Abravanel, the Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘ADL’

Antisemitism in Greece 2015, an overview of the surveys

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 02/09/2015

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.»

Disraeli has famously said this amusing aphorism or at least Marc Twain has claimed he did. There are many ways a survey can go sour – sample size, sample pooling etc; university professor Lila Leontidou addresses some in an article on a Eurobarometre survey on racism in 2001. It is a good article and one should take special care into taking these momentary snapshots of public opinion all too seriously, especially when the researcher can photoshop this image quite easily. Still 14 years later one cannot but deduce that the article de facto proved utter nonsense and it is a prime example of the denialism rampant in Greece when it comes to racism. The occasion for the article you’re reading now is the 2015 ADL Global Survey which confirms Greece as a champion of antisemitism and can be found here. This is not going to be a meta-study but more like a historical review of Jew-related surveys and a brief discussion  on their meaning today.

The earliest reports come from a brilliant piece by Daniel Perdurant (1,2) in the early 90s. In details, (relative sources in the footnotes of the aforementioned article), he writes:

The earliest reports I could find were of 1986, Hellenobarometer, a survey conducted in the greater Athens area every six months, painted a grim picture. 57% of Greeks said that they did not trust the Jews; while 41% would avoid having a Jewish boss; 43% would avoid a Jewish doctor; and 49% would not vote for a Jewish candidate for Parliament.50 Similarly, a December 1988 Hellenobarometer poll found that 71% of Greeks had a “somewhat or strongly unfavorable” opinion of the Jews.51 A full year later, in November of 1989, the European Commission published a report on racism and xenophobia based on opinion polls conducted in each country in the European Economic Community. ICAP Hellas conducted the polling in Greece. 17% of Greeks (the third highest percentage in the EEC) reported being bothered by the presence of people of other races, religions, or nationalities; 44% were in favor of restrictions on the rights of immigrants. The questions included in the EEC’s Eurobarometer poll were far broader in scope and content in order to cover issues applicable to all twelve countries, and did not include questions about specific minority groups.52

A common question that surveys place is whether would one would readily accept a Jew as a neighbor. I must admit that this question penalizes Greece in respect to european countries where such blatant racism is not politically-correct. In my humble opinion this fact does not invalidate the results but actually enhances their value because it allows Greeks to express themselves more freely, than their european counterparts.

Commemorative photo of desecration of Jewish cemetery in Larissa so

«Commemorative» photo of desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Larissa source: https://enantiastonantisimitismo.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/larissa-after-the-desecration-the-boast/

In 2011  a survey by ICAP stated that 33% did not want «homosexuals» as neigbours, 33% did not want AIDS patients, 29% Muslims, 25% Eastern Europeans or blacks and 17% Americans. The survey noted a correlation between educational level and dislike of non-christian/non-greek neighbours, (I feel the need here to note that correlation does not equal causation).

A joint survey by University of Ulster and Queensland had tried earlier to place this question in a global context. The result closely mirrored the previous study with homosexuals being the least desirable neighbors 27%, the Jews and Muslims following with 19% and 21% respectively and other categories trailing by 14%. It is important to note that Greece again placed among the most bigoted countries in all categories.

A Eurobarometer study of 2008 shows that while about a 15% to 30% rejection rate was still valid, it was in line with European Union’s average. In the same study a question whether one would accept non-white-male-christians in positions of power, proved to be more illuminating. While the numbers are not really important for the scope of the article, it is important to not a vast difference between greek and european averages in the homosexual and different ethnic origin category. In fairness I must include that religion was not allegedly a differentiating factor, although at the same time I must point out that Jewish Greeks are perceived by Christian Greeks as being ethnically different rather than Greeks holding a different different religion so in this case we still have the same outcome.

The year 2014 brought two important studies, the first one conducted by the american Anti-Defamation League and the second one by a team of greek researchers. Both were important in their own right: the first one tried to answer how much antisemitism exists and tried to place that number in a global context. The second one, which merits its own post which will follow, tried to explain why and how Greeks are prone to embracing antisemitism.


antisemitic graffiti in Volos synagogue in 2009 source: https://abravanel.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/what-language-do-jews-speak/

The ADL survey asked 11 key questions on typical antisemitic stereotypes and went on to elaborate in areas like the Holocaust, Israel and general attitudes towards other religions etc. I understand that many people, without trying to be intellectually dishonest, cannot understand how and why the affirmative response to these questions constitutes antisemitism. Unfortunately this is the result of the discourse about racism in Greece, firmly anchored around notions which have been debated in the ’60s and 70s in the rest of Europe. In the greek case the debate about the modern definition of antisemitism is useless given the widespread acceptance and form which have already been researched on; in other words we do not need to discuss «new» issues such as privilege/new-antisemitism because greek antisemitism is antiquated and appears in forms already known.

Greeks – and when we say Greeks we talk about 93% self-identified Christians and 4% atheists in the ADL survey – generally do not think highly of the Jews. While around 30% freely admits that he/she does not like them, more indicative is the fact that 60% claim that they know many people who dislike Jews; the aggregate results show that the answer to this question is in strong correlation to the overall levels of antisemitism. On the questions about antisemitic stereotypes, like Jews having too much power over global finance, I am not surprised by the findings which show that Greeks are overwhelmingly in favor of conspiracy theories. But it should be noted in their defence that more subtle questions would yield the same results for Greece but probably much higher in the rest of Europe; this being the result of political-correctness which as I said before is a non-existent notion in Greece. For example Norway scores only 15% which is not in line with recent events on antisemitism.


Credit card in Norway with antisemitic portrait /source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=28007

But I do not wish to delve deeper into the survey because I concur with many of its critics that we can debate on the methodology or whether the affirmative responses constitute antisemitism. What I think are the two major merits of this survey?

  1. It agrees completely with previous findings of all younger surveys. While we can disagree on the exact numbers, in every european or global survey Greece appears with horrifyingly high percentages of antisemitism which place it constantly on top of global rankings.
  2. It provides a context in which to judge the findings. Antisemitism is ubiquitous and a constant part of the european landscape for the past 20 centuries, Greece is an integral part of Europe and does not escape this historical fact. Greeks can debate on how much antisemitism exists in Greece but what they do need to understand is that it exists much more than anywhere else.

Again I wish to stress that saying that «70% of Greeks are antisemites» is nonsense – numbers are just numbers and they change according to definitions and ephemeral events like a flare in mid-eastern violence or a terrorist attack against Jewish targets. But what does one can surmise from the study and the ones before them?

Greece is the most antisemitic country in Europe, if not of the whole world if we exclude the muslim countries and this has been consistently true for the past 30 years.

I don’t know how many Greek are antisemites. What I do know is that antisemitism does not only exist but it thrives, in levels unthinkable for a modern western society. I do know that Jews are afraid to admit it, presumably because their Christian neighbours do not take gladly to criticism. The fact that we have consistently the same results in surveys for years but there isn’t a single organization in Greece which admits that antisemitism is a core aspect of greek racism is indicative the truth of Perdurant’s finding that antisemitism is embedded in the society.

So yes:

  1. Antisemitism exists in Greece.
  2. Antisemitism in Greece is not a marginal phenomenon.
  3. Antisemitism in Greece is not linked to muslim immigrants.
  4. Antisemitism in Greece is not widely condemned.
  5. Antisemitism in Greece can be violent.
  6. Antisemitism in Greece used to be poorly documented but for the past decade there is meticulous documentation.
  7. While differences exist, nobody is exempt; neither rich or poor, educated or uneducated, progressive or conservative
  8. No major antiracist/human rights organization in Greece considers antisemitism being a major problem in Greece – they are part of the problem.

But more on this next time…

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