Anti-Israel feeling revived and escalated in Greece with the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War and was accompanied by antisemitic references
made by political analysts and politicians.
the jewish community
The current Jewish population of Greece is estimated at
approximately 5,000 out of a total population of 10 million. There are eight
active communities, the main ones being Athens (3,000), Thessaloniki and
Larissa, where there are synagogues, Jewish primary schools, cultural centers,
museums and homes for the aged. The Kentriko Israilitiko Symvoulio (Central
Board of Jewish Communities in Greece - KIS) is the governing body of Jewish
communities. Jewish periodicals and books are published by the Board, the Athens and Thessaloniki communities and the Jewish Museum of Greece.
antisemitic activity and political organizations
Anti-Israel feeling, which
intensified in Greece in 2002 and 2003, during the second intifada, but which
subsided over the next two years, revived and escalated with the outbreak of
the war between Israel and the Hizballah. Some MPs, as well as political
analysts, made anti-Israel statements laced with antisemitic references (see
below). Nevertheless, no serious antisemitic incidents occurred during this
period. In August, a banner with a swastika was
placed on the Holocaust monument of Drama, where no Jewish community has
existed since the end of WWII.
Some leading media organs
promoted the image of Israel as a Nazi state, which was attacking unarmed,
helpless people in South Lebanon; Hizballah combatants were often described as
'freedom fighters' and 'resistance groups'; and antisemitic references, as well
as comparisons with the Holocaust, were common. For
example: "The bottom line is that the attitude of Israeli hawks, senior rabbis
and the capitalists of Zionism is not surprising. They have always acted like
that, defending their racist ideas about 'supremacy' and about being the
'chosen people' (Antonis Sanoudakis, daily Ta nea, 11 Aug.); "I write
this with pain. The mentality of the Israeli leadership is no different from
the Nazi mentality. It is no different from al-Qa`ida's mentality" (Richardos
Someritis, "Unfortunately Sharon Lives!" daily To Vima, 4 July); and "It
is unconceivable that Jews, who suffered the greatest genocide of the century,
tolerate such practices. They are not permitted to act like Goliath" (Stavros
Lygeros, daily Kathimerini, 7 July). However, several well-known
columnists, such as Tilemahos Maratos and Thanassis Papandropoulos, in the daily
Estia; Pashos Mandravelis, Antonis Karkagiannis, Giorgos Malouhos, and
Amanda Michalopoulou, in the daily Kathimerini; Giorgos Karipidis, Nikos
Kotzias and Andreas Andrianopoulos, in Imerissia; and Giannis
Pretenderis and Giannis Marinos, in To Vima supported Israel's right to
During an official event marking the
32nd anniversary of the re-establishment of democracy in Greece (July 24),
Greek President Karolos Papoulias said "Greek public opinion" was "shocked by
the undeclared war against Lebanon", and that "after WWII, the world believed
that the logic of collective punishment would never return."
The main opposition party
PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) placed the onus of responsibility for
the war on Israel. Antisemitic statements and comparisons with the Holocaust
were made by several PASOK politicians, such as MEP Nikolaos Syfounakis and MP
Kimon Koulouris, as well as by former Vice President of the Greek Parliament Panagiotis
Kritikos. The Greek Communist Party issued an announcement condemning Israel's "imperialistic and gangster-like attack against the Palestinians and Lebanon." The left-wing Synaspismos party also condemned Israel. Synaspismos member Manolis
Glezos, a popular Greek figure (because of his role in the Resistance during
the German occupation), declared that "Israel has adopted and applied Hitler's
While MEP George
Karatzaferis, leader of the xenophobic far right LAOS (Popular Orthodox Herald)
party (see ASW
2005), made no public statements, the party's weekly A1 accused
Israel of genocide of the Lebanese people. An editorial dated 15 July claimed:
"If the Jews continue this way they will overtake Hitler's number of victims."
demonstrations, organized mainly by left-wing parties and worker's unions, took
place in Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek cities. During a protest in
Thessaloniki on 1 August organized by the Workers Fighting Front (PAME),
affiliated to the Greek Communist Party, demonstrators attempted to approach
the Holocaust monument, in order to place on it photographs of Israeli
'atrocities' in Lebanon. The police did not allow the crowd near the memorial.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos issued a statement on 23 July, saying, inter alia:
"Israel's right to self-defense has crossed the line of logic. Our Christian
conscience protests. Do not provoke our conscience. Do not feed the world's
condemnation against you. It's not in your best interest. Do not play with God.
There exists a just God, retributive. Fear his wrath."
Earlier in the year, graffiti and
swastikas appeared, in February, on the synagogue of Veroia, which was recently
restored as a monument (in Veroia, too, no Jewish community has existed since
the end of WWII), while graffiti reading "Jews out," signed by the neo-Nazi
group Chrissi Avghi, continued to appear on the Athens-Corinth highway, despite
repeated erasures (see also ASW 2005).
In January 2006 the book The Jews: The
Whole Truth, by well-known Holocaust denier Kostas Plevris was published.
The book was advertised by the far right weekly Eleftheros Kosmos and by
related TV channels. The 1,400 pages are full of praise for Nazism, promote
every kind of antisemitic stereotype and claim The Protocols of the Elders
of Zion are authentic. Legal action against Plevris has been taken by the Greek
Helsinki Monitor and the Board for inciting racial hatred.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST
January 27 was established by law in
2004 as the Memorial Day for Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust.
On 30 January, a commemoration ceremony was held at the Athens Concert Hall,
organized by the KIS board and the Athens prefecture. The key speaker was
Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, president of the Fondation pour la Memoire de la Shoah, and formerly a French minister and first president of the European
Parliament. The event was attended by the president of the republic, the
speaker of the Parliament, government representatives and party members.
In January, the
340-page volume The Holocaust of the Greek Jewry - Monuments and Memories,
sponsored by the General Secretariat for Youth of the Education Ministry, was
published by the KIS board. It was distributed to school libraries. The book
(bilingual -with Greek and English texts) was presented at special events in Athens (March) and in Washington DC (June).
In October, the
third seminar for teachers and educators was held in Athens on the subject of
"Teaching the Holocaust in Greece." Organized by the Jewish Museum of Greece,
it was held under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Education.