Antisemitism in Greece today – Executive Summary

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung has published an executive summary of the antisemitism report authored by Giorgos Antoniou, Spyros Kosmidis, Elias Dinas and Leon Saltiel.

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Creator: Christopher Adam

Antisemitism in Greece today: Aspects, causes and tackling the phenomenon

Anti-Semitism is one of the most common manifestations of social prejudice in Europe and elsewhere. Greece is not an exception to this rule; in fact, Greece, according to the 2015/2017 Anti-Defamation League Global Survey has the highest proportion of people who harbour anti-Semitic sentiments in Europe. The study at hand was commissioned by Heinrich Boell Stiftung Greece to report the main findings of an original analysis of Greek public opinion that aimed to delve deeper into the causes of the phenomenon. The report was divided into three themes; 1) discussing the socio-political framework of anti-Semitism in modern Greece, 2) the full presentation of the empirical work conducted using public opinion surveys and 3) a set of policy recommendations to tackle the phenomenon. The executive summary at hand will briefly present the main aspects of each of the three themes.

Although the numbers of Greeks of Jewish religion is, according to the Greek Census, very low (5000, i.e. 0.05% of the Greek population) the incidents of anti-Semitic rhetoric and the recorded attacks against Jewish monuments or synagogues are disproportionately high. The report embarks on a thorough analysis of the role that political actors, the Greek Church and the mass media play in perpetuating anti-Semitic prejudice and behaviour. Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party with parliamentary representation, is the most important advocate of anti-Semitic views in contemporary Greece, but there are some disconcerting incidents that vary across all levels of government and across different ideological persuasions. One of the key concerns regarding the relationship between politics and anti-Semitism is that there are many incidents of anti-Jewish rhetoric, and those incidents have the ideological left and right as the perpetrators. In many of those incidents, the role of the Greek Church is pivotal. Stemming from Christian anti-Judaism, it often takes other forms such as anti-Zionism or Jewish Conspiracies. In the report, we lay out some of key examples showing how one of the most respected institutions in Greece is not keen to stop anti-Semitism.

The mass media play a big role as well. The way anti-Semitism is reported or, more often, not reported helps the phenomenon to expand and become an everyday theme that should not carry any consequences for the politician or any other figure harbouring similar views in public. In fairness, this was less of an issue when Golden Dawn started gaining influence in the Greek public sphere. On occasions when Golden Dawn denied the Holocaust, the mass media where keen to attack the party and consider “Holocaust conspiracy” allegations as absurd. As expected, newspapers of extreme-right persuasion were keen to recycle similar conspiracies and embellish them with narratives of “Jewish world domination” and “Jewish economic interests in Greece“. Sadly, some mainstream newspapers also put forward subtle and not so subtle opinions against the Jews (especially when the Arab-Israeli conflict is on the agenda).

Read more on gr.boell.org

See the full report here (in Greek), as well as a panel discussion on the results of the report:

Moderation: Sofia Christoforidou

Speakers: Katharina von Schnurbein, Spyros Kosmidis, Giorgos Antoniou, Viktor Isaac Eliezer, Maria Yannakaki, Grigorios Stamkopoulos, Eleni Hontolidou, Andreas Takis

Supporters of schismatic monks display antisemitic banner in Thessaloniki

Around 400 supporters of the schismatic Esfigmenou monastery on Mount Athos rallied in Thessaloniki to protest the recent conviction of the monastery prior and another monk to twenty years imprisonment each for construction, possession and usage of Molotov cocktails during an eviction of the order’s administrative offices in 2013.

The protesters displayed a huge antisemitic banner reading “Judeo-Masonry wages war on Greece and Orthodoxy.” [see photo below]

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Antisemitic rally in Thessaloniki, 19/02/2017. Via thestival.gr

Earlier this month, protesters (zealots, football fans and Nazis) gathered outside Parliament in Athens to decry the conviction of the zealot monks chanting “Hands off the Orthodoxy” and “Jews out of Parliament.” [watch video below, 0’18’’] Golden Dawn MP Giannis Lagos was also part of the rally.

During a rally that took place at Athens’s Propylaia in February 2016, the excommunicated abbot of Esfigmenou monastery warned the Jews of a “Greek Hitler” that might come.

“Escape room” invited players to escape Auschwitz “before being turned into ash”

Via JTA

An entertainment company in Greece canceled a game in which players use clues to escape from a room themed around the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The Rubicon agency, which is located in the northern Athens suburb of Galatsi, in recent weeks advertised the Auschwitz “escape room” on social media. Jews and non-Jews complained it was disrespectful to Holocaust victims, the left-leaning news site Protagon reported Tuesday.

[…]

Reached by Protagon, a spokesman of the firm responsible for the game said it had been scrapped and that the decision to create it did not take into account “that this could cause offense.”

Read full story here.

  • Another “escape room” in Thessaloniki called “Schindler’s List” invites players to save “the life of hundreds of innocent people.” [via]

Attempt to destroy the monument at the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki

[English text: CFCA / source: Against Antisemitism blog]

In a post on Facebook, Mr Isaac Alhanati accuses vandals for making an attempt to destroy the monument at the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki (located at the Observatory Park of the Thessaloniki University). The photograph we publish with the permission of Mr. Alhanati shows severe damage caused to the menorah on the monument. The memorial has been vandalized in December 2014 – just weeks after the inauguration ceremony – with the slogan “Free Palestine”.

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Photo courtesy of Isaac Alhanati, Thessaloniki, November 2016

The monument in memory of the old Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki was unveiled on Sunday, November 9, 2014:

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Source: kis.gr

Thessaloniki is changing

Dimitrios Tsermenidis, president of the Union of Public Transportation Workers of Thessaloniki uttered during a general assembly that «Jews are responsible for crucifying Christ», «This hall has the name Benaroya because God made a mistake by creating Jews» & «Unfortunately Hitler did not complete his work». Tsermenidis’ antisemitic rant was unequivocally condemned by other organizations present. Read more:

Abravanel, the Blog

“Unfortunately Hitler did not complete his work”

The history of Thessaloniki, (Salonica/Saloniki), is the history of the Jews and a small example of this can be seen in the travails of the main hall of the Workers Center of Thessaloniki (EKT) named after Avraham Benaroya. Who was Benaroya ? He is the grandfather of the modern greek workers movement by being the main personality behind the Federacion, the first socialist organization created in ottoman Salonica in 1909. When Salonica became part of the Greek State during the Balcan Wars he played a pivotal role in the incorporation of the Federacion into a new political formation called SEKE which would later become the Communist Party of Greece.

benaroya_family Abraham Benaroya and his family, most of them exterminated in Auschwitz. On the top left corner his son Lazarus who died as a corporal at the 50th Regiment on 30/1/1941 during…

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Antisemitic football graffiti in Thessaloniki

Supporters of PAOK F.C. have sprayed onto a wall in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, antisemitic graffiti calling the supporters of Aris F.C., also based in Thessaloniki, “Sons of a bitch” and “Jews” (in Greek: Εβραίοι).

The graffiti has been recently discovered by lawyer & author Michalis Tremopoulos at the east side of the city.

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Thessaloniki, June 2016. Photo courtesy of Michalis Tremopoulos.

Blogger Abravanel wrote in 2007:

“It is interesting that once a friend asked me if, as a greek Jew myself, knew if indeed Jews had founded the team of Aris Saloniki. I answered that to the best of my knowledge that this was not true and I inquired on why he wanted to know. He replied that often other fans accused him that his team was founded by Jews and he wanted to verify it! Apparently the simple fact that possibly a jew could be involved in the founding of a team was a reason enough to be contaminated, a kind of original sin. It wasn’t important that Aris doesn’t have anything to do with jews, (neither players, nor managers, nor anything else in his history), it was enough that a jew might have «touched» him to contaminate him forever without any chance of redemption. By the way probably this is the reason of why jews get the dubious honour of getting mentioned twice on the same wall, they get identified with the arch-enemy of PAOK, the team of Aris. So they become target for two reasons: one because as jews they’re a just object of hate and also because they’re identified with the traditional opponents.” (How to insult a greek! 19/3/2007)

 

Images of a lost world

Images of a lost world

Centropa is a non-profit, Jewish historical institute dedicated to preserving 20th century Jewish family stories and photos from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and disseminating these stories and photos through films, books and exhibitions.

The first oral history project that combines old family pictures with the stories that go with them, Centropa has interviewed 1,200 elderly Jews living in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Sephardic communities of Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. Learn more.

Antisemitic rally held in Thessaloniki

A rally against the new electronic “card of citizen” gathered hundreds of people in front of the oversized statue of Alexander the Great in Nea Paralia of Thessaloniki, reports journalist Sofia Christoforidou. Laypeople and members of the Greek Orthodox organization “Agios Vasileios” protested the “instruments of Antichrist and the New World Order” holding religious icons, banners, Greek and Byzantine flags. One of the banners featured the message: “No to the card of citizen. There is only one enemy: The international Zionism.”
rally against ID cards thessaloniki

“No to the card of citizen. There is only one enemy: The international Zionism.” Photo courtesy of Sofia Christoforidou

Antisemitic publications with titles like “The Jewish-Zionist vampire Soros is thirsty for Greek blood” were available for purchase during the demonstration. The protesters shouted slogans against “the Jewish” Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris.
One of the speakers was the excommunicated Abbot Methodios, who at a similar rally in Athens a few weeks ago threatened the Jews with a “Greek Hitler”. In Thessaloniki, he suggested again that the Christians are enslaved by “the Jews”. He also said that the Jews “were cannibals, when the Greeks were building Parthenons.” His Jew-hate rant was warmly applauded, reports Sofia Christoforidou.

Antisemitism in Greece can be violent

Symbiosis-FM100_6

In a recent radio interview, Greek Jewish pharmacist & blogger Iosif Vaena from Thessaloniki said that antisemitism in Greece can be violent:

The Jewish Elementary School in Fleming Street is surrounded by strong fences and anti-terrorist barriers – a response to terror attacks in neighbouring countries and folied attacks in Greece by domestic and foreign organisations. Yet, episodes of vandalism are still happening. In preparation for a feast, a few Jewish religious symbols that were left in the courtyard became the target of unknown individuals who threw eggs at them. Furthermore, Molotov cocktail bombs have been thrown against the Jewish graveyard; the Shoah memorial has ben vandalised; and during demonstrations some members of the Communist Party have attacked the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki offices and the Jewish Youth Club.

Why are these incidents not known although they have been reported by the media? “Because those committing these violent acts are what we consider ‘normal’ people,” explained Vaena. “Our neighbours, our friends, people with whom we go out to drink Ouzo. It is difficult to report them also because antisemitism and conspiracy theories are embedded in Greek society and are not considered outrageous”, he concluded.

Read more: Symbiosis Radio: Interview with Iosif Vaena (10.12.2015)

  • Some other posts related to cases of violent antisemitism in Greece since 2009:
  1. January ’09: antisemitic violence in Greece (Abravanel, the blog)
  2. New Arson in Hania Synagogue (16/01/2010, Abravanel, the blog)
  3. Salonica: Jews clash with antisemite over vandalism (21/07/2011, Abravanel, the blog)