Anti-Middle Eastern racism has a long history in the United States, although it had generally been limited to Jews until recent decades. It is suggested by Leo Rosten that as soon as they left the boat, Jews were subject to racism from the port immigration authorities. The derogatory term kike was adopted when referring to Jews (because they often could not write so they may have signed their immigration papers with circles – or kikel in Yiddish). In early films, such as Cohen's Advertising Scheme (1904, silent), Jews were stereotyped as "scheming merchants", often with exaggerated West Asian racial features such as big, hooked noses, big lips, small eyes, black curly hair, and olive and/or brown-colored skin.
From the 1910s, Southern Jewish communities were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, who objected to Jewish immigration, and often used "The Jewish Banker" in their propaganda. In 1915, Leo Frank was lynched in Georgia after being convicted of rape and sentenced to death (his punishment was commuted to life imprisonment). The second Ku Klux Klan, which grew enormously in the early 1920s by promoting "100% Americanism", focused its hatred on Jews, as well as Catholics and African Americans.
The events in Nazi Germany also attracted attention from the United States. Jewish lobbying for intervention in Europe drew opposition from the isolationists, amongst whom was Father Charles Coughlin, a well-known radio priest, who was known to be critical of Jews, believing that they were leading the United States into the war. He preached in weekly, overtly anti-Semitic sermons and, from 1936, began publication of a newspaper, Social Justice, in which he printed anti-Semitic accusations such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In 1993, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee confronted The Walt Disney Company about anti-Arab racist content in its animated film Aladdin. At first, Disney denied any problems but eventually relented and changed two lines in the opening song. Members of the ADC were still unhappy with the portrayal of Arabic characters and the referral to the Middle East as "barbaric".
Since 9/11, anti-Middle Eastern racism has risen dramatically. A man in Houston, Texas, who was shot and wounded after an assailant accused him of "blowing up the country", and four immigrants shot and killed by a man named Larme Price, who confessed to killing them as revenge for the September 11 attacks. Price said he was motivated by a desire to kill people of Arab descent after the attacks. Although Price described his victims as Arabs, only one was from an Arab country. This appears to be a trend; because of stereotypes of Arabs, several non-Arab, non-Muslim groups were subjected to attacks in the wake of 9/11, including several Sikh men attacked for wearing their religiously-mandated turban. Price's mother, Leatha Price, said that her son's anger at Arabs was a matter of mental illness, not ethnic hatred.
One widely publicized incident was the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi. The term "towel-head" is a pejorative reference to Middle Eastern headdresses including turbans and is mainly used to refer to both Arabs and terrorists. Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Sikh turban wearers usually wind their turban anew for each wearing, using long strips of cloth that are usually five meters or less. However, some elaborate South Asian turbans may be permanently formed and sewn to a foundation. Turbans can be very large or quite modest dependent upon region, culture, and religion.
In November 2005, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examined antisemitism on college campuses. It reported that "incidents of threatened bodily injury, physical intimidation or property damage are now rare", but antisemitism still occurs on many campuses and is a "serious problem." The Commission recommended that the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights protect college students from antisemitism through vigorous enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and further recommended that Congress clarify that Title VI applies to discrimination against Jewish students.
On 19 September 2006, Yale University founded the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), the first North American university-based center for study of the subject, as part of its Institution for Social and Policy Studies. Director Charles Small of the Center cited the increase in antisemitism worldwide in recent years as generating a "need to understand the current manifestation of this disease". In June 2011, Yale voted to close this initiative. After carrying out a routine review, the faculty review committee said that the initiative had not met its research and teaching standards. Donald Green, then head of Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies, the body under whose aegis the antisemitism initiative was run, said that it had not had many papers published in the relevant leading journals or attracted many students. As with other programs that had been in a similar situation, the initiative had therefore been cancelled. This decision has been criticized by figures such as former U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Staff Director Kenneth L. Marcus, who is now the director of the Initiative to Combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in America’s Educational Systems at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, and Deborah Lipstadt, who described the decision as "weird" and "strange." Antony Lerman has supported Yale's decision, describing the YIISA as a politicized initiative that was devoted to the promotion of Israel rather than to serious research on antisemitism.
A 2007 survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) concluded that 15% of Americans hold antisemitic views, which was in-line with the average of the previous ten years, but a decline from the 29% of the early sixties. The survey concluded that education was a strong predictor, "with most educated Americans being remarkably free of prejudicial views." The belief that Jews have too much power was considered a common antisemitic view by the ADL. Other views indicating antisemitism, according to the survey, include the view that Jews are more loyal to Israel than America, and that they are responsible for the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The survey found that antisemitic Americans are likely to be intolerant generally, e.g. regarding immigration and free-speech. The 2007 survey also found that 29% of foreign-born Hispanics and 32% of African-Americans hold strong antisemitic beliefs, three times more than the 10% for whites.
A 2009 study published in Boston Review found that nearly 25% of non-Jewish Americans blamed Jews for the financial crisis of 2008–2009, with a higher percentage among Democrats than Republicans. 32% of Democrats blamed Jews for the financial crisis, versus 18% for Republicans.
In August 2012, the California state assembly approved a non-binding resolution that "encourages university leaders to combat a wide array of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel actions," although the resolution "is purely symbolic and does not carry policy implications".
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought charges against NCL America Inc., alleging that the company discriminated against seven crew members with Middle East backgrounds. The suit, filed on behalf of the employees, stated that the discrimination led to the plaintiffs losing their jobs aboard the cruise ship Pride of Aloha. The 2006 lawsuit had the company deny the allegations, refusing to accept that it had acted improperly in firing the seven Middle Eastern crew members. Sources stated that the two sides reached a settlement agreement, in which NCL America Inc. has agreed to pay $485,000 to resolve allegations. Additionally, the company also agreed to revise its policies to ensure a workplace that promotes equal employment opportunities.
In an interview with a conservative website, Saucedo Mercer, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen, talked in depth about her views on immigration. She stated the issue was important because people from places other than Mexico were among those coming across the border illegally.
"That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners. If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican or they look, you know, like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix. They mix in. And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally? When they come across the border, besides the trash that they leave behind, the drug smuggling, the killings, the beheadings. I mean, you are seeing stuff. It’s a war out there."
After the Boston Marathon bombing, before the perpetrators Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were identified, several young men, mostly South Asian or Middle Eastern, were convicted in the court of public opinion.