Switzerland to consider adopting specific anti-Semitism definition

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in many parts of Switzerland in the past few years. © Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

The Swiss government has agreed to review adopting a definition of anti-Semitism adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

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On Thursday, the Senate put forward a proposal to assess the legal consequences for both domestic and foreign policy of adopting the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The IHRA specifies that “anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The working definition also includes several illustrative examples. The Alliance argues that a clear understanding of what it is, can begin to help address the problem of anti-Semitism.

Several European countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria have adopted the definition but not without controversy in some countries.

Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset indicated that the Swiss government supports the proposal and will be publishing a report evaluating the effectiveness of measures to tackle anti-Semitism in the country.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in many parts of Switzerland. In 2018, the French-speaking part of the country recorded 174 incidents of hatred against Jews as well as a rise in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. The German-speaking regions accounted for 42 anti-Semitic incidents.

Switzerland is a member of the IHRA, which convenes governments and experts with the goal to strengthen and promote education, remembrance and research on the Holocaust. Switzerland chaired the Alliance in 2017.

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