Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series on anti-Semitism. Part 1, Surge of European anti-Semitism sets off alarms, is available here.
MIAMI, Fla. – When Louis Farrakhan asked the audience who was at the top of the law profession, the response from the audience came back loud and clear: “Jews!”
The medical profession, too, Farrakhan told the crowd, is dominated by “members of the Jewish community.”
“Anybody in the media? Who’s the top in that field?” the Nation of Islam leader asked. The response: “Jews.”
Also dominated by “Jews,” Farrakhan claimed, is the rap industry, Hollywood, Broadway, business, banking – basically everything.
In a separate speech earlier in 2012, the controversial figure said the Quran calls Jews “the most violent people.”
“I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it,” Farrakhan alleged.
In another speech last year, Farrakhan suggested it was not an “accident” that the Holocaust museum was “right next to the Federal Reserve where they print the money.” He questions the historical understanding of the Holocaust, too.
The Nation of Islam did not respond to requests for comment. However, Farrakhan has insisted on countless occasions that despite his harsh rhetoric and continually portraying the Jewish people as essentially an evil monolith, he is not anti-Semitic.
In his view, groups like the Anti-Defamation League use the term anti-Semitism to “stifle all criticism of Zionism and the Zionist policies of the state of Israel and also to stifle all legitimate criticism of the errant behavior of some Jewish people toward the non-Jewish population of the earth.”
Writing a decade ago in “The Final Call,” the Nation of Islam’s publication, Farrakhan also claimed that Jewish organizations use the charge of anti-Semitism to force people to “bow to their will” and to hold Jews “above all criticism.”
However, experts who focus on studying and combating anti-Semitism say many of his comments and stereotypes about Jews represent the very essence of anti-Semitism.
The U.S. State Department, citing the European Union’s “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” defines it as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”
The definition also equates certain types of hatred against Israel and Israelis with anti-Semitism, too. For example, denying the Jewish people a right to their own homeland or comparing Israeli policies to National Socialist (Nazi) atrocities are both considered to be anti-Semitic.
Under that definition of anti-Semitism, experts say there is no question that Farrakhan and his tens of thousands or more ardent supporters would qualify.
In 2012, Farrakhan’s comments were the only ones by an American figure to be included on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of “Top 10 anti-Semitic slurs.”
However, he is hardly the only one accused of harboring anti-Semitic views and promoting hate. Among the myriad anti-Semitic hate groups are neo-Nazi factions, black supremacists, white supremacists, certain “anti-Zionist” groups and more.
When asked about prominent figures promoting anti-Semitism in America, experts who spoke with WND consistently listed David Duke as well.
Duke, a former “Grand Wizard” with the Ku Klux Klan and an ex-politician in Louisiana, is often dubbed America’s most well-known anti-Semite by Jewish groups.
“David Duke is certainly among the more notable anti-Semites, although despite all of that exposure, I wouldn’t call him a mainstream figure,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“But he is a major figure and a model, a role model, for people who are working to take the extremism beyond the fringe,” Cooper told WND in a phone interview.
While Duke did not respond to a request for comment from WND, he also regularly qualifies his comments by saying he is not against “all” Jews.
Still, he openly suggests that “Jews” run the world and represent a major threat to humanity. Everything from communist terror to the usury perpetrated under the Federal Reserve-run monetary system is attributed to “Jews” by Duke and his supporters.
Duke may have some influence, but he is hardly a powerful figure in the real sense.
Despite being largely frowned upon by the public, however, open and brazen anti-Semitism can still be found throughout America.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the United States in 2012 was 927.
Among the most extreme incidents: Molotov cocktails thrown into a New Jersey rabbi’s home, forcing him and his family to flee.
The ADL figures also include less-severe assaults, vandalism, harassment, and other abuse aimed at Jews for being Jewish.
Of the close to 1,000 incidents, just 17 were physical attacks, with most of the rest being threats, vandalism and verbal abuse.
While the ADL number may seem high, compared to levels of anti-Semitism in Europe, which are hitting new records, as WND reported recently as part of this series, the problem appears to be relatively nominal.
The number of 2012 incidents in the United States also represents a 14 percent drop from the year before, part of a three-year trend of slight declines.
“While these numbers only provide one snapshot of anti-Semitism in America, to the extent that they serve as a barometer, the decline shows that we have made progress as a society in confronting anti-Jewish hatred,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.
“Still, it is disturbing that there are so many incidents in America, and we must remain vigilant in responding to them and in encouraging law enforcement and the public to report these incidents as much as possible.”
The FBI’s numbers, meanwhile, show that Jews are by far the most likely group to be targeted for hate crimes.
See a report on an ADL survey showing 17 percent of Americans hold ‘hardcore’ beliefs:
In 2011, the federal government documented 820 anti-Jewish hate crimes. By comparison, there were 175 anti-Islamic hate crimes.
Surveys conducted by various groups over the decades have largely shown that the prevalence of anti-Semitic views among Americans has been decreasing, too.
A 2005 survey by the ADL, for example, found that some 14 percent of Americans hold “strong” anti-Semitic views – about 35 million people. Breaking down the numbers in more detail revealed that more than one third of foreign-born Hispanics and American blacks hold what the ADL referred to as “hardcore” anti-Semitic views.
Among whites, less than 10 percent harbored such attitudes, according to the survey.
More recent data suggest that levels of anti-Semitic attitudes have remained relatively steady since then, with minor fluctuations.
While those numbers are still alarming to experts, when compared to past decades, the trends point to anti-Semitic views being in gradual but steady decline.
A similar survey conducted by the ADL in 1992, by comparison, found that 20 percent of Americans held anti-Semitic views. In 1964, one in three had such attitudes.
Going back to 1939, an unrelated poll found that less than four in 10 Americans thought Jews should be treated like other people. A full 10 percent felt Jews should be deported.
More to the Numbers
While recent surveys by Jewish groups suggest that the number of anti-Semitic incidents and levels of anti-Semitic attitudes documented in the United States have been on the way down, experts say much of the anti-Semitism remains hidden just below the surface.
When asked about the recent declines in reported anti-Semitic incidents, Rabbi Cooper with the Simon Wiesenthal Center suggested that there is more to the picture than simply looking at numbers.
“There are a lot of factors that go into trying to quantify and qualify the nature of the threat and the challenge,” he told WND.
“We certainly welcome the indication that, over the last few months, the actual number of incidents is down,” Cooper continued. “I think that tells part of the picture, but numbers going up or down over the course of a year or even two doesn’t give the entire picture.”
He pointed to other elements that should be examined as well, such as the prevalence of anti-Semitism online and on social-media services.
“There are also external factors,” he said. “There is very strong support for Israel in the United States in many different sectors, but you also have individuals … who are vociferous on not just the politics of Israel, but really would be much happier if the Jewish state wasn’t around.”
Cooper said that in places like California, with the exception of a small period after 9/11, the number one group targeted for hate crimes because of their religious identity was Jews.
“That is an unfortunate fact of life,” he added. “The United States is the greatest democracy ever, I would certainly argue, but we’re not without our problems and flaws.”
Free Speech, America and the Human Condition
“We know that the issue of hate and bigotry is there – it’s part of the human condition,” Rabbi Cooper explained.
“The question is not only of taking down statistics of things that happen, but how does the community at large – how does leadership, how do police – respond when you have a hate crime taking place at a house of worship? In the United States in general and in places like California, you do have a sensitized political establishment.”
Praising American police and the United States in general, Rabbi Cooper said that when there is an anti-Semitic attack in America, law enforcement reacts and the community tends to stand with Jews in solidarity.
“Anti-Semitism and racism is a part of the landscape of a society that is based on freedom of speech, that allows those on the fringes to be heard,” he said.
“The Internet is a multiplier of those attitudes, so even if there aren’t, let’s say, more people who are bigoted, those who are have a greater opportunity to have an impact.”
Documenting Real Anti-Semitism
While much of the current work examining anti-Semitism involves talking to experts, victims, professors and others, one man decided to try another approach: finding the anti-Semites and recording what they had to say, all over the world, over a year and a half.
In a four-part documentary called “Jew Bashing: The New Anti-Semitism,” Canadian film director Martin Himel also devotes a significant segment to exposing elements of the semi-hidden world of vicious anti-Semitism in the United States.
“My goal was to get it – we did that with hidden cameras, changing identities, etcetera,” he explained. “Even though I knew it existed, I really couldn’t believe it existed in that form.
“I was quite shocked to actually see it – I found it really shocking,” he said. “The Nazis aren’t coming back tomorrow afternoon, but I do think that there is always that potential, and you have to be very, very careful about it.”
Himel, who operates through his company Elsash Productions, highlighted, among other examples, the VNN forum, a ferociously anti-Semitic website.
Among the top one percent of websites worldwide, according to Himmel, it features an “Executive Summary” section that includes unimaginably horrific characterizations and accusations aimed at the Jewish people.
“The Problem: Hate what America’s become? Don’t get angry at the symptoms. Identify the disease. Welcome to Jews 101,” the forum declares.
Inside that subsection of the openly racist site, which argues that most of the world’s problems are caused by “Jews,” visitors are hammered with wild claims of “Jews” as being opposed to free speech, whites, Christianity, morality and more.
“Jews” also control the media, foreign policy, law, the economy, the Federal Reserve and basically everything else as they seek to normalize pedophilia and perpetrate genocide, readers are told.
In his hard-hitting documentary, Himel manages to track down Alex Linder, the man who owns and operates the VNN forum and the Vanguard News Network under the motto: “No Jews. Just Right.”
“How do you believe you can solve this problem with the Jews?” asks Himel, who took on a non-Jewish identity to interview Linder for the documentary.
“The solution to the problem is ultimately to exterminate them,” Linder responds matter-of-factly, looking dead serious. “What we should do is exterminate them. Their behavior over 2,000 years has shown that when you kick them out, they always end up being let back in and they cause the same problems.
“I guarantee I can make the case for Jews being exterminated and you won’t find anybody but a handful of nuts who says otherwise,” Linder added in the on-camera interview.
Himel says the interview with Linder was probably “the most shocking moment” as he traveled across the United States for months documenting real-life anti-Semitism.
“I didn’t expect him to just come out and say that he wanted me and everybody around me to be, you know, exterminated as soon as possible,” Himel said. “That was definitely one of the more extreme things that I heard.”
Ironically, considering that one of the many claims parroted by VNN forum participants is that “Jews” are seeking to wipe out Christianity, prior to the documentary on anti-Semitism, Himel produced a powerful film on the brutal persecution of Christians by Middle Eastern Islamists.
See a report about anti-Semitic incidents on rise in New York:
Speaking to WND, he expressed genuine concern for the ancient Christian communities under mortal threat in the region.
Online Anti-Semitism in America
The birth and growth of the Internet, along with the anonymity that it provides, has made it easier for anti-Semites to express their hatred more openly without fear of social repercussions.
Even though the general American public largely rejects bigotry, the free-wheeling online world has led to more manifestations of anti-Semitism in the virtual realm, according to experts. And it could be dangerous.
After examining the scene in the United States, Himel also found that the major focus for anti-Semites in America is the online world – services like Stormfront or Linder’s VNN forum, for instance, which have massive followings.
“That’s the major place where it’s at,” Himel said about the rise in anti-Semitism on the fringes and the Internet.
“Certain anti-Semitic websites have very high rankings – in the top one percent or two percent of websites,” he added, citing data obtained from a popular website-ranking service that tracks traffic levels.
“You can be a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, a clerk at the bank, and you can feel comfortable being an anti-Semite online because you’re hidden, so you feel safe – safe expressing your viewpoints,” the Jewish documentary maker continued. “It’s all very quiet, but it’s very, very powerful because there are millions of people engaged with this.
“And also, they can find each other more easily, which is scary, too,” he said.
Anti-Semitism on the Left
Aside from the Internet, Himel said there is a lot of anti-Semitism among some “left-leaning so-called anti-Zionist groups” – especially on college campuses.
One example he mentioned was a protest movement against the pro-Israel lobbying group known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
“We sent in a man with a hidden camera, and we caught a lot of that classic anti-Semitism –Jews control the banks, the real-estate, the Republican and Democratic parties, that they create pogroms on their holidays, that Judaism is a racist religion, all sorts of stuff, and we got it all on camera,” Himel explained about the “Occupy AIPAC” gathering.
“The point being that so-called left-leaning anti-Zionist groups – some of them may be just authentic anti-Zionist – but they attract a lot of anti-Semites, a lot,” he added.
“Between a lot of these online groups where people can come in on forums and the groups that we captured on hidden camera, that’s what you basically see a lot in the United States,” Himel concluded.
While anti-Semitism in America is hardly “mainstream,” Himel and others believe that the explosion of hate on the fringes and online could potentially pose a real problem.
“The danger is that the fringes are like sparks in a dry forest,” he explained. “If the sparks catch a little bit of fire and you put it out quickly with water, no harm done. But if you let it go, it can burn the entire forest.”
Speaking of the online forums and websites where anti-Semites congregate, Himel said the hate can encourage lone-wolf attacks.
Indeed, it has already happened. In the documentary, Himel devoted an entire chapter to lone-wolf attacks, saying he found the problem to be “quite serious” and deserving of public attention.
The hate against Jews and the collectivist perception of the Jewish community as a monolithic bloc working toward the same goals has been passed down for thousands of years, he continued.
“The only reason it’s new anti-Semitism as opposed to old anti-Semitism or classic anti-Semitism … is that new anti-Semitism takes religion more out of the picture and weaves in the whole conspiracy thing: that Jews created 9/11, Jews run the American government, Jews run the whole banking system and manipulate everybody,” Himel said. “It’s basically they just took the religion out of it and kept the conspiracy part.”
Throughout history, that hatred has led to disasters on more than a few occasions.
In America, with its long traditions of tolerance and liberty, Jews are still relatively safe. However, that does not mean that it will always be that way or that there is no threat.
“As long as these types of expressions are condemned and put down – people feel embarrassed saying them in public and there’s vigilance to stop it – I think there isn’t a danger,” Himel concluded. “But as soon as you let your guard down, whether it’s Jews or anybody else, that’s when racism and bigotry can become very dangerous.”
Dealing with the Issue
As far as what can and should be done about anti-Semitism in America, experts who spoke with WND offered a wide range of prescriptions.
Rabbi Cooper with the Simon Wiesenthal Center said understanding is crucial.
“Bigotry is always part of an open society, and I think the main thing, since this is the most blessed country for Jews and other minorities ever conceived of, the main thing for people who aren’t Jewish, when you see a racial epithet or an anti-Semitic statement made, speak up and say something,” he told WND. “Put a person like that in their place; let them know that that kind of behavior is not acceptable in social circles. That’s the most important part.”
The Jewish community, he added, also has a “responsibility and an opportunity to use the fact that we have access to express ourselves in such a great democracy to explain to people who we are, what are our values, what we stand for.”
“You know, in my case, a guy who wears a kippa on his head – ‘why do you wear that funny beanie on your head?’ – if somebody asks you, don’t be insulted, it’s an opportunity to express one’s self,” Rabbi Cooper concluded. “So I think we need to do a better job of reaching people who may not know anything about Jews and getting them to better understand their neighbors.”
Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, the Irving M. Glazer chair in Jewish Studies and director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University, told WND that there are a few avenues being explored that are worth considering.
“One, of course, is education,” he said. “It’s important that anti-Semitism be taught in schools and universities – it rarely is, by the way. My own university, Indiana University, is one of only two universities in the entire country that houses a research institute devoted to the study of anti-Semitism.”
When considering that America has hundreds of colleges and universities, the fact that only two have institutes focusing on the issue “shows you the degree to which anti-Semitism has been ignored, under studied, under taught, under researched.”
Major scholarly work on anti-Semitism still needs to be done, too, Dr. Rosenfeld added.
“I’m beginning to see some work, most of it, by the way, abroad – it emanates from scholars in Europe and in Israel, there are very, very few American scholars to date who’ve been looking hard at anti-Semitism,” he concluded. “But through the work of my institute and the institute at Yale, I think there is at least a chance to make some modest improvement.”
Alternative Explanations and Solutions
While controversial among Jews, especially secular ones, there is an increasingly influential Jewish movement that sees anti-Semitism in a different light.
“The biggest problem here is people not knowing the difference between the Israeli establishment and the people who consider themselves Zionists based on the Biblical covenant between God and the Jewish people in his promise to Abraham,” said Bob Unger, a prominent Jewish attorney and conservative political activist in New York who describes himself as a “Biblical Zionist rather than a New World Order Zionist.”
To deal with anti-Semitism, Unger told WND, “be a proud Jew and act like a Jew is supposed to act.”
“Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations; instead, many of them are a blight unto the nations,” he argued. “Unfortunately, many Jews today are JINOs — Jews in Name Only.”
As an example, Unger said that “Judaism is opposed to homosexual conduct and refers to it as an abomination, yet most Jews today support mainstreaming homosexuality in the minds of adults and children alike.”
“The same could be said of abortion,” he added.
Unger, who gives speeches on anti-Semitism to audiences that often include anti-Semites, also emphasized the central place of Jewish values in the founding of America that is so often overlooked.
“America was founded on the fundamental principles of Christianity, and the values of Christianity are based on Judaism,” he said. “So if you are anti-Jewish, it stands to reason that you are also anti-American.”
While the Jewish lawyer’s views may be controversial among liberal-leaning and secular Jews, Unger is hardly alone in his analysis of anti-Semitism
Manhigut Yehudit, or Jewish Leadership in English, is a growing movement in Israel, inside Israel’s ruling Likud party and among Jews in the diaspora that expresses some similar sentiments.
In essence, it sees the issue of anti-Semitism through a different lens than most experts, working to transform the Israeli government into a state that is run on what Manhigut Yehudit leaders refer to as “authentic Jewish values” – freedom, morality and a unique role for Jews in the world as outlined in the Bible.
“Of course, there are plenty of people who hate Jews just because they hate Jews,” said Rob Muchnick, the U.S. director of Manhigut Yehudit. “There are lots of anti-Semites where there is just no explanation why.
“But there are also plenty of people who don’t really take a side,” he told WND in a phone interview. “If we behaved as we should – in a more Jewish fashion – then we would get that huge amount of people who are undecided and are waiting for us to do good.”
Muchnick also pointed to widely held misconceptions that are often used to justify or promote anti-Semitism, such as the notion that the immensely powerful banking dynasties which control the Federal Reserve and the European Central Banks are representative of Jews.
“The owners of the Fed have Jewish-sounding names, but most of them either aren’t Jewish or stopped being Jewish well over 100 years ago,” Muchnick said. “You can also talk about Alan Greenspan and Ben Shalom Bernanke who are put out front as the face of the Fed. Certainly none of these guys reflect the values of Judaism; they reflect the dictates of the Federal Reserve – they are representing the Federal Reserve, and of course, the Fed does nothing good for humanity.”
“The Torah actually demands sound money, so printing currency out of thin air is clearly against our beliefs, and as such, is antithetical to Judaism,” he added. “Besides, one of the Ten Commandments says not to steal, and creating fiat currency which creates inflation is simply stealing from the majority of citizens and giving it to those who print the currency.”
“So unless you’re really paying attention and educate yourself, it is easy to get the idea that, yeah, the Jews are all bad,” Muchnick concluded.
Both Unger and Muchnick said that when people begin to understand the vast differences between different types of Jews, rather than seeing the Jewish people as a collectivist monolith represented by a handful of prominent establishment figures, anti-Semitism tends to melt away – at least in people susceptible to logic, facts and reason.
Indeed, Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker of the Knesset and one of the founders of Manhigut Yehudit, even reported that when he explained his views on God’s covenant with Israel and His promise to give all of the Land of Israel to the Jews to an Arab member of the Knesset, the fellow lawmaker responded: “I can live with that. I can give Israel to the Jews, but not to the Zionists, they are just colonialist occupiers.”