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January 26, 2015 7:08 pm

Jewish Leaders Express Mixed Feelings on New Greek Government

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The leader of the Syriza party and the new prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgJewish leaders have expressed both hope and concern over the outcome of the Greek election on Sunday, in which the radical left-wing Syriza party won 149 parliament seats and 36.3 percent of the vote.

Syriza officials have called for the end of Israel’s “brutality against Palestinians,” and Panos Kammenos—the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, with whom Syriza formed a majority coalition—garnered accusations of anti-Semitism last December for claiming that Greek Jews do not pay taxes. Golden Dawn, an extreme-right neo-Nazi party, placed third in results that polls suggested were driven largely by voters’ economic concerns.

The Greek Jewish community consists of about 5,000 people out of the country’s total population of 11.2 million, according to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The community has experienced rising anti-Semitic sentiment that is correlated with both the country’s economic crisis as well as escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

B’nai Brith International told in a statement that the group is concerned by some “past statements about Israel made by [Syriza] party leaders,” but hopes “that the relationship with Israel, which had been building over the past decade in many fields, will be unaffected by the outcome.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director David Harris said his organization looks to the Syriza-led government “to continue the measures implemented during the past years, and assure all minority communities, who are an integral part of Greece, that they will continue to be fully protected and respected, and that there will be no place for anti-Semitism in mainstream Greek society.”

Yet Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of international Jewish affairs, told that there are “troubling signs” from the election, including “the continued presence of the Golden Dawn party in the Greek Parliament despite the efforts of the [now-defeated New Democracy] government to prosecute the party’s leaders for criminal behavior, and the willingness—although some will argue necessity—of Syriza forming a government with the problematic Greek Independent Party.”

“No one doubts that it was the severe economic situation that propelled Syriza to victory, and it will now be measured by its success in dealing with it,” said Baker. “Those dire conditions and the political instability that flowed from them were certainly not beneficial, including to Greece’s small Jewish community.”

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  • E Pluribus Wombat

    Greece’s government which is now allied with the Nazis who came in third in the general elections, will clearly call for an ethnic cleansing of the last 5,000 Jews in Greece. The day after that happens, Turkey will offer Greece a big loan to help them separate from the EU.

  • Eric R.

    These Communist scum now running Greece are every bit the filthy Nazi Jew-hating scum as Golden Dawn, and even more dangerous, since because they are leftist, get a free pass for their despicable Nazi Jew-hatred from the international media, and even from most European rightists, who cheer them for standing up to the EU.

    By the way, Tspiras, you filthy, Jew-hating POS — taking Greece out of the Euro will NOT work if you impose all your stupid Communist economic fantasies on Greece, you brain-dead economic illiterate.

    The Greeks will only starve more. But hey, this is what Greece wanted, so if they starve, it was their choice.

  • Jake

    We will end our “brutality” toward Gaza, when they end their brutality towards us. Ball is in their court.

  • M

    Joining the EU was the worst thing act since 1831. Greece’s self-immolation speaks for itself. Unlike the demise of “France”, something to cry for.

    • Eric R.

      If you look at Greece’s history toward Jews ever since its independence, you would not cry for them either. They were long considered the most anti-Israel country in Europe, even worse than Ireland or Norway.

      Over the last five years, Greece had one last chance to get things right with the Jews, and they just threw it all away. I guess their Jew-hatred is something they

      At this point, as far as I am concerned now, they can starve — which is exactly what is going to happen if the new Communist government (and Syriza IS communist) imposes its economic fantasy of a program on the country.

  • BH in Iowa

    The Greeks voted for insolvency.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Greece is only the barometer of what is actually happening on a far wider scale. Rising population levels and the excessive demands of the upper classes for privilege, for what since the war has been three generations of their own progeny, are forcing a social, political, and economic confrontation that is unavoidable. The present divisions of power and property and the disparity between professional and labour incomes are simply unsustainable. Whole families are being made destitute and homeless, the suicide rate is increasing out of sheer despair and there is an over-riding fear for the future. The post war era is totally over. The hope that existed after the war has gone. It was squandered by the sheer selfishness of the rich, their air of “entitlement” – that and the wastefulness of the Cold War era, with its concurrent squandering of resources on military adventures like Vietnam.

    This is not the first time this has happened – far from it. The question is do you accept the need for disciplined and controlled change in the division of wealth and power and in the regulation of incomes? – do you accept the need for regulation of housing and accommodation costs – and the need for a fully functioning welfare state as the core of our society? – or do you resist it? The middle path does not exist- it is a WorldView of which the American Republican delusion is a major part – it is a phantasm. That collapsed delusion was Reaganism/Thatcherism, and it finds its present tottering incarnation in politicians such as Merkel and the American Right.

    The difficulty for minorities is that they often adapt to the Status Quo and through structures of internal support that do not exist in the majority society, they make it through the labyrinth – and therefore seek only stability. This impels them to support the Status Quo, however dysfunctional it is. But what do you do when the Status Quo is popularly despised by around half of the population, or vastly more. The previous behaviour of the Jewish Community has been to move to the Right – and that is what is being urged upon it by a body of extremist Zionism – hence the attacks on Obama and centrist media such as the Guardian.

    Historically, supporting the Right resulted in disaster when that same Right swung further to the ultra Conservative position, and into Fascism and Nazism, with their built in antisemitism. The present situation is alarmingly similar. The great betrayal of Europe was the signing of the Concordats that removed the last remaining moral restraint on Conservatism. Within the modern Catholic hierarchy there is great resistance to the attempted, and largely moderate, reforms of Pope Francis. The Curia after Francis’s removal, demise, incapacity, or retirement, could easily shift Catholicism back to the Pacelli ethos, as an arch reactionary force that sups with Fascism and beatifies its heroes.

    The Greek political swing will likely be echoed throughout Europe. The form that Corporate and Upper Class resistance to change in Greece has taken before has been the Military Coup. Let me ask one blunt question – which side will the Rich sectors of the Jewish community be on? – This same question applies to all Corporate behaviour. Will it instigate and empower a Military Coup? – first Greece then perhaps Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France and then what – a new Grosse Deutsche Reich?. Which other country could supply the economic core of a militarised European Union?

    The Zionist obsession with continuing the Occupation and Settlement policies has put Israel off side with much of the Left and Centre. Zionism has portrayed this dispute as “antisemitism” thereby drawing in the external communities that regard themselves as “Jewish”. To my mind this is a dangerous policy. If Europe polarises politically – which is very possible – then Zionism could place the Jewish community in a conflict position supporting a Right that later uses it as a scapegoat

    It might sound like science fiction – but it happened before – didn’t it? The world needs radical social change. It needed it in 1929. It will be fascism – left or rightist in form – or it will be the birth of genuine representative democracy. The choice is for all of us. Do the maths – Those two middle class parents of 1945 may have had three children – their children may have had nine and the next generation 27. Where once society was expected to support the upper middle class and upper class expectations of two people they are now expected to support the unreasonable demands of over forty. It can’t be done. That is the source of present Right Wing attitudes – a refusal to face the reality that the structures of the past that already were so dysfunctional as to create Fascism, are with us in even stronger and even more divisive form today. So which is it to be – another violent cycle that may lead to the recurrence of Scapegoating and Genocide – or a universal move towards greater democracy, properly equipped, funded and administered welfare, and sharing of resources? The clock is ticking..

    • Eric R.

      Herr Julian,

      What did you eat for dinner?

      Baked Jews?