Far-right victories in Greece prompt upset, concern from Jewish community


Jewish leaders in Greece expressed concern and disappointment after the fascist Golden Dawn party was poised to enter the Greek parliament for the first time.

With most of the ballots counted, Golden Dawn received nearly 7 percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections as Greeks punished the mainstream parties they blame for the country’s financial crisis and accepting harsh European austerity measures.

“It is very disappointing that in a country like Greece, where so many were killed fighting the Germans, that a neo-Nazi party is now in parliament,” David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told JTA.

It was a major victory for Golden Dawn, whose flag closely resembles the Nazi swastika. In the 2009 elections, the party garnered just 0.29 percent of the vote. In Greece, a party needs more than 3 percent of the vote to make it into parliament.

Saltiel said Golden Dawn entering the parliament was of ” very great concern because they are extreme right,” but he expressed his hope that the party may now moderate its positions.

“We are looking at how the situation will be in parliament and what their positions will be,” he said.

Speaking to a news conference on Sunday, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos warned Greece’s enemies—inside and outside the country—that they should be “very afraid.”

“We are coming,” said Michaloliakos, one of the party’s only nationally known leaders. He came to prominence when he won a seat on the Athens City Council in 2010 and celebrated by giving the Nazi salute at the first City Hall meeting.

The party had campaigned on an anti-austerity, anti-immigrant platform, preying on the fears of ordinary Greeks who have seen their neighborhoods overrun by the nearly 1 million immigrants who have flooded the country from Asia and Africa hoping to use it as a gateway to the European Union.

During the elections, young party supporters with shaved heads and wearing black shirts with the Golden Dawn symbol set up vigilante groups to protect Greeks from immigrants. They have been blamed for several attacks on foreigners; the party denies the charges.

The party’s election platform included plans to landmine Greece’s borders, immediately arrest and expel illegal immigrants, and set up special labor camps for legal immigrants who commit crimes.

Its manifesto does not specifically mention the country’s small Jewish community, saying only that the party would tolerate religious freedom “except in cases that affect national interest and undermine Hellenism.”

However, the party openly displays copies of “Mein Kampf” alongside works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters and the party symbol has been found at the sites of anti-Semitic attacks in the past.

Main Findings in Suppressed Report


The study that the European Union’s Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia commissioned was prompted by a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe that intensified in the spring of 2002. The report was suppressed, allegedly to avoid offending Europe’s large Muslim communities. The European Jewish Congress obtained a copy of the report and released it Monday.

Among the report’s findings were these:

In many cases, perpetrators of attacks could not be identified. But in cases where they could, the attacks "were committed above all either by right-wing extremists or radical Islamists or young Muslims, mostly of Arab descent, who are often themselves potential victims of exclusion and racism."

Attacks such as desecration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, painting of swastikas, sending threatening and insulting mail and Holocaust denial generally were attributable to the far right.

Physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues often were committed by young Muslims. Many of these attacks occurred during or after pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which also were used by radical Islamists for engaging in verbal abuse of Jews. In addition, radical Islamist groups were responsible for placing anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in Arab-language media.

On the extreme left-wing scene, anti-Semitic remarks were made at pro-Palestinian and anti-globalization rallies and in newspaper articles that used anti-Semitic stereotypes in criticizing Israel.

This combination of anti-Zionist and anti-American views formed an important element in the emergence of an anti-Semitic mood in Europe, the report found. Israel — portrayed as a capitalistic, imperialistic power — the "Zionist lobby" and the United States are depicted as evildoers in the Middle East and as a negative influence generally on world affairs.

More difficult to record and evaluate than street-level violence against Jews is "salon anti-Semitism," which is found in "the media, university common rooms and at dinner parties of the chattering classes," the report said.

In public debate on Israeli politics, individuals who are not politically active and do not belong to the far left or far right often voice latent anti-Semitic attitudes, the report found. Opinion polls show that in some European countries, a large proportion of the population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes and views, but they usually remain latent.

Observers point to an "increasingly blatant anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media," including audiotapes and sermons, in which the call is made to fight Israel and Jews across the world. Though leading Muslim organizations sometimes express opposition to such propaganda, calls for the use of violence are assumed to influence readers and listeners.

The report also discusses the media’s possible influence on the escalation of anti-Semitic incidents. The question is whether such escalation is due merely to daily coverage of Israeli-Palestinian violence or whether the reporting itself had an anti-Semitic bias.

One study of the quality German press concludes that the reporting concentrated greatly on Israeli military actions and was not free of anti-Semitic cliches, but negative views also were applied to Palestinians. The report on Austria found anti-Semitic allusions in the far-right press.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, some Europeans argued that Islamist terrorism was a natural consequence of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for which they held Israel alone responsible. They also believe Jews have a major influence on America’s allegedly biased, pro-Israel policies.

This nexus is where anti-American and anti-Semitic attitudes could converge and conspiracy theories about "Jewish world domination" could flare up again, the report says.

The assumption of close ties between the United States and Israel provides further incentive for harboring anti-Semitic attitudes. Especially on the political left, anti-Americanism is closely bound up with anti-Zionism. Additionally, dovish activists, globalization opponents and some Third World countries view Israel as aggressive, imperialist and colonialist.

Such criticism is not necessarily anti-Semitic, but the report found that there are exaggerated formulations in which criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, such as when Israel and the Jews are accused of replicating Nazi crimes.

The tradition of demonizing Jews is in some sense now being transferred to the State of Israel, the report found. In this way, traditional anti-Semitism is translated into a new, seemingly more legitimate form, which could become part of the political mainstream in Europe.

Educational campaigns targeting Muslims, which include such arguments as burning "a synagogue is like burning a mosque," have encouraged dialogue, the report found. — TA

Where’s the Outrage?


For those who believed President George W. Bush would chart a moderate course, the administration’s first two months must come as a rude awakening. Those who were lulled into believing that Bush was a compassionate conservative have now discovered that only the latter half of this otherwise vacuous campaign slogan is true.

A virtually giddy George Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, recently described the Bush White House as “more Reaganite than the Reagan Administration.” And as Grover Norquist, a leading right-wing strategist, ungrammatically confessed: “There isn’t an us and them with this administration. They is us. We is them.”

Why is the far right rejoicing? Consider just a few examples:

The deeply divisive appointment of ultraconservative Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The reinstatement of an abortion gag order on international organizations providing family planning counseling.

The promulgation of so-called faith-based initiatives that are already stirring anti-Semitic rumblings, pitting service providers of various religious denominations against each other and calling into question the very definition and legitimacy of various faith communities.

The retraction of a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with a refusal even to acknowledge — much less react to — the phenomenon of global warming.

The withdrawal of new regulations that would have substantially reduced the permissible level of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water.

The willingness to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling while simultaneously refusing to ask automobile manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency.

The refusal to impose any federal constraints upon hyper-profiteering electricity providers, as California citizens and businesses suffered through rolling blackouts and girded themselves for 50 percent-plus-aggregate utility-rate increases.

The repeal of workplace ergonomic safety rules designed to protect tens of millions of Americans.

The proposals to dramatically cut already modest funding of child care for low-income families, for programs designed to combat child abuse, and all trust-fund money earmarked for early learning.

The readiness to promote the interests of the ultra-rich by repealing the estate tax and providing them with the lion’s share of federal income-tax relief.

The passage of a bankruptcy-reform bill that will harm consumers while pandering to a credit-card industry that seduced those very consumers into amassing irresponsible levels of debt.

The ongoing push for a destabilizing, untested and unworkable Star Wars missile-defense shield.

The implementation of a sometimes schizophrenic foreign policy that seems destined to reignite Cold War-era hostilities.

The abandonment of a meaningful role (including the refusal to appoint a Middle East envoy with a specific portfolio) in helping to resolve the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The precipitous termination of the American Bar Association’s 47-year-old advisory role in the selection of federal judges, thus raising the specter of temperamentally and professionally unqualified candidates being nominated and appointed for federal court judgeships.

Though many of these actions may well be examples of the reward-your-friends-and-punish-your-enemies game of politics, there is something missing — outrage. Having crafted the first Judenrein Cabinet since the Eisenhower administration, Bush is sucker-punching the Jewish community. Amazingly, mainstream American Jewry has reacted only with profound silence to the White House’s wholesale sell-out to the religious right, to fanatic ideological conservatives, to big business, and to every imaginable segment of the energy industry.

Only with respect to the administration’s misguided faith-based initiative has the mainstream Jewish community spoken up in any serious way. And even then, the criticism proffered by traditional Jewish organizations has too often been divisively targeted toward contesting the bona fides of putative non-Jewish service providers. While battling Bush’s desire to dismantle the wall of church-state separation is obviously necessary, it cannot be the beginning and end of Jewish activism.

In an era when coalition politics has become increasingly important to a vibrant Jewish community, we must engage and activate ourselves on many more fronts than those where we have been traditionally heard.

Our tradition commands us to work for tikkun olam, the healing or repair of the world. We cannot remain silent in the face of this assault on our community’s values by a right-wing administration with no mandate to impose its agenda upon the rest of us.

Though the Bush inaugural (with its multiple invocations of Jesus Christ) occurred less than three months ago, it is long past time for American Jewry to heed a serious wake-up call to conscience.

Douglas Mirell,
president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, can be reached at dmirell@pjalliance.org. Daniel Sokatch,
executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, can be reached via e-mail
at dsokatch@pjalliance.org. The
organization’s Web site can be found at www.pjalliance.org.