Those Self-righteous Swiss

The New Republic

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THE SPINE OCTOBER 22, 2007

Those Self-righteous Swiss

On Sunday, the Associated Press carried a dispatch about the controversy surrounding the campaign of the Swiss People's Party and its zillionaire leader Christian Blocher against allowing more immigrants into Switzerland. The party says that it is only against expelling foreigners who are criminals. But there is every good reason to suspect their honesty. On the other hand, critics of Blocher and of his party say that the "opposition to foreigners runs counter to Switzerland's humanitarian tradition as founder of the Red Cross and refuge for the persecuted." I wonder which "persecuted" these self-righteous Swiss mean.

Do you remember the response to Jewish and other refugees trying to escape from Nazism before and during World War II? The response from land-locked Switzerland was that "the boat is full." Traditionally, the Swiss took refugees only when they brought oodles of cash and credits with them. And those who smuggled themselves in they incarcerated or sent back.

That hard line may have now eased a bit. But it isn't as if Switzerland is a destination refuge for the tormented of Darfur or Somalia or even from war-torn Iraq.

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