Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Far right Golden Dawn party enters Greece’s Parliament

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Greek elections were held on May 6, and the main parties saw their support plunge in favour of extreme parties on the left and right, leaving no party with a clear majority to govern. The trend towards extremism appears to be a reaction to the Greek economic crisis and a vote against the severe austerity programs imposed in exchange for repeated financial bailouts. The Centre-Right New Democracy party won the most votes (18 percent) but recently announced that it has failed to form a coalition - sending Greece into political turmoil.

As a previous AIJAC post anticipated, the far-right Greek party Golden Dawn, often described as ‘Neo-Nazi', gained representation in parliament for the first time in Greek history, winning approximately 7 percent of the country's popular vote. Golden Dawn will apparently have 21 parliament seats out of 300.

Golden Dawn campaigned on an anti-austerity and anti-immigrant platform - calling for plans to landmine Greece's borders, immediately arrest and expulsion of illegal immigrants, and setting up special labour camps for legal immigrants who commit crimes.

Golden Dawn denies the ‘Neo-Nazi' label, preferring to call itself ‘nationalist'. However, its flag closely resembles the Nazi swastika, members are known to use Nazi salutes, 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 antisemitic attacks in the past.

Sources close to Golden Dawn also confirm these fears. Haris Kousoumbres, the former party No 3 who defected in 2002, wrote a self-published book titled Tearing Down the Myth of Golden Dawn in which he said that he was required to read Hitler's Mein Kampf and the writings of Josef Goebbels before being made a full member.

Jewish leaders in Greece expressed concern and disappointment on the news. David Saltiel, President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told JTA:

"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".

Saltiel said that 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.

Haaretz reported that Nelly Kapon, a prominent figure in Salonika's Jewish community, believes the rise of the extreme right derives from the rage felt by many citizens in Greece against illegal immigrants, but she is wary of Golden Dawn's intentions regarding Greece's Jewish population. Kapon said: "The party is not against Jews now, but this is a Nazi party, and they don't try to hide that."

The Australian reported that Moshe Kantor, the head of the European Jewish Congress, said:

"Golden Dawn does not even hide its Nazi tendencies. The fact that they have gained a semblance of support and power should rock Europe to its foundations and force European leaders to rethink their priorities."

The fact that some 750,000 voters in Greece cast ballots for Golden Dawn - a party that expressly articulates what are basically neo-Nazi sentiments, should be shocking especially in a country that can still recall Nazi occupation. But sadly it is less surprising than one might think given the recent mainstreaming of antisemitism in Greek politics and public discourse.

AIJAC has previously reported on some of these developments - including on how the far right LAOS political party in Greece, which has an antisemitic track record, last year secured ministerial positions in a unity coalition, and how these ministers later joined Greece's mainstream conservative party ‘New Democracy''. The Ministers themselves are known to have made antisemitic remarks.

AIJAC has also reported on failure of Greece's justice system to deal with genocidal antisemitism during the controversy surrounding book ‘Jews: The whole truth' written by Konstantinos Plevris, published in 2006. Amongst other terrifying comments, the book said that Jews need to be "rounded-up and executed within 24 hours", which is "the only way they understand" (p. 742). Plevris was found guilty of inciting racial hatred by a Greek court based on excerpts and quotations from the book, but he was able to successfully appeal the court ruling.

Golden Dawn may not be seeking to attack Greece's small Jewish community at the moment, but the fact that party is clearly sympathetic to Nazi ideology, was popular enough to enter Parliament, has grand aspirations to spread across Europe, and is not the only manifestation of growing racist extremism in Greece, should ring alarm bells not only in Greece but across Europe.

A video of the extremist rhetoric of Golden Dawn Leader Nikos Michaloliakos in his victory speech, along with some of the thuggish tactics of the group's officials toward journalists, is here.

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