FACT CHECK: Did Acts Of Anti-Semitism Increase More Than 50 Percent In 2017?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff claimed Sunday on “State of the Union” that acts of anti-Semitism increased 50 percent in 2017.

“We have seen 50 percent more acts of anti-Semitism last year than before, unprecedented expansion, explosion of anti-Semitism,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Verdict: True

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016. This represents a 57 percent increase, slightly higher than Schiff’s claim.

Fact Check:

A gunman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday, leaving 11 dead and several injured. Some argue the shooting is the latest evidence of a rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S.

There were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, a 57 percent increase over the prior year, according to the ADL, a Jewish non-profit organization. The tally includes instances of harassment, vandalism, physical assault, bomb threats and grave desecrations. New York witnessed 380 incidents, the most of any state, followed by California with 268 and New Jersey with 208.

Their count for 2017 is the second-highest since the ADL began tracking anti-Semitism in 1979 and the largest single-year jump. In 1994, it reported 2,066 anti-Semitic incidents, the highest total ever recorded. The number of incidents has increased every year since 2013.

Of the 1,986 incidents reported in 2017, 1,015 were categorized as harassment, a 41 percent increase over 2016. The number was particularly high, in part, due to a spate of bomb threats. There were 163 bomb threats reported in the first quarter of 2017, with more than 150 allegedly made by a single Israeli-American teenager.

The number of vandalism incidents rose 86 percent, while the number of assaults – 19 in 2017 – dropped 47 percent. Anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled in K-12 schools and colleges.

Experts have pointed to several factors which may be contributing to the overall increase.

Michael Freund, a syndicated columnist for The Jerusalem Post, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that “increasing polarization of American political life, the pervasive reach and influence of social media and the growing assertiveness of extremists on both the far left and the far right of the political spectrum” were all contributing factors.

The ADL itself cites a “myriad” of reasons, including “the toxic soup of anti-Semitism found online.” “We are concerned that Anti-Semitism is being normalized in public life,” ADL told TheDCNF in a statement.

Better reporting of incidents may have also contributed to the higher total for 2017.

Jews are much more likely to be targeted than other religious groups in the U.S. Despite the fact that Jews make up less than 2 percent of the total population, the FBI reports that they were the target of 54 percent of all religiously-motivated hate crimes reported in 2016.

The FBI has not yet released hate crimes data for 2017.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter

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