Rise in anti-semitism in Switzerland...
This is just before Durban II....
Leaders of the Jewish community of Switzerland are deeply concerned about the sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts there, with little reprieve from "unresponsive" Swiss authorities, according to the general secretary of the Swiss Anti-Defamation League (CICAD), Johanne Gurfinkiel.
With the United Nations Durban Review Conference to be held April 20-24 in Geneva - during the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Day - Jews there are concerned about security.
According to the soon-to-be-released CICAD annual report, anti-Semitic acts have spiked in the country, with 38 attacks in 2007 and 96 occurring just last year in French-speaking Switzerland.
CICAD held an urgent meeting in January with the heads of the Jewish communities of Switzerland to discuss their current bleak situation.
"It's worse than [it's been] in a very long time. This is the first time I was confronted with this sort of anti-Semitism in Switzerland," said Gurfinkiel, who used to work for the Anti-Defamation League in France.
The latest anti-Semitic incident was on March 2 at the ZDVO annual fundraiser, held at the famed Teatre du Leman in the Kempinski Hotel in Geneva. It was the target of "violent protests" by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, according to Meyer, lead coordinator of the event.
Pro-Palestinian group the Collectif Urgance Palestine (CUP), clad in black masks, threw stones, made Nazi salutes, verbally assaulted the event participants and videotaped and photographed the entrance, yelling, "We're going to find each of you!"
Police apprehended the stone-throwers, but those taking videos were left alone - even though according to Swiss law, it is illegal to film people without their consent.
Prior to the event, the CUP posted the invitation to the ZDVO's event on its Web site, along with a page of intimidating calls to protest the event for "Jewish army murderers," recounted Meyer.
The lead entertainer for the event, French-Jewish comedian Anne Roumanoff, received a flurry of threatening letters from French Muslims, according to Meyer, including one stating that there were 1,200 dead in Gaza due to Operation Cast Lead and 1,200 seats in the theater. As a result of the letters, Roumanoff decided to cancel her performance at the last minute, since, Meyer said, the "atmosphere was not suitable for her to appear at the event."
The Friday before the fundraiser, according to Meyer, the police received information about on-line calls from the mosque in neighboring Lyons, France, to go protest alongside the CUP at the event.
In Meyer's opinion, the situation "went way beyond our event. It turned into something between French Muslims and Geneva's Jews."
Meyer said the ZDVO had decided to reimburse all who had bought tickets, but asked that everyone come and show support for their Jewish community.
"We had a solidarity movement - the Jews of Geneva were united in standing up to this," said Meyer.
In the end, some 900 Jews attended the event - a huge part of Geneva's Jewish population of approximately 5,000.
Although there was no all-out outbreak of violence at the fundraiser, Jewish community leaders, including Meyer and Gurfinkiel, saw the demonstrators and their letters as a genuine threat to their community's further activities.
"We are not protected, we are not taken care of by the police. There is a general feeling in Geneva, this image of being perfectly peaceful. I hope Swiss authorities wake up to the threat and protect their citizens," Meyer said.