ZURICH (Jul. 6)
A right-wing party in Switzerland has called for an immediate boycott of “American and Jewish goods, restaurants and travel destinations.”
The call by the Swiss Democratic Party came in the wake of a decision last week by U.S. public finance officials to lift a moratorium on sanctions against Switzerland’s leading commercial banks after negotiations to settle claims over Holocaust-era bank deposits reached an impasse.
Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, Yitzhak Mayer, lambasted the boycott call, describing it as more than an “inexcusable verbal escalation.”
The call hearkens back to the “broken windows of Jewish shops” that took place when the Nazis rose to power and that were the “prologue to the tragedy of the Holocaust,” Mayer said.
“Who can say what echoes this call will have” among the Swiss public, Mayer added.
At the request of a local Jew, Zurich police launched a criminal investigation of the president of the Swiss Democrats, Rudolf Keller, who called for the boycott.
The Swiss Democrats are a relatively small party, but they are represented in the Swiss Parliament.
Swiss President Flavio Cotti refused to condemn the boycott call as anti- Semitic, saying only that boycotts were a poor way to resolve the ongoing dispute regarding Holocaust-era assets.
“Boycotts are the wrong way to solve problems. It does not make any difference if such calls come from the United States or Switzerland,” Cotti said.
Thomas Lyssy, vice president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland, charged that Cotti had “again missed the opportunity to condemn very clearly the anti-Semitism in this country.”
He added that the boycott call against Jewish businesses represented a violation of Swiss laws and that the Jewish community had expected “stronger words” from Cotti to condemn it.
An adviser to Cotti who wanted to remain anonymous admitted Sunday that a “much stronger text” lashing out at the boycott call had been recommended to Cotti, but that he had rejected it.
Meanwhile, shareholders in Credit Suisse, one of the Swiss banks that failed to reach a settlement with representatives of survivors over Holocaust-era claims before a July 1 deadline, said they plan to file a lawsuit against New York City and New York State.
New York officials said last week said they would impose sanctions on the banks on Sept. 1 if a settlement of Holocaust-era claims is not reached by then.