New Jersey Jewish News is always here for you.
We need your support now.
Your contribution will help us bring you vital news
and frequent updates about the impact of COVID-19.
German scholar raps ADL on swastikas

German scholar raps ADL on swastikas

The Anti-Defamation League’s new methodology in tallying incidents involving swastikas came under fire from a German scholar speaking in Edison.

For its latest annual survey of anti-Semitic incidents, the ADL announced it would take a “more conservative approach” in counting incidents involving the Nazi symbol, reasoning that not every use of a swastika is meant to target Jews.

Dr. Clemens Heni, however, called the ADL’s decision “unfortunate” and “dangerous” and said it served to “downgrade” the swastika.

Heni, who studies anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, made his remarks during a program at Congregation Beth-El on Oct. 4.

Heni, who is not Jewish, spoke of neo-Nazis and right-wing groups both in the United States and Europe who see the swastika as a symbol of anti-Semitism. He said the ADL’s action “would have serious implications” around the world.

“The swastika is special and has a specific history that led to the Shoa,” said Heni, who had been in Manhattan the previous two days as part of the Journal of Anti-Semitism’s conference on Muslim anti-Semitism. “It is a bad situation.”

Heni isn’t the first the criticize the ADL’s decision; in September, ADL’s New Jersey regional director, Etzion Neuer, responded to other critics in an op-ed in New Jersey Jewish News.

“When we looked at the incidents that took place in New Jersey and across the country, we concluded that the swastika remains a powerful symbol of hate, but — interestingly — the swastika is not always used in targeting Jews,” he wrote. “The swastika has become, for some, a generalized symbol of hatred.”

Neuer noted that swastikas were used against gays and lesbians, Arabs, and others in incidents where the message was clearly not anti-Semitic.

“In considering the context of a swastika we must be clear: In no way is ADL minimizing the swastika as a hate symbol,” wrote Neuer. “The swastika is a hate symbol. What we are doing is making an effort to determine the likely target of this imagery.”

However, Heni, author of a forthcoming book on anti-Semitism, asked, “Is there any symbol more anti-Semitic in the world?”

He said the symbol remains alive as an anti-Jewish symbol among small bands of neo-Nazis in the United States and members of the growing neo-Nazi movement in Europe. Heni said he often sees swastikas on benches in Germany, and warned his audience not to discount anti-Semitism just because their venom was not directed specifically at Jews

“A person can paint a swastika in a yeshiva neighborhood or put one five miles away where they don’t even know if there’s a Jew,” said Heni, “Although they may be directing their hate toward African-Americans or Hispanics, this is in addition to their being anti-Semitic…. What they are saying when they wear a T-shirt with a swastika or paint a bench or a building is, ‘I know the Holocaust happened, and I’m happy.’”

read more: