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JCRC UPDATE | May 23, 2014

Thank You, Laos!

This past week, the Anti-Defamation League issued a comprehensive report on Anti-Semitic attitudes around the world – the largest ever survey of its kind. The results were sobering and depressing. The countries polled represent over four billion of the world’s population and roughly 26 percent of this population (representing over one billion people) has some sort of anti-Jewish attitudes.

Respondents were read 11 statements and were told to indicate if they were “probably true” or “probably false.” If the respondent answered at least 6 out of 11 as probably true, they were found to hold anti-Jewish attitudes generally.

Among the 11 statements were:

  •  The Jews are more loyal to Israel than their native country;
  • “Jews have too much power in the business world;
  •  People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave;
  • Jews have too much control over the global media; and
  • Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.

Unfortunately, the most anti-Jewish countries in the world are concentrated in the Middle East. The most anti-Jewish people in the world are the Palestinians, with 93 percent of their population holding some sort of anti-Jewish belief. These kinds of beliefs, which are often reinforced by Palestinian media outlets, hinder efforts to promote a peaceful co-existence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rounding out the top 10 are Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco. Interestingly, Iran ranked high with a rate of 56 percent, but ranked lower than countries such as Greece, Turkey and Armenia.

The United States ranked very low, with 8 percent, or 95th place out of 102. The country with the lowest rate of anti-Jewish attitudes is, surprisingly, Laos, with .2 percent.

The questions asked dealt with classic anti-Jewish stereotypes of Jewish control, dual loyalties, economic power and exploiting the Holocaust … and it might be this last topic where the survey results are most disturbing.

Only 33 percent of respondents have heard of the Holocaust and believe it has been accurately described by history, and of those who have heard of the Holocaust, roughly one third believe it is either a myth or greatly exaggerated.

The results of this survey are certainly upsetting, but is there anything we can do about it?

One response might be to circle the wagons, be convinced that the world will always be against the Jews, and become very insular and suspicious. Another response might be to ignore the whole thing, convinced that the numbers don’t tell the story, and choosing to live as Jews without any thought to the anti-Semitism shared by over a billion people.

I think, perhaps, the response should be to strengthen the things that make us all proud as Jews … our charitable efforts that help the whole world (Israel has sent medical teams to Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines and, most recently, Serbia), continue with and encouraging more Holocaust education, and generally strive to treat everyone justly.

An interesting statistic in this report is that the more Jews a country has, the less likely it is to hold these kinds of views … to know us is to love us! While this is not always the case (some countries at the bottom of the list have very few Jews), the survey shows countries where Jewish populations are more than .1 percent of the population tend to be less anti-Semitic. So thank you to the countries at the bottom … Laos, the Philippines, Sweden, and the Netherlands for your open minds and open hearts regarding the Jewish people.

Ukraine Crisis

I am often asked about the crisis in the Ukraine and there is an interesting dynamic there for the Jewish community. There is no serious spike in anti-Semitic incidents (although there have been a few disturbing ones, like the “Registration” letter that turned out to be a hoax). The Jews in Eastern Ukraine generally hold opinions like their non-Jewish neighbors, a pro-Russian one.

The Jews in the western part mirror their non-Jewish neighbors in support of further connection with Europe. Recent polls indicate that the Jews of Ukraine are far more concerned about anarchy than they are about anti-Semitism.

However, with the violence and uncertainty of the current situation, the Jews of Ukraine are in a unique position as they have the option of making Aliyah. Reports of massive immigration of the Jewish community of Odessa to Israel are starting to be taken seriously. The Jewish Agency has already increased its presence in Ukraine, ready to facilitate mass migrations of Jews to Israel.

The worldwide Jewish community is watching Ukraine closely, not for any fear of massive outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence, but for the anarchy and uncertainty that can also affect the Jewish community there negatively. Our hope is that the violence will subside, law and order will take root, and the crisis for the Jews (and non-Jews) of Ukraine will soon be over peacefully.

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