Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics": The ADL's 1995 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics": The ADL's 1995 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents

Article excerpt

"Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics": The ADL's 1995 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents

By Lenni Brenner

If politically oriented Americans had to describe the Anti-Defamation League, most would call it the leading Jewish civil rights organization. They know it best for its annual survey of anti-Semitism, which is widely cited in our major dailies. Even many critics presume that at least the Audit can be relied upon. But the 1995 Audit reminds us, there are "lies, damn lies and statistics."

Let's start with the statistics. "The total number of...acts against both property and persons was 1,843. This...represents a decrease of...11 percent, from the 1994 total." As there are 263 million Americans, and circa 5.5 million Jews, anti-Semitism is insignificant. However even the 1,843 figure distorts reality. It breaks down to 1,116 incidents of harassment, threat and assault, and 727 acts of vandalism, with the events in each category being so disparate that the two overall numbers tell us next to nothing.

Harassment, threats, and assaults includes "a large variety" of acts, from mailing Nazi literature to "Holocaust-denial advertisements in campus newspapers." Thus there were 118 anti-Semitic campus incidents including six ads in school papers submitted by a rich crank. The editors printed them on free-press grounds. We may disagree with their decision, but there were no anti-Semitic incidents at those schools.

Because there were few campus incidents, they are described, even if minimally. Eight took place at Kennesaw College in Georgia over a three-month period. Three were "flyers distributed," three were flyers or messages taped to mailboxes or doors, two were "graffiti found in the library." We speculate that all were done by one person, who then got a job delivering pizza or whatever. But by listing them separately it looks like Kennesaw is a hot-bed of anti-Semitism with almost 7 percent of all campus incidents taking place there. Similarly, there were six swastikas found on six days at Pennsylvania State University, and eight incidents at Kean College in New Jersey, with seven being things like "swastika drawn on an anti-bias poster."

Mad Itemization

This mad itemization has not escaped criticism. Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, ridicules "too much counting of swastikas in bathrooms." Sure enough, the Audit does this: "Swastikas and racist remarks found in a bathroom" (Kean College); "Sticker denying the Holocaust found in a bathroom" (Northwestern University); "Anti-Semitic graffiti on a bathroom wall targeting a Jewish professor" (University of Pittsburgh).

The eighth Kean College listing is "Leonard Jeffries gave a speech which included a diatribe against Jews." However, we aren't given an example. An illustration of the ADL's success in demonizing some of its targets is the fact that well-intended people have been led into seeing Jeffries as a crackpot black racist. Yet this is what he actually said, in dealing with the Jewish role in black slavery, in a July 20, 1991 speech which the ADL claims is one of the most infamous orations of our age: "Now, we're not talking about most Jews. Most Jews were being beat--up and down Europe--persecuted for being Jewish. We're talking about rich Jews, and we specifically make that distinction."

Five incidents were speeches by Stockely Carmichael, the 1960s civil rights leader, aka Kwame Ture. At the University of Maryland he declared that "Zionism is the enemy of humanity"; at Washington University in Missouri he "distributed literature from the World Wide African Anti-Zionist Front"; and at the University of Pennsylvania he "referred to ADL as the `African Death League.'"

What kind of a monster are we dealing with here, Holmes? Given the ADL's ranting agains the African National Congress while it was fighting apartheid, not a few blacks (and whites) would see "African Death League" as a carefully measured description. …

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