Abravanel, the Blog

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

All quiet in Pignetto, (also except some Pakistani)

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 28/05/2008

I always keep telling that Greece is not an exceptionally violent country and racism in this country is widespread but not as virulent towards individuals like other places, namely some European nations. But I always stress the fact that there is absolutely no opposition to the existent racism and contemporaneously there is an opposition to any mentioning of a problem. Plus that these phenomenon keep worsening because of the general «evolution» of the greek society which acquires the characteristics of other western societies for the good and for the bad.

An example of this trend is the evolving violent opposition to immigrants. Just a couple of posts ago I had written about the beating of members of the Pakistani Community in Athens by pigs that had invaded their mosque holding sticks and rocks. This was just one incident in a series of attacks that the Pakistani Community had to endure this year amidst the almost total indifference of greek civil society and especially the political world, (only a comittee of Synaspismos issued a statement, although other violent attacks in the past had drawn some localized demonstrations).

A friend of the blog recently contacted me on a similar incident that happened in Rome, Italy. On Saturday 24/5 a group of other pigs, with their faces covered, invaded an area in Rome called Pignetto inhabited by immigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They smashed the shops of two ethnic food stores and a call center, all run by immigrants of Bangladesh and Pakistan; fortunately they did not hurt a single person. Until this moment what we have is the replica of the incident at Rendi, Athens which I had written about, (with the exception that beating immigrants themselves in Athens is of course much worse, let alone comparing the mosque to shops). But here is how the things in Greece and Italy begin to differ:

My friend told me that there was a breaking news during the normal evening News of the State TV RAI1 with reports on the attack. A reporter was dispatched and transmitted live interviews from the victims. I could not verify it since the portal of RAI1 is a bit complicated but I did find out that it was still mentioned in the News edition of 26/5 of 8am of RAI1, two days later. Using the Google to find more on the attacks I stumbled on a myriad of information using the keywords «Pignetto» «raid«, ie the place of the attack and the name in italian which was used to describe them. The leader of the opposition W.Veltroni condemned vehemently the attacks and suggested to «close the door to xenophobe and racist behaviours. …in both cases we are in front of the emergence of inacceptable facts.» Other members of the centre-left Partito Democratico also condemned the attacks with written statements or interviews released to the TV including former Prime Minister M.D’Alemma, the president of the Prefecture of Rome and others. At a later time Veltroni added that «when the hunt for the immigrant begins it is the beginning of barbarism, the beginning of the end«.

The mayor of Rome, G.Alemanno of the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale, condemned the attacks just hours after the raid, (the attack happened in the afternoon and already in 19.44 there were the first statements in the internet). He said that «this attack is of an unheard gravity which leaves me disgusted and shall not pass in silence«, while he also visited the area. He declared that the Municipality of Rome shall pay for all the damages of the shops, something the fascist Forza Nuova condemned in a statement. This comes from a post-fascist mayor who won the elections by promising a tougher stance against illegal, (and not), immigrants!

To clarify the situation I must add that there are some doubts whether this episode is as important as the one in Athens. The latest news from Italy do not agree if racist insults were heard and some claim it began as an argument between one pakistani and an italian who returned afterwards with his «friends». An italian journalist claims that she saw swastikas but others do not confirm. In any case, even if the beginning began as a personal dispute, it evolved into an outbreak towards all immigrants.

So is everything in Italy ok? Of course not. There a climate of fear and insecurity which reigns in Italy and immigrants get the blame. Riding on this fear the mayor of Rome managed to beat popular F.Rutelli in the recent elections of Rome in a historic victory. This fear managed to get incredible percentages for the racist Lega Nord. One of the first acts of the new Berlusconi Government was to toughen it’s stance with firmer controls towards immigrants and especially target Rumanians and Roma exploiting some crimes which saw a rumanian and a roma protagonist. We’ve arrived in politicians proposing state camps, (alias for prison camps), for the Roma; while there have been sporadic attacks in existing camps. If we want to be correct we must say that probably there is currently in Italy much more violence in the opposition against immigrants than in Greece.

manifestation against the raidThe difference is the fact that these acts of the Italian Government face a fierce opposition by parts of the italian civil society. Although the general feeling is that of supporting the stricter measures, there is a sizable minority which voices it’s concerns in TV and newspapers. And when we arrive to actual attacks, like the one in Pignetto, we have a unanimous condemnation of the attacks and not hiding it. This is the main difference, that in Greece we do not have a civil conscience on where the line is drawn when it comes to racism.

Right now many claim that the situation in Greece is better than the one in Italy regarding immigrants – I partly agree with this statement. Still at the same time we have the same violence though less frequent, we do not grant asylum to anyone and meaningful political support to immigrants arrives only if it is politically exploitable. But even if we accept that we’re still better, the facts at Rendi show that we are not far away from «reaching the West» and contrary to the italians we do not have the antibodies which shall lend a hand to the immigrants. It is not an exaggeration, if 10-15 years ago somebody claimed that greeks would beat up even a single immigrant and attack mosques, I’d laugh. But we have arrived at this point and the problem is that nobody seems to care if we’re going to make the next step in the escalation; or decides to care only for those who are «useful» to his cause. These same conclusions apply also to other «sensitive» religious or social groups in our country.

Next time somebody tells me that Greece does not have a problem with racism I will link to this post and the other in Rendi. Greece does have a problem, like any other european country – no more and no less; the only difference is that at least somebody in «the West» admits the problem and is prepared to do something about it.

Sources: (many thanks to D. for helping out)

(Some are in italian, some in french, some in greek so use Google Translate – it faired pretty good)

My previous article on the Pakistani beaten in Rendi, Athens.

Veltroni and italian Left 1, 2 , 3
Alemanno 1 , 2, 3
Euronews and Reuters on the attacks. (I wonder if these media reported on the Athen’s attacks, how many would claim that it is bad for the country, instead of worrying on the attacks themselves?).
Manifestations in favour of the immigrants.
Direct interviews from the immigrants
Public outcry against the Roma.
On the political situation of Italy here, here and and an excellent analysis here. Also this.
Synaspismos on the attacks in Rendi.
Older violent attacks in Rendi.
Greece faces criticism on asylum here, here and just one of the many posts of DeviousDiva.

7 Σχόλια προς “All quiet in Pignetto, (also except some Pakistani)”

  1. antilogia said

    The difference is the fact that these acts of the Italian Government face a fierce opposition by parts of the italian civil society.

    The difference is, that in Greece, the supposedly «center-right» government doesn’t even think of taking any such measures as in Italy.
    The minister of the Interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos (colloquially known as «Pakis») hastens to legalize all existing immigrants, whether they entered the country legally or not, while at the same time expressing publicly his gratitude to them that they chose to come to rich and prosperous Greece, instead of some wasteland such as Italy or G.Britain.

    and contrary to the italians we do not have the antibodies which shall lend a hand to the immigrants

    Actually, we have so many antibodies we might get Lupus before anything else.
    The whole mainstream media establishment (left and right) is devoted to tutoring the masses (the «laoutzikos») on the benefits of free immigration and multiculturalism and how any doubts or even (G-d forbid) disagreement to them amounts to bigoted xenophobic racism.

    Btw, it appears that the jewish community in Rome largely supported the neo-fascist candidate with the anti-immigrant rhetoric.
    Now, what should we make of this fact?

  2. Abravanel said

    I have already commented on the fact here http://pontosandaristera.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/9-4-2008/

    First, it is an exaggeration to talk about support of the Jewish Community of Rome. It simply did not oppose him, as she had done in the early 90’s when the leader of the new mayor’s party had also been a candidate. Journalists have stressed on this lack of opposition for two reasons:
    It serves the Right as a «passport» to lose the antisemitic past and appear less extremist.
    It serves the Left as to justify their opposition to local Jews who ostensibly deny to denounce Israel.

    It is indicative that in the past police presence in Jewish monuments was offered only when far-right groups marched. Now it is offered also for the marches of the far-right groups. Indeed you are correct that we should ask of what we should make of this fact…

    In any case my personal believe is that whichever italian, jewish or catholic, supported Alemano he made a grave mistake. He is not a person which embodies democratic principles and we should remember that that shifting from the hunt for the gipsy to the hunt for the jew the distance is not very far.

  3. omadeon said

    I think the difference between Greece and other countries is that the habit of psychological Denial is more dominant in Greece than in many other places. Denial is a deeply rooted psychological defense mechanism that seems to operate even in healthy people; it’s a constituent part of the Ego’s defenses. In some situations it is a normal mechanism used by the ego to protect itself (although I’d strongly dispute its «normality» even in that sense – I really don’t believe so much in Freud as much as in R.D.Laing).

    Now the problem of Greek thinking is that it’s very often od the «forked tongue» variety, based on denial.

    Most Greeks begin talking about racism in Greece by adopting a defensive stance full of denial. Underneath this stance is also a lot of very primitive, unhealthy identification with the country. This is the second problem of Greek mentality. For those of us who lived abroad it’s very stupid: In order to love one’s country optimally, just like in any other kind of affection, one needs a healthy distance from it, an existential distance preserving both objective judgement and inner freedom. These are atrophic in most Greeks. There is NO objectivity, just denial. There is no freedom, only total identification with Greekness. The stupidest people pass around as great patriots, in this way.

    I think Greek Jews have a lot to teach Greece about their experience of antisemitism and racism, but sooner or later someone coming here and reading your post and my comment will claim (with amazing certainty) that I work for the… Mossad. Of course, such a biased person will conveniently forget or REFUSE to face some other statements I have made, from time to time, e.g. in favour of Palestinians, and regard me as a Jewish agent, like so many others.
    It gets soooooooooo boring (to be accused as an anti-Greek conspirator)!

    Kissinger would have lost ALL his money if he spent time dealing with this childishness. OF course Greeks think Greece is the centre of the world, and all that Kissinger thinks is how to attack Greek culture, religion and language. Well, there is LITTLE culture, the religion is NOTHING special and the language NOBODY CARES about anyway, except sometimes on vacation to know how to order souvlaki or tzatziki!

    Abravanel, it’s a very good thing you started writing more generally, against racism of all kinds; not just antisemitism and not just about Greece. In this way less people are likely to get paranoid about you in Greece! :)

  4. omadeon said

    How about the unacceptable attitude of the Greek state towards the CHILDREN of immigrants, who have been born in Greece and are regarded as foreigners even when they are adults twenty years later? Is there another European country with such laws? I am only asking, I don’t really know. But I ask this question since you described the current Greek government as if it’s promoting the legalisation of all immigrants.

  5. Abravanel said

    Thanks for your kind words, it’s always a pleasure conversing with you. :) Although flattering I will have to disagree on the fact that Jewish Greeks can teach anything to Greece; on their small, they are no better than the rest of society they live in. Albeit I must admit that there is a heightened awareness to all kinds of racism but even in that case one will find not few jews saying eg albanians steal just like the rest of Greece.

    As to taking a healthy distance from your own homeland I think that this is already done, eg like N.Dimu says when we call Greece psorocostena. Or when we say «ahh, this is Greece while in Germany…»
    The problem is that when it comes to those perceived as non-greeks, we come in the complete denial. Or when we question basic characteristics of our «race», like the story on filotimo/pride of one’s honour that is somewhat of an urban myth. My belief is that instead of trying to change people’s attitude towards jews, immigrants, roma etc we should aim establishing that also these people are a part of our society; thus eliminating the possibility of actions which simply are intolerable.

    PS. The blog was and shall remain monothematic. I expand to other issues only to prove a point or when I believe that it is related to the problematics of Greek Jews. As a person I am interested on many things but this blog was born to meet a specific need I felt that existed in greek media – thus it shall remain so. I understand your point but I am afraid that people paranoid about me now, shall remain paranoid independantly of what I write; I am «bad» because of what I am and not what I do, this is the essence of antisemitism. :)

  6. harrylogy said

    U live in a fantasy,being polite to the rude…

    Greeks r so racists that they consider themselves a special race,direct descendants of anc. greeks.

    Instead of the term nation,they use the term «genos»,meaning tribe,race.

    Therefore ,only people with the obsession that they have anc. greek blood r considered greeks.

    The rest…6 billion people r regarded strangers,inferior & those of «them» who live in or emigrate to Greece r regarded intruders & agents of alien countries.

    As if u did not know already…

  7. […] πακιστανών στο Ρέντη: ένα για το ίδιο το γεγονός και ένα για τις αντιδράσεις για παρόμοιο γεγονός στην Ιταλία […]

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