Swiss Jews baffled by Press Council ruling on BDS

The Swiss Federation of Jewish communities (SIG), the country’s EJC affiliate has criticised the stance of the Swiss Press Council towards the BDS movement.

An article on Prime News, a Swiss online magazine, was reprimanded by the Swiss Press Council for an article it published on the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) in October 2020.

In the ruling, The Swiss Press Council accused Prime News of “improper reporting, of not taking expert opinions into account and even of using misleading definitions of antisemitism.”

The article had described the BDS movement “antisemitic,” “tinged with antisemitism,” or “considered by many experts to be antisemitic.”

The SIG sharply criticised the ruling, noting the Press Council’s “uncritical and almost partisan attitude toward BDS.”

“The Press Council has now sided with a complainant and reprimanded a journalist. In particular, the reasoning behind the ruling by the Press Council is disconcerting,” the SIG declared.

“BDS claims to only target the State of Israel and its representatives with its boycott calls and measures. In fact, it regularly targets individual Israeli citizens.”

The SIG considers it very questionable that the Press Council adopted the argumentation of the BDS movement verbatim. This comes close to whitewashing the BDS movement.”

“The Press Council chose to ignore the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, recognised internationally and also recently adopted by Switzerland.  Instead, it relied only pronouncements by the BDS itself and chose to suppress opinions to the contrary”, the statement continued.

“Particularly offensive is the Press Council’s pronouncement that it is ‘disputed’ whether rejecting Israel’s right to exist is antisemitic.”

In a similar decision in 2020, the Austrian Press Council came to the opposite conclusion in a criminal case: on the one hand, that referring to the movement as antisemitic was permissible as a valuation of ideological sentiment, and on the other hand, this valuation  was based on factual grounds in relation to the BDS movement”

“The patterns of action and methods of the BDS movement have a clearly antisemitic tinge and may and should be described as such,” the SIG concluded.


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