think it got removed subsequently.)

      They could have asked “Are Jewish Mothers emotionally manipulative and overbearing and constantly cooking like Indian mothers?”

      It is conspicuous by its absence how Israel, of all places, was left out of this ADL “Survey.”

      Great article by Inna Michaeli

      Reply to Comment
    5. Vadim

      To Arms Brothers! We must protect the most righteous group of people in the universe – the Palestinians.

      Their leaders cannot be called Terrorists because Begin was also a Terrorist. Their opinions cannot be labeled antisemitic because they are Semites, and because their opinions are true by definition. They are absolved of any moral consideratation because they resist and every bad thing they do (women and guy rights, corruption, domestic violence etc) is because of Israel.

      This lovely article looks like a part of this trend.

      Now back to reality – the entire Arab world is rife with Antisemitism. Haven’t you seen the TV shows? The drawings in newspapers? The sermons in mosques? Haven’t you heard the way politicians speak of Israel? They way Jew is used as the worst of curses?

      Palestinians are no different in this from the Jordanians, the Egyptians, from Iraq or Yemen. Yemen for crying out loud!!!

      Grow up. You can support Palestinians and oppose Israel and still acknowledge the ugly fact that Antisemitism is alive and kicking there. Same as you hate when Israel white-washes its crimes – don’t try to hide away the ugly side of Palestinian society.


      Reply to Comment
      • IlonJ


        They put their hands on their hearts, look sincere, and they say:

        We don’t hate the Jewish people, we only hate Zionists.

        And they define what Zionism is. They will never admit that Zionism is nothing more than the aim of us the Jewish people to live in our own state as an indepent nation. Much like what Arab people take for granted. That they have a right to self determination.

        Apparently, there is something dirty about us the Jewish people insisting that we too have the right to self determination. And if we do insist, then we are no longer Jews whom everybody apparently loves. We are dirty Zionists instead.

        Reply to Comment
    6. shachalnur

      The ADL was set up in 1913,the same year a bunch of London Bankers created the privately owned Federal Reserve in the US.

      Long before the Holocaust.

      The ADL’s main aim then was to stifle any criticizm towards these Bankers.

      In a way they are still doing the same thing,only now they are also whipping up hate against Jews and make sure anti-Semitism will be found,or invented, in any corner of the globe.

      In your head ,and even in your soup.

      Reply to Comment
    7. shachalnur

      The ADL was set up in 1913,the same year a bunch of London Bankers created the privately owned Federal Reserve in the US.

      Long before the Holocaust.

      The ADL’s main aim then was to stifle any criticizm towards these Bankers.

      In a way they are still doing the same thing,only now they are also whipping up hate against Jews and make sure anti-Semitism will be found,or invented, in any corner of the globe.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        “The ADL was set up in 1913,the same year a bunch of London Bankers created the privately owned Federal Reserve in the US.

        Long before the Holocaust.

        The ADL’s main aim then was to stifle any criticizm towards these Bankers.

        In a way they are still doing the same thing,only now they are also whipping up hate against Jews and make sure anti-Semitism will be found,or invented, in any corner of the globe.”

        Ok, so let me get this Shachalnur. You are claiming that anti-Semitism did not exist prior to 1913? And it was just a banker invention in 1913?

        Are you serious?

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          “OK,so let me get this Shachalnur”.

          You didn’t get it,as usual.

          Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            No, he didn’t “get” your anti-Semitism. But surely the editors of 972 do. Why do they allow you to continue posting here?

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            1. ADL was created in 1913.

            2. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 by London Bankers.

            3. 1913 was long before WW2.

            3. Anybody criticizing these Bankers were attacked by ADL.

            4. ADL is “finding” and inventing anti-Semitism.

            5. ADL is whipping up hate against Jews and causing anti-Semitism to grow.

            These are called facts,mostly undisputed.

            You call it anti-Semitism and want me silenced.

            Why is it that when I show up with uncomfortable facts,instead of debunking them ,sociopaths like you call it “anti-semitism”?

            If I’m lying or inventing these facts ,why don’t you prove it?

            Reply to Comment
    8. Rab

      I don’t debate anti-Semites.

      You should stop reading anti-Semitic websites, you moron.

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        What anti-Semitic websites,what for?

        As a Jew ,looking and listening to Abe Foxman makes my stomach turn.

        Why is he doing this,for me,a Jew?

        Who asked him to do this,since when and why is the ADL doing this?

        What is his agenda?

        You don’t feel anything like that,right Rab?

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          “You didn’t get it,as usual.”

          Was there anti-Semitism before the ADL’s creation in 1913 or not,

          If there was, then the ADL was created in reaction to that. Not the other way around.

          Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Why is he doing this,for me,a Jew?”

            Stop lying Shachalnur. You are NOT a Jew!

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            This is why this scumbag who calls himself Shachalnur objects to the ADL:

            “The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.”[1]”

            Reply to Comment
    9. Shira

      The poll results aren’t skewed, loaded, or biased in the least. The findings match those of previous polls. There’s no sense trying to whitewash, explain away, or minimize these findings:

      “Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53% were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.

      When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80% agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.”


      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        How is the average Arab in the street supposed to know there’s a difference between Jews and 1897 Zionists?

        Especially since 1897 Zionism denies there’s a difference between Judaism and 1897 Zionism.

        Another piece of fall-out is that 17 million people born Jewish have turned their backs on 1897 Zionism controlled Judaism since 1945.

        Millions of Orthodox Jews reject 1897 Zionism and call it a program to exterminate the Jewish people.

        Your obsolete sect will blow itself up,the question is how many Arabs and Israeli’s, and what’s left of Judaism ,you’re gonna drag down with you.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          The only one who is obsolete is you Shachalnur.

          You are obsolete because at every turn you side with those who wish to harm the Jewish people.

          The Jewish people have no future without Israel that is why you wish to harm Israel.

          The ADL was established to eliminate discrimination against the Jewish people. That is why you hate the ADL so much.

          Your hatred of us betrays you and that’s why we know that you are not Jewish Shachalnur. But because you claim to be Jewish makes you a liar.

          Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            As a Jew ,son of Holocaust survivors,I reject 1897 Zionism,and see ADL ,AIPAC,PNAC and even Mossad as organizations that pose a mortal threat to Judaism.

            I see 1897 Zionism as a London Banker program to extermnate Judaism.

            Since 1945 17 million have turned their backs on 1897 Zionism controlled Judaism.

            Judaism is shrinking fast in numbers,relative to world population growth since 1945,leaving only an atheist paranoid hatefull sect,dreaming of the Samson-option.

            That’s my view,take it or leave it,we’ll see who’s right.

            If that makes me a non-Jew,that’s fine with me,coming from you it sounds like a compliment.

            In Judaism there’s someone else who will decide who’s a Jew and to what tribe he/she belongs.

            But you wouldn’t know anything about that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Judaism is shrinking fast in numbers”

            Not in Israel shachalnur. But you hate Israel. That is how I know that your claim of being Jewish is a lie. And if that is a lie then everything else you say is a lie too.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Try this quick quiz Shachalnur:

            The only place on this earth is Israel where the number of Jewish people is growing. And you hate Israel.

            What does that make you?

            1. Non Jewish?

            2. Jewish?

            Hint: self destructive people are insane.

            Reply to Comment
    10. Perverse

      Ms Michaeli raises some very valid issues. I can agree that much of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is viewed, on both sides, through and sectarian/ethnic prism. And yes, the charge of antisemitism is frequently used to silence critics of Israeli policies.

      Nonetheless, I strongly disagree with her apologetic for the very real antisemitism that one finds among Palestinians and, indeed, in the entire Arab world. Ms. Michaeli ignores the language of the Hamas Charter:

      ‘For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

      You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.’
      Article 22

      She ignores the pervasiveness of antisemitic imagery and literature. Arab translations of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “Mein Kampf” can be easily found in all bookstores throughout the Middle East. The BBC and Guardian both reported a few years ago, that even in Turkey, “Mein Kampf” has been a best seller, with over 50,000 annual sales.

      Unfortunately, the article takes the politically correct positon and tries to excuse, justify and blatantly ignore a serious issue.

      Reply to Comment
    11. richard witty

      Like all polls, literallyss all, there is a mix of information and distortion.

      To my assessment this one was majority informative to me.

      And for that I am thankful, even with qualifications.

      Good point on the need to clarify further on what antisemitism is and means in the modern world.

      Although you site mondoweiss approvingly on the report, I had for years sought for that discussion in a non-propagandistic manner (left or right) to no avail.

      Reply to Comment
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