Swiss Jews furious at report warning of violent extremism

Switzerland’s small Jewish community is in uproar over a government report which describes some Jewish youth as armed radicals and talks of the possibility of “violent extremism” by some Swiss Jews.

The country’s main Jewish organisation is calling for the contentious passages to be cut from the report and for a meeting with the justice minister, a Swiss nationalist, to demand an explanation for the allegations which it denounces as “false,” “outrageous,” and “perhaps made in bad will”.

The deputy head of the domestic intelligence service has had to apologise for its report and order the deletion of references to some Jewish students in Geneva as armed radicals.

But Swiss Jewish leaders remain angry that the amended version of the annual report from the Swiss domestic intelligence service, on the risks of political violence and extremism, retains claims that “violent anti-semitic acts could lead to vigilantism and violent Jewish extremism”.

The original report released last August said: “Jewish political extremism manifests itself in the conduct of associations fighting for the Zionist cause.” It singled out an association of Jewish students in Geneva.

“Some of the young members are armed. They belong to a security agency and attend every event in the Jewish community. At the moment there is no evidence of links between these groups and the Kahane-Hai terror group.”

These claims stoked fury among the small Jewish community of around 18,000 in a country of almost 8 million. The passage was deleted and an apology made.

Alfred Donath, president of the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities, is demanding, however, that all references to alleged Jewish extremism in Switzerland be dropped.

“Jews in Switzerland are outraged,” he told the Zurich newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung. “There is no Jewish extremism here … the accusation of extremism is utterly false.” Mr Donath said synagogues and other Jewish institutions had private armed security guards posted around them “here and there, because regrettably the state is unable to guarantee our safety … it is completely legal”.

Mr Donath and other community leaders are expecting to meet the justice minister, Christoph Blocher, in a fortnight to demand an explanation and to urge him to have the report revised for the second time.

Mr Blocher is the leader of the nationalist Swiss People’s party, which campaigns on an anti-immigration platform.

While Mr Donath said there had been no let-up in anti-semitism in Switzerland in recent times, he was sanguine about the dangers of anti-semitism from Switzerland’s Muslim minority. “Of course, it wasn’t Islam that caused the Shoah [Holocaust],” he noted.

Relations between the Swiss majority and its Jewish community have seldom been easy, but came under greater strain as a result of the dripfeed of revelations in the 1990s over how the Swiss establishment profited from handling and processing the plunder of Jews in Nazi Germany and the Swiss reluctance to own up to the misdeeds.


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