Antisemitism is on the rise, and it's not just about Ye
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A very old kind of hate has been very visible lately. High-profile entertainers and athletes have openly shared anti-Semitic tropes. The former president recently dined with a Holocaust denier at Mar-a-Lago. And beyond these headlines, hate crimes against Jews have been increasing, too.
NPR's Lisa Hagen is covering this story. Hey, Lisa.
LISA HAGEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Describe this trend for us. What's going on?
HAGEN: So 2021 was the highest year on record for documented reports of harassment, vandalism and violence directed against Jews. And that's according to the Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking these incidents since 1979. And it says not only is 2022 not looking to be much different than last year, but these record-breaking numbers are also part of a period of five or six years of consistent increases in these incidents. And that's unprecedented in the ADL's three-plus decades of data collection.
SHAPIRO: OK. So these incidents are at an all-time high. What do they tend to look like?
HAGEN: You know, this five-year period we've seen has included these big acts of violence like the 2018 mass shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 worshippers. But there are also thousands of smaller incidents - vandalizing Jewish schools, community centers and extremist flyering campaigns. At the ADL, it's Emily Snider's job to document and categorize these reports. And she gave me this example from last year that really haunts her.
EMILY SNIDER: Two young Orthodox boys were, like, playing in their yard in California and were shot with paintballs, with red paintballs. And we saw pictures of them. And, I mean, it - heartbreaking; absolutely heartbreaking.
HAGEN: The kids were 11 and 13. And while they weren't seriously injured, that's not the kind of experience you forget. It's the same for their family and community.
SHAPIRO: Hate crimes have been on the rise against other groups, too, in the past few years. So what's the relationship between anti-Semitism and other forms of hate?
HAGEN: Yeah. You often hear experts refer to anti-Semitism as a kind of canary in the coal mine. If any minority group is being blamed for some real or perceived harm, those narratives usually find ways to also attack Jews based on century-old myths. Sometimes, you know, someone can be upset about Black people demonstrating about racism. You can blame a pandemic on anyone who looks Asian. Or if you're angry about the visibility of transgender people and queer culture, it's a pretty short leap to conspiracy thinking. Here's Snider again.
SNIDER: And Jews are centered in a lot of conspiracy theories, especially around economy or power or greed or whatever. Like, those are core anti-Semitic tropes. So when we start to see unrest, we tend to see anti-Semitic incidents climb.
SHAPIRO: OK. So, Lisa, we might not hear about most incidents of vandalism or harassment, but we've heard a lot about a dinner that former President Donald Trump had with Ye, who used to go by Kanye West, who's made a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Black remarks, and also a notorious Holocaust denier, Nick Fuentes. So what happens when overt anti-Semitism intersects with electoral politics?
HAGEN: Whenever we see celebrities or politicians flirting with anti-Semitic tropes, it tends to be an opportunity for extremists or neo-Nazis to up their recruitment and harassment campaigns. So Trump is not the first Republican candidate or official to hang out with Nick Fuentes and later claim not to know about his very outspoken anti-Semitic beliefs. Earlier this year, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene also spoke at a fundraiser hosted by Fuentes. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar also addressed that same event. Neither of them faced any consequences from the GOP, and both have since been reelected. So when Republicans take over the House in January, Greene is expected to regain committee assignments that Democrats stripped her of based in part on her anti-Semitic conspiracy theory beliefs. So the more commonplace antisemitism becomes, the more fertile the ground gets across the country for all kinds of hate, along with the potential for real violence.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Lisa Hagen. Thank you.
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