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Anti-Semitic Attitudes Strongest in Arab World

Inter Press Service

Anti-Jewish attitudes are found most frequently in Arab countries but persist in much of the rest of the world, especially in Eastern Europe where most Jews were wiped out during the Nazi Holocaust in World War II, according to a global survey by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The Global100 survey, which was based on interviews with more than 53,000 respondents in 102 countries and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, found that 26 percent of all adult respondents hold anti-Semitic views, which are defined by the ADL as agreeing with at least six of 11 negative statements or common and, in some cases, age-old stereotypes, about Jews.

While Muslims tended to hold more anti-Jewish views than respondents from other major religions, regional location appeared to be the strongest factor in determining attitudes toward Jews.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), however, that percentage was nearly three times higher—74 percent. In Eastern Europe, 34 percent of respondents were found to hold anti-Jewish sentiments.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 14 percent of respondents from Oceania, which includes Australia and New Zealand, were found to hold anti-Semitic views, as did 19 percent of interviewees in the Americas.

Within the MENA region, Iran, whose leadership has long been accused by Israel and many Jewish organisations in the United States, including ADL, of harbouring genocidal aims against Jews, was found to have the least anti-Semitic population — less even than neighbouring Turkey, which has the largest Jewish population in the region outside Israel.

Fifty-six percent of Iranian respondents were found to hold anti-Semitic attitudes. In Turkey, 69 percent of respondents fell into that category.

And while 80 percent of Iranian respondents said they held unfavourable views of Israel, which has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, a 43 percent plurality said Israel’s actions exerted only a minor influence or no influence at all on their attitudes towards Jews.

Indeed, one the survey’s key findings was that attitudes towards Jews and Israel did not often correlate. The exception was found in Arab countries where ADL found a high degree of correlation in negative views of both Jews and Israel, ranging from 75 percent to over 90 percent.

In the Netherlands, where only five percent of respondents were found to hold anti-Semitic views (second only to Sweden as the least anti-Jewish country in Western Europe), for example, a 43 plurality percent said they held negative views of Israel. In Sweden, it was 33 percent.

The survey, which was conducted by telephone and in-person interviews between July 2013 and last February, included at least 500 adults in each of the 102 countries whose combined inhabitants accounted roughly about 86 percent of the world’s total population. It was by far the most ambitious survey sponsored by the ADL, which has tracked anti-Jewish views and incidents, primarily in the U.S., since it was founded in 1913.

The survey’s core was based on whether or not respondents agreed with 11 statements, which ADL considers “anti-Semitic stereotypes”. If respondents agreed with six or more, they were considered anti-Jewish.

The statements included: “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to (the country in which they live)”; “have too much power” in the business world, international financial markets, or the global media or “too much control over global affairs” or the U.S. government; “don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind;” “think they are better than other people;” “talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust;” “are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” and “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.”

More than four in 10 respondents (41 percent) worldwide agreed with the statement that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country. Aside from the MENA region where 74 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, Western Europe (45 percent) was the region where that belief was most prevalent.

The second most widely accepted stereotype was Jews having too much power in the business world. More than half (53 percent) of East Europeans agreed with that view.

In what may have been a reflection of Israel’s influence on how people from MENA perceive Jews, three out of four respondents there agreed that “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.”

“It is evident that the Middle East conflict matters with regard to anti-Semitism,” noted Abe Foxman, the long-time ADL president. “However, from our findings in the survey, it is just not clear whether the Middle East conflict is the cause, or the excuse, for anti-Semitism.”

While Muslims tended to hold more anti-Jewish views than respondents from other major religions, regional location appeared to be the strongest factor in determining attitudes toward Jews. Thus, 75 percent of Muslim respondents from MENA were deemed anti-Semitic, only 37 percent of Muslims in Asia and 18 percent in sub-Saharan Africa held at least six of the 11 stereotypes.

Among Christians, 64 percent in the MENA region were considered anti-Semitic; 35 percent in Eastern Europe, and 19 percent in the Americas.

The survey found that older people were substantially more likely than younger respondents to hold anti-Semitic views; that the more familiarity with Jews respondents had, the less anti-Jewish they tended to be; and that respondents with more education were less likely to harbour anti-Jewish sentiments—except in the MENA region where the more educated respondents were more likely to hold anti-Semitic views than their less educated counterparts.

One particularly alarming finding for the ADL was the lack of awareness of the Nazi Holocaust which killed some six million mostly European Jews and which played a key role in rallying European and American support for the creation of Israel.

Just over half (54 percent) of all respondents—and only 48 percent of respondents under 35—said they had heard about the Holocaust. Knowledge about it was highest in Western Europe (94 percent), Oceania, and the Americas, and lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (24 percent) and MENA (38 percent).

Among those respondents who said they had heard about the Holocaust, however, 32 percent said they believed it was either a myth or had been greatly exaggerated. In the MENA region, that percentage rose to 63 percent.

Interestingly, in Western Europe and the Americas, the second-most common negative statement about Jews was that they “still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

Nearly three out of four of all respondents (74 percent) said they had never met a Jewish person. Of those, 25 percent were found to hold anti-Jewish views. And of the 26 percent who said they believe at least six of the negative statements about Jews to be “probably true”, 70 percent said they had never actually met a Jewish person.

Some critics of ADL, which has also been a relentless defender of Israel, have argued that the organisation has a vested interest in exaggerating the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. But Foxman denied this, insisting that the survey’s intent was “to document empirically how things actually are.”

Jim Lobe blogs about foreign policy at www.lobelog.com.

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