ADL Hopes Lieberman's Nomination Will Reduce Anti-Semitism

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Vice President Al Gore's choice of an Orthodox Jewish running mate in his bid for the presidency has apparently sparked an increase of anti-Semitic sentiment on the Internet, but the Anti-Defamation League says it is too soon to say if this is trend.

"I think it's a little premature to label it as an increase of anti-Semitism," said Ken Jacobson, assistant national director of the ADL, an 87-year-old organization that in recent years has been at the forefront of tracking racism and hatemongering on the Internet.

While there had been an increase of anti-Jewish comments in online chat rooms and on message boards, Jacobson said, companies like America On Line have been good enough to remove it.

Jacobson said he wouldn't want to characterize the increase in troubling remarks relating to Senator Joseph Lieberman's selection as an "increase in anti-Semitism."

"Overall, the response in America [has been] extremely positive," Jacobson said. Praise for Gore's choice had come from such varied sources as the Evangelical Christian and black communities as well as Republicans.

Jacobson said one example of an anti-Semitic incident that had a positive affect occurred shortly after Gore made his announcement.

An official of the NAACP, being interviewed live on the radio in Dallas, unleashed a tirade about the Jewish people and their money. The official was later suspended and a statement from NAACP headquarters strongly condemned the attack.

Whether Gore's choice of Lieberman actually triggered anti-Semitism or simply brought it to the surface was hard to say, Jacobson said.

It was important to make a distinction between such sentiments being expressed by extremists or those in the mainstream. "There will always be bigots in the world," he said.

Jacobson said he hoped that the nomination would help reduce anti-Semitism in America. The fact that Lieberman was so "open" about his faith was good for people to hear, he said.

"[In the long run] I would hope that Americans will feel more comfortable with Jews, and Jews will be more comfortable being Americans. My suspicion is that it will be so," Jacobson said.