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Minority rights group – greece (mrg-g) Address: P. O. Box 60820, gr-15304 Glyka Nera


GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM)


MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP – GREECE (MRG-G)

Address:

P.O. Box 60820, GR-15304 Glyka Nera

Telephone:

(+30) 210.347.22.59.

Fax:

(+30) 210.601.87.60.

ANTI-SEMITISM IN GREECE

A CURRENT PICTURE: 2001-2002


November 2002

The sorrowful events that have occurred during the last months in the Middle East region … created the opportunity (or the pretext) for the resurfacing of feelings and attitudes (if not doctrines) that some people had managed to keep well covered in the depths of their souls. The outrageous anti-Semitism of some people, even if few, has been manifested today under the pretext of the condemnation of the defensive military operations of the State of Israel...

We focus on all the anti-Semitic expressions, the inadmissible vilification of the -unique in the history of the Mankind- Holocaust of 6 million Jews, in an attempt to equate this with the “genocides” or other expressions –without realizing the seriousness of their meaning– that have been used as counter-balance to the Holocaust…

In this climate of, to say the least, hysteria and anti-Semitism, directed by various political and other propagandas, which prevailed in Greece, there were individual consciences that were opposed to it: persons who made use of their reason, the objectivity of historical facts, their memory and judgment. Voices that dared (because it took indeed courage when the unwise propaganda monologue prevailed) express a different opinion, to point out the dangerous effects of an extreme anti-Semitism and where this could lead...

Excerpts from “The ‘other reason’ for self-consciousness”, editorial in the July-August 2002 issue of “

Hronika

”, Organ of the

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

(KIS)

Introduction


This report documents anti-Semitism in Greece from January 2001 through June 2002, partially updated through October 2002, primarily on the basis of material published in the mainstream Greek press. Although some background and references to incidents prior to January 2001 are included, the aim of this report is to portray the current picture of anti-Semitism, rather than chart its history or analyze its roots. It is important to note, however, that, specific events aside, the picture and trends have remained essentially unchanged for at least the past two decades. GHM and MRG-G have published material on this topic available at http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/special-issues-antisemitism.html (English) and http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/greek/special_issues/antisemitism.html (Greek).1

A fundamental obstacle to counteracting anti-Semitism in Greece is that its existence is systematically denied or ignored. Efforts to expose it are met with resistance, sometimes even from the Jewish community itself. Intellectuals and progressives routinely justify and disavow anti-Semitic discourse as political or scholarly “anti-Zionist” analysis. Jews are not perceived as a “vulnerable” or “minority” group, per se – just the opposite, in fact. Elaborate conspiracy theories involving Jewish or “Zionist Lobbies” with designs on Greece are promulgated as proof of Jewish omnipotence and an ongoing threat to the territorial, spiritual and cultural integrity of the Greek nation. The identification of all Jews with Israelis is further facilitated by the fact that in the Greek language, the words “Israeli” (Israelinos) and “Israelite” (Israelitis) are often – and often conveniently – confused.

The Greek government has yet to take a strong and consistent stand against anti-Semitism. Even extreme anti-Semitic views openly expressed by Orthodox clergy members, politicians, factions, cultural icons, and journalists pass without comment. Attacks on Jewish monuments and property receive little if any attention in the media and faint condemnation by the political and spiritual leadership. Of course, many members of Greek society find these acts disturbing. Yet the prevailing tendency is to compare them to the larger-scale anti-Semitic violence elsewhere in Europe, and judge them to be inconsequential or at least not a serious threat. There is no public discussion of the broader implications of these incidents and the culprits are never named, apprehended or brought to justice. Because anti-Semitism is a non-issue, no internal or external pressure is exerted to modify media portrayals or alter public opinion, as is the case with other forms of racism. Deeply entrenched, anti-Semitism continues to be tolerated if not condoned by all facets of Greece society.

Everyday Manifestations



Traditional negative Jewish stereotypes abound in Greek culture. An EU-funded Lambrakis Research Foundation 1993 survey showed that 57% of Greeks have an aversion to Jews.2 Anti-Semitic remarks or “observations” are voiced in causal conversations on all levels of society and in the mainstream press and electronic media. Often visitors to Greece, including those of Greek origin, are shocked by what they hear.

Characteristically, a woman writes to the weekly

Athens News

(16/3/01), “I am Jewish and I have never encountered so much racism as I have in Greece. In Mykonos last year, a taxi driver – on discovering that my husband was in the shampoo business in Eastern Europe (and of course not realizing that we were Jewish) – said ‘if they have Jews there, you could kill them and make them into soap for your shampoo business’. (…) We have found the same, be it with a taxi driver, dentist, businessmen etc.”3

In his essay titled

“Why Not a Greek ‘Mala’?”

George Gedeon, a Canadian news and current affairs video editor of Greek (non-Jewish) descent, describes a spectrum of chance anti-Semitic encounters he had during one brief stay in Greece: “In my hotel room, I was astounded to witness three separate channels passionately discuss the perennial “Judeo-Masonic conspiracy”! I watched in horror as a politician, historians, hosts and viewers joined in orgiastic anti-Jewish discussions and promotion of literature worthy of Joseph Goebbels. This apparently they do regularly and without much opposition!”4

Overt anti-Semitic forums are provided in ultra-nationalist, and/or religious, and/or xenophobic newspapers usually on the right. They include newspapers with small circulation like

Chryssi Avghi

(weekly published by the neo-Nazi organization of the same name),

Stochos

(traditional extreme right weekly),

Orthodoxos Typos

(fundamentalist

Orthodox Christian weekly),

Eleftheri Ora

and

Neoi Anthropoi

(daily and weekly owned by

Gregory Michalopoulos

, leader of the extreme-right and military junta apologist National Alliance party, and also host of a program in TV

Polis

, successor of

Tele Tora

owned by him and sold to the owner of the country’s third in audience TV channel

Alpha

). They also include newspapers with large circulations like

Hora

(pro-conservative opposition daily, with average sales of 11,000 in August 2002 with the largest daily selling 92,000),

and

Alpha Ena

(weekly owned by highly vocal anti-Semite George Karatzaferis, elected member of parliament in the conservative opposition New Democracy ticket and now leader of the ultra-nationalist People’s Orthodox Rally –LAOS- party, with average sales of 20,000 in August 2002). Finally, they include a plethora of magazines

.

Anti-Semitic propaganda is also regularly broadcast on radio programs, and on the TV channels

TeleAsty

(national channel also owned by George Karatzaferis) as well as inter alia in local TV channels in Thessaloniki –some of the latter’s programs are also broadcast by a local Patras channel.

Under the most benign conditions media tend to point out Jewishness. For instance, a movie reviewer for

Athinorama

(23/1/01), the weekly culture and entertainment guide to Athens, writes about “a multinational film, with Jewish-American producers,” but doesn’t mention the religions of the film’s other Swedish, French and American participants.5 Similarly, an article by a major intellectual about Henry Kissinger, in what is considered as one of the country’s most authoritative newspapers, the largest selling (206,000 in August 2002) centrist

To Vima on Sunday

(V, 25/2/01), comments that

“the British author is preparing to publish a book on his German-Jewish-American ‘mentor’.”6

There are also more alarming examples. An article about the Middle East, which appeared in the country’s second largest daily (80,000 in August 2002) centrist

Ta Nea

, contained the phrase, “the caricature of a Jewish small-time merchant who breaks his promises and goes back on his signature.” The

Central Board of Jewish Communities

(KIS) took umbrage in a letter to the editor, reminding him that “the same ‘caricature’ was used by Hitler.”

The paper responded with an apology for the oversight and a denial of racist intent (N, 17-18/2/01).7

However, the real depth of anti-Semitism in Greek consciousness is evidenced by the ease with which it manifests itself in mainstream expression, unimpeded and seemingly unnoticed, during times of crisis. The Greek press has played a major role in this area. Since September 11 (2001) and with the increasing violence in the Middle East, the blatant anti-Semitism regularly heard on the fringe has been voiced in the print (especially) and electronic media by a spectrum of influential personalities in politics, labor, education, and culture. So widely discussed was the rumor that 4,000 Jews working in the Word Trade Center were forewarned and thus escaped death, that a poll taken for state TV

NET

showed 43% of Greeks as believing the rumor, as opposed to 30% who did not.th

Moreover, on 2 April 2002, the country’s two largest dailies,

Ta Nea

and center-left

Eleftherotypia

(92,000 in August 2002) and the large rightwing daily (23,000 in August 2002)

Apogevmatini

(as its front-page headline) readily printed as unquestionable reality a heinous libel – supplied to the state

Athens News Agency

by a Palestinian organization in Greece and not as an April fools day story…– that Israelis were trafficking the organs of dead Palestinian fighters and performing medical experiments on Arab prisoners. In criticism, columnist

Paschos Mandravelis

wrote in one of them,

Apogevmatini,

(Ap, 3/4/02), “The biggest problem this rumor points out is the deficit of rational thinking in this country. We are ready to believe everything, except what makes sense.”8 He may have added, “especially when it comes to the Jews.”

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