Covid pandemic fans flames of anti-Semitism in Switzerland

A Jewish man in front of the synagogue in Zurich. Jewish people in Switzerland perceive anti-Semitism as a major problem, according to the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism Keystone

Jewish people in Switzerland are concerned about increasing anti-Semitism during the Covid-19 pandemic, says the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism. It wants to combat this with education and dialogue.

This content was published on December 7, 2020 - 10:11

When people are insecure, even ancient conspiracy theories return to the surface, Dina Wyler, the Zurich-based foundation’s managing director, said in an interviewExternal link with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Monday.

A scapegoat helps people deal with a feeling of powerlessness, she said. “Unfortunately, this scapegoat is often Jewish.”

This goes back to old, deeply rooted ideas that come to the fore in a crisis, Wyler said. “Anti-Semitism never went away. But it became less socially acceptable.” Now the boundaries of what one can say have shifted, she said.

Jewish people in Switzerland perceive anti-Semitism as a major problem, with most reports to the foundation involving damage to property and insulting statements, she said. “Physical violence such as that in Germany is very rare in Switzerland.”

Going too far

Wyler is calling for dialogue, education and clear responses to anti-Semitism.

“When people with yellow Jewish badges appeared at anti-coronavirus rallies in Zurich, Basel and Lachen in recent weeks, the other demonstrators should have reacted. They should have made it clear that comparing state-orchestrated genocide to restaurant closures and people wearing masks is going too far,” she said.

Politicians, too, must do their part and set a good example, she said.

The foundation has set up a website, stopantisemitismus.chExternal link, which aims to shed light on anti-Semitic statements and to help raise awareness.

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