Where Ignazio Cassis is wrong
© 2023 FdR / NAEL GHABOUN
In today's Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis writes an article entitled: 'After 7 October there is no room for anti-Semitism in Switzerland'. He is absolutely right. But he is wrong about everything else.
Let's start by saying where Federal Councillor Cassis is right: "Für Antisemitismus hat es in der Schweiz keinen Platz". In the sense that Switzerland and its institutions, and also a good portion of its population, do not tolerate anti-Semitism, i.e. no form of violence, physical or verbal, against Jews, whether they are resident in the country or not.
Ignazio Cassis is also right in recalling the tragic 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht. 'Nie wieder', i.e. Never again, cannot just be an empty formula: it must embody an individual and collective attitude.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis errs, however, by reserving, in his article, less than one line for what the population of the Gaza Strip is suffering: 'Auch das Leid der Palästinenser darf nicht verdrängt werden' (Not even the suffering of the Palestinians is to be removed).
The minister uses a technical term from psychoanalysis for the occasion: removal. There was room, and pour cause, for another word, which he uses elsewhere in his text: the word memory. He could therefore have written, much more explicitly and courageously, that the suffering of Palestinian civilians, on this particular occasion at least, should also be remembered.
The fact that the Federal Councillor explains that Switzerland has decided to increase the aid 'for the many victims in the region' ('für die zahlreiche Opfer in der gesamten Region') to 90 million francs only makes this allusion more ambiguous: why not call the children, women, non-combatant men and the elderly who are dying under Israeli bombs in Gaza harmless Palestinian civilians?
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis is wrong in not giving any space in his article to the plea for a cease-fire in the Strip. A Swiss foreign minister has a duty to do so, to call for, to demand a ceasefire, in the face of the images and news reaching us.
And, finally, it is wrong of Ignazio Cassis to suggest, ambiguously and across the board, that any attempt to apply critical reason to the reality since the 7 October massacre by Hamas and Israel's subsequent military offensive on the Gaza Strip is in the odour of anti-Semitism.
It is not, Minister.
I can assure you of this, having lived and worked as a reporter many and many years in Israel, and for having spent whole nights talking about this with my Israeli colleagues. We always had unfiltered and heated, even fiery discussions. Controversy is like that: this is what my years with the Israelis have taught me, and for that I thank them.
Today, however, we are still friends.
The article by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis has meanwhile also been published in Italian, with the same shortcomings as the original German version. Listen to the updates from Gaza by Faccia da Reporter.
10 November Update // Nael Ghaboun, in a message he sends us from Gaza, writes: 'It's a tragedy'. Thousands of Gaza residents left Gaza City today on their way to the south of the Strip. 'No one,' adds Nael, 'will be able to take care of them. Where will they settle, where will they sleep?".
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