Antisemitism in Greece

Antisemitism in Greece manifests itself in religious, political and media discourse. The 2009-2018 Greek government-debt crisis has facilitated the rise of far right groups in Greece, most notably the formerly obscure Golden Dawn.

Jews have lived in Greece since antiquity, but the largest community of around 20,000 Sephardic Jews settled in Thessalonica after an invitation from the Ottoman Sultan in the 15th century. After Thessalonica was annexed to Greece in 1913, the Greek government recognized Jews as Greek citizens with full rights and attributed Judaism the status of a recognized and protected religion. During the Holocaust in Greece, there were both rescue attempts and collaborationism with the Nazi authorities. More than 80% of Greek Jews were murdered.[1][2] Currently in Greece, Jewish communities representing the 5,000 Greek Jews are legal entities under public law. They come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, according to Law No. 2456/1920 "On Jewish Communities".[3][4]

History of antisemitism in modern GreeceEdit

Religious antisemitismEdit

As of 2005, there were around 5,000 Jews in Greece out of a population of 10.5 million.[5]

In 2000, the Greek government was obliged by the EU to remove the reference to "religion" from the national identity card. Leaders of the Orthodox Church protested, saying the government was "bowing to Jewish pressure".[5] The Archbishop (of Athens and All Greece) Christodoulos waged a campaign against the reforms and mobilized thousands of Greek citizens in mass protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki. These were followed by a series of antisemitic attacks motivated by notions of a "Jewish plot", including the extensive desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the Athens synagogue, and the defacement of Jewish monuments and private properties with slogans as swastikas.[6]

Antisemitism in the mediaEdit

In some cases, leftist and mainstream forums made no pretense of their traditional antisemitic sentiments.[7] The standoff at the Church of the Nativity and the Greek Orthodox Easter season generated many analogies between the role of Jews (Israelis) in the Crucifixions of Christ (Arafat) and the Prophets (Palestinians).[4][6]

During 2006, anti-Israel feeling revived and escalated with the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and the Hizballah. Leading media organs promoted the image of Israel as a Nazi state, which was attacking unarmed, helpless people in South Lebanon. Hizballah combatants were often described as 'freedom fighters' and 'resistance groups', while antisemitic references, as well as comparisons with the Holocaust, were common.[8]

Current situationEdit

In recent years there has been great improvement in Greece-Israel relations, particularly following the disintegration of Israel–Turkey relations after the Gaza flotilla raid. In August 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Greece. On his two-day tour, the Prime Minister discussed with the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou the possibility of expanding strategic ties and establishing greater cooperation between the nations' militaries and related industries.[9] It is yet to be seen what affect this geopolitical change will have on Antisemitism in Greece. While Greek Jews today largely "live side by side in harmony" with Christian Greeks, according to Giorgo Romaio, president of the Greek Committee for the Jewish Museum of Greece,[10] there has recently been an increased effort to work with other Greeks, and Jews worldwide, to combat any rise of antisemitism in Greece.

The Greek government debt crisis, which started in 2009, saw an increase in extremism of all kinds, including some cases of antisemitic vandalism. In 2010, the front of the Jewish Museum of Greece was defaced, for the first time ever.[11] On Rhodes, on 26 October 2012, vandals spray-painted the city's Holocaust monument with swastikas.[12] Partly to head off any new-found threat from extremism, thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish Greeks attended Thessaloniki's Holocaust Commemoration in March 2013.[13] The meeting was personally addressed by Greece's prime minister, Antonis Samaras, who delivered a speech to Monastir Synagogue (Thessaloniki).[14]

On February 7, 2014, Theodoros Karypidis, a local candidate for the Syriza political party for governor of the Western Macedonia region, remarked on his Facebook page that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was "lighting the candles in the seven branched candelabra of the Jews and lighting Greece on fire... He is organizing a new Hanukkah against the Greeks" when Samaras paid a visit to the synagogue in Thessaloniki as part of a commemoration of the destruction of the Greek Jewish community by the Nazis during the Second World War. A Samaras spokesman described the comments as "unacceptable, racist and anti-Semitic", and Tsipras's party called a special meeting to address the issue.[15] Syriza later dropped the candidate following criticism domestically within Greece and elsewhere, a move welcomed by the Greek Jewish community.[16]

In late 2014 Panos Kammenos, founder of the right-wing party Independent Greeks party, was recorded during a television interview making the antisemitic claim that "Jews don't pay taxes".[17]

Away from any instances of antisemitism in politics, there have been instances of Jewish cemeteries being desecrated during the period of economic crisis (Kos, July 19, 2013;[18] Thessaloniki, October 30, 2011;[19] and Kavala, June 13, 2010[20]). During 2011 a synagogue and a Holocaust memorial were also sprayed with antisemitic graffiti.[21][22] Towards the end of June 2014, a threatening graffito was found on the Athens Holocaust memorial. The graffito said, "Paragraph X-2 of hilkoth akum in the Talmud states, it is proper to kill Jews who have been baptized...Otherwise we shall destroy the synagogue for you".[23] Two more antisemitic graffiti were scrawled towards the end of 2014. In Thessaloniki a monument dedicated to the old Jewish cemetery was covered with anti-Israeli messages,[24] and in Larissa the Jewish cemetery was desecrated with antisemitic slogans.[25]

In March 2015, a survey about the Greeks' perceptions of the holocaust was published. Its findings showed that less than 60 percent of the respondents think that holocaust teaching should be included in the curriculum. Giorgos Antoniou, a historian at the International Hellenic University, commented to the article and said that "the Holocaust is not really treated as an issue of national concern”.[26]

In April 2015, Dimitris Kammenos, an MP for the right-wing Independent Greeks party, responded on a Tweet by Russian news-site RT about antisemitism in Europe with the question: "Have you recorded the attacks of Jews against all of us?".[27] Two months laters antisemitic graffiti was found in Athens[28] and in Kavala. [29] with the incidents involving desecration of Holocaust memorials. Critical as before with the comments of Panos Kammenos on the topic, the Greek Syriza party came out strongly against such sentiment, with Tsipras going on to ask Kammenos to resign.[30]

The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) published on 2015 the "ADL Global 100", a report of the status of antisemitism in 100 countries around the world. The report found that 69% of the adult population in Greece harbor some form of antisemitic attitude, of various levels of seriousness. The research found out that 38% of the population agree with the statement "Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars", and 85% think that "Jews have too much power in the business world".[31]

The rise of the "far right"Edit

Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avyi) was a fringe movement when founded in the early 1980s and remained so until 2009. In the 2009 elections, it garnered a meager 0.23 percent of the vote. In 2010, it won a seat on the Athens City Council and in the June 2012 election it received 6.92 percent of the national vote - thus becoming the fifth largest party currently in the parliament. According to an October poll (in 2012), if elections were held then, Golden Dawn would gain no less than 14 percent of the vote, making it Greece's third-largest party. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras described Golden Dawn as "a right-wing extremist, one might say Fascist, neo-Nazi party". With its violence against immigrants, swastika-like emblem and Nazi salute, its aggressive rallies, and unabashed references to Mein Kampf, as well as its propagation of literature touting the racial superiority of the Greeks, promoting Aryan supremacy, racist and antisemitic ideology, and Holocaust denial.[32][33] Nevertheless, Golden Dawn does not regard itself as a Nazi or even neo-Nazi party (although couple of pictures published on August 8, 2013 revealed a swastika's tattoo on Elias Kasidiàris shoulder[34] ), but simply as a nationalist formation, the members of which seek to rescue Greece for the Greeks - with its nationalist rhetoric, the party appeals to Greek pride. On June 17, 2012, eighteen members of Golden Dawn were sworn into the Boule ton Ellenon (Greek parliament). In so doing, it has arguably become the most extreme right-wing political party to have won parliamentary seats in Europe in recent years.[35] In 2002, marked by a wave of antisemitic manifestations, the most disturbing was the electoral success of George Karatzaferis, the leader of the ultra-nationalist LAOS party. Karatzaferis was one of the most outspoken promoter of antisemitism in Greek public life, and often used his television channel, TeleAsty, which was granted an official license, to voice antisemitic, racist and nationalist propaganda. He also owned the weekly newspaper Alpha Ena, both of which, along with the LAOS party, were singled out as the major disseminators of the September 11th libel in Greece.[6][36][37][38][39]

In January 2014, thousands of pictures and videos were found at one of the Golden Dawn MP's. They carried antisemitic rhetoric and included photos of party members performing the Nazi salute or violent acts.[40] Earlier, on May 2013, Golden Dawn MP was ejected from Parliament chamber after few "Hail Hitler" calls were heard.[41]

On March 2, 2014, a doctor who is a member of the Golden Dawn party, had put a plaque outside his office which said, in German, "Jews Not Welcome". A search by authorities retrieved 12 knives and three daggers, two inscribed with Nazi symbols, and he was arrested.[42]

The Orthodox ChurchEdit

The Orthodox Church has yet to officially absolve the Jews for the death of Christ. Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies still contain verses in which collective guilt for the death of Jesus is ascribed to the Jews. Antisemitism is also retained in popular Easter customs. According to Professor Frangiski Abatzopoulou of the University of Thessaloniki, the Burning of Judas Iscariot (the Holy Thursday custom of the "Kapsimo tou Youda") is the "most familiar and widespread manifestation of traditional anti-Semitism in Greece". She notes that "the accusation [against the Jews] for Theoktonia, reactivated through liturgy, cannot be examined in the framework of rationalism given that it is inscribed in religious experience". But, she stresses, "it can be examined in relation to the mechanism of scapegoating, which constructs the 'Jew' as guilty not only for 'theoktonia' but for all the other suffering in the world as well".[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Online Exhibition — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum".
  2. ^ Apostolou, A. (1 February 2000). ""The Exception of Salonika": Bystanders and collaborators in Northern Greece". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 14 (2): 165–196. doi:10.1093/hgs/14.2.165. ISSN 8756-6583.
  3. ^ Levy, Richard S. "Antisemitism in modern Greece". H-Net. Archived from the original on 2 June 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002 - 2003" (PDF). EUMC. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b Wistrich, Robert S. "European Anti-Semitism Reinvents Itself" (PDF). The American Jewish Committee. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 May 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d "ANTI-SEMITISM IN GREECE A CURRENT PICTURE: 2001-2002". The Balkan Human Rights Web Pages. Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  7. ^ "GREECE 2002-3". The Stephen Ruth Institute for The Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  8. ^ "GREECE 2006". The Stephen Ruth Institute for The Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Rasicm. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Current Activities of the Jewish Museum of Greece, The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. URL accessed April 15, 2006.
  11. ^ "Page not found -". 25 July 2010. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2017. Cite uses generic title (help)
  12. ^ "Global Anti-Semitism: Selected Incidents Around the World in 2012". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Thessaloniki remembers lost Jewish community". Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  14. ^ Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Greek politician accuses prime minister of heading Jewish conspiracy". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 6, 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Greek Party drops election candidate following Jewish plot claims". 2014-02-10. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Politician claimed Jews don't pay taxes". CFCA. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Cemetery desecrated". CFCA. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  19. ^ "Antisemitic graffiti on a cemetery". CFCA. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  20. ^ "Greece – Cemetery desecrated in Kavala". CFCA. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  21. ^ "Holocaust memorial desecrated". CFCA. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  22. ^ "Synagogue desecrated". cfca. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Threatening graffiti defaces Athens Holocaust memorial". CFCA. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  24. ^ "Jewish cemetery monument vandalized with anti-Israeli graffiti". CFCA. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  25. ^ "Jewish cemetery desecrated". CFCA. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  26. ^ van Versendaal, Harry (19 March 2015). "Victimhood culture spawns Greek anti-Semitism, study finds". ekathimerini. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  27. ^ "MP tweets about 'attacks of Jews against all of us'". CFCA. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  28. ^ "Memorial to Jewish children desecrated". CFCA. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Holocaust memorial desecrated". CFCA. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  30. ^ "Greek minister resigns amid row about antisemitic tweets". 24 Sep 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  31. ^ "ADL Global 100: Greece". ADL Global 100. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Greek lawmaker suggests in Parliament he is a Holocaust denier". CFCA. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  33. ^ "New Holocaust denial from Golden Dawn MP". CFCA. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  34. ^ "Swastika tattoo on Elias Kasidiàris shoulder". CFCA. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  35. ^ Navoth, Michal. "The Greek Elections of 2012: The Worrisome Rise of the Golden Dawn" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  36. ^ "Anti-Semitism in Greece: Embedded in Society". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  37. ^ Preposterous rumor that 4000 Jews had been warned and did not go to their offices on September 11th, the day of the terror attack in New York
  38. ^ "GREECE 2001-2". The Stephen Ruth Institute for The Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  39. ^ According to a television opinion poll conducted 17-18/10/2001, five weeks after the circulation of the rumor that Jews working in the twin towers in New York knew of the terrorist attack, by KAPA Research among 622 households in the Greater Athens Area for the TV program "Protagonistes" aired on 18 October 2001 on NET, showed that 42% subscribed to this rumour, as opposed to 30% who did not
  40. ^ Smith, Helena (17 January 2014). "Golden Dawn photos shock Greece". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  41. ^ "Golden Dawn MP first to be ejected from Parliament chamber for years". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  42. ^ "Greek doctor arrested for inciting anti-Jewish hatred, weapons possession". CFCA. Retrieved 9 March 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Ψαρράς, Δημήτρης (2013). Το μπεστ σέλερ του μίσους: Τα "Πρωτόκολλα των σοφών της Σιών" στην Ελλάδα, 1920-2013 [The bestseller of hate: the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in Greece, 1920-2013] (in Greek). Athens: ΠΟΛΙΣ.
  • Stricter laws relating to racism in Greece [1]

External linksEdit