The 2017 Anti-Semitism Report, produced jointly by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the NGO Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism, cited 39 anti-Semitic incidents (excluding anti-Semitic hate speech online) in the German-speaking part of the country in 2017, compared with 25 incidents in 2016. The SIG said the increase in recorded incidents could be due to improved reporting by the public. The report documented four physical altercations involving Jews, compared with two in the previous year. In one incident, a woman spat on and insulted a Zurich-based rabbi as he walked with his family around Lake Zurich. In 2017, the Geneva-based Intercommunity Center for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation (CICAD), an NGO, reported 150 anti-Semitic incidents in the French-speaking region, compared with 153 cases in 2016, of which it deemed three “grave” (involving acts against the integrity and wellbeing of a person, including aggression, harassment, or destruction of property), and five “serious” (involving acts such as anti-Semitic letters, insults, or graffiti). The report cited an increase in right-wing extremist activities and anti-Semitic incidents motivated by a belief in global Jewish domination in business and politics, as well as a rise in anti-Semitic incidents on social media and a growing banalization of the Holocaust.
In April the Consulting Network for Racism Victims, a collaboration between the NGO humanrights.ch and the Federal Commission Against Racism that provides consulting and counseling services related to racism and religious discrimination, released its report for 2017. It stated there were 54 anti-Muslim incidents in that year (the third-highest number in the categories it tallied), compared with 52 in 2016. According to the report, anti-Muslim incidents were predominantly verbal, involving threats or derogatory remarks, and occurred mainly in public spaces, at work, at school, and in neighborhoods. In one incident, unknown persons smeared pig’s blood on the shell construction of a mosque in Solothurn Canton and wrote “[Expletive] Islam” on the construction’s facade.
In July a German national armed with a knife yelled anti-Semitic statements while following three Jews on their way to a Zurich synagogue. Police arrested the man the same evening and released him shortly afterwards.
In August the leadership of the centrist Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) expelled a Thurgau cantonal politician from the party after he tweeted that Adolf Hitler could not have been “endlessly bad” and that he did not just see an “evil tyrant” in Hitler. He later apologized for his tweet. The BDP stated any minimization of Nazi atrocities was unacceptable.
Muslim representatives, such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland (FIDS) President Montassar BenMrad, said the growing discourse on Islam by right-leaning political parties and predominantly negative media narratives about Muslims led to growing anti-Muslim sentiment.
In October unknown persons vandalized a kosher butcher shop in Basel on four separate occasions in the same month. In one of the attacks, the vandals shattered the shop’s window display. In another incident, the perpetrators removed the letter ‘J’ from the German-language word for Jewish from a metal sign hanging over the shop and two of the Hebrew-language letters for the word kosher. Leopold Stefansky, President of the Basel Jewish Community, described the incidents as anti-Semitic attacks and said the community was considering hiring a security firm and using a video surveillance system. At year’s end, police investigations were ongoing.
In November the initiator of the canton of Ticino’s ban on facial coverings, former journalist Giorgio Ghiringhelli, awarded three recipients 2,000 Swiss francs ($2,000) each under the inaugural “Swiss Stop Islam Award,” which he said he established to honor “patriots who resist the new conquerors in the spirit of William Tell.” Recipients were National Councilor Walter Wobmann (SVP), for launching an initiative to ban the burqa nationally; Mireille Vallette, author of the book Islamophobia or Legitimate Defiance?; and SVP National Councilor Lorenzo Quadri, for advocating against religious extremism and calling for more transparent financing of mosques and Islamic associations. Ghiringhelli told local press he was not against Muslims but considered Islam “a dangerous religion.”
At least two studies issued during the year reported evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment and discrimination. A nonrepresentative study published by the Gfs Bern research institute in January found 55 percent of surveyed Muslims self-identified as victims of discrimination or knew of Muslims affected by discrimination in 2017. According to the study, 35 percent of surveyed Muslims had been victims of hate crimes, and 57 percent said they behaved reservedly in public so as not to attract attention. The study especially cited Muslim women as victims of discrimination and harassment, including being spat on in the supermarket or having their headscarves forcibly removed by strangers. A government-commissioned study by the University of Zurich published in September concluded that local media rarely gave voice to Muslims and that, as a result of divisive print and online media content, 69 percent of persons preferred to distance themselves from Muslims, compared with 22 percent who expressed that preference in 2009. The study attributed the increase in divisive content to the media’s growing focus on radicalization and terrorism.
Ahmadi Muslims again said many Muslim groups refused to recognize them as followers of Islam and excluded them from opportunities to engage in joint dialogue with the government. Some Ahmadis stated that, when visiting mosques, other Muslims told them they were not Muslims and made them feel unwelcome.
According to media and NGO reports, the main groups responsible for engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric were Geneva Noncompliant, European Action, the Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss (PNOS), and the Swiss Nationalist Party (the French-speaking branch of PNOS). CICAD reported a resurgence of activities by right-wing individuals in all French-speaking cantons.
Jewish groups, such as the SIG and CICAD, reported a rise in anti-Semitic incidents on social media. According to CICAD, 46 percent of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2017 in the country’s French-speaking regions took place on social media. The SIG stated online hate speech motivated by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians often originated from users with Muslim backgrounds.
In January the Lausanne state prosecutor suspended criminal proceedings against unknown persons who in October 2017 desecrated several Islamic gravesites in the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery, because, he said, authorities were unable to identify the perpetrators. The vandals uprooted plants, overturned headstones, and sprayed messages that called on Muslims to leave the country.
Many NGOs and representatives of the religious community coordinated interfaith events to promote tolerance locally and nationwide. In November the Week of Religions, sponsored by religious communities, civil society groups, and the cantons, featured more than 100 interfaith events nationwide, including exhibitions, music and dance concerts, film screenings, roundtables, panel discussions, and communal dinners. The SIG and FIDS continued to support a project to encourage tolerance and address misconceptions between Muslims and Jews. The independent Zurich Institute for Interreligious Dialogue continued to provide a platform to study the religious histories and cultures of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as to discuss contemporary developments related to the religions, by organizing educational courses, speeches, panel discussions, and excursions. The institute hosted courses on the history of religions and a seminar on the musical elements of the script of the Torah, among other programs.