The Orange County Register, June 22, 2016
By DEEPA BHARATH / STAFF WRITER
Swastikas painted on sidewalks and walkways. Anti-Semitic taunts in a middle school campus, on a public bus, in the street. Harassing anti-Semitic voice mails.
These are just a few examples of hateful messages that made it to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. The report released Wednesday shows California near the top of the list of states with the most hate incidents, second only to New York.
Though California saw a slight decline in anti-Semitic speech and actions — from 184 in 2014 to 175 in 2015 — the numbers still concern to Amanda Susskind, the ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director.
“In 2014, we saw a huge spike, probably because of the (Israeli) military incursion in Gaza,” she said. “But the numbers didn’t drop by much in 2015, which is disturbing.”
Since 1979, ADL has tracked both hate crimes and hate incidents by state. In California, there were 69 reports of vandalism (up from 54 in 2014) and 105 harassment incidents (down from 127). Nationwide, there were 56 physical assaults against Jewish people last year, up by 50 percent from 2014.
The report also found that college campuses increasingly are a flashpoint for anti-Semitism. There were 90 such incidents on 60 campuses last year, according to the report, up from 47 incidents on 43 campuses in 2014.
Susskind suggested a national political climate rife with anti-minority rhetoric might be a trigger for hate incidents.
“There’s no question that the… polarization of our country is contributing to a general increase in the acceptability of hate.
“But, I hesitate to draw the line from what one person says to this kind of hate.”
Susskind said the ADL does not track hateful comments online because “Internet hate is just the norm now.” But she said the group does look at specific posts targeting certain people.
One post on the college-centric social media site Yik Yak targets the Jewish students group, Hillel, at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley, referring to “Zionist pigs” and adding “Someone call ISIS for pest management.” Another Yik Yak post that circulated at one of the Claremont Colleges targeted a local protest by Jewish students, referring to them as enemies stating: “Mein Fuhrer, heat the oven.”
Susskind also mentioned the relatively new Neo-Nazi practice of targeting Jewish journalists with the triple parentheses or “echo” signs on Twitter. Though the ADL doesn’t yet track the practice, the parentheses are considered the digital equivalent of the yellow star, the symbol Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
Several Jewish journalists have voluntarily placed the parentheses around their own names on Twitter as a way of diminishing or mocking the practice. Susskind said the triple parentheses trend probably will make next year’s report.
Though the ADL report doesn’t break down data on a local level, other organizations do.
In Orange County, there were slightly more anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2015, seven compared to six in 2014, said Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
“The Jewish community in Orange County is the most frequently targeted religious group when it comes to hate crimes,” he said. “They are right up there with the African-American and LGBT communities.”
Kennedy added Muslims to that list as well.
Though he said his organization is compiling data on anti-Muslim speech and crimes as part of a report to be released next month, he said Muslims were frequent targets in the past year, particularly after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Contact the writer: 714-796-7909 or [email protected]