The ADL Global 100: Challenging Our Narratives of Anti-Semitism


There’s been a great deal written about the report, “Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism,” released last month by the Anti-Defamation League. While the ADL has trumpeted the survey as “the most extensive such poll ever conducted,” reactions in the mainstream media have been mixed. In one widely read piece, Noah Feldman criticized the ADL’s methodology as “stacking the deck in favor of anti-Semitic answers.” Blogger/journalist Mitchell Plitnick has also written an important article that unpacks the political agenda behind the survey (writes Plitnick, “the cry of anti-Semitism is becoming the cry of the wolf-shouting boy.”)

For my part, I’ve been struck by the way the ADL’s survey unwittingly (and ironically) betrays some of the mainstream Jewish community’s most deeply held narratives on anti-Semitism. One of the survey’s most striking findings, for instance, reveals that Iran is by far the least anti-Semitic country in the Middle East. To be sure, the ADL hasn’t gone out of its way to publicize this point – you can only deduce it by comparing Iranian responses to those of other Middle Eastern countries. But in fact, Iran scores better on every one of the ADL’s eleven survey questions by a statistically significant margin. And as Israel/Iran analyst Marsha B. Cohen, has pointed out, Iran doesn’t even make it into the ADL survey’s “worldwide top 20 anti-Semitic hotspots.”

Sobering findings indeed, when you consider that Israeli politicians have long predicated their foreign policy on a narrative that views Iran as the world’s #1 threat to the Jewish people.  (Just this past April, in fact, Israeli PM Netanyahu mentioned Iran in the same breath as Nazi Germany during a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem.)

Among other things, I believe these findings shed much-needed light on the cynical tropes wielded by Israel and the American Jewish establishment. I’m certainly not surprised that the ADL hasn’t promoted this particularly inconvenient truth in their press releases on the survey, but at the very least I believe it should encourage us to seek out a different kind of narrative vis a vis Iran: one that might encourage engagement and diplomacy over confrontation and lines in the sand.

On the other end of the spectrum, the ADL’s survey found that Middle Eastern anti-Semitism was the most pronounced among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. No shocker there. As Plitnick notes in his post:

There you will find many people, with no power who are dominated by a state that insists on claiming (falsely) to represent the world’s Jews. Are we to be surprised that an awful lot of them believe that “the Jews” have too much power, too much influence on other countries’ decisions, too much wealth, etc?

And that, I posit, is the real reason for the ADL’s report. No sooner had the report been issued than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pounced on it as “proof” that the Palestinian Authority “incites” hatred of Israel and Jews. As if the settlers and soldiers – who are the only examples of Jews or Israelis that Palestinians ever see anymore — don’t do that quite efficiently all by themselves. What would one expect of an occupied population, in the West Bank, and a deliberately starved and besieged one on Gaza? That these conditions would breed a great love of Jews and of Israel?

And here I would submit, the survey belies yet another narrative popularized by Israel and so many American Jewish leaders: that Israel represents the most important defense/response to anti-Semitism  (a claim that dates back to the days of Theodor Herzl.) In the face of findings such as these, we might justifiably ask: in what ways do Israel’s actions actually foster anti-Semitism? This question is particularly salient as regards Palestinians who live under Israeli military occupation. At the end of the day, can Israel truly claim to be a Jewish “safe haven” with such a population in its midst?

We might also ask, to what extent do Israel’s oppressive treatment of Palestinians inspire anti-Semitism throughout the world? Anti-semitism, like all forms of prejudice, is very real – and we must certainly respond to it with all due seriousness. But at the same time, might it be possible that some of the attitudes uncovered by the ADL survey are less the result of genuine Jew-hatred than anger toward unjust actions perpetrated by a state that purports to represent all Jews everywhere?

Again, I’m sure the ADL never intended its study to inspire questions such as these – but we’d do well to consider them.

7 thoughts on “The ADL Global 100: Challenging Our Narratives of Anti-Semitism

  1. Rachael Kamel, Philadelphia

    I’ve read many of the articles you mention with great interest. Some of them have made great points about how this “survey” runs roughshod over most of the guidelines for conducting survey research; its methods are at most a laughable exercise in asking questions in order to elicit the answers you want.

    What seems to have fallen out of the discussion, though, is any awareness of the ADL’s history of very questionable collaboration with the US government, particularly the FBI. The group’s involvement in supplying names of “suspect” Palestinians and other Arab Americans is well documented, for example in the LA 8 case from the 1980s. In that case the ADL worked with the FBI to target legally documented immigrants for deportation. The “crime” at stake in that case involved exercising their First Amendment rights … so this apostle of “tolerance” has a long history as a volunteer thought police bureau.

    It may seem tired to keep resurrecting this old history, but if we don’t, we allow the ADL to continue passing itself off as a defender of civil rights, “tolerance,” and Jewish safety.

  2. Mitzi stein

    While there are questionable questions on the survey,1500 yrs of Jew hatred
    is not going away anytime soon..Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,while not adding to the hatred,does give the more inhibited an excuse to vent…and the committed anti Semites a rallying point..history of ww2 proves that the world won’t lift one finger to save Jewish lives..including America and England….therefore if for no other reason Israel’s survival is it or not

  3. electricgenizah

    Reblogged this on Electric Genizah and commented:
    Rabbi Brant Rosen notes parts of the ADL’s anti-Semitism survey that tend to be overlooked – like the fact that Iran is the least anti-Semitic country in the Middle East, and that asking whether Palestinians are anti-Semitic isn’t necessarily a fair question.

  4. MannisBoy

    When Israel is perceived as strong and secure, antisemitism will decline and the survey won’t be nececessary. It is time for Israel to be decisive and annex Judea & Sameria without turning back and stand up for herself. Caroline Glick knows exactly what needs to be done. The Rolling Stones played in Israel because Bob Dylan asked then too. This is exactly why Neil Young will be playing there. Antisemitism will also go down as along as Jews, Israel and friends of Israel spit in the of the BDSers.


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