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ADL report: Anti-Semitic incidents continue to decline in California

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

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California has continued a three-year downward trend of anti-Semitic incidents, according to an audit released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL's annual review of incidents, which is compiled from reports by individuals and law enforcement, showed a 14 percent decline nationwide from 2011 to 2012. California had a 21 percent decline. 

The audit also showed that for the first time in three years, California was second to New York in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. Last year's audit showed California had the most incidents of any state.

“A decline is always good news,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director for Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties.

The year-to-year review the group does can be anecdotal. Incidents are based on the number of calls and reports ADL receives from the community. Assaults, harassment, and vandalism against a Jewish person or organization are counted as incidents.

Susskind said though the numbers of incidents fell in California to 185 last year from 235 in 2011, the audit showed a 12 percent increase in vandalism in the L.A., San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern county areas.

The ADL highlighted a few examples in a press release for the audit:

  • A Jewish student's college dorm door in Los Angeles was vandalized with swastikas and "Jew die" (April 2012)
  • "F*** Jews" and a swastika was carved into parking lot door at a San Fernando Valley hospital (April 2012) 
  • Swastikas, the SS symbol and "kill Jews" were etched into a Jewish victim's vehicle in the West San Fernando Valley (June 2012)
  • A newspaper vending machine near a Los Angeles high school had "kill the Jews" written on it (August 2012)
  • A Los Angeles synagogue was defaced with a swastika and "F*** Jews" during a period of construction.  Approximately 2 weeks later, same suspect in the graffiti incident allegedly made two phone calls to 911 threatening that he had placed two bombs near the synagogue.  The bomb squad was called in and the situation was diffused (December 2012)

“I think one of the reasons that kids may be feeling comfortable with vandalism is because how much chatter is on the Internet sort of normalizing hate and anti-Semitism in particular,” Susskind said.

Hate speech is a criminal offense when the perpetrator has threatened violence with spoken or written words against a specific person or group of persons. The threat must be immediate and unequivocal and the aggressor must have the ability to carry out that threat.

Susskind said the ADL is not capturing what is happening on the Internet, but she said they are aware there is a removal of inhibitions when it comes to hate speech online.

Recent reports by L.A. County and the state attorney general show increases in anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2011. Both studies show Jewish people were overwhelmingly the most frequently targeted religious group.