WASHINGTON — The Middle East is the most anti-Semitic region on earth, with 93% of Palestinians holding anti-Semitic beliefs, a global survey of anti-Semitism revealed Tuesday morning. The survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) across 100 nations and territories revealed that almost half of the world’s adults have never heard of the Holocaust, while over a quarter hold anti-Semitic attitudes.

“For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots [of anti-Semitism], as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially nonexistent.”

The top such anti-Semitism hotspot, the survey noted, was the West Bank and Gaza, where the ADL found that anti-Semitic attitudes topped 93%. The survey goes on to rank countries and territories from most to least anti-Semitic.

The south Asian country of Laos brings up the bottom, with only 0.2% of the adult population holding anti-Semitic beliefs.

The ADL's National Director Abraham Foxman presents a poll on global anti-Semitism, May 13, 2014 (ADL screenshot)

The ADL’s National Director Abraham Foxman presents a poll on global anti-Semitism, May 13, 2014 (ADL screenshot)

Using an 11-question index that the ADL has employed for five decades to poll anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States, the ADL survey found that 26% of those polled answered “probably true” to six or more of the 11 negative stereotypes presented about Jews. If the sample data is projected across the world’s entire population, the ADL noted, it suggests that some 1.09 billion people in the world “are deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes.”

Beyond the West Bank and Gaza, the survey found that in the Middle East and North Africa, 74% of those polled agreed with a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes in the index. In comparison, countries outside of the region have an average index score of 23%. The second most anti-Semitic region of the world is Eastern Europe, where some 34% of the population hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

“It is clear in this survey that the conflict in the Middle East matters,” Foxman said during a Tuesday press conference debuting the data. “But it is not clear from the survey whether it is the cause or the excuse for anti-Semitism.”

“While it is startling to see how high the level of anti-Semitism is in the Middle East and North African countries, the fact of the matter is even aside from those countries, close to a quarter of those polled in other parts of the world is infected with anti-Semitic attitudes,” Foxman wrote, responding to the data before the press event.

“There is only a three-point difference when you take world attitudes toward Jews with the Middle East and North African countries, or consider the world without,” he added. The survey revealed that the Middle Eastern country with the least anti-Semitic inclinations was Iran, where some 56% percent of the adult population held anti-Semitic beliefs.

Unlike most of the world, however, anti-Semitism in the Middle East and North Africa tends to increase commensurate with the respondents’ education levels – the opposite of what is seen in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

In the survey, which was conducted via a combination of telephone calls and face-to-face conversations, respondents were asked a series of 11 questions based on stereotypes about Jews, including questions about Jewish power, loyalty, money and behavior.

The poll showed that the most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in” – a statement believed to be “probably true” by 41% of those surveyed. The second most widely accepted stereotype worldwide is “Jews have too much power in the business world,” which was believed to be “probably true” by 35% of those surveyed. This was the most widely-accepted stereotype in Eastern Europe.

The majority of people surveyed – 74% – indicated that they had never met a Jewish person, while of the 26% of people who harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, 70% said that they had never met a Jewish person. At the same time, only 16% of the people surveyed correctly identified the world’s Jewish population as less than one percent of the total world population, while 18% believe that over one out of every ten people in the world is Jewish.

Foxman, a child survivor of the Holocaust, described as “disturbing” the fact that only 54% percent polled had heard of the Holocaust, although 94% of Western Europeans said that they had.

Foxman noted that even in Western Europe, “the results confirm a troubling gap between older adults who know their history and younger men and women who, more than 70 years after the events of World War II, are more likely to have never heard of or learned about what happened to the six million Jews who perished.”

“We were profoundly disappointed about the resilience of anti-Semitism in many countries where we had hoped to see lower numbers, particularly some in Eastern Europe that experienced the war and the Holocaust firsthand,” Foxman said.

A neo-Nazi rally held in memory of Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess in Hess's Bavarian hometown of Wunsiedel, southern Germany, 2002. (photo: AP/Udo Bartsch)

A neo-Nazi rally held in memory of Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess in Hess’s Bavarian hometown of Wunsiedel, southern Germany, 2002. (photo: AP/Udo Bartsch)

Of those who said that they had heard of the Holocaust, 32% believe that it is either a myth or has been greatly exaggerated. The highest percentage of those respondents was in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The data indicates that only some 33% of people worldwide have both heard of the Holocaust and believe that it has been fairly described by history.

The survey also documented key distinctions among countries based on the majority religions in the states. Foxman described finding “incredibly low levels of anti-Semitic beliefs” in European Protestant-majority countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Sweden. Of the least anti-Semitic countries, five were majority-Protestant and four were in east Asia. The one outlier among the top ten that fit into neither group was Tanzania.

On the other extreme, 49% of all Muslims surveyed around the world responded “probably true” to at least 6 of the 11 index stereotypes in the poll, which also found that Christians in Eastern Orthodox and Catholic countries are more likely to harbor anti-Semitic views than those in Protestant countries.

Muslims living outside of the Middle East and North Africa, however, are much less anti-Semitic. Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa come in well below the international average, with only 18% holding anti-Semitic beliefs. Muslims in Western Europe were only slightly above the global average, at 29%, while Eastern European Muslims were slightly below it, at 20%.