February 19, 2009
By Adam Shoop
The latest report is in: “anti-Semitism remains alive and well in the minds of many Europeans.” The U.S. is apparently safe for the moment, as reporting during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead indicated that, “the American people are squarely behind Israel and overwhelmingly think that using force against Hamas is appropriate.”
The survey, commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, finds that “attitudes in seven European countries have worsened due to the global financial crisis and Israel’s military actions against the Palestinians.” Its findings are supposedly similar to a similar 2007 ADL survey (which in turn is similar to a 2005 ADL survey), reflected by the fact that much of the language from earlier press releases is lazily carried over to the latest.
These occasional opinion surveys are perhaps intended to reinforce the oft-cited conclusion of Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League: “We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one.”
The surveys purport to show that millions of Europeans “continue to believe the classical anti-Semitic canards that have persistently pursued Jews through the centuries.” And by the way, the fact that for some “their opinion of Jews was influenced by actions taken by the State of Israel” in Gaza and “worse as a result” means that the criticism of actions by the Israeli government are motivated by anti-Semitic canards.
Never mind that there is much to suggest that European anti-Semitism is often the result of local government policies towards disaffected Muslim or Arab populations (with “the unjustified yet predictable spillover from criticism of Israel to Jews generally”). Indeed, as Norman Finkelstein notes in Beyond Chutzpah, “the transparent motive behind these assertions is to taint any criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism.”
As for the survey data, I spent about 60 seconds having a look at the report on the ADL website. It doesn’t take long to read the 26-page document, which comically looks like it was concocted from a high school power point presentation.
One of the questions asked was: “How much blame do you place on Jews in the financial industry for the current global economic crisis? Do you blame them a great deal, a good amount, a little or not at all?” The 31% figure is the aggregate of anyone responding “a great deal,” “a good amount” or “a little.” No data is provided on what the numbers are for any of those responses.
The poll was conducted by First International Resources, which you will never have heard of. According to the company’s website, its CEO is a former Director of Middle East Affairs for the ADL and former Director at the time of the newly established ADL Jerusalem office. One of its vice presidents worked as a writer for the ADL in New York City.
Maybe First International is an independent, non-partisan public opinion research organization. As a thought experiment, imagine how the ADL would characterize the situation if two former employees from Al Jazeera (who would defend their prior broadcast experience as newsworthy and balanced, no doubt) worked for a consulting group and conducted a poll finding that about thirty percent of Jews had xenophobic attitudes towards Palestinians? Imagine that included among the survey was a response criticizing a member of parliament, “as a lamb in hawk’s clothing” asking: “When has he ever shot anyone?” “When has he ever held a rifle?”
Days before the release of the survey, Foxman had already branded the Gaza war as unleashing “a pandemic of anti-Semitism.” In the coming weeks and months as criticism intensifies over Israel’s continued blockade and conduct during war in Gaza, increased settlement and expansion in the West Bank, you can be sure that the ADL will be there to forecast the anti-Semitic pall over Europe and much else.