Social divisions exacerbated by the pandemic are also evident in the findings of the SIG and GRA Report on Antisemitism. There were more incidents, both in the real world and online. In particular, there was a sharp increase in antisemitic conspiracy theories linked to the Covid pandemic.
The heated and hostile debates about the pandemic and its consequences are resulting in antisemitic attitudes becoming more prevalent. The findings of the Report on Antisemitism by the SIG and the GRA Foundation Against Racism and Antisemitism reinforce the impression that division and discord in society have become more entrenched in 2021. This is evident from the antisemitic incidents observed and in particular the antisemitic conspiracy theories which continue to be propagated among anti-Covid protesters. The attacks on synagogues in Geneva, Lausanne and Biel in early 2021 are a warning that words have consequences.
Statistics and categories in 2021
In the German, Italian and Romansh language areas of Switzerland, 53 antisemitic incidents were recorded in 2021, not including online cases. Compared with the previous year, this represents an increase of 6 on the 47 real-world incidents recorded in 2020. The 23 incidents of sent items, up 8 on the previous year, accounted for much of this increase. In addition, there were 16 incidents of verbal abuse (up 5) and 7 comments made in public (an increase of 2). The number of incidents categorized as offensive graffiti fell by 8 to a total of 7. There was a case of damage to property once again, but no physical assaults were recorded.
The figures for online incidents showed a sharp increase. The 806 incidents recorded in 2021 were significantly higher in number than the 485 in 2020. This corresponded to a rise of 66%. Overall, therefore, a total of 859 incidents were reported and observed in the real world and online. It is noteworthy that among the online platforms sharing antisemitic content, Telegram was responsible for by far the most incidents, accounting for 61% of the online incidents recorded in 2021. The Covid pandemic remained the dominant trigger for antisemitic incidents in 2021, with only a few others of minor significance identified.
The Covid pandemic remains a trigger for antisemitic incidents
The Covid pandemic acted as a trigger throughout almost all of the reporting year. As in the year before, there was widespread distribution in particular of antisemitic conspiracy theories linked to the pandemic. Once again, a large number of conspiracy theories as well as comments and images with antisemitic content were observed among Covid-sceptic circles, generally in chats on Telegram. There, 451 antisemitic incidents were recorded in eight different chats involving Covid sceptics, significantly more than the previous year (135). It should be noted that the proportion of Covid-related online incidents rose significantly again. The Covid sceptics and their chats attract people with antisemitic attitudes, who then proceed to share their crude ideas there. The Covid pandemic has been the main trigger for antisemitic incidents since 2020, with the effect further intensified in 2021.
No reservations about inappropriate comparisons linking Covid to the Shoah
Another serious problem that is widespread among opponents of Covid measures is the frequent occurrence of comparisons to the Nazi regime and the persecution and murder of the Jewish people during the Shoah. This has been observed both in online chats and at demonstrations. The best-known example of this is displaying the Star of David. However, according to the definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA, the comparisons cannot be classed as antisemitic, nor categorized as “Shoah trivialization”. Although the comparisons are not in themselves antisemitic in this context, their number, frequency and prevalence do lead to a dilution of the awareness of the events of those times and thus to a degree of trivialization. The SIG and GRA appealed again in 2021 against the use of such comparisons.
The nationwide situation
The situation in French-speaking Switzerland is monitored by the Coordination Intercommunitaire contre l'Antisémitisme et la Diffamation CICAD, which produces its own report. A joint publication summarizes the most important national trends. This year, the figures for the whole of Switzerland are being presented and published together in full for the first time. The CICAD recorded xxx cases in French-speaking Switzerland in 2021. As outlined above, the number for the rest of the country was 859 incidents. The trends apparent in both reports are similar. It is noteworthy that two physical assaults against Jewish persons were recorded in French-speaking Switzerland, none in the rest of the country. However, the steep rise in antisemitic incidents online and on social media was less marked in French-speaking Switzerland. Denial or trivialization of the Shoah increased in the whole of Switzerland, to a greater degree in French-speaking Switzerland than in the rest of the country.
Report expanded to include additional content and socio-political demands
The situation regarding antisemitism in Switzerland requires steps to prevent antisemitic attitudes from becoming even more entrenched. The report now also contains recommendations and calls for action. In specific terms, the SIG and GRA are demanding greater investment in education to combat conspiracy theories, more government backing for projects to prevent antisemitism and a government commitment at long last to monitor antisemitism and racism and review the legal means for recording hate speech. The report was greatly expanded this year, with the addition of analysis and informative content, such as an overview of safety in Switzerland, a focus on antisemitism in Europe, a list of preventive and legal interventions including prosecutions (six in 2021) and finally a section on the methodology of online monitoring. The full version of the Report on Antisemitism is also being published in English and Italian for the first time this year.
The heated and hostile debates about the pandemic and its consequences are resulting in antisemitic attitudes becoming more prevalent. This is evident from the antisemitic incidents observed and in particular the antisemitic conspiracy theories which continue to be propagated in the circles of anti-Covid protesters. The number of physical and verbal incidents remained at a low level but there was an increase. A sharp rise was recorded in online incidents. The Covid pandemic acted as the main trigger in 2021 as previously.