One in ten Swiss is anti-Semitic

There was a spate of attacks on Jewish buildings and monuments in 2005 Keystone

Around ten per cent of the Swiss population are anti-Semitic, according to a wide-ranging study of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attitudes published on Friday.

This content was published on March 30, 2007 - 16:03

The survey also found that more than a quarter of the population had a tendency to agree with anti-Jewish stereotypes.

Reacting to the study, Jewish organisations said that more needed to be done to raise awareness. The Federal Commission against Racism said that every percentage was "too much".

The survey, which questioned 1,030 people across the country in February, was carried out by the gfs polling institute in Bern for the Federal Commission against Racism, in cooperation with the Jewish weekly magazine Tachles.

It found that ten per cent of the Swiss population had "systematic anti-Semitic attitudes".

This group was overrepresented in the Italian-speaking part of the country, in the lower socio-economic strata, on the right end of the political spectrum, in rural areas and among those with no Jewish acquaintances.

Another 28 per cent held selective anti-Semitic views and 15 per cent felt resentment and disappointment due to Israel's policies, but did not have particularly negative attitudes towards the Jewish population.

A generally positive attitude towards Jews was observed among 37 per cent of the population. Ten per cent of answers were unclassified.

Swiss Jewish community

In all, 55 per cent regarded the Jewish minority in Switzerland - there are an estimated 20,000 Jews in the country – with respect. But within this group a strong minority was critical of the perceived self-imposed segregation of the Jewish community.

Almost half of those asked rejected the notion that Jewish people had too much influence on world politics, with 72 per cent holding the same view for Swiss politics.

In terms of the debate over the Swiss position in the Second World War regarding Jews - its refugee policy, and the money deposited in Switzerland by Nazi victims - the report said that the Swiss no longer considered themselves as victims of Jewish pressure to make amends.

However, the report found that the Swiss were generally critical of Israel.

Fifty-four per cent believe Israel is governed by religious fanatics and 50 per cent think Israel is carrying out what the report terms a "war of extermination" against the occupied territories.

The authors pointed out that although this "emotional resentment" against Israel's foreign policy was applied to Jews in general, the criticism did not amount to an anti-Semitic attitude.

Community reactions

For Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, the ten per cent was "worrying". But he said it had remained constant in recent years.

Donath said that anti-Semites usually did not know any Jews personally. "We have to make Judaism and Jewish thinking better known," he told the Swiss news agency.

This view was shared by William Wyler, the head of the David Centre, which campaigns against anti-Semitism in Switzerland. He believes that the percentage of hardcore anti-Semites is roughly equivalent to that of other countries.

The Federal Commission against Racism said the ten per cent was too big, but noted that it would be hard to target this group.

"We are interested in the 28 per cent who have anti-Semitic tendencies," said its president Georg Kreis.

He added that similar wide-ranging studies were necessary regarding society's attitude towards Muslims and travellers.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The survey is entitled "Anti-Jewish and Anti-Israel Attitudes in Switzerland".
The data was collected from a representative sample of 1,030 residents.
They were questioned between February 5-15 this year.

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The Bergier report

In the 1990s uncomfortable revelations surfaced about Swiss banks handling assets looted by the Nazis and because of banking secrecy being unable to release details of dormant accounts held by Holocaust victims.

The revelations prompted the government to commission Jean-François Bergier to compile a report on Switzerland's wartime past.

The final report, published in 2002, shed new light on the country's wartime history. Bergier's commission found that government and industry had cooperated with the Nazis, and that Switzerland had turned away thousands of Jewish refugees at its borders.

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