A. What happened ?
Under international pressure over erroneous political decisions concerning the economic policy, the socialist government led by Yorgos Papandreou collapsed. A new government of national unity was formed led by former European Central Bank vice-president Lukas Papademos and supported by the majoritarian socialist party PASOK, the conservative Nea Dimokratia and the far-Right LàOS; the leftist SYRIZA and the Greek Communist Party have declined to participate. Although there is a long history of public antisemitism within all greek parties, it was usually kept under control by moderate leadership; these new developments mark the first time that the antisemitic far-Right gains institutional access and real power by entering in four ministries with one minister and three undersecretaries.
B. The recent history of the LàOS party
Until 2000 the greek Far-Right practically consisted of two major groups: the faction inside the greek conservative party of Nea Dimokratia and a small neonazi galaxy of groups in which the violent Chrisi Avgi, (Golden Dawn) was prominent. The domination of the two major parties, the conservative Nea Dimokratia and the socialist PASOK in which nationalistic and antisemitic sentiments were tolerated but also kept in check, gave grounds to the often cited but misleading assumption that a strong Far-Right does not exist in Greece.
All this changed when Yorgos Karatzaferis, a parliamentarian from Nea Dimokratia was expelled in 2000 when he accused the party leader of being surrounded by gays. Immediately after he created his new party called LàOS, (Popular Orthodox Rally), which managed 4 years later to enter the European Parliament and 3 years afterwards to enter the Greek Parliament.
Since it’s foundation LàOS has professed a double identity: on one hand it has made declarations generically condemning the phenomenon of antisemitism although never specific events and has even made isolated statements supporting greek-israeli military cooperation; it should be marked that these statements were directed to international Press and not to the greek audience in order to shake the label of an extremist.
On the other it has consistently flooded greek media with statements varying from the explicit acceptance of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to statements saying that “the Jew smell blood” concerning Israel and Jews being responsible for 9/11, claiming world Jewish domination, Jews being Christ-Killers, expressing doubts over the Holocaust etc. Although Greek Jewry has expressly tried to stay outside political rivalries, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece has repeatedly issued statements condemning various Karatzaferis statements.
C. Specific instances of antisemitism by party leader Y.Karatzaferis
There are literally hundreds of statements of LàOS top politicians in which they express antisemitism and credence to all kinds of weird conspiracy theories in which Jews are protagonists. Some are dead serious like the accusations that Jews are responsible for the greek debt, others are traditional Christian antisemitism like the Christ-Killers accusation while others are simply funny like the ones being responsible for every major greek disaster beginning from the Peloponnesean War:
1. Should there ever be a Greek Jewish politician, then he/she will owe allegiance to foreign powers – no Greek Jew must take part in government.
In 1996 as a mainstream conservative parliamentarian he accused Minister Christos Rozakis, (a Christian Orthodox whose 1 paternal grandfather was a Jew who converted to Christianity), of double allegiance after a campaign led by a neonazi newspaper. Apparently Jewish blood, diluted to 1/4 and baptized is still poison to Karatzaferis.
2. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true
On the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union: “Whatever is being described in the Protocols of Zion is becoming reality today. One Goverment, one currency for all of Europe. And this for me is the coming of the New Order of things.”, Y.Karatzaferis in the Greek Parliament, 11/6/2008
3. He is proud that no Jews, gays or communists are part of his party and has accused many Christian politicians as crypto-Jews.
“First of all I am not a Jew; let’s see if the Prime Minister (Simitis) can claim this. Second of all I am not a communist; let’s see if Karamanlis (conservative party leader) can claim this. And third I am not gay; and there are not many people who can claim this”, speech made at 28th May 2002.
4. Jews are directly accused as Christ-killers.
“The murderers of GOD would ever care for innocent children? Their pure blood is soaking the flesh not of the Jews whose skin has acquired a sheath of impermeability…”, in the main article in party newspaper A1 4 January 2009
5. He has openly asked for neonazi party Chrisi Avgi to enter the greek government.
In this video one can see Yorgos Karatzaferis in his daily television show offering neonazis a ministry.
6. Jews are responsible for 9/11
Karatzaferis even asked for an official enquiry over the rumors of arab newspapers that 4000 American Jews did not go to the Twin Towers on 9/11. He repeated the claim multiple times in his television show, even challenging the israeli ambassador.
7. Speaking about Israel and the Cast Lead operation of 2009
“The Jews are transforming to the same ruthless killer as their perpetrator[the Nazi]“, “The blacklettered day the State of Israel was born”, “…more Jews practicing the ruthless policies of Zionism”, main article in party newspaper A1 4 January 2009.
8. The Jews, the Vatican and the Peloponnesean War between Sparta and Athens.
A myriad of other statements like the “conspiracy of the Vatican and the Jews”, “Jews forcing their laws in countries outside their own”, “The New World Order expressed by the Jews”, “they [the Jews] print synagogues on banknotes”. A special mention goes to history lessons in which Jews are responsible for the fall of Constantinople to the ottoman Turks in 1453. Even better is the revelation that Jews are responsible the Peloponnesean War of 431 BCE between Sparta and Athens.
I am certain that when his car hits a traffic jam he accuses the Jews of intentionally painting the traffic lights a communist red just to spike him.
9. An evergreen: Holocaust Denial
“…let’s talk about the myth of Auschwitz and Dachau and talk about these ovens, to talk about these gas chambers, whether the gas chambers were insulated to hold gas inside or they were simple bricks”. The specific excerpt is from 2001 but there are many occasions, especially in his daily television show when hosting his friend Plevris, eg here.
D. Antisemitism of the new LàOS ministers
1. Minister of Infrastuctures, Transport and Networks Mavroudis (Makis) Vorides
An avowed nationalist whose violent past is evident in his photo carrying an axe (! ) during clashes with leftist protesters. President of the youth faction of EPEN, a nationalistic party supporting the 1967 military junta, he later formed the antisemitic and nationalistic party Elliniko Metopo. Later on he joined forces with the man who has come to symbolize exterminationist antisemitism Konstantinos Plevris and tried to form a european alliance of antisemitic parties with the 1997 European Nationalistic Conference in which infamous LePen’s french Front National, dutch Vlaams Blok and spanish Frente Nacional took part. Here can one read his adventures in the murky waters of the greek far-Right.
In 2002 he expressed doubts over the authenticity of the Anne Frank diaries and said that he could not answer whether the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true or false. He did say though that he had never met a Jew who shares his political ideas and he has absolutely no problem with the violent neonazi party of Chrisi Avgi
2. Under secretary to Growth, Competitivity, Maritime Affairs Adonis Georgiadis
A famous tele-evangelist with a popular TV show in Karatzaferis TV channel, he has made more than his fair share of antisemitic claims like the 2009 claim that “All major banks belong to the Jews” during a conversation with his brother in which they claimed that the Jewish Lobby held the keys to the greek foreign debt.
He also systematically publicized though his TV show and sold though his bookshop the most infamous antisemitic book ever to have been published in Greece, “The Jews, the whole truth” by neonazi Konstantinos Plevris. Here one can read an extensive report over the systematic promotion of the aforementioned book.
The new under-secretary is linked with a long friendship to Plevris and was hosted in Plevris TV show several times. Due to his support he has been called as a witness on behalf of the neonazi Plevris in a lawsuit brought against the leadership of the Greek Jewry. In other words a minister of the greek government is called by a neonazi to defend his work which advocated the extermination of Jews against the Greek Jewish Community, after having extensively publicized the book in many shows.
Given the widespread doubts over the independence of the greek Justice system which has been proved to be sympathetic to antisemitic claims, one is left to wonder whether Georgiadis will resist the temptation to help his old friend and mentor.
E. Is the Jewish Community in Greece in danger ?
No more than it was yesterday, but a deterioration is expected. Arson attacks and vandalisms are common in Greece but since the palestinian attacks in Greece in the 80′s and the Al Qaeda bombings of the turkish synagogues there has been an effective synergy of both government-afforded protection and internal jewish security service; it is doubtful whether the LàOS politicians will risk violent outbreaks by antisemitic groups which would lead to international exposure.
There are three ways that the new found power of LàOS could hurt Jews, one that already has happened and two others hypothetical:
1. The first one is the LàOS has managed to make antisemitism mainstream.
When LàOS politicians cast doubts over the Holocaust or accuse Jews of handling the greek national debt they introduce vulgar antisemitic speech into the everyday discourse. These arguments existed before but they were considered populistic and vulgar-chick. Nowadays when Karatzaferis drops A-bombs like directly accusing Jews of killing the Christian God, then statements like Communist Party of Greece leader’s on “30 pieces of silver” offered by Israel go by largely unnoticed raising the bar of what is considered acceptable.
It should be highlighted that Karatzaferis owns a television station with national television coverage and a party newspaper; these two media outlets have accomplished more in the fight against Jews than any neonazi fringe group given their wide audience and constant flow of virulent antisemitism.
2. The new ministers are not likely to directly challenge the Jewish community, but will use their power to advance antisemitic policies.
Consistent statements of theirs point to the fact that they will use their influence directly or indirectly to oppose the recent introduction of the Holocaust in greek history book, (Greece considered the murder of +60.000 Greek Jews a non-greek event and did not teach in the greek school system until the mid-00′s).
The new ministers will probably use their influence to discourage attacks of far-Right antisemitic groups to Jewish targets in order not to escalate mounting opposition to them. Still it is possible to withdraw police protection to Jewish institutions in case of leftist aggression in order to score points with their political rivals who would appear more antisemitic than LàOS.
They will protect neo-nazis from police prosecution as seen with the Georgiadis support of Plevris. They will also foster a climate of tolerance of racism; for example it will be less likely for a greek organization to oppose antisemitism when it’s revenues will be partly controlled by the LàOS government members.
Jews in high-profile places will probably witness some discrimination in State-related jobs. Not necessarily because Voridis, Georgiadis, Rodoulis or Yeorgiou will follow a systematic antisemitic policy but because their presence creates a safety net for those mid-level government employees who foster antisemitic feelings. LàOS claims it seeks a Greece for Greeks and Karatzaferis favorite game is one day to say that Greek Jews are Greeks and another to say that they are not; one cannot realistically can expect otherwise.
3. In case of tension the Middle East they shall revert to time-honored antisemitic policies.
Experience shows that despite lip-service to greek-israeli military cooperation, in times of crisis they have consistently turned in order to please their antisemitic voters. During Cast Lead in 2009 when Greek Jewry suffered attacks in all major greek cities, including arsonist attacks in synagogues and cemeteries the LàOS leader unleashed one of the most vicious attacks mixing Greek Jews, Israel, USA and nefarious powers in a scheme to assassinate Palestinian children the same way Jews assasinated Christ. This attack warranted an un-precedented request to the President of the Parliament Siufas on behalf of the Central Board of Jewish Communities so that Greek Jews were not left at the mercy of the mob; sadly only one parliamentarian rose to the challenge settling the question whether antisemitism is embedded in greek society.
F. What to do ?
There are discussions on measures of protection to be adopted. I shall return with an article shortly.
In a nutshell
The huge economic crisis has created an opportunity for LàOS party to enter the government. It is not a party with some questionable remarks: it is a Holocaust denying party which is one step away from advocating measures that limit perceived Jewish influence in Greece – they actually believe in all kinds of jewish conspiracies. Still their number one goal is achieving power and they shall not endanger their position with openly antisemitic policies; they’re even capable of paying lip service with a generic condemnation of antisemitism or nominal support of greek-israeli military cooperation in order to shake the extremist label. The Greek Jews are not in any kind of imminent danger but antisemitism has become mainstream with unknown consequences for the future. It is inevitable that antisemitism will continue to rise with practical consequences doubting the progress made the past 15 years; Greek Jewry must acknowledge that the Greek State cannot guarantee its safety unless we admit that the wolves can protect the sheep. What measures should be taken its to be seen.