- In May, violence between Israel and Palestine led to the deaths of 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.
- The ADL said the violence led to a surge in antisemitic incidents worldwide.
- Critics said the ADL’s assessment was inflated and worked to quell pro-Palestinian speech.
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As tensions in Israel and Palestine flared up in May, the Anti-Defamation League said the violence led to a spikes in antisemitic attacks in the US and abroad.
More than 230 Palestinians were killed and over 1,900 were wounded in Gaza during the 11 days of the conflict, and twelve Israelis were killed.
The conflict centered around Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who protested ahead of a court hearing to decide whether families there could stay in their homes, or be ordered to leave. Amid the unrest, Israeli forces stormed the Al Aqsa mosque as worshippers were praying during the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Hamas, in retaliation, fired rockets into Israel, prompting Israel to launch airstrikes into Gaza.
“As the violence between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, we are witnessing a dangerous and drastic surge in anti-Jewish hate,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a May 20 statement.
The ADL said it had received 193 reports, up from the 131 it reported the week prior, citing what it described as antisemitic incidents in the wake of the violence. Some, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, criticized the ADL for including Pro-Palestine chants in the tally and said advocating for Palestinian liberation and criticism of Israel is not antisemitic.
For example, instances where demonstrators chanted “Intifada!” and ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ across the street from the Temple Beth Israel synagogue in Skokie, IL,” were listed as antisemitic.
Oren Segal, vice president of the Center on Extremism at the ADL, told Insider some of those chants illicit fear for some Jewish people.
“I would say that slogan, which is a common refrain at many of the protests that we’ve seen, it does generally raise fear among many Jews who recall reports of political and military leaders and the Arab world bragging that they would push Jews into the sea in the years, following the founding of Israel,” Segal said.
Segal referenced rhetoric from some Arab leaders in the late 1940s who called for the drowning of Jews living in Arab states if Israel were to get its sovereignty. The phrase references Palestinian liberation from Israel, which occupies the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, The Middle East Eye reported.
Because of that history, the phrase can be interpreted as being hateful, Segal said, and for some Jews is reminiscent of an oppressive time. However, he said protesters may not be referencing or alluding to this.
Additionally, chants and signs like “Zionism is racism. Abolish Israel,” were also listed in the roundup. Segal said the ADL’s roundup of incidents not only references antisemitism but also incidents of terror, and phrases like that were included if they were specifically directed at someone who is Jewish or a Jewish institution.
In a Medium post, CAIR said individual listing of each sign and instance of protest chants “gives the false impression of a sudden and widespread surge in actual incidents of harassment or attacks” against Jewish people.
“Anti-Palestinian groups have a long history of weaponizing charges of antisemitism – especially against Muslim, Palestinian and Black activists – to defend the Israeli government from legitimate criticism,” CAIR wrote.
CAIR said conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism stands in the way of meaningful political conversation about tensions between Israel and Palestine and “undermines the fight against the very real antisemitism that the Jewish community experiences.”
Segal said the ADL does not specifically equate criticism of Israel as antisemitic, however, the organization says criticism becomes antisemitic when “Jews as a whole are blamed for the policies of the Israeli government and when there is a protest against Israeli policies that are organized in front of a Jewish institution.”
“It’s essentially holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the state,” he said.
CAIR also noted a number of xenophobic attacks against Muslims and Arabs during the conflict. The organization said Americans should feel confident in criticizing the Israeli state without being “smeared” as antisemitic.