The Swiss Federal Commission against Racism (FCR) has said that hate speech and intolerance are on the rise in the country, including antisemitic conspiracy theories often surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the commission said that the pandemic had given rise to a general increase in efforts to scapegoat different communities and led to “a wave of hatred, racial prejudice, and discriminatory rhetoric fueled by rumors and disinformation.”
It noted in particular the rise of antisemitic conspiracy theories about the coronavirus crisis and an alleged Jewish conspiracy related to the pandemic.
“The fact shows the smoldering antisemitism in Switzerland as elsewhere, and that in times of crisis quickly flares up again,” said the commission.
In referencing antisemitic conspiracy theories, the commission pointed to the annual report on antisemitism in Switzerland for 2020 published by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, the country’s EJC affiliate and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism which also highlighted this troubling phenomenon.
That report found that of 485 reported incidents of online antisemitism, primarily in social media and newspaper talkback pages, there were 249 reports of contemporary antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Of those, 45% involved conspiracy theories about the Jewish people and responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said.
The report said that antisemitism among the opponents of coronavirus regulations in Switzerland is widespread, but, that “contrary to many other European countries and the US, does not seem to represent the attitude of the majority.”
The 2020 antisemitism report noted that 47 real-world antisemitic incidents were reported that year, including 11 cases of verbal abuse, 15 cases of offensive graffiti and one case of property damage. No physical attacks were reported.
In one of the most troubling reported antisemitic incidents, a travel guide complained to her group about difficulties with Jewish guests, saying they bring all their food along from home, dirty the public sanitary installations, bring no money for restaurants, and rent entire hotels.