The Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) has released the results of a survey that examines Swiss Jews’ perceptions of antisemitism that a slight majority of Swiss Jews (51.5%) believe that antisemitism is a pressing social problem, and a strong majority (75%) believe that the problem has worsened over the past five years. Nearly half of the respondents said they had witnessed threats or insults to other Jews online.
The survey, which was carried out online last January and February, is the first of its kind in 12 years.
The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG), an affiliate of the WJC, said in response to the statement: “The study largely confirms previous findings on antisemitism in Switzerland and also reveals existing blind spots in the analyses. Antisemitism is real in Switzerland, although it manifests itself less dramatically than in other European countries.”
Sense of security and avoidance behavior
The fear of antisemitism has affected the sense of security of Swiss Jews, with approximately one-third of those surveyed stating that they occasionally avoid events or locations due to fear of experiencing antisemitism. In addition, 14% of participants said they feared being victims of physical assault, and some 20% said they feared being a victim of a verbal threat or insult on the internet or outside the home.
Surprisingly, respondents under 44 years old were more likely than older respondents to say that they avoid areas due to security concerns, with 40% confirming this pattern of behavior. Analyzing that finding, Professor Dirk Baier, who oversaw the study, suggested that it may be due to the fact that younger Jews are “more likely to report being victims of antisemitic incidents.”
“But this also contradicts the classic ’fear paradox,’ according to which older people practice avoidance more often, although they are generally less exposed to dangers,” he added.
Jews who were clearly identifiable as Jewish were significantly more likely than Jews who aren’t clearly identifiable as Jewish to report similar fears. Of the latter, only 6.5% said they feared that they would be victims of verbal abuse, compared to 40% of Jews who were clearly identifiable as Jewish. Further surveys would be needed to determine whether this avoidance behavior is caused by recognizability.
Swiss Jews feel safer than European Jews
One aim of the study was to compare the perceptions of Swiss Jews with the perception of Europeans polled in a similar study conducted by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in 2018. Compared to their European counterparts, Swiss Jews feel safer than and are victims of antisemitic attacks less frequently. Antisemitic assaults, vandalism and rhetoric are also between 30% and 40% higher in the European Union. European Jews were also more likely to fear being assaulted and avoid areas in which they may be assaulted.