After elections, Greece´s Jews come to terms with neo-Nazi triumph (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Yair Ettinger 05/08/12)
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Greece´s Jewish community on Monday sent its members a laconic,
factual e-mail. Without any interpretive adornment, the message
conveyed a few dry facts. In elections staged on Sunday, the Golden
Dawn neo-Nazi party won 7 percent of the country´s popular vote - a
tally twice the minimum threshold level required to send
representatives to parliament.
The update also included information about districts in which Jews
live, and also biographies of the delegates that the far-right party
will send to parliament. All told, Golden Dawn will have 21
parliament seats out of 300.
The day after the elections, Greece´s Jewish community is still
trying to make sense of the results and new facts, and is cautious
about drawing conclusions about the stunning gains notched by the
militant, ultra-nationalist party which seeks to restore Greece´s
national pride and expel foreigners. Asked about the first,
postelection step to be taken by his party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos -
Golden Dawn´s founder and chairman - responded: "All illegal
immigration will be stopped. They [foreigners] will have to leave -
they must leave."
The explosion of rage following the elections has left members of
Greece´s Jewish community - and many others - confused. It is not
difficult to read signs of concern about the rise of extremism in the
country. While fascist parties are not new on Greece´s political
landscape, the country´s current economic crisis has stirred an
unprecedented number of outraged citizens to turn to extremist
Some 750,000 voters in Greece cast ballots for a party that expressly
articulates neo-Nazi sentiments, and which publicly sings Nazi songs
and openly bandies about Nazi symbols. David Saltiel, president of
Greece´s Central Board of Jewish Communities, issued a careful
statement after the elections, saying that "the Jewish community is
examining the situation."
Speaking from Salonika in a telephone conversation, Saltiel added
that he was surprised by the number of votes Golden Dawn
received. "In the last national elections, they didn´t pass the
threshold level, but in this election, voters banded together in
protest against the country´s two large parties, and that helped the
In the aftermath of the elections, it will be difficult for any of
the parties to cobble together a coalition, and so a second round of
balloting is likely. Saltiel does not find that scenario
daunting. "Should there be another ballot, we hope the Greeks will
think things through, and that the level of support for Dawn will
decrease. In any event, I think the parliament will isolate the
extreme right. We are examining the situation; the Greeks are not
afraid, and democracy will continue."
Saltiel added: "Right now, Golden Dawn is not coming out against
Jews; instead, it attacks immigrants. Still, there are right-wing
extremists, and we need to assess the situation and see how Greece´s
democracy will deal with this. There is no reason for worry."
Greece´s Jewish community is comprised of 5,000 people. Most are
secular or traditional, and only a few go out in public with visible
Jewish symbols. One who does is the Chabad emissary in Salonika, Yoel
Kaplan. "As one who wears Hasidic clothing in the street I encounter
some unpleasant words, but not acts," Kaplan says.
When exit poll results were announced on Sunday, he says, "Golden
Dawn supporters in Salonika took to the streets, and it was a mess. I
don´t flee the streets - when I need to go out, I go out. Mainly, the
threat is dealing with verbal violence; that has no meaning, for me."
Kaplan insists that Golden Dawn´s presence has been limited recently
to street rallies, though he acknowledges that in the past two years,
there have been arson incidents against synagogues in Corfu and
"Now, Golden Dawn members feel emboldened," he says, "and you can´t
ignore the neo-Nazi atmosphere that is heating up here. At one of
their street rallies, somebody said to me something like, ´You Jews
control everything here.´ Yet, on the other hand, what they´ve taken
on as their main agenda is attacking immigrants who come to Greece
from African and Balkan states, and this is happening because the
borders are open. They don´t seem to have any current grudge against
Nelly Kapon, a prominent figure in Salonika´s Jewish community,
believes the rise of the extreme right derives from rage felt by many
citizens in Greece against illegal immigrants. Still, she is wary of
Golden Dawn´s intentions regarding the country´s Jewish
population. "The party is not against Jews now, but this is a Nazi
party, and they don´t try to hide that," she says.
Discussing the past activities and agendas of other right-wing
parties in Greece, Kapon notes that Golden Dawn has a much more
extremist, violent-sounding platform. "Golden Dawn is much more
extremist, and now it has won 21 seats in the parliament," she says.
(© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/08/12)
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