Jewish groups blast Swiss anti-Islam referendum

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Several Jewish groups don’t care much for Switzerland’s new crackdown on Islam.

This week Swiss voters approved a referendum banning the construction of minarets. The measure was pushed by the right-wing Swiss Peoples party, and passed by a surprisingly strong 57 percent majority.

Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were quick to condemn the vote.

“On November 29, the Swiss Muslim community fell victim to a populist political campaign of religious intolerance, led by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP),” they said in a statement.

Noting that the “Swiss government opposed the initiative during the campaign and underscored its commitment to religious freedom in a statement after the vote,” the Jewish civil rights group urged Swiss leaders to “be vigilant” in their “defense of religious freedom, even though the SVP is the largest party in the Swiss Parliament and has two of the seven government ministries.”

Sounds like an uphill fight to me.

And the ADL connected the anti-minaret vote to Jewish religious freedom.

“This is not the first time a Swiss popular vote has been used to promote religious intolerance.  A century ago, a Swiss referendum banned Jewish ritual slaughter in an attempt to drive out its Jewish population.”

The American Jewish Committee’s David Harris echoed those sentiments, saying “The referendum result amounts to an attack on the fundamental values of mutual respect. While there are certainly understandable concerns in Europe over Islamist extremism, these cannot be legitimately addressed through a blanket assault on Muslim communities and their religious symbols.”

Like ADL leaders, Harris was obviously thinking about the impact of the decision on other religious minorities – including Jews.

“For the Swiss People’s Party, as for all far right parties in Europe, any group that is different in terms of its appearance or its language or its cultural or religious traditions is regarded as a target,” Harris said. “We stand firmly against these rabble-rousing politics in the name of pluralism and democracy.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.