The Swiss Caller

I’m not a full-time professional writer. I own a small business that develops Web sites. We have varied clients: Some are businesses, others non-profit institutions; all have a tie to Israel. We have helped Jews around the world, working with the organized Jewish communities in India, the Former Soviet Union, Canada, Israel and the United States, as well as others. We have also served businesses and organizations run by Jews who are happy get valuable services from us while supporting an Israeli business.

One morning this past month as I was sorting through the e-mails that had arrived overnight, I was drawn to an inquiry we received from a man in Geneva, Switzerland. He identified himself as being “Jewish and very Zionist” and asked me to contact him by phone or e-mail. He said that it was urgent. In addition to the request that came in by e-mail, he had left a phone message. We don’t get many urgent phone calls from Europe so I picked up the phone and called Switzerland.

My potential client immediately offered to call me back. It was clear that he was a generous supporter of Israel.

He explained that he was involved in several French-language Web sites established to promote discussions and political advocacy opposing what they see as the European Union’s pro-Arab policies and in particular the anti-American and anti-Israel policies of France and Belgium. He also told me that their struggle is tied to combating the passivity of European governments in the face of the growing wave of European anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitism in France especially, he told me, is increasingly accepted as legitimate and is being actively incited by left-wing political parties and Muslims. Even one of the leaders of the environmentalist Green Party had been shouting pro-Hamas slogans at a televised rally recently, he told me, asking what Hamas had to do with the Greens.

The men who contacted me, a group of retirees who had thought to use the Internet as a way to promote discussion and awareness, were scared and desperate for help. They had received threats. The man I spoke with was the only Jew among them. He was chosen to find a solution for their current problem because he was the only one who knew English and so he could easily communicate with people around the world. It was obvious to them that they needed help from someone outside of the French-speaking world.

Through the public records available, Islamic extremists had found out who owned these sites and had published their personal information on French Islamic Web sites. In the wake of this they and their children had received messages from Islamic extremists threatening them with death unless they shut down these sites. The police did not take these threats seriously, but the members of this group of older men did. Hackers had already broken into their Web sites and posted messages in their discussion forums. They didn’t want to wait until more threats were carried out against them or their children.

As I heard the Swiss-accented voice on the other end of the phone tell me more stories of European anti-Semitism and the alliance between Europeans and Islamic extremists, I could not help but remember my own European roots and the anti-Semitism that brought my family to America. As I listened to the ominous and familiar warning that Jews outside of Europe do not appreciate what is going on there, the watchwords that had been ingrained into me as a child echoed in my mind, “Never Again.”

I don’t usually have the opportunity to save someone’s life in my line of work so we made this project a priority and in less than a day, we devised a plan that would solve the Internet security needs and allow the families who had received threats to disassociate themselves with the Internet sites. In the meantime funding for the project was secured in Geneva.

As I thought about it, I realized that in recent months there has been a noticeable increase in the number of French immigrants to Israel. While here, in Jerusalem, we live under a constant death threat, we do so as a majority in our own country and from a position of strength. It is different than Jews in the Diaspora who encounter anti-Semitism.

Growing up in a non-Jewish neighborhood, I quickly learned that I was in the minority and that my personal safety was dependent upon the mood of the crowd that could easily turn inhospitable, even hostile. I often had to look over my shoulder and more than once I had school yard fights that started with anti-Semitic slurs. I learned to sense the mood of the crowd for my own safety.

The prevailing climate in Europe today is very bad for Jews. I can feel it all the way in Jerusalem. Despite our proposal, the owner of the Web sites was too afraid and decided to close down the French Web sites he had started.

I received this news the day after the bus 14 bombing which killed seventeen people in downtown Jerusalem.

It was a successful day for terrorism.