(August 10, 2022 / JNS) In the current poisonous political atmosphere, many accusations are made by the right and left, each asserting the other is most responsible for all evil in the world. This is equally true regarding campuses. As with so much political rhetoric, little is based on research rather than individuals’ view through partisan goggles. But what does the data show?
No one study is likely to be accepted or conclusive, but I ran across an interesting one by Eitan Hersh, an associate professor at Tufts University, and Laura Royden, a Ph.D. candidate from Harvard. I will spare you all the jargon and regression analyses in “Antisemitic Attitudes Across the Ideological Spectrum” and focus on the conclusion: “The epicenter of anti-Semitic attitudes in young adults is on the far right.”
I know this will drive my friends crazy, convinced that the problem is almost exclusively far-left professors, Islamism, intersectionality, Arab/Muslim students and misguided, ill-informed Jewish youth. I tend to agree with their diagnosis, and one of the study’s flaws was the failure to look at this range of potential influences. Still, it is worth examining the authors’ findings.
Hersh and Royden wisely use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism to avoid the confusion created by those who seek their own definitions to exclude their personal views from being labeled as Jew-hatred. They note that other researchers have found “higher rates of anti-Semitism among young people, old people, Black and Latino identifiers, and non-college-educated Americans, as well as those who live in close proximity to Jewish populations.” They note that young people are expected to be more tolerant but that studies have shown that is not the case because of factors such as “declining salience of the Holocaust as well as increasingly negative attitudes toward the State of Israel.”
I have argued that it is more a function of the younger generation’s perception of Jews in general, and Israelis in particular, as no longer being in peril. Young people, therefore, do not see a security justification for Israeli actions that adversely affect the Palestinians, who they see as oppressed victims.
Hersh and Royden note that researchers have suggested young adults view Israel and Jews as oppressors, but also note that the far-right “exhibits reactionary attitudes toward tolerance and political correctness” and are attracted by the alt-right movement online. They note that Republicans may support Israel and still harbor anti-Semitic views, “such as that Jews as a collective seek to dominate institutions of finance, media or government.” They cite left-wing journalist Peter Beinart’s less convincing argument that the right wants Israel to thrive so American Jews will move there. More credible is the suggestion that many on the right don’t particularly like the Jews, but they strongly dislike Muslims.
The research paper looks at 18- to 30-year-olds rather than college students specifically, but the results give a reasonable snapshot (and that’s all it is without trend data) of what we would expect from those on campus. The authors asked three questions used in ADL surveys to gauge anti-Semitic attitudes:
- Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.
- It is appropriate for opponents of Israel’s policies and actions to boycott Jewish American-owned businesses in their communities.
- Jews in the United States have too much power.
They also tested results when those questions were preceded by the statement: “Dr. Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief of the Gallup Poll, concluded in 2019 that ‘95% of Jews [in the U.S.] have favorable views of Israel.’ ”
I’m not sure those three questions are the best or sufficient to make judgments. Given that caveat, the authors found that “the ideological left is least likely to agree with the anti-Semitic statements” and that “the young right is distinctive in that it is much more likely than either the young left or the older right to agree with each of these statements.” Using a different scale, they found that “progressives agree the least and the alt-right agrees the most with anti-Semitic statements.”
The researchers asked respondents who agreed Jews have too much power whether this was related to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the news media, entertainment, U.S. domestic politics, Finance, and/or agricultural production. Less than 10% of any of the groups in the study chose the conflict. Young people focused on the media. This suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, anti-Semitism is not being driven by Israel’s actions.
Another interesting finding was that the right is far more likely than the left to believe that American Jews should do more to make Israel a “more responsible country in the world.” The left has a double standard of thinking Jews should do more to hold Israel responsible than Indian Americans should make India accountable or Catholics should make the Vatican responsible. “The right,” they found, “is much more supportive of the ominous claim that U.S. Jews should be held accountable for Israel’s actions.”
Based on the overall conclusion about the prevalence of anti-Semitism on the right—usually associated with white supremacists—it is seemingly paradoxical that research shows that racial minorities have higher rates of anti-Semitic attitudes than whites. The authors found young Blacks and Latinos held more anti-Semitic views than White respondents. They cite research showing that identifying with the Palestinian cause is not the primary reason for their anti-Semitism. Instead, they are upset by the perception that Jewish Americans’ success is at their expense and that they see Jews as competition for victimhood.
Only 93 Jews participated in the survey, but their responses show a high degree of consensus on what constitutes anti-Semitism and are evidence that the likes of Beinart, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other individuals and outlets that seek to redefine the words for their own purposes are outside the mainstream. Of those with an opinion, 86% said the loyalty statement is anti-Semitic, 92% said the same about the boycott, and 91% agreed about the power statement. The figures for the 18- to 30-year-old cohort were 78%, 93% and 85%, respectively.
I’ll let conservatives poke holes in the research if they can. Still, the study, at a minimum, illustrates the problem of anti-Semitism among young adults is by no means limited to the left and may be more prevalent on the right.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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