Ioannina is a greek city in the north of Greece with a Jewish community dating centuries and the epicenter of a particular minhag of greek-speaking Jews called Romaniotes, (alongside the bigger Sefardic and Ashkenazi communities worldwide). During the Shoah it suffered a blow which eliminated 90% of the Jewish population with the consequence that today there are more Romaniotes living in New York or Israel than Ioannina.
Although the relationship between Christians and Jews was rather good throughout the centuries, (notwithstanding the ubiquitous populist antisemitic beliefs like the blood libel), during the Holocaust the Christian population was distinctly indifferent to Jewish persecution and participated actively in the looting of the Jewish homes. After the war the Community of Ioannina adjusted to its reduced size and embedded antisemitism and stayed distinctly silent. A resurgence of interest in the history of the Jewish community produced hope but it was met with a wave of unrelenting antisemitic violence against the synagogue and the cemetery. The chain of repeated attacks included some of the worse vandalisms ever seen in Greece, including the destruction of the grave of the mother of the president of the Community and implicated members of the local Greek Police, rendering pointless the quest to apprehend the perpetrators.
Lately a chain of antisemitic articles by the local Christian journalist Konstandinos Kaltsis created tension in the city. They accused the president of the Jewish community, an accomplished university professor of the Medical Faculty, of becoming vice-director of the local hospital thanks to the influence of the «Jewish Lobby». In later articles he accused Jews of being fascists, of trying to manipulate the world, of performing genocide of the Palestinians and similar. Unfortunately space to voice his hatred was afforded by the mainstream local newspaper Proinos Logos which directly endorsed him by titling the rebuttal «On Jews and their (emphasis mine) their Holocaust». We already covered it here.
Unfortunately the climate of intimidation has been worsening ever since:
Swastikas appeared on the walls of the synagogue and adjacent houses, in what has historically been the Jewish Quarter of Ioannina.
Despite the condemnation of the Municipality of Ioannina, there are reasons to believe that this could easily escalate since the perpetrators of the past wave of antisemitic violence remain at large. But since last time, this time they can count on the support of the neonazi Golden Dawn party which has directly endorsed the antisemitic journalist which is responsible for rekindling religious hatred.
But even more telling is the fact that despite being outed as financially supporting antisemitism, many companies have continued being advertised on the site of Kaltsis.
Apparently companies like the Bank of Epirus, Nitsiakos Poultry, Athletic Accademy of Ioannina and Pindos Poultry do not fear of being associated with antisemitism, through their advertisements. They do not fear that this will hurt their public image.
This speaks volumes of how antisemitism is viewed as normal in Greece and is much more worrisome than some badly drawn swastikas, albeit intimidating they might be.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities has condemned and requested for Police protection.
The blog «Against Antisemitism» hosts the reply of the Athletic Academy of Ioannina, (responsible Georgia Panagiotou), which also advertises in the site of the antisemitic journalist. In a truly epic reply they think the victims should be ashamed and not the perpetrators, a true example of Olympic spirit which casts serious doubts on the principles taught to small children.
More photos on the same blog, courtesy of Alekos Raptis, here.
A previous article by Greek Jewish journalist Viktor Eliezer here.
New curation site FactNews has asked its readers to send emails to the newspaper, we endorse this request.
The Nea Dimokratia political party condemned the incident.