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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

Salonika’s Re-elected Mayor Wore the Yellow Star

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

The mayor of Salonika, second-largest city in Greece, wore a yellow Star of David to his second term inauguration at city hall last week.

Mayor Iannis Boutaris, 72, wore the star as a gesture of respect to honor the memory of the Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II, he explained.

Boutaris pinned the star to his jacket as a resposne to the presence of a radical right parliamentarian from the Golden Dawn party, Artemis Mathaiopoulos, on the city council, the European Jewish Press reported.

Golden Dawn has become the third most popular party in the national elections.

The Nazis deported more than 90 percent of Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonika) at the time – some 60,000 Jews – and then later wiped them out. Only 1,200 Jews live in Salonika today.

Neo-Nazi Parties Win Seats in 2 European Parliament Elections

Monday, May 26th, 2014

For the first time ever, neo-Nazi political parties have won seats in the Brussels-based European Parliament, according to the latest exit polls. The election took place yesterday (Sunday, May 25), just a day after three Jews were murdered and a fourth person seriously wounded in a terror attack at the city’s Jewish Museum.

Is it a surprise that one of the parties was located in Germany? But a second country also voted in neo-Nazis as well — and not so far from Israel, either.

The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NDP) won one MEP (Member of the European Parliament) seat in yesterday’s European Union (EU) elections, coming in fourth with one percent of the vote in German polls. In the 1930s, Germany’s Nazi party was officially named the ‘National Socialists.’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-EU Christian Democratic Union party won 36 percent of Germany’s vote, followed by the Social Democrats, a center-left coalition partner with 27.5 percent. But in third place was the new “Alternative for Germany” with 6.5 percent of the nation’s vote, according to The Daily Mail. And the anti-EU AfD party was reported to have won as many as six MEPs; the party has advocated for ending the country’s use of the euro as currency.

However, Germany was not the only country that flipped to the right, by a long shot.

In Greece, for the first time the extreme-right neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ party won three seats, coming in third with nine percent of the vote. The anti-EU Syriza party also took the lion’s share of the vote, with 27 percent, an ominous sign, analysts said.

“Euroscepticism,” – a relatively new term – is criticism of the European Union and opposition to the process of political European integration – belief that integration weakens the nation state – and this trend ruled the elections on Sunday, as The Daily Mail pointed out.

In Italy, the anti-EU “Five Star” (M5S) movement, headed by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, appeared to be headed for a close second place with 25 to 28 percent of the vote. First place was just a shave ahead by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi’s center left Democratic Party (PD) with 29.5 to 32.5 percent of the vote.

In France, Marine Le Pen made headline when her hardline French National Front party proved the most popular with a quarter of the vote, 11 percent ahead of the ruling Socialists. Le Pen called for new elections in France and labeled the EU Public Enemy Number One, saying it is “like the old Soviet Union – it can’t be improved.” In fact, President Francoise Hollande’s party came in third with 14.7 percent of the vote, following the center-right UMP, which garnered 20.3 percent.

In Sweden, the Feminist Initiative Party also won seats in the European Parliament for the first time, with around seven percent of the vote. However, so did far-right Sweden Democrats.

In Belgium, where election coverage competed with coverage of the terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum, Flemish separatists were the big winners in the parliamentary elections there. But it will be months before a new government is formed.

The center-right New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has a third of the votes in Flanders, where 60 percent of Belgian residents live and where Dutch is spoken – this, after 80 percent of the votes are counted. N-VA leader Bart De Wever said he believes the king will grant him the right to attempt to form a coalition, but it will mean finding potential French-speaking allies. Due to the Belgian system, there are effectively two elections, each with at least parties in two languages – French and Dutch. At least two from each side will be needed to form a coalition.

Why is Greece the Most Anti-Semitic Country in Europe?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

When the Anti-Defamation League published its global anti-Semitism survey last week, Greece, the cradle of democracy, captured the ignominious title of most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

With 69 percent of Greeks espousing anti-Semitic views, according to the survey, Greece was on par with Saudi Arabia, more anti-Semitic than Iran (56 percent) and nearly twice as anti-Semitic as Europe’s second-most anti-Semitic country, France (37 percent).

On its surface, the poll suggests that anti-Semitism is running rampant in Greece. Much of the blame goes to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which has found fertile ground for its extreme-right ideology in the ruins of Greece’s economic crisis. In elections held Sunday for Athens mayor, for example, 16 percent of the vote went to Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, a man notorious for beating a female political opponent during a television interview and for the large swastika tattooed on his shoulder.

But both the ADL and Greece’s small Jewish community caution that the reality is more nuanced than the poll numbers suggest.

“There is a danger of sensationalizing it, a danger of overplaying the psychological impact of the poll,” Michael Salberg, ADL’s director of international affairs, told JTA. “There needs to be real hard internal look at the data and examining what are the forces at play.”

For their part, Greek Jewish leaders took pains to point out that despite widespread bigotry, Greece hasn’t seen the sort of anti-Jewish violence that has cropped up in some other European countries, such as France.

“Despite the poll showing high levels of anti-Semitism, it must be noted that in Greece over the last four years we have not had any anti-Semitic violence against people or Jewish institutions,” said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

“This is not a poll about violence, but rather a survey on stereotypes, and yes, there are a lot of stereotypes among the Greek public,” he said.

The poll gauged anti-Semitism based on whether respondents agreed with a majority of 11 statements on Jewish power, loyalty, money and behavior that the ADL says suggest bias. They include such statements as Jews talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust; Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in; Jews think they are better than other people; Jews have too much power in the business world; and Jews have too much control over global affairs.

Critics have suggested that the survey is deeply flawed because the statements are not fair indicators of real anti-Jewish bias.

Of the 579 Greeks polled, 85 percent said Jews had too much power in the business world, 82 percent said Jews have too much power in the financial markets and 74 percent said Jews have too much influence over global affairs. The margin of error for Greece was plus or minus 4.4 percent.

In Greece, anti-Semitic viewpoints are aired frequently, particularly the notions that Jews control the global economy and politics. In 2012, when the Golden Dawn’s Kasidiaris read in Parliament from the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the reading drew no condemnation from the other lawmakers present.

Nor was there public condemnation when Golden Dawn slammed the recent visit by the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, as a trip to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

Golden Dawn hasn’t been alone in expressing such sentiments.

Earlier this year, the left-wing Syriza party’s candidate for regional governor accused Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of heading a Jewish conspiracy to visit “a new Hanukkah against the Greeks.” Syriza reluctantly dropped the candidate, Theodoros Karypidis.

At the heart of Karypidis’ theory was a move last year by Samaras to shut the allegedly corrupt Hellenic Broadcasting Authority and replace it with New Hellenic Radio and Television, known by its Greek acronym NERIT. According to Karypidis, NERIT is derived from the Hebrew word for candle, “ner,” which he links to Hanukkah.

Even the mainstream political parties have long histories of using anti-Semitic tropes.

“Greeks are fond of conspiracy theories, as they are steeped in conspiracy on a personal level,” Euthymios Tsiliopoulos, a journalist and political commentator, wrote on the popular current affairs website The Times of Change in the wake of the Karypidis scandal.

“As so many things are conducted through under-the-table, backroom deals, most naturally assume that the whole world is run in this manner,” he wrote. “As such, there is willingness to believe that the hardships the country and its inhabitants have undergone throughout the centuries is due to the machinations of foreigners. After all, it’s easier to believe this than to fix the perennial ills plaguing Greek society.”

Still, there are some signs of improvement.

Samaras and his government have moved to condemn anti-Semitic expressions and launched a crackdown on Golden Dawn, jailing many of its leaders. The government also has acted against Holocaust denial and runs school education programs together with the Jewish community.

“From the results of the poll, what is clear is that these stereotypes are very prevalent in Greek society,” Eliezer said. “How do you combat these stereotypes? Only through education.”

The ADL’s Salberg hopes the results of the poll will motivate others to act, too.

“Perhaps,” he said, “these very sobering numbers will raise questions within civil society among religious and civic leaders who don’t hold those views.”

 

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/russian-navys-first-port-visit-to-egypt-in-21-years/2013/11/13/

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