Mr. Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs
Mrs. Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport
Mr. Yariv Levin, Minister of Tourism
Mrs. Bracha Cohen, The Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts
Mrs. Yasmine Levy, artist
Mr. Hichal Tarbut, Rishon le Zion
Mr. Idan Raichel, artist
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We the undersigned wish to inform you about a matter concerning the Greek musicians, Mr. Yiannis Kotsiras and Mrs. Eleni Tsaligopoulou, who have been invited to participate in concerts organized in Israel.
We strongly believe that cultural exchange is a positive mission as are the ties that it builds between the peoples of our two countries. This cooperation has perhaps the greatest potential to foster Israeli-Greek friendship.
However, for this to be so, the cooperation and friendship must also be mutual. And this is precisely the point of our concern.
In November 2015, Mr. Kotsiras and Ms. Tsaligopoulou were invited by the Embassy of Israel in Greece to perform in a concert together with the Israeli singer Idan Raichel. They accepted the invitation at first, only to change their minds and withdraw only a few hours before the concert, and with no explanation. As a result Mr. Raichel performed alone.
It turns out that they were approached by BDS activists in the interim. Given the silence of the two artists, there are two possible explanations for their decision, but speculation is not really required. The first, according to the media and blogs, is they withdrew to protest Israeli policy in Gaza (hardly a new issue); the second was they were informed of some pro-IDF statement made by Mr. Raichel (also irrelevant).
Greek antisemitism is pervasive and serious. It manifests itself in religious, political and media discourse. Antisemitic attitudes were rated at 67% by the 2015 ADL Global Survey. Antisemitism is the norm for most Greeks, regardless of their political convictions. Desecrations of Jewish sacred and cultural sites are common occurrences.
Greek music and culture is very popular in Israel. Greeks visiting Israel are impressed by the warmth of Israelis and their familiarity with Greek performers. Unfortunately, however, the reverse is not the case; few Israeli artists or, for that matter aspects of Jewish culture, are known in Greece. The reasons are obvious – but not pleasant.
Mr. Kotsiras and Mrs. Tsaligopoulou are not the most militant anti-Semites in Greece. Therefore, their selective and contradictory decision to perform in Israel after refusing to perform with an Israeli at home can be seen as 1) hypocritical, 2) purely financially motivated, and 3) cowardly.
Of course, the choice of artists who perform at those events is of the organizers solely. However, we strongly believe that any cooperation between Greeks and Israelis should be based on mutual respect and sincere appreciation. Greek antisemitism is too powerful to be defeated solely by good intentions.
Andrea Gilbert, Jewish Expert, Greek Helsinki Monitor, andrea.gilbert [at] otenet.gr
Vassilis Tsarnas, Racist Crimes Watch administrator, Greek Helsinki Monitor, vasilistsarnas [at] gmail.com
Dimitri Kravvaris, Against Antisemitism blog, dimkrav [at] web.de