Swiss ski shop in hot water over sign refusing rentals to Jews

Jewish group denounces Hebrew message hung near Davos denying Jews equipment after ‘annoying incidents, including the theft of a sled’; regional police probing incident

Snow covers the hills around Davos, Switzerland, on January 19, 2020. (AP Photo/ Markus Schreiber, File)
Snow covers the hills around Davos, Switzerland, on January 19, 2020. (AP Photo/ Markus Schreiber, File)

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) — Switzerland’s main Jewish organization on Monday denounced an antisemitic sign put up at a local ski shop near Davos, barring Jews from renting equipment from the store. Regional police opened an investigation.

The sign on Pischa Mountain above Davos, a town known for hosting the annual World Economic Forum meeting of global elites each January, said the shop would no longer rent gear such as sleds, skis, and snowshoes to “our Jewish brothers” after a series of “very annoying incidents” — including the theft of a sled.

The message, written in Hebrew, appeared to be directed at Israeli Jews who have been traveling to Davos in growing numbers in recent years — both for summertime and wintertime holiday getaways.

Police in the eastern Graubünden canton, or region, said in an email that they have opened an investigation for possible criminal violation of Swiss law banning discrimination and incitement to hatred.

The owners of the store could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Davos tourism agency declined to immediately comment when contacted by The Associated Press, but said a response would be forthcoming by email.

“After a series of annoying incidents, including the theft of a sled, we are no longer renting out sporting equipment to our Jewish brothers,” said the sign, put on a window at a counter with helmets sitting on a shelf in the back.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities condemned the incident, which was reported in Swiss media after a social media post from Zurich city councilor Jehuda Spielman on Sunday.

“The poster is undisputedly discriminatory,” said Jonathan Kreutner, the federation’s secretary-general, in an email. “That shocks me. This really is a new level of audacity.”

“This is antisemitism,” he later said over the phone. “An entire group of guests is being collectively labeled because of their appearance and origin.”

Kreutner initially said the federation planned legal action for alleged violation of Swiss anti-racism laws, but said it would likely defer to a regional prosecutor who was looking into the matter.

The incident comes against a backdrop of rising antisemitism across Europe and beyond, largely in connection with the war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacres, which saw thousands of terrorists burst into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping over 250 people, mostly civilians.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, and launched a military campaign that Gaza health authorities say has killed over 28,000 Palestinians since the war began over four months ago. The figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Protesters attend a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas, near the United Nations office in Geneva, on October 22, 2023. (Gabriel MONNET / AFP)

Kreutner also noted an increasing number of Jewish guests in Davos over the years, which indicated they “clearly feel very comfortable” and welcome in Davos.

“However, there are obviously others who have a completely different attitude towards Jewish guests,” he said, acknowledging that “it is obvious that there is a lot going wrong here.”

Reto Branschi, the head of the Davos tourism agency, was quoted in the local Davos Zeitung newspaper last year as saying that some of the resort’s Jewish patrons “clearly have difficulty accepting and respecting the rules of living together here.”

He cited issues of littering, and said such rules are “unfortunately not adhered to, especially by Orthodox Jews.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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