L.A. Saw a Near Doubling of Antisemitic Incidents In 2021 as Attacks Exploded Across U.S.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League confirms a surge in hate crimes occurred amid last year’s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Los Angeles remains one of the nation’s largest hotbeds of hateful acts perpetrated against Jewish people, with the number of antisemitic incidents nearly doubling across the city in 2021, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League that confirms a surge in hate crimes occurred amid last year’s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas Gaza.

The Jewish civil rights group’s 2021 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents shows that 2021 was the worst year on record nationwide for antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and assault. A total of 2,717 incidents were reported to the ADL, the report states; this is a 34 percent increase over 2020 and averages out to seven antisemitic incidents per day across the country. 

In Los Angeles, vandalism of property, with a large amount being swastika graffiti and foul street harassment, made up the majority of the incidents reported by the ADL; a total of 126 of these incidents were reported to the ADL last year, compared to 68 reported in 2020. This was followed by white supremacist propaganda found across the city. A mapping of these reported incidents created by the civil rights group details these reported incidents, which include one where an individual was harassed by a passerby in a car who made the Nazi salute and a Jewish couple who were harassed and threatened by a passerby, who yelled at them: “Get out of my neighborhood, dirty Jews. I’ll take up Hitler’s work, I’ll beat you right now.”

One high-profile incident occurred in mid-May when diners outside of an L.A. sushi restaurant were harassed by people who emerged from a caravan of cars that the Los Angeles Times reported were flying Palestinian flags and yelling, “Fuck you,” “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves,” and “Israel kills children!”

Video of the incident shows one man swinging a metal stanchion at the attackers before being dragged to the ground and then punched and kicked. A witness told the Times that the group of about eight people was also hurling bottles at the diners. 

This incident occurred as ongoing tensions between Israel and Hamas in Gaza had led to an 11-day war, which began amid protests over the anticipated decision by Israel’s high court to evict six Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. This tension, which was ratcheted up after the storming of the sacred al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police, swiftly escalated to rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as deadly Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip. Over 260 Palestinians—including several killed when Israeli Armed Forces bombed a 12-story tower housing families and news outlets—and 13 Israelis were killed as a result of the conflict.

According to the ADL, the number of antisemitic attacks and incidents in L.A. increased by about 148 percent in the surge following the conflict, as compared to those reported in May 2020. A reported 387 antisemitic incidents in this timeframe were calculated by the ADL, its report states, and 297 of these took place after military action was launched by Israel on May 10. Of these 297 incidents, 211 were cases of harassment, 71 were cases of vandalism and there were 15 assaults nationwide, the ADL said. 

The uptick in antisemitic incidents last year is also in line with an overall increase in violent crime in L.A. and the country. The city saw an 11.8 percent increase in homicides, as violent crime increased by 3.9 percent and property crimes rose by 4.2 percent last year. Anti-Asian hate crime also became a major issue across the country last year, increasing 339 percent in 2021 compared to 2020’s statistics, as is shown in a recent report published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Los Angeles reported more incidents than any other city in the U.S., according to the report.

In response to the ADL report, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said on Tuesday that it stands with the ADL in calling attention to this sizable increase in antisemitism—particularly in L.A.

“We must not be complacent as these numbers surge and must respond in concert with our Jewish and non-Jewish allies,” Rabbi Noah Farkas said in a release. “Working together with our partners locally and globally—we will prevail, and love will conquer hate. Let us also remember that we are not defined by antisemitism. To be a Jew is to love life and be an advocate for peace and justice. Let not those who hate us define us.”

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.