You have to set the project up for J2SDK 1.4 or greater. The default is 1.3, which predates the addition of assertions.
If you select the project properties dialog, click on the "Java Compiler" topic and then select the "Compiler compliance" tab, you'll see options. You need to pick 1.4 or greater for both source and class file compatibility.
Note that this doesn't affect Ant Scripts, where you have to add the 'source="1.4"' option on the javac task or the interactive Java compiler in Eclipse will handle asserts properly (assuming you did the above) but batch compiles using your Ant file (if present) won't.
The secret of how to be miserable is to constantly expect things are going to happen the way that they are "supposed" to happen.
You can have faith, which carries the understanding that you may be disappointed. Then there's being a willfully-blind idiot, which virtually guarantees it.