The largest-ever global survey of attitudes towards Jews reveals anti-Semitism to be a problem second only to bias against Muslims, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The Middle East and North Africa region, also known as MENA, leads the world in anti-Jewish attitudes at 74 percent compared with 9 percent in the United States, the ADL said in releasing the data Tuesday.
Although a centuries-old problem — Britain expelled its Jewish population in 1290 and Spain expelled its Jews in 1492 — the ADL said there had never before been a global canvass of attitudes towards Jewish people. The survey of 53,100 adults covered 102 countries and territories in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and was funded by New York philanthropist Leonard Stern, the ADL said.
Laos, at 0.2 percent of the adult population, is ranked as the world's least anti-Semitic country, while the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, at 93 percent, are the most anti-Semitic.
An estimated 1.09 billion people around the world — more than one-in-four adults, or 26 percent of those surveyed — are what the ADL calls "deeply infected" with anti-Semitism, affirming at least six of 11 common anti-Jewish remarks, such as the contention that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to any country in which they may reside.
"For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world," ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said at a news conference announcing the report. “The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially non-existent."
The global survey follows a half-century of similar polls in the United States, Foxman said. Fifty years ago, he told the news conference, U.S. anti-Semitism affected about 30 percent of the adult population, a number now reduced to 9 percent, according to the latest survey conducted globally in 2013 and early 2014.
According to the ADL announcement, "only 54 percent of those polled globally have ever heard of the Holocaust," the Nazi-led genocide of Europe's Jewish population before and during World War II, in which an estimated 6 million Jewish men, women and children were systematically exterminated. "Two out of three people surveyed have either never heard of the Holocaust, or do not believe historical accounts to be accurate," the ADL reported.
Perhaps most astonishing to Jewish observers is the number of non-Jews who overestimate the world's Jewish population. According to the ADL survey, 30 percent of respondents "believe Jews make up between 1 to 10 percent of the world’s population. Another 18 percent believe Jews make up more than 10 percent of the world’s population." Only 16 percent of those answering the survey said Jews comprise less than 1 percent of the world's population. The ADL noted Jewish people comprise 0.19 percent of the world’s population.
Religious background also appears to have some correlation to the percentage of anti-Semitism reported. "Nearly half of all Muslims surveyed around the world responded 'probably true' to at least 6 of the 11 index stereotypes in the (survey). Likewise, Christians in Eastern Orthodox and Catholic countries are more likely to harbor anti-Semitic views than those in Protestant countries," the ADL reported.
However, the ADL report indicated, non-Christians in those countries were also more likely to hold anti-Semitic views, "so there are likely larger factors at work."
Ironically, many of those who agreed with the anti-Semitic statements have never even met a Jewish person: "A surprisingly large majority of respondents (74 percent) said they had never met a Jew, and of those, one in four displayed anti-Semitic attitudes," according to a Religion News Service report on the survey.
The ADL survey comes one day after a Pew Research Global Attitudes Project survey of attitudes towards Muslims, Jews and Roma (or Gypsies) in seven European Community nations — Poland, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Greece. Across the EU, Roma are most disliked at 50 percent, with 85 percent of Italians surveyed holding unfavorable views. Anti-Muslim feeling averages 46 percent, with Italy again leading the list. Unfavorable opinions of Jews were at 18 percent of an average of Pew survey respondents, with Greece leading the list at 47 percent unfavorable.
And while Pew reported that only 10 percent of French people hold "unfavorable" views of Jewish people, the ADL survey found 37 percent of French adults holding anti-Semitic views. Those numbers might help explain a nearly 400 percent increase in the number of French Jews emigrating to Israel in the first quarter of 2014 — 1,407 this year versus 353 a year earlier — according to the Jewish Agency in France, as reported by the AFP wire service.
Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @Mark_Kellner
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company