Some historical perspective, please

Via Ynet, and just in time for 17 Tammuz, an article titled Anti-Semitism hits new record in Europe:

A troubling report presented to the government on Sunday verifies what many in Europe have been feeling in recent months – anti-Semitism in the continent is on the rise, and is breaking new records.

The anti-Semitism survey was conducted on behalf of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in nine countries in Europe.

According to its main findings, 26% of Jews have suffered from anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the past year, 34% experienced such harassment in the past five years, 5% reported that their property was intentionally vandalized because they are Jewish, about 7% were physically hurt or threatened in the past five years.

As a result, 40% to 50% of Jews in France, Belgium and Hungary said they were considering emigrating as they no longer felt safe.

I just quoted half the article — the half that actually details any findings. The rest is fluff about aliya, you can read it or not read it as you wish.

I have only one point, and if you have your head on straight, you can probably guess what it is:

Really? A new record for anti-semitism in Europe? More than, say, 1933? More than 1941? 1944? Really?

I don’t mean to minimize the nefarious consequences of racial hatred in general or anti-Semitism in particular, certainly don’t intend to turn the Holocaust into a punchline, and sure am happy not to be a minority in Europe at this very moment, or ever. But claiming that “26% of Jews have suffered from anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the past year” is a record of any kind sounds to me like a biiiiiit of a stretch.

Hell, I’ve personally suffered anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years (right in Greenwich Village) but I don’t think I would argue these are record-breaking times in America, or that this is the right metric to determine levels of anti-Semitism from a historic perspective. But what do I know?

The only justification I can come up with for this article’s headline is that it specifies “anti-Semitism… is breaking new records”, so I suppose if the new record is “most anti-Semitism in the 21st century”, or “most anti-Semitism since 1970”, it would be true in a technical sense. A baseball writer would be really good at figuring out what the new record should be, something like “most anti-Semitic incidents at night-time involving a left-hander”. You get the idea.

But when you have to narrowly tailor your parameters in order to create a linguistic justification for your headline claim, maybe you should have just written another headline.


One thought on “Some historical perspective, please”

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