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A central topic missing in the news is rising antisemitism

Press roundup from Switzerland, November 6, 2023

By Roselise Guggenheim

What’s being said

The front page of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) reports on a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who says he believes that only a two-state solution, with President Abbas responsible for Gaza, can bring peace. Abbas agrees under the additional condition that the West Bank and East Jerusalem also come under his control. Egypt and Jordan view such statements as premature. They call for a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons. Prime Minister Netanyahu opposes a ceasefire. Rumors of the relocation of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt and threats of using nuclear weapons were decisively denied by Netanyahu.

News outlets discuss the legitimacy of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, which influences millions of viewers in Arab states, Africa, and the West, and broadcasts in both English and Arabic. Writing in the NZZ, Lucien Scherrer asks, "how is it possible that Al Jazeera is still glorified as a 'normal broadcaster' in the West?" Also SRF criticize Al Jazeera for its biased and false news regarding the terrorist attack on Israelis on October 7. According to them, Al Jazeera’s independence has long been questioned due to Qatari ownership.

A further topic mentioned in the NZZ is a motion that would ban Nazi symbols from public display. The news questions the legislation, saying it is too lenient. Some National Councilors advocate for the implementation of greater legal measures, while some experts, including the Federal Council, do not see an expansion of criminal measures as appropriate. They believe that defining punishable symbols is difficult and consider the interpretation of symbols problematic.

There are reports of a rise of Islamists in Germany and England and how the government is hesitant to react. The demonstrations and rallies underline the presence of Islamic ideology. For example, in Essen, protesters demand the establishment of a caliphate, to which Minister of the Interior Nancy Fieser reacts with hesitation.

NZZ also discusses the uncertain situation of what they call liberal Arab populations. The Lebanese people are caught between fronts. If Hezbollah wins in the north, it will become the “protector of Lebanon,” giving them legitimacy. In the opposite case, Lebanon will be “bombed back to the Stone Age,” leaving the people with a broken economy and infrastructure. Furthermore, Christian Arabs fear a replay of the bitter memories of the Lebanese Civil War, during which Lebanese militias particularly targeted Christians.

Reports also cover stories of Israelis who have fled Israel in light of the war. These Israelis talk about finding safety in Switzerland—and now wonder if they should have stayed in Israel.

What’s not being said

A central topic missing in the news is rising antisemitism, including in Switzerland. For example, Jewish people were harassed at a large-scale pro-Palestinian demonstration that took place in Bern with hate speech. And antisemitic graffiti and swastikas are found on buildings and streets in Zurich. But these events are granted limited exposure.

What we think

We are worried by three main points about news coverage of the Middle East and Israel.

First, the difficult images from Gaza and Israeli bombardments of buildings and areas used by Hamas lead even moderate groups and individuals to be incited to hate-orgies against Israel. And while the origin of this war is mentioned as Hamas’s “brutal terrorist attack,” the lack of images of the suffering of Israeli hostages, or images of how Hamas uses civilian infrastructure for its terrorist activities, leads public opinion to align with Hamas’s propaganda.

Second, Al Jazeera’s rampant antisemitism and hate-filled anti-Jewish agitation, which influences millions of people, must be emphasized more strongly. As Israel is accused of genocide, calls for a genocide of Israel and Jews could very soon ignite a global conflagration. Though there is debate about Al Jazeera’s independence, they are not yet completely dismissed as a news source.

Third, Europeans seem to be unaware of the internal dangers to their own societies. NZZ article on the demonstration in Essen, Germany, openly calling for the establishment of a caliphate appeared in small print. This kind of extremism endangers democracies and free-thinkers across Europe, and it should be more prominently featured.

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