Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

US State Department’s Report on Human Rights Practices

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 20/03/2007

As every year the US State Department issued it’s «Report on Human Rights Practices». Surely it’s gonna create malcontent in Greece since it isn’t all flowers and roses and will be perceived as US intervention in private affairs but still I think it’s a good initiative; hope the greek/EU protests on Guantanamo will create the same clamor. :P Here’s the excerpts dealing with the greek jewish community:

The law provides for freedom of religion; however, non‑Orthodox groups at times faced administrative obstacles or legal restrictions on religious practices.

The law establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ (Greek Orthodoxy) as the «prevailing» religion. The Greek Orthodox Church continued to exercise significant political and economic influence. The government financially supported the Greek Orthodox Church and also paid the salaries and some expenses of the two official Muslim religious leaders in Thrace. Jewish leaders requested that the government pay rabbis’ salaries, given its practice of paying Orthodox priests’ and Muslim muftis’ salaries; the government had not responded to this request by year’s end.

The government, by virtue of the status of the Greek Orthodox Church as the prevailing religion, recognizes de facto its canon law. Privileges and legal prerogatives granted to the Orthodox Church are not extended routinely to other recognized religions. Orthodox Church officials refused to enter into dialogue with religious groups that they considered harmful to Orthodox worshippers, and they instructed their members to shun followers of these faiths.

Non-Orthodox citizens claimed that they faced career limits in the military, police, fire‑fighting forces, and civil service due to their religion.

Legislation providing for religious worker visas was passed in 2005, remedying the difficulty reported in the past by some religious denominations in renewing the visas of non-EU citizen religious officials.

Religious instruction is mandatory for all Greek Orthodox students in primary and secondary schools, but not for non‑Orthodox students. Some government-approved religious textbooks made derogatory statements about non-Greek Orthodox faiths. Since schools did not supervise non-Orthodox children while Greek Orthodox children were taking religious instruction, non-Orthodox parents complained that they were effectively forced to have their children attend Greek Orthodox classes.

The Jewish community has approximately 5,000 members. Anti-Semitism continued to exist, particularly in the extremist press. The mainstream press and public often did not clearly distinguish between criticism of Israel and comments about Jews. In 2004 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and GHM criticized the press for carrying anti-Semitic stories and cartoons on several occasions. For example, on August 16, Eleftherotypia, the second largest daily newspaper, published a cartoon depicting an Israeli soldier praying with a rifle that was firing swastikas. Candidates for the political party LAOS, the fifth largest party, have made anti-Semitic statements during the campaign for municipal offices in the Fall. The party’s weekly paper A1 published strongly anti-Semitic articles accusing the Israelis of genocide against the Lebanese people. A July editorial stated that if «the Jews continue this way, they will beat Hitler’s number of victims.» Anti-Semitic references as well as comparisons with the Holocaust were common in the press during the July-August conflict involving Israel and Lebanon, while some major media promoted the image of Israel as the «Nazi-state.» On the other hand, Hezbollah fighters were often seen as «freedom fighters» and «resistance groups.»

Vandalism of Jewish monuments decreased, although the Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki was vandalized during an antiwar demonstration in August; the government condemned the vandalism. As of December, police had not found the perpetrators of the 2004 desecration of Holocaust memorials in Komotini in Thrace. Several times throughout the year extreme right-wing groups painted anti-Semitic graffiti along with their symbols and organization names at multiple locations, including the busy Athens‑Corinth and Athens-Tripoli highways, and other public structures. In February the prosecutor filed a lawsuit against «Golden Dawn» for defacing public property and painting anti-Semitic graffiti during the course of the last several years.

In April the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece continued to protest the Easter tradition of burning a life-size effigy of Judas, sometimes referred to as the «burning of the Jew,» which they maintained propagated hatred and fanaticism against Jews. One Greek Orthodox bishop, a local NGO, and the Wiesenthal Center expressed formal written objections to this tradition. The Jewish Community also protested anti-Semitic passages in the Holy Week liturgy and it reported that it maintained a dialogue with the Orthodox Church about the removal of these passages.

Some schoolbooks carried negative references to Roman Catholics, Jewish persons, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.

Negotiations continued between the Jewish community of Thessaloniki and the government to find acceptable restitution for the community’s cemetery, expropriated after its destruction during the Holocaust. Aristotle University, a public institution, was built on top of the expropriated cemetery.

Jewish community leaders condemned anti-Semitic broadcasts on small private television stations, but authorities did not bring charges against these largely unlicensed operators.

The government co-sponsored commemorative events in Athens and Thessaloniki in January for Holocaust Remembrance Day. This was followed two weeks later by the visit of Israel’s President Moshe Katsav, the first official visit of an Israeli head of state. The Ministry of Education distributed materials to schools on the history of the Holocaust to be read in all schools on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and teacher-training seminars on the Holocaust were held.

Religious affiliation was very closely linked to ethnicity. Many attributed the preservation of national identity to the actions of the Greek Orthodox Church during approximately 400 years of Ottoman rule and the subsequent nation-building period. The Church exercised significant social, political, and economic influence, and it owned a considerable, although undetermined, amount of property.

Many Greeks assumed that any ethnic Greek was also an Orthodox Christian. Some non-Orthodox citizens complained of being treated with suspicion or told that they were not truly Greek when they revealed their religious affiliation.
In June 2006, an amendment to an existing law was accepted by Parliament abolishing the practice by which the ministry sought the opinion of the local Greek Orthodox bishop on whether to grant house of prayer permits for faiths other than Greek Orthodox. Non-Orthodox faiths had objected to this practice.

For more info and the full report including Roma, refugees, ethnic turk greeks and others issues visit here and here. For a more detailed talk on these matters visit DeviousDiva’s post where was also the first place I read about the review. :)

small edit just to claim the blog at sync.gr

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