Is Anti-Semitism Dying Out?

Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred

by Robert S. Wistrich
Pantheon, 341 pp., $25.00

The History of Anti-Semitism

by Léon Poliakov, translated by Richard Howard
Vanguard Press (out of print), Four Volumes pp.

Foreigners Out’: Xenophobia and Right-wing Violence in Germany

a Helsinki Watch Report
52 pp., $8.40 (paper)

Highlights from an Anti-Defamation League Survey on Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in America.

55 pp., $3.00 (paper)

What Do We Know About Black Anti-Semitism?

by Jennifer L. Golub
34 pp., $2.50 (paper)

Attitudes Toward Jews in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia (1991)

by Renae Cohen, by Jennifer L. Golub
44 pp., $2.50 (paper)

Attitudes Toward Jews in the Soviet Union: Public Opinion in Ten Republics

by Lev Gudkov, by Alex Levinson
all three pamphlets published by the American Jewish Committee., 80 pp., $10.00 (paper)

Is anti-Semitism reviving? Could it become again a major threat to Jews? Some of the closest observers of contemporary anti-Semitism disagree about these questions; they interpret quite differently such incidents as the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and the painting of swastikas on Jewish grave-stones in Germany. The chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Simcha Dinitz, for example, has suggested that the 40,000 Jews in Germany should pack their bags and move to Israel. The president of the Central Organization of Jews in Germany, Ignatz Bubis, disagrees, insisting that the neo-Nazis are small, marginal groups, and that Jews are safe in a country where hundreds of thousands of Germans have taken to the streets to express outrage on behalf of the minorities that have been attacked.

In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League released last November a “survey of anti-Semitism and prejudice in America” which had what sounded like a sensational conclusion: that “one in five Americans—or between thirty-five and forty million adults—hold views about Jews which are unquestionably anti-Semitic,” and that this percentage among the American population has declined only very slowly during the last thirty years. The survey was based on a list of eleven anti-Semitic beliefs, including such propositions as “Jews stick together more than other Americans,” they have “too much power in the business world,” are “more loyal to Israel than America,” and “don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” Those who agreed with six or more of eleven negative statements about Jews were considered to be among the one in five Americans who are anti-Semites.

The conclusions in the Anti-Defamation League report were widely publicized but they were challenged and attacked by other agencies. Jerome Chanes, the director of national affairs for the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, has said repeatedly that anti-Semitism continues to decrease in the United States. On March 1, in a speech to the officials of the American Jewish Congress, he said that “each succeeding age group tends to display fewer anti-Semitic attitudes than the preceding generation,” and that anti-Semitism has fallen dramatically in the United States in the last forty years.

After making a survey of all the Jewish communities of the world, the World Jewish Congress was less alarmed than the Anti-Defamation League, but not quite as hopeful as Jerome Chanes. At the congress’s conference on anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice held in Brussels in July 1992, the Institute of Jewish Affairs, a London-based research group, issued a report with a country-by-country account of current anti-Semitism, from Austria to Uruguay. Tony Lerman, the director of the institute, wrote in the introduction to the report that “the anti-Semitic climate has markedly worsened since the beginning of the 1990s,” but he also pointed out that

anti-Semitism is by no means the primary form of bigotry apparent today. Racial prejudice and violence are experienced most acutely by blacks, Turks, Gypsies, Moslems, Asians and other ethnic minority groups and …

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Letters

The Great Hatred’ September 23, 1993