By: Imogen Foulkes

Photo: Haaretz

Swiss police have opened an investigation into a ski hire shop’s announcement it would no longer rent skis and sledges to Jewish customers. The shop, in the famous resort of Davos, has now reversed its decision.

It has taken down the signs, translated into Hebrew, which informed customers of the ban. But many have argued the case is a clear violation of Switzerland’s laws against discrimination and incitement to racial or religious hatred.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities has launched its own legal action, condemning the signs as clearly discriminatory.

Posters in the sports shop window informed customers that, because of incidents, including theft, “we no longer rent sports equipment to our Jewish brothers”.

The shop in question, part of the Pischa mountain restaurant, said in an initial statement that equipment was often not being returned, and its staff no longer wanted “the hassle” of scouring the mountain sides trying to find abandoned sledges.

But just 24 hours after putting the posters up, they were taken down after a storm of protest. Davos Mayor Philipp Wilhelm told Swiss media: “Any and all forms of antisemitism, racism and discrimination must be condemned. This does not belong in Davos.”

The manager of the shop has apologised, agreeing that the poster had been “badly worded”. Jewish customers were welcome, he said, with immediate effect.

But Swiss anti-racism groups point out that targeting an entire racial, religious or ethnic group because of the alleged bad behaviour of a few is more serious than clumsy wording; in fact it’s a classic sign of racism and discrimination.

A better way to prevent theft and damage, they say, would be to do what many ski hire shops already do: take an ID and a credit card from customers.

It is also not the first time Davos, home to the annual World Economic Forum, has been mired in difficulties with its Jewish visitors. The resort has become popular with Israel’s Orthodox Jewish community, which has been visiting in growing numbers, and the head of the tourist board said there had been cases of guests behaving disrespectfully towards their hosts.

A taskforce was set up recently to address perceived tensions between the tourists and the hosts, with agreement on both sides that there had been difficulties.

But with rising incidences of antisemitism across Europe in the wake of the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel and the war in Gaza, the ski hire shop’s blunder looks, to many, not just stupid, but racist.

After all, Swiss resorts, Davos among them, have over the years hosted large groups of whom some may not have behaved impeccably.

From Russian oligarchs and oil magnates from the Gulf states to young Zurich bankers noted for their wild partying and cocaine habits, or British package holiday makers, with their propensity to partake, loudly, in après-ski fun all night long.

None, it seems, have been specifically targeted the way the Pischa ski hire shop targeted its Jewish customers.


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