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July 2, 2020 11:24 am

‘Middle-Class’ and ‘Everyday’: New Survey Exposes Alarming Nature of Antisemitism in Switzerland

avatar by Ben Cohen

Students at the University of Zurich. Photo: Reuters / Arnd Wiegmann.

Antisemitic behavior toward Jews is alarmingly common in Switzerland, a new academic study of victim experiences published on Thursday revealed.

The report — conducted by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) — surveyed 500 Swiss Jews about their experiences of antisemitism, discovering that 50 percent of the respondents had been personally targeted for antisemitic abuse during the last five years.

About 18,000 Jews live in Switzerland.

The survey’s director, Prof. Dirk Baier, told the Berner Oberlander newspaper that he was not surprised by the results, pointing to a recent Swiss government survey showing that one in ten citizens held negative views of Jews.

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He pointed out that similar animosity existed toward other minorities.

“If you asked 500 black people in Switzerland about their experiences, you’d probably get responses similar to those of the Jewish community now,” Baier commented.

Baier highlighted the survey’s conclusion that, in Switzerland, antisemitism “obviously comes from the middle of society.”

He contrasted the middle-class character of antisemitic offenders in Switzerland with other European countries, such as France and Germany, where perpetrators of antisemitic acts often came from poor immigrant backgrounds, or were motivated by far-right or extreme-left political views.

Baier explained that his survey in Switzerland had been informed by a Europe-wide survey of Jewish experiences of antisemitism carried out by the EU in 2018. The survey of Jews living in 12 EU member states showed that 28 percent of respondents had personally experienced antisemitic abuse during the previous year.

The Swiss survey showed that the most common form of harassment experienced by Jews involved verbal threats and insults. Respondents said they had encountered verbal abuse in their workplaces, at universities and in schools, as well as in public places like parks or simply walking in the street.

Six percent of respondents said their properties had been targeted for antisemitic vandalism, while 3.5 percent disclosed that they had been the victims of physical violence.

Dominic Pugatsch — head of the GRA Foundation against Racism and Antisemitism, a Swiss NGO — said that his organization’s research supported the conclusions of the Zurich University survey.

“There is an ‘everyday antisemitism’ in Switzerland,” Pugatsch stated. “Verbal harassment is unfortunately widespread on the street, at work or at school.”

One Jewish student who participated in the survey remarked that — as was the case in much of the rest of Europe — observant Jews had to be cautious about where and when they displayed visibly-Jewish symbols.

The student told the Berner Oberlander that he did not wear his kippah on public transport or at university.

“I don’t want to attract attention in certain places and I don’t want to risk being approached,” he said.

The student said that on some of the occasions that he wore his kippah, cyclists or passing motorists had shouted ‘Heil Hitler!’ or a similar epithet in his direction.

He added that he had faced “violent” hate speech on the soccer field as well, while playing for a Jewish team.

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