Report on Anti-Semitism
Greek Helsinki Monitor
January 6, 2005
Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) reprints below the chapter on
Greece in the State Department report on anti-Semitism, released yesterday.
Although rather extensive it has weaknesses -listed below- that do
not make it comprehensive and always accurate.
1. In other country chapters the work of monitoring and reporting on
anti-Semitism by national NGOs and Jewish groups is mentioned. In the
Greece chapter it is not, even though the source of all the information
used are, directly or indirectly, those groups: this unprofessional
attitude has been publicly criticized in previous State Department human
rights reports. Only the international NGOs Wiesenthal Center and ADL
whose sources are also the Greek groups- are mentioned.
2. The report ignores the 2003 and 2004 references to anti-Semitism
in Greece by the Council of Europe, ECRI and the European Unions Monitoring
Center (EUMC), as well as the very critical ECRI reference to Greek
judges who fail to prosecute blatant anti-Semitic and other racist texts,
despite the existence of relevant legislation.
3. In two instances, the report claims that the Greek government condemned
all acts of anti-Semitic vandalism: this is a well-known myth the government
and its supporters propagate but, it is simply not true. For most acts
of vandalism, the government has remained silent, and in most cases
even local authorities have not reacted.
4. The report fails to mention the vandalism of Holocaust Memorials
in 2004 (Drama and Komotini).
5. It is incorrectly claimed that the Protocolscan be found only in
Northern Greece bookstores. They are available everywhere, and in many
editions, including in at least one official Greek Orthodox Church bookstore.
Moreover, they were published in 2004 by a mainstream publisher and
then presented in a review in Greece's largest newspaper as a historically
6. The report ignores Greece's Jewish community leaders protest against
Theodorakis and their insistence on it even after the government and
the composers ensuing statements. Likewise for their protest to the
journalists union for the widespread anti-Semitic articles and cartoons
following the killing of the Hamas leader: this protest was followed
by a violent public attack against the Jewish leadership by a union
board member, an action for which the community's head expressed his
7. The report also fails to mention the unveiling of several Holocaust
memorials (Arta, Komotini, etc.), as well as the first ever public celebration
of Hanukah during the reporting period, both very important and positive
8. Finally, the managers of the State Department web page have omitted
the Greece chapter from the related Europe and Eurasia country
reports web page:
Vandalism of Jewish monuments continued to be a problem during the
reporting period; however, the Government condemned the acts. Jewish
monuments in Ioannina were desecrated three times in 2003. The Holocaust
memorial in Thessaloniki was desecrated in February 2003. Police have
not found perpetrators. Anti-Semitic graffiti was painted, removed by
authorities, and repainted in several places on the busy Athens-Corinth
Highway. The extreme rightwing group "Golden Dawn" regularly
paints anti-Semitic graffiti on bridges and other structures throughout
Greece. Some schoolbooks still carry negative references to Roman Catholics,
Jewish persons, and others. Bookstores in Northern Greece sold and displayed
antiSemitic literature including "The Protocols of the Elders of
The Wiesenthal Center issued a travel advisory in November 2003 warning
Jewish visitors about "the failure of Greece to curb growing anti-Semitism;" however,
local Jewish community leaders do not support the advisory. The National
Tourist Organization continued to promote on its website Easter traditions
such as the burning of an effigy of Judas on some islands, sometimes
known locally as the "burning of the Jew," which propagate
hatred and fanaticism against Jews. The Wiesenthal Center protested
the revival of this tradition.
Anti-Semitism continued to exist, both in the mainstream and extremist
press. The Wiesenthal Center and the ADL denounced the press for anti-Semitic
articles and cartoons on several occasions, particularly after Israeli
forces killed Hamas leader Sheik Yassin. The line between opposition
to Israeli policies and attitudes toward Jews in general is often blurred,
giving rise to anti-Semitic sentiment in the media and among the public.
The mainstream media often use the terms "genocide" and "Holocaust" to
describe the situation in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, drawing a parallel
with Nazi Germany. The press and public often do not clearly distinguish
between Israeli policies and Jews. The Jewish community leaders have
condemned anti-Semitic broadcasts on small private television stations,
but no charges have been brought against these largely unlicensed operators.
The renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis called Jews "the root
of evil" in November 2003, and made strong anti-Semitic remarks
during the reporting period. Government officials stated that Theodorakis'
statements were directed against Israel and not against the Jewish people.
Populist Orthodox Rally (LAOS), a small, extreme right-wing party,
supports virulent nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.
LAOS's leader, George Karatzaferis, won a seat in the European Parliament
in June elections. Karatzaferis regularly attributes negative events
involving Greece to international Jewish plots. He used the party-owned
television station to denounce politicians with Jewish origins and to
claim that Jews were behind the September 11 attacks.
The Government condemned all acts of vandalism. The Government provided
24-hour police protection to Jewish Community offices in Athens and
other major cities. Negotiations between the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki
and the Government to find acceptable recompense for the community's
cemetery were ongoing.
The Constitution establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ
(Greek Orthodoxy) as the prevailing religion, but also provides for
the rights of all citizens to practice the religion of their choice.
Jews freely practice their religion, and Jewish organizations have not
complained or requested additional legal protection.
Judaism is one of the three religious groups (the others are Greek
Orthodox and Islam) considered to be "legal persons of public law." In
practice, this beneficial distinction primarily means that Jewish organizations
can own property as religious entities rather than as legal entities.
On January 15, the Parliament unanimously approved the declaration
of January 27, the day Auschwitz was liberated, as Holocaust Remembrance
Day. The following week, the country commemorated Holocaust Remembrance
Day with events in Athens and Thessaloniki and the participation of
Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. In April, a commemorative stone was placed
at the railway station from which Jews were deported to concentration
In October, the Government participated in the organization of a seminar
on "Teaching the Holocaust." Held under the auspices of the
Ministry of Education, it addressed 150 educators and Athens University
education majors. This teacher-training seminar aimed to introduce Holocaust
education in primary and secondary schools.
A memorial to Greek-Jewish veterans of World War II was unveiled in
October 2003 in Thessaloniki.