Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories make a comeback

In 2007, this Synagogue in Geneva was set on fire by arsonists. Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Last year, instances of anti-Semitism increased in French-speaking Switzerland. The phenomenon is also noticeable in the German-speaking part of the country. The National Socialist rhetoric of the Second World War alleging a “global Jewish conspiracy” is making a comeback.

This content was published on March 21, 2019 - 14:30

In 2018, the Swiss Federation of Jewish CommunitiesExternal link (SIG) registered 42 anti-Semitic incidents in German-speaking Switzerland - not counting online threats or abuse. In French-speaking Switzerland, the Coordination Intercommunautaire Contre l'Antisémitisme et la DiffamationExternal link (CICAD) counted 174 incidents of Jewish hatred in the same period. Nearly two-thirds of these took place on social networks.

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In the 2018 Anti-Semitism Report for German-speaking Switzerland, the SIG describes the most serious incidents in the most populous region of the country. Here are a few examples:

- In Zurich, a man ran after a group of Orthodox Jews with a knife in his hand and shouted anti-Semitic slogans. A passer-by was able to stop him.

- Swastikas were drawn on the wall of a Jewish retirement home in Zurich.

- A couple from Zurich returning from their holidays found that someone had written "A Jew lives here" on their garage door.

Anti-Semitic incidents in German-speaking Switzerland have not increased compared with previous years. But the report, published on Thursday, notes that "anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, in particular, continue to be popular today” - especially among social media networks.

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Rise in Western Switzerland

After three years of stability, anti-Semitism increased again in 2018 in French-speaking Switzerland.

Probably the worst incident occurred on the train between the cities of Fribourg and Lausanne when a Palestinian residing illegally in Switzerland struck a Jewish man, ripped his kippa from his head, broke his glasses and stole his watch.

CICAD expresses its concern about the trend in its 2018 anti-Semitism report. However, the organisation also states: "Despite two serious cases, anti-Semitism in Switzerland is fortunately still less violent than in other European countries".

The SIG report agrees that anti-Semitism is less violent than in other countries such as Germany or France. Anti-Semitism has increased significantly across Europe. In a Europe-wide survey, 38% of Jews interviewed said they were considering emigrating for security reasons.

The report coincides with International Day for the Elimination of Racial DiscriminationExternal link on Thursday. An advisory body for the Swiss government, the Anti-Racism CommissionExternal link, launched an appeal to fight against “everyday racial discrimination, be it at work, when looking for apartment, at school, in the public space”.

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