The old saying to “never waste a good crisis” takes on a worrying meaning in Greece as the LàOS party with an antisemitic track record wins a major breakthrough for the far right by securing ministerial positions in the new unity coalition.
And with everyone focussing on the potential implications of the Greek debt crisis for Europe and the world economy, no one seems to have noticed.
Greek-Jewish blogger Abravanel has profiled the history and development of the far right in politics in Greece and looks at the possible ramifications for the country’s 6,000 strong Jewish community as LàOS’ representatives fill one ministerial and three under-secretarial positions in the new government.
In the 2009 elections LàOS attracted seven per cent of the vote, translating to 15 out of the 300 seats in the Greek parliament. The party was formed in 2000 after its founder, Yorgos Karatzaferis, was expelled from the conservative Nea Dimokratia party. The part won its first seats in the Greek parliament in 2007.
Abravanel writes that there are “there are literally hundreds of statements of LàOS top politicians in which they express antisemitism and credence to all kinds of weird conspiracy theories in which Jews are protagonists.”
The main accusations made by LàOS and its antecedents against Jews include charges of being Christ-killers, dual allegiance, masterminding 9/11, and being in cahoots with the Vatican against the Greek Orthodox Church. The party has also promoted Holocaust denial and the Russian antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Over the last three decades the security of the Jewish community has been officially recognised by successive governments and “it is doubtful whether the LàOS politicians will risk violent outbreaks by antisemitic groups which would lead to international exposure”.
Abravanel, however, lists three areas of main concern for the Greek Jewish community – with no immediate concern for its wellbeing but a prediction that “a deterioration is expected”.
1. The first one is the LàOS has managed to make antisemitism mainstream.
When LàOS politicians cast doubts over the Holocaust or accuse Jews of handling the greek national debt they introduce vulgar antisemitic speech into the everyday discourse. These arguments existed before but they were considered populistic and vulgar-chick. Nowadays when Karatzaferis drops A-bombs like directly accusing Jews of killing the Christian God, then statements like Communist Party of Greece leader’s on “30 pieces of silver” offered by Israel go by largely unnoticed raising the bar of what is considered acceptable.
It should be highlighted that Karatzaferis owns a television station with national television coverage and a party newspaper; these two media outlets have accomplished more in the fight against Jews than any neonazi fringe group given their wide audience and constant flow of virulent antisemitism.
2. The new ministers are not likely to directly challenge the Jewish community, but will use their power to advance antisemitic policies.
Consistent statements of theirs point to the fact that they will use their influence directly or indirectly to oppose the recent introduction of the Holocaust in greek history book, (Greece considered the murder of +60.000 Greek Jews a non-greek event and did not teach in the greek school system until the mid-00′s).
The new ministers will probably use their influence to discourage attacks of far-Right antisemitic groups to Jewish targets in order not to escalate mounting opposition to them. Still it is possible to withdraw police protection to Jewish institutions in case of leftist aggression in order to score points with their political rivals who would appear more antisemitic than LàOS.
They will protect neo-nazis from police prosecution as seen with the Georgiadis support of Plevris. They will also foster a climate of tolerance of racism; for example it will be less likely for a greek organization to oppose antisemitism when it’s revenues will be partly controlled by the LàOS government members.
Jews in high-profile places will probably witness some discrimination in State-related jobs. Not necessarily because Voridis, Georgiadis, Rodoulis or Yeorgiou will follow a systematic antisemitic policy but because their presence creates a safety net for those mid-level government employees who foster antisemitic feelings. LàOS claims it seeks a Greece for Greeks and Karatzaferis favorite game is one day to say that Greek Jews are Greeks and another to say that they are not; one cannot realistically can expect otherwise.
3. In case of tension the Middle East they shall revert to time-honored antisemitic policies.
Experience shows that despite lip-service to greek-israeli military cooperation, in times of crisis they have consistently turned in order to please their antisemitic voters. During Cast Lead in 2009 when Greek Jewry suffered attacks in all major greek cities, including arsonist attacks in synagogues and cemeteries the LàOS leader unleashed one of the most vicious attacks mixing Greek Jews, Israel, USA and nefarious powers in a scheme to assassinate Palestinian children the same way Jews assasinated Christ. This attack warranted an un-precedented request to the President of the Parliament Siufas on behalf of the Central Board of Jewish Communities so that Greek Jews were not left at the mercy of the mob; sadly only one parliamentarian rose to the challenge settling the question whether antisemitism is embedded in greek society.
Israeli academic Manfred Gerstenfeld has also written on LàOS’ ascension to office and the wider issue of the creeping acceptance by the EU of antisemitic and extreme anti-Israel statements by political parties and politicians.