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Jewish groups attack Swiss over Geneva Accord

Yossi Beilin (left) and Yasser Abed Rabbo, promoters of the accord Keystone Archive

Leaders of Jewish organisations have criticised Switzerland’s role in the drafting of the Geneva Accord, an unofficial peace plan for the Middle East.

This content was published on November 20, 2003 - 13:12

They told the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, that Bern should have consulted the Israeli government over the initiative.

Calmy-Rey met representatives of the World and European Jewish congresses, along with Swiss Jewish groups, in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss their concerns about the accord.

The document is due to be signed by the former Israeli cabinet minister, Yossi Beilin, and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Abed Rabbo, in Geneva on December 1, following two years of secret talks.

Swiss interference

Isy Leibler, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, condemned Switzerland’s role as a facilitator for the negotiations.

He said the Swiss government should discuss peace initiatives directly with the Israeli government instead of with “failed politicians”.

“These politicians were rejected by the majority of the Israeli people in democratic elections,” Leibler said.

Elan Steinberg, adviser to the president of the World Jewish Congress, said that while the organisation wasn’t against certain aspects of the accord, the document should have been discussed with the official authorities.

“We recognise that Switzerland’s support is based on good intentions, but the reality is that the Swiss government is interfering in internal Israeli matters,” added Leibler.

Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Jewish Community, echoed this view, describing Switzerland’s actions as “unfriendly interference”.

Rising anti-Semitism

Jewish representatives also expressed to Calmy-Rey their concern over what they saw as growing anti-Semitic violence in Europe.

On Saturday bomb attacks on two synagogues in the Turkish city of Istanbul left 23 people dead.

Cobi Benatoff, the president of the European Jewish Congress, called on Calmy-Rey to take firm action against anti-Semitism.

Benatoff said Calmy-Rey had promised to raise the issue with the Swiss government.

Switzerland’s Jews confirmed that the alpine nation was not exempt from the tide of anti-Semitism.

“There are less violent acts [in Switzerland] than there are in France or Belgium,” said Alfred Donath. “But violence is not unheard of in Swiss schools.”

“The attacks in Istanbul could have happened anywhere in Europe - Switzerland is no less protected from a terrorist act than other countries.”

The European Jewish Congress, which represents 45 countries, plans to launch an appeal to heads of government meeting in Brussels on December 12.

The congress will ask them to take additional steps to stamp out anti-Semitism to avoid “bringing the Middle East conflict to Europe”.

swissinfo with agencies

anti-semitism

Representatives of the World and European Jewish congresses, along with Swiss Jewish groups, say Switzerland should have consulted the Israeli government about the Geneva Accord.

They told the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, that Switzerland was interfering in internal Israeli matters.

The groups also expressed deep concern about what they see as the growing tide of anti-Semitism in Europe.

The European Jewish Congress will appeal to heads of government meeting in Brussels on December 12, asking them to take firm action against anti-Semitism.

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