You may have gotten the uneasy sense in recent months that not only are we awash in a rising tide of antisemitism—from Kanye West’s diatribes to Donald Trump’s dinner date with both West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes to the return of neofascist hatemongers to Twitter—but that the tide is being amplified by a broader normalization of antisemitic tropes, judging from the gleeful hatefulness of the once-banned bigots who have come flooding back to Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership.
You’re not mistaken. A new survey by the Anti-Defamation League has found that Americans’ beliefs in antisemitic tropes has increased dramatically since 2019, with 85 percent of the respondents saying they believe at least one anti-Jewish stereotype, compared with only 61 percent three years ago. They believe in more of them, too: Some 20 percent of Americans believe in at least six of the most common tropes, a sharp increase from 2019, when only 11 percent did.
Matt Williams, vice president of the ADL’s year-old Center for Antisemitism Research, told The Washington Post that the survey shows “antisemitism in its classical fascist form is emerging again in American society, where Jews are too secretive and powerful, working against interests of others, not sharing values, exploiting — the classic conspiratorial tropes.”
He added: “One of the findings of this report is that antisemitism in that classic, conspiratorial sense is far more widespread than anti-Israel sentiment.”
Titled “Antisemitic Attitudes in America: Topline Findings,” the survey found that, while there are still substantial rates of Israel-focused antisemitism, anti-Jewish sentiment revolving around longstanding bigoted stereotypes has notably surged. In particular, anti-Israel sentiments have apparently taken root among young people—who are nonetheless prone to embracing tropes. The two kinds of antisemitism “overlap significantly,” the study finds:
There is a nearly 40 percent correlation between belief in anti-Jewish tropes and anti-Israel belief, meaning that a substantial number of people who believe anti-Jewish tropes also have negative attitudes toward Israel.
It found that “young adults have more anti-Israel sentiment than older generations, and only marginally less belief in anti-Jewish tropes”:
While young adults (between the ages of 18 and 30) show less belief in anti-Jewish tropes (18 percent believe six or more tropes) than older adults (20 percent believe six or more tropes), the difference is substantially less than measured in previous studies. Additionally, young adults hold significantly more anti-Israel sentiment than older adults, with 21 percent and 11 percent agreeing with five or more anti-Israel statements, respectively.
The survey tested 4,000 respondents on whether they agreed with a list of sentiments that represent common antisemitic tropes:
- Jews stick together more than other Americans.
- Jews are not as honest as other businesspeople.
- Jews are not warm and friendly.
- Jews have a lot of irritating faults.
- Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
- Jews have too much power in the United States today.
- Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
- Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
- Jews in business are so shrewd that others do not have a fair chance at competition.
- Jews have too much power in the business world.
- Jews do not share my values.
- Jews always like to be at the head of things.
- Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.
- Jews in business go out of their way to hire other Jews.
The ADL has conducted this survey periodically since 1964. The sharp increase in the number of people who believe at least six of these tropes between 2019 and 2022 (from 11 percent to 20 percent) puts those numbers at the highest they have been since 1992. As recently as 2014, that number was at nine percent.
“It used to be that older Americans harbored more antisemitic views. The hypothesis was that antisemitism declined in the 1990s, the 2000s, because there was this new generation of more tolerant people. It shows younger people are much closer now to what older people think. My hypothesis is there is a cultural shift, fed maybe by technology and social media. The gap is disappearing,” Tulane professor Ilana Horwitz, one of the survey’s reviewers, told The Washington Post.
“I like to tell my students: Kanye has more followers on Instagram than there are Jewish people in the world. So the extent to which Americans seem to believe these conspiratorial views about Jews is alarming,” she said. While Ye has more than 18 million followers on Instagram, he was recently booted from Twitter by Musk after tweeting blatantly antisemitic memes.
In spite of that singular act, Twitter nonetheless has been deluged with hateful content since Musk’s takeover—particularly as Musk has restored the accounts of notorious neofascist hatemongers like Andrew Anglin. At the same time, Musk has continued to wink and nudge in the direction of the QAnon conspiracism cult, which is riddled with antisemitic beliefs.
Social media, however, are not the only source of this antisemitic tide. These attitudes have been embraced by mainstream Republican politicians and pundits—often in the process of promoting COVID denialism—including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who has made a habit out of promoting white-nationalist propaganda under the guise of criticizing liberals, ranging from “replacement theory” to far-right “masculinity” cults.
Earlier data from 2021 collected by the Anti-Defamation League demonstrates that recorded antisemitic incidents reached a 40-year peak in 2021—and the uptick primarily began in 2015, with Trump’s arrival on the political scene.
“Historians have called the period between World War I and World War II the ‘high tide’ of American antisemitism. I think we may have to rename that: I think we are at the moment living in the high tide of American antisemitism,” Pamela Nadell, the director of the Jewish studies program at American University, told Zack Beauchamp at Vox.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.