Report by Helene Briskman
Director B’nai B’rith UK London Bureau of International Affairs

Some members may have read about Switzerland convening the signatories to the 4th Geneva Convention
(on the rules of war) to censure Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

The 4th Geneva Convention was
adopted in 1949 by the international community in response to Nazi atrocities during World War II. The international treaty governs the treatment of civilians during wartime, including hostages, diplomats, spies, bystanders and civilians in territory under military occupation. The convention outlaws torture, collective punishment and the resettlement by an occupying power of its own civilians on territory under its military control.

Switzerland is the Depository for the Fourth Geneva Convention. This means that the Swiss are technically responsible for organizing and convening a meeting of the signatory nations. However, the Swiss may only convene the meeting if a majority of the signatory nations agree to do so.

Since 1997, the Arab group at the United Nations has been trying to invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention against Israel, claiming that it applies to settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as to Israeli building projects in East Jerusalem.

This has happened previously  in 1999 and 2001.

So far US, Canada and Australia are boycotting this.
Please read the letter, below, sent from BBI to H.E. the Swiss Ambassador to the USA.

HE Martin Dahinden Swiss Ambassador

December 15, 2014

H.E. Martin Dahinden Ambassador
Embassy of Switzerland 2900 Cathedral Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20008

Dear Ambassador Dahinden:

We write on behalf of B’nai B’rith International – the world’s oldest Jewish communal and humanitarian organization, headquartered in Washington but present in over 50 countries, including Switzerland – to convey our dismay over the decision by the Swiss government to convene the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions for the purpose of singling out one state, Israel, for negative scrutiny.

As depositor of the Conventions, Switzerland is obliged to execute this function responsibly and impartially. However, over the course of over half a century, the state parties to the Conventions have exclusively been convened to focus on Israel, a small democracy struggling against violent extremists sworn to its very destruction and to the indiscriminate targeting of its citizens.

Indeed, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority – currently partnering with the terrorist movement Hamas – has openly pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict with Israel, exploiting world forums as a political tool rather than engaging meaningfully in bilateral negotiations and compromise. Your government’s acquiescence to demands to leverage the weight of the Geneva Conventions against Israel serves not to advance peace and reconciliation but only to further exacerbate tensions and incentivize a Palestinian posture of provocation, confrontation and obstinacy.

Switzerland’s complicity in this patent mistreatment of Israel – in stark contrast with the treatment of those engaged in the most grave and systematic human rights violations globally – represents injury to our world’s fundamental human rights architecture. Much more is to be expected of the depositor of the Geneva Conventions.


Allan J. Jacobs

Daniel S. Mariaschin
Executive Vice President