ADL: Anti-Semitic Incidents Spiking In Arizona; Is There a Trump Bump?

ADL: Anti-Semitic Incidents Spiking In Arizona; Is There a Trump Bump?
Over the past few months, it's felt like there's been one news story after another that makes us stop and think, "Huh? In 2017?"

click to enlarge Anti-Semitic graffiti at Cherokee Elementary School - ADL
Anti-Semitic graffiti at Cherokee Elementary School
In February, it was the swastikas painted outside Cherokee Elementary School in Paradise Valley. In March, it was the "White Power" graffiti at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix

And new data released today by the Anti-Defamation League confirms that there has, in fact, been a spike in anti-Semitic incidents recently, both in Arizona and nationwide.

During the first quarter of 2017, Arizona saw 10 documented occurrences of anti-Semitic harassment — twice the number of incidents that took place during all of last year. There were also three reported incidents involving vandalism.

On the surface, that may not seem like a lot. But it represents a substantial increase over previous years, the ADL says, which represents a worrying trend.

"For all of 2016, we only had 10 incidents," Carlos Galindo-Elvira, ADL's regional director for Arizona, points out. "We’re not even halfway through 2017 and we’re already at 13."

By comparison, there were only four anti-Semitic incidents reported in all of Arizona in 2015.

Across the country, the news isn't much better. The number of documented incidents of harassment — including bomb threats being called into synagogues — are up 127 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same time period last year.

Instances of vandalism have also increased, and three separate cemeteries were desecrated during the first three months of 2017 alone.

All of that is notable considering that 2016 was already a banner year for anti-Semitic attacks. The ADL counted 1,266 instances of vandalism, harassment, threats, and assaults targeting both Jewish people and institutions like synagogues and Jewish schools. And at the current rate, 2017 may prove to be even worse.

So how much of the blame does Donald Trump deserve?

It's hard to say precisely, but the ADL's report acknowledges that the 2016 presidential election, and what they describe as "the heightened political atmosphere," played a role in the increase.

Nationally, the ADL counted 34 incidents in 2016 that had a clear connection to the election, such as the time a man in St. Petersburg, Florida, was told, "Trump is going to finish what Hitler started" or the discovery of graffiti in Denver that said "Kill the Jews, Vote Trump."

And roughly a third of the incidents that took place across the country last year happened in November and December, which doesn't seem like a coincidence. 

So far, none of the incidents that have been documented in Arizona have specifically referenced Trump, Galindo-Elvira says.

But that doesn't mean there wasn't a connection.

"I think that what we can say is that we know the election was highly emotional and hotly contested," he adds. "There was a spillover from that hot rhetoric, immediately after the election and up until now."

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.