Published: 13:50, April 17, 2024
US antisemitic incidents hit record high in 2023 amid war in Gaza
By Reuters
An Israeli soldier attaches an Israeli flag on top of an armored personnel carriers (APC) near Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel, April 15, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

The number of antisemitic incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment in the US hit a record high in 2023 as anti-Jewish sentiment spiked after the start of the Israel-Hamas war, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Jewish advocacy group Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tallied 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023, a 140 percent increase over 2022 and a record high since the group began keeping track in 1979, the report said.

Over 5,200 incidents were reported after Oct 7, 2023, the day the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostage. Israel responded by launching a counterattack in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, and reduced much of the Hamas-run enclave to rubble.

At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, ADL leaders clarified that the organization did not count protesting the Israeli government's actions as antisemitic, but noted that 36 percent of all recorded antisemitic incidents in 2023 were in reference to Israel or Zionism.

"If your idea of protesting Israeli government policies is to assault or harass or scream at Jewish people, you're not an advocate, you're a bigot," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told reporters, calling the spike in antisemitism a "national emergency."

"Jews in the US should not be targeted for the actions of the state of Israel," added Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL Center on Extremism.

Reported discrimination and attacks against Muslims and Palestinians also reached a record high in the US in 2023, according to a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) report released earlier this month. Complaints totaled 8,061 in 2023, a 56 percent rise from the year before and the highest since CAIR began tracking nearly 30 years ago. About 3,600 of those incidents occurred from October to December, CAIR said.

Tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators have reached a fever pitch in the US as the war rages on, particularly on college campuses. The ADL recorded 732 campus-based incidents between Oct 7 and the end of 2023, compared to just 63 incidents in the same period in 2022, the report said.

The ADL tallies cases reported directly to the organization and also scans media reports, law enforcement records, and cases recorded by other Jewish organizations.

The 2023 incidents included vandalism of Jewish student centers and synagogues, bomb threats, and chants at demonstrations that call for the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel, the ADL said.