Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States were up by four percent in 2000, primarily linked to the outbreak of violence in the Middle East, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL audit recorded 1,606 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in 44 states and the District of Columbia during 2000.
At the onset of hostilities in Israel and the disputed territories in late September, vandalism, harassment and other expressions of hatred against Jewish individuals and property rose worldwide - in some cases as much as 20-fold - particularly in countries with large Jewish communities.
The U.S. was no exception. The report noted some 259 anti-Semitic incidents in October across the U.S., more than any other month.
"When the crisis in the Middle East reached a fever pitch, Jews around the world and in the United States became targets for random acts of aggression and violence," said ADL national director Abraham Foxman in a statement.
"While we historically expect an increase in anti-Semitic incidents during the Jewish High Holy Days period [which fell during October in 2000], the statistics this year illustrate a spillover impact from the escalation of violence and vandalism as the Palestinians renewed their campaign of violence against Israel.
"Many random acts of violence or harassment were acted out by sympathizers of the Palestinian cause. Fortunately this phenomenon was apparently a unique, one-time occurrence," Foxman added.
According to Myrna Shinbaum, ADL spokesperson in New York, most attacks are not linked to organizations.
"Most are perpetrated by individuals who act out their anti-Semitism," she said in a telephone interview.
The one difference this year was the increase in attacks by Palestinian sympathizers, which had not been a quotient for a long time, Shinbaum added. That "ebbs and flows" with the situation in the Middle East, she said.
The ADL's report is based on data of actual incidents collected from its 30 regional offices as well as law enforcement agencies.
More than half of them - 877 - were directed against individuals in the form of verbal intimidation, threats and physical assault. Another 729 were acts of vandalism, including property damage, arson and cemetery desecration.
By region, the Eastern U.S. had the highest incidence of attacks, followed by the West, the Midwest and the South. The state of New York saw an almost 30 percent increase in attacks over 1999, while in the five boroughs of New York City incidents rose by nearly 50 percent.
Two of the most violent acts included murder and attempted murder. Last April, a man allegedly killed his Jewish neighbor in a suburb of Pittsburgh and then set her house on fire as part of a two-county rampage, linked to anti-immigrant sentiments, which focused on religious and ethnic minorities.
In October, a rabbi was fired upon in a suburb of Chicago, but escaped without injury. The same night, two men were attacked by a group of Arab-Americans, an incident police linked to the conflict in the Middle East.
Hundreds of Internet sites also played a role in disseminating anti-Semitic literature. The web sites of several major American Jewish organizations were also reportedly attacked.
The ADL is careful not to speak about an increase or decrease in anti-Semitism per se, which it says cannot be measured, but only in the number of incidents, which can.
According to Foxman during the 22 years that the ADL has been conducting the Audit, there have been increases and decreases in the number of incidents, but the ADL remains steadfast in its work.
"While 2000 saw a slight increase, we still believe that through education and the diligent work of law enforcement, these kinds of incidents can decrease in the future," he added.
Founded in 1913, the ADL provides programs and services it says are aimed at countering hatred, prejudice and bigotry.