The pattern of desecration of Jewish sites, such as
Holocaust memorials, noted since the beginning of the second intifada
continued. Demonization of Israel and the Jews in the media and
by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis also persisted.
the jewish community
The current Jewish population of Greece is estimated at
approximately 5,000 out of a total population of 10 million, 3,000 of whom live
in Athens. The Kentriko Israilitiko Symvoulio (Central Board of Jewish
Communities in Greece – KIS) is the governing body of the Jewish communities.
political organizations and extra-party groups
The nationalist, xenophobic and antisemitic LAOS (Popular
Orthodox Herald) party, won a seat in the June 2004 European Parliamentary
elections. The seat has been taken by George Karatzaferis, leader of the party.
It should be noted that LAOS has joined multi-lateral structures such as
Euro-Parliament’s Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) and the broader Alliance
for Europe of the Nations which also includes Ireland’s Fianna Fail of former
EU president Bertie Ahern, Italy’s Allenza Nazionale and Portugal’s CDS –
Popular Party, as well as Israel’s Likud party.
Chrissi Avgi (Golden Dawn), the main
neo-Nazi organization in Greece, publishes a newspaper under the same name. A few
ultra-nationalist and/or xenophobic publications (newspapers and magazines)
regularly provide a forum for antisemitic views. In addition to Chrissi Avgi and Alpha Ena (the LAOS weekly publication), these include Stochos (traditional extreme right weekly), Orthodoxos Typos (unofficial Greek
Orthodox Church fundamentalist Christian weekly), and Eleftheri Ora and Neoi Anthropoi (daily and weekly owned by Gregory Michalopoulos,
which defends the military junta that ruled Greece, 1967–74). Similarly, radio
programs and national (such as TeleAsty) and local (such as Thessaloniki – also
owned by Karatzaferis) TV channels are regular purveyors of antisemitism. These
have a low audience rating.
The pattern of vandalism of Jewish sites noted since the
outbreak of the second intifada continued in 2003 and the first half of 2004.
In February 2003 swastikas were sprayed on the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki.
In August neo-Nazi symbols and slogans were painted on the walls and doorframe
of the synagogue in Ioannina (Epirus), and two months later the Holocaust
memorial at the cemetery in Ioannina was desecrated with slogans such as “Death
to the Jews” and “Jews Out.” No one was arrested.
The Greek media, as well as Greek composer Mikis
Theodorakis, continued to demonize Israel and Jews (see ASW 2002/3).
At a press conference in November Theodorakis called the Jews “the root of
all evil.” After strong protests from the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece
and the Israeli government, a Greek government spokesman said the Greek
government did not share the composer’s views. Director of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev
described the silence of the ministers of education and culture of the previous
PASOK government (Panhellenic Socialist Movement – which was in office then) who
were present at the press conference as more damaging than Theodorakis’ words.
Some articles and cartoons compared Israeli conduct
to Nazi practices. Following the assassination of Ahmad Yasin in March 2004,
the major dailies Eleftheorotypia and Ta Nea published cartoons
(on 23, 24 and 27 March) depicting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a
butcher in Nazi garb and inferring that the Easter assassination was
reminiscent of the Jews killing Jesus.
In May 2004 Kostas Betinakis, former foreign
editor of Ta Nea, the largest newspaper in Greece, accused Greek Jews of
being puppets of the Israeli government and of censoring criticism of Israeli
policies, which Betinakis labeled “fascist.” His comments were a response to
the letter of protest written by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece
to the Journalists Union about antisemitism in the media, following the series
of cartoons defaming Ariel Sharon. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other
Jewish organizations also sent letters of protest to the Greek government over
antisemitic expressions in the Greek press.
On 19 June a regular columnist in Alpha Ena, the weekly organ of LAOS, wondered why “Jews who are as
numerous as Greeks in the world are sweeping Nobel prizes and world chess
championships.” The article offers various conspiracy theory explanations,
including the claim that “Jews – who used to be shepherds as opposed to Greeks
who were the founders of three empires –stole ancient Greek occult manuscripts
allowing them to be 100 times smarter today.” The writer also referred to the US
as “Zionist dominated.”
Attitudes toward the holocaust and the nazi era
The date 27 January was established by the government as
Memorial Day for Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, following a
unanimous decision of all political parties in the Greek parliament. Over 2,000
people attended a ceremony held in the Athens Music Hall inaugurating the day.
The exhibition “Anne Frank, A History for Today,” of the
Anne Frank House of Holland was shown in Ioannina (Epirus) from February 2003
and in Preveza (Epirus) from April 2003.
On 27 October 2003, Greek President Konstantinos Stefanopoulos unveiled a monument in Thessaloniki in honor of
Greek Jewish soldiers who were killed during the 1940–41 Greek-Italian War. Three
days later, another monument was unveiled in Larissa (Thessaly) in honor of
Greek Jewish soldiers killed during the same war.
After laying a wreath at the
Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, on 29 May 2003, Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew condemned the extermination of the city’s 50,000 Jews in World War
II. He was declared an honorary member of the Thessaloniki Jewish community.
responses to antisemitism
In a letter to the World Jewish Congress in mid-November 2003,
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou criticized the terrorist attacks on
two Jewish synagogues in Istanbul and expressed his condolences to the bereaved
families. He said he planned to set up a commission of Jews and non-Jews to
follow up antisemitic incidents and suggest means to combat them.