SEATTLE — While the number of anti-Semitic acts in Washington state didn’t significantly rise in 2021 compared to 2020, the number of assaults and vandalism targeting the Jewish community remained elevated.
According to a newly released audit from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were 45 anti-Semitic incidents across the state last year, which is actually five fewer than 2020.
That accounts for more than half of the total incidents in the entire Pacific Northwest region, which includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.
The region as a whole saw 45 incidents of harassment and 35 incidents of vandalism in 2021.
The ADL said that the region didn’t record any incidents of assault, but, as Stephen Paolini with the league’s Pacific Northwest office pointed out during a Tuesday briefing, not all incidents are reported nor do all reported incidents make it into the audit.
“It's really important to take a look at these numbers not as this is the number of anti-Semitic incidents that occurred in our region, and rather look at it instead as this is a snapshot into what that number looks like relative to previous years,” Paolini said.
Additionally, the ADL found that rises in anti-Semitic behavior isn’t always as obvious as tying it to one or two hate groups.
In May of last year, the ADL noted a massive increase nationally in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, which it was able to trace back to the escalating military conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“I think one important data point to note and reason to kind of understand some of the peaks and valleys of the information that we're sharing with you today was that there was a pretty large conflict in Israel between Israel and Hamas in May of 2021," explained Regional Director Miri Cypers. "And that kind of conflict overseas in the Middle East resulted in a staggering 140% increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents compared to that month in the prior year."
Additionally, these hate incidents aren’t necessarily tied to extremists, Cypers said, but are often perpetrated by what she referred to as “everyday people.”
“I think there's often a tendency to just assume that everybody that commits these kinds of crimes are extremists,” Cypers said. “But what you know, some of my friends in the Seattle Police Department have corrected us that a lot of times they are acts that are done by everyday people. So, I think it's an important notion to correct and better understand how extremism plays a role in anti-Semitism today.”
She also pointed to the level of anti-Semitic incidents as a gauge for other types of hate behaviors, including those against Black Americans, the LGBTQ community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Muslims.
“While we're honing in on one specific form of discrimination, this should serve as a warning to all Americans that our societal norms are fraying and that more people are unfortunately experiencing prejudice,” Cypers said.
If you’d like to report antisemitic, biased or discriminatory incidents, contact the ADL on their website here: https://www.adl.org/contact