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Greek Jews Mobilize to Defend Themselves Against Rise of Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

November 2nd 2012

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Antisemitism has been on the rise in Europe since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, but for the Jewish community in Greece, it has now reached the point where what was once unthinkable is now reality: A neo-Nazi political party has won real political power.

The Golden Dawn, which preaches that Greeks are racially superior to others; foments violence against minorities, immigrants, and homosexuals; and openly denies the Holocaust won 18 seats in parliament in the last elections, and is now poised to become the third-largest party in the country. This is a stunning and terrifyingly meteoric rise for what was just a few years ago a fringe movement universally despised by the Greek political establishment. Like the Nazi party, Golden Dawn has exploited economic and political instability in order to achieve political power, and one of its most potent weapons is antisemitism.

Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, denies there were gas chambers or ovens at Nazi death camps, and has a penchant for giving the Nazi salute. Statements from the party refer to Israel as a “Zionist terror state.” Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who made international headlines when he punched a female Communist Party member in the face during a live television debate, recently read out a passage from the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in parliament.

The Greek Jewish community numbers only 5,000 out of a population of 11 million, and it is scrambling to find a way to combat the sudden and unforeseen danger of Greek Nazism. “We must react to everything they do against the Jews,” said David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. “We protest, we fight in every instance where there are displays of anti-Semitism and will not let ourselves fall down. We take every measure we can within the spirit of democracy.”

A non-Jewish expert in the Holocaust at the University of Athens, Hagen Fleischer, notes that, however passionately the Jews fight back, “It is not possible for only a few thousand remaining Jews. There must be mainstream involvement or a big segment of the mainstream like newspapers, universities and the politicians."

Thus far, however, these groups appear to be stunned into inaction by the sudden rise of Golden Dawn. Moreover, the movement is perfectly willing to use violence in order to achieve its goals, sending thugs into the streets to attack those it views as racially or socially inferior.

The only ray of hope thus far has been a statement by the influential Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymous II, who publicly said that “The Church loves all people, including those who are black, white or non-Christians." There is no doubt, however, that this will not be enough; and Jewish or non-Jewish, no one in Greece appears to know what to do next.


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