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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

Germany Urged to Resolve Greek Holocaust Ransom Issue

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The World Jewish Congress urged Germany to address a request by the Greek Jewish community of Thessaloniki to be paid back for a ransom it had surrendered to the Nazis when they occupied Greece during the Second World War.

In 1942, the Greek Jewish community paid 1.9 billion drachmas (about $61 million in today’s money) to a Nazi commander for the release of about 10,000 Jews who were forced to perform hard labor on roads and railroads. About 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki first brought the request to return the money before Greek courts in 2007. This year, the Jewish community is suing Germany over the issue in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, although Germany’s Finance Ministry has so far rejected the request.

“Surely the German government, which has settled so many Holocaust-era claims righteously, can find a resolution for this claim, which the Jewish community of Thessaloniki in Greece has pressed for decades and is extensively documented,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said Tuesday. “As German President Joachim Gauck makes an official visit to Greece this week, now is the time to bring closure to this episode.”

Greek Ambassador Rejects Boycott of Israel

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Greece’s Ambassador to Israel Ambassador Spyridon Lampridis said Wednesday that the European Union is a friend of Israel and that  Greece will make sure the EU does not boycott or isolate the country, despite differences of opinion.

He told Israel radio that Greece will do everything it can to prevent a diplomatic fight between Israel and the European Union with weapons such as labeling products with a stamp that make Israel look illegitimate.

“We give 100 percent seaport to the initiative of  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and do not see any confrontation on the horizon,” he stated.

The remarks from an official from Greece, a close friend of Israel, normally could be discarded as being insignificant except that Greece for the next six months is the rotational president of the European Union.

Israeli media reported on Tuesday that Kerry is behind efforts to boycott Israel, a weapon that could be unleashed if Israel does not accept his demands for creating the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country.

Greek City to Build Holocaust Museum and Research Center

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The northern Greek city of Thessaloniki will build a Holocaust research center at the site where some 50,000 of the city’s Jews were deported to Nazi death camps. “This is the fulfilment of a historic responsibility for Thessaloniki,” city Mayor Yiannis Boutaris told reporters.

The agreement to establish the Memorial Center on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research at the city’s old railway station was signed among the Thessaloniki Jewish community, the city and the Greek transport ministry.

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was one of the most important centers of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the expulsion from Spain. Known as the Flower of the Balkans, it was the center of Ladino culture in the region. In March 1943 the Nazis began sending Jews in railway convoys to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. By August, 49,000 out of the city’s pre-war population of 55,000 Jews had been deported. Fewer than 2,000 survived.

Boutaris has been instrumental in acknowledging the city’s rich Jewish history and the extent of its devastation. Earlier this year he organized a public march to commemorate 70 years since the first deportations, the first such display by the Jewish community since the end of the war.

The Thessaloniki Jewish community said the project was a long-held dream and particularly important at a time when Greece is struggling to deal with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party which has 18 seats in parliament.

Russian Navy’s First Port Visit to Egypt in 21 Years

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Suddenly, even Vladimir Putin looks more attractive.  He looks, at least, like he actually intends to fight radical Islamism – in some of its varieties anyway.  In theory, he has some pull with Iran.  He can exert a certain level of “check” on the Syria crisis.  His relatively well armed nation sits on the other side of Erdogan’s wild-card Turkey, which keeps bouncing from China to Iran to NATO and back again.  He’s not “Europe” – not really – but “Europe” acknowledges that he has to be given a place at the table.

Maybe he doesn’t look attractive, exactly; maybe the word is interesting.  Whatever it is, it’s showing up in real forms now, in regional nations’ decisions in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Last week came the flurry of reports that Putin would visit Egypt in November and announce a major arms sale, which will inevitably serve as something of a counter-smack to the U.S. decision to halt arms deliveries to Egypt a few weeks ago.

The newer news is from Monday, November 11, when Russia’s Slava-class missile cruiser Varyag pulled into Alexandria for the Russian navy’s first port visit in Egypt since 1992.  Pundits of varying quality have rushed to speculate that Moscow will soon have the use of Egyptian ports as bases in the region.  I doubt that; Egypt is too anxious to retain her stature and independence of action – properly so – and doesn’t “need” to accord Russia such privileges to keep useful ties going between the two of them.

In the current, comparative disarray of some Arab governments in the region, Egypt’s actually looks solid and moderate, and has the overt support of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the tacit support of Israel – all of which are well armed, well connected regional powers with common interests in a status quo.  The situation over which Al-Sisi presides is different from that of the Nasser regime in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was so eager for the great-power patronage of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Russia, for her part, is unlikely to press this issue.  Between Syria, Greece, Cyprus, Montenegro, and Malta, the Russian navy has a lot of options now for making temporary landfalls for logistics.  Moscow wouldn’t necessarily even save money by concluding more literal “basing” agreements in the Mediterranean.

But I’m sure we can expect to see the Russian navy welcomed in Egyptian ports.  This makes a noteworthy, and regrettable, contrast with the U.S. Navy, which has been scarce in Egyptian ports in recent years – in spite of our two nations’ close relationship – largely because of the threat of terrorism.

Egypt, meanwhile, isn’t the only nation to roll out the welcome mat for the Russian navy in the past year.  In May, the Russian amphibious ship Azov arrived in Haifa for the first port visit ever by a Russian navy ship to Israel.  Russia and Israel have of course found some common ground in their opposition to radical Islamism, and the Netanyahu government has had a robust program of diplomatic outreach to Russia since it took over in the spring of 2009.  After Putin visited Jerusalem in June 2012 to pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, a naval port visit could hardly have been far behind.

Russian warships also visited Lebanon in March 2013, an exceedingly rare occurrence.  According to Russia’s defense ministry, the visit involved a frigate and two amphibious ships, and signified no intention on Moscow’s part to establish any permanent basing arrangement.

Cyprus hosted multiple visits by Russian warships in 2013, fueling the usual speculation that Moscow is negotiating for basing rights on the island.  (See here for more on Russia’s strategic approach to Cyprus.)  It has become routine in the last few years for Russian navy ships to visit ports in Greece and Malta.  Russian officials announced earlier this year that the navy’s newly constituted (or, in effect, reconstituted) Mediterranean squadron would use a port in Montenegro as well, referring to the port of Tivat (which for many years during the Cold War was a Yugoslav navy base, used as a Mediterranean base by the Soviet navy).  A September 2013 press release on the upcoming activities of amphibious landing ship Yamal indicated the ship would visit Greece and Montenegro this fall.

Golden Dawn Leader Jailed Ahead of Trial in Greece

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

A Greek court has ordered the head of the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party held in jail until his trial following six hours of testimony that ran through the night.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos was arrested last week with several other lawmakers and senior Golden Dawn members on charges of forming a criminal organization, part of an unprecedented crackdown on the neo-Nazi party. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou hailed the decision on Michaloliakos an important victory for the Greek legal system, calling it “the most dynamic confrontation of a neo-Nazi criminal gang in European, and possibly world, history.”

Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the 300-member parliament and is known for its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leadership. Its leaders have denied the charges against them, saying the arrests were part of a political witch hunt against the party.

The crackdown on Golden Dawn, which included the arrest of more than 10 other party leaders, follows widespread outrage and protests in Greece in the wake of the Sept. 18 killing of anti-fascist rapper Killah P by a suspected Golden Dawn member.

Smoke Warning Forces NY-Israel El Al Plane to Land in Greece

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

A smoke detector warning in a bathroom forced an El Al airplane with 324 passengers  on the New York-Tel Aviv route to land in Athens late Wednesday night, according to the Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot newspaper.

All of the crew and passengers are safe, and the airline placed them in hotel rooms before they could resume their trip to early Thursday morning.

 

European Report Says Greece Can Ban Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

A report released by the Council of Europe says that Greece could legally ban the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, but Greece has rejected the idea.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, France and runs the European Court of Human Rights.

The 32-page was issued Tuesday by the council’s human rights commissioner Nils Mutinies, who said he was “seriously concerned by the increase in racist and other hate crimes in Greece,” and that “a number of the reported attacks have been linked to members or supporters, including MPs, of the neo-Nazi political party ‘Golden Dawn.’” The party has been linked to a number of violent, racist attacks and is openly anti-Zionist.

The reports said that under existing Greek legislation and under treaties signed by Athens, Greece had the legal means to take steps against Golden Dawn, including banning the party.

“The Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to be highly vigilant and use all available means to combat all forms of hate speech and hate crime and to end impunity for these crimes,” the report added.

Golden Dawn emerged on the political scene last year, winning 7 percent of the vote or 18 seats in the 300-member Greek Parliament. Recent polls have indicated the party, which runs on a fiercely anti-immigrant platform, now has 14 to 18 percent of the population’s support.

A statement on the party’s website dismissed the report, saying the Council of Europe was a “Zionist institution.”

Greek media said the Greek government had sent the council a response indicating they were unlikely to ban Golden Dawn.

Spiegel Bemoaning ‘Germanophobia’

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

It appears that the Germans have been expecting to be forgiven for those memorable years 1933-1945, especially when considering all the goodness and stability Germany has been spreading around the continent. But the continent is refusing to be grateful, and have become quite insolent, in fact. Germany’s push for austerity during the ongoing euro crisis has prompted Nazi depictions of Chancellor Angela Merkel in many parts of Southern Europe and mass demonstrations pushing the same idea, namely that today’s Germany is pursuing the same old targets, using economic means.

This weekend, Spiegel interviewed Brendan Peter Simms, a professor of the History of International Relations in the Center of International Studies at Cambridge University, asking poignantly: “People talk of a Fourth Reich, and the hatred is palpable. Is this just absurd dramatics, or is it a reaction to a true power shift in Germany’s favor?”

Prof. Simms enlightened Spiegel’s editors—and their German readers—on the fact that the “German question” is still very much on everybody’s mind in Europe, despite the German reunification, and perhaps because of it.

“There is no doubt Germanophobia exists,” said Simms. “Look at Greece, at Italy, even Ireland, a country that has never before expressed hostility toward Germany, but which is now full of anger over increasingly painful cuts to its standard of living, an anger that comes from people feeling they have been hung out to dry. Then, of course, there is also anti-German sentiment that stems from World War II, for example in Greece.”

According to Simms, the problem starts with German politicians who tend to emphasize almost exclusively the poor conduct of the countries at the periphery of the EU, insisting that those countries change this conduct as a prerequisite for changing the EU’s political structure.

“By taking this position, they’re failing to recognize that this poor conduct was in part a result of a design flaw in the way the euro was implemented, which led to the countries at Europe’s periphery being flooded with new, cheap money… My fear is that Germany’s policies on this point consist solely of setting the European periphery conditions it can’t fulfill.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/spiegel-bemoaning-germanophobia/2013/04/14/

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