14 incidents reported locally in 2006

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

Anti-Semitic incidents rose in Missouri and Southern Illinois in 2006, in contrast with a decline in incidents nationally, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League last week.

There were 14 incidents of anti-Semitism in Missouri and Southern Illinois in 2006, up from six in 2005, according to the report.

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Karen Aroesty, regional director of the ADL of Missouri and Southern Illinois, said 13 of the 14 incidents occurred in Missouri, and one incident took place last year in Decatur, Ill., part of the area covered in the local region.

Aroesty said the spike in anti-Semitic incidents was surprising.

“We’ve been more or less consistent around six to eight or nine [incidents] for the last few years, so the jump was unusual,” she said. There has not been such a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments since after Sept. 11, 2001, she said.

Nationwide, the ADL reported a total of 1,554 anti-Semitic incidents, a 12 percent decline from the 1,757 incidents reported in 2005.

The ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents compiles information on criminal and non-criminal acts of anti-Semitism from crime statistics as well as reports from victims, law enforcement officers and individuals in the community.

The audit divides incidents into two categories: harassment and vandalism. In Missouri and Southern Illinois, there were 10 incidents of harassment and 4 incidents of vandalism.Karen Aroesty, regional director of the ADL of Missouri and Southern Illinois, said there was no clear reason for the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the region.

“There was no one reason responsible for the jump in incidents…there wasn’t a lot of rhyme or reason for the increase, unfortunately,” she said. “There were a number of individual incidents, and there were a number based on the Middle East conflict.”

“Incidents were related to the war in Lebanon last August, to Holocaust denial in Iran, to white supremacy, and included the more common graffiti incidents that are likely the work of adolescents,” she said.

* During the summer and fall the founder of the German American Voice distributed hundreds of leaflets in South County espousing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

* Twelve members of the National Socialist Movement (the American Nazi Party) demonstrated in support of Holocaust denial outside the JCC Campus near the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

* A Jewish customer at a quick-change oil company shop discovered later that the oil filter was defaced with a drawing of a penis connected to a Star of David.

* A Jewish professor at a local university was the victim of a cyberthreat which read, “Professor, we would love to talk about the history of the Jews.” It then invited the professor to a “gas barbeque” and gave the professor’s home address. The date was April 20, 2006. April 20 is the birthdate of Adolf Hitler.

She pointed to the incident at the oil change business as an example of an “insidious, behind the scenes, hidden stuff” that can be problematic, and she is concerned that incidents like the cyberthreat may become more pervasive in the future.

“There may be an increase in things coming through the Internet,” she said. “It could potentially be more violent because it has this sensibility that it is anonymous and people have the idea that they can go further on the Internet because they have some sort of protection from being found.”

To view state-by-state statistics and the full ADL Audit, visit www.adl.org.

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