A Rising Anti-Semitic Storm in Greece
The so-called Affair Baltakos in Greece is one of those eye-opening moments that throws into sharp relief the problems posed by far-right extremist parties in Europe.
As I said in a press statement last week, the affair underscores that Europeans need to establish a common policy forbidding dealings with neo-Nazi, racist, and anti-Semitic elements, and create a clear “cordon sanitaire” vis-Ã -vis these parties.
Here’s what happened: Takis Baltakos, a top adviser to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, had to resign recently after Baltakos was caught on videotape discussing a government investigation of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party with a Golden Dawn official. In the apparently secretly recorded videotape, Baltakos seems to insinuate that the charges against Golden Dawn are politically motivated.
A virulently anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant group, Golden Dawn stands accused of major crimes. Police and magistrates are investigating charges that the party’s members and supporters were involved in a series of violent attacks, including the killing of a left-wing rapper in September.
Golden Dawn, unfortunately, is no fringe group. This party, which has capitalized on a wave of anger against harsh austerity measures Greece enacted because of the Eurozone crisis, has become the country’s third largest political force.
So I joined the Word Jewish Congress’ Greek affiliate, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), in voicing outrage that an aide to the Prime Minister had spoken with a neo-Nazi. KIS expressed its “strong resentment that a government official was in conversation” with the fellow, a member of Parliament named Ilias Kasidiaris.
KIS further stated that the Affair Baltakos shows that Greece and Europe have a “duty to isolate those who seek the return of Nazism, and those who disseminate racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideas, in order to safeguard democracy.”
Meanwhile, the crackdown on Golden Dawn continued last week when the Greek Parliament voted to strip legal immunities from Kasidiaris and four other Golden Dawn lawmakers, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges.
I have confidence in the legal process in Greece. If the charges are upheld in court and Golden Dawn is ruled a criminal organization, the full force of the law must be brought to bear on it, and I believe that this will be done.
Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress. This article comes from his blog at www.worldjewishcongress.org.