Greek Jews to Rally Against Antisemitism Following Cemetery Desecration
Greece’s Jewish community is to hold a silent protest against antisemitism on Sunday amidst against a growing spate of attacks on Jewish targets — most recently the desecration of a Jewish cemetery near Athens by suspected neo-Nazis last Friday night.
Called by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), which represents the country’s 6,000 Jews, the demonstration follows a week of widespread condemnation of the desecration by Greek politicians and Jewish leaders. Nine marble headstones were destroyed during the attack on the cemetery in the Athens suburb of Nikaia, with the German word “Raus” (“Out”) and the name of the violent Nazi group Combat 18 daubed in paint on the cemetery gates. No arrests have been made.
The Jewish community has been using the Nikaia cemetery since the end of World War II, when it was allocated the land by the Athens city authorities.
In an emotional statement, leaders of the Jewish community in Athens recalled learning of the May 4 desecration on the following day, the Jewish Sabbath. “On Saturday, the most holy day in Judaism, it is imperative to abstain from everyday activities and, of course, from announcements,” the statement said. “In the context of this almost absolute rigor of observance of the Sabbath holiday, there are exceptions that have to do with dealing with the threat of a life or a great pain. Such is the pain that caused us, today, with the revelation of a new wave of vandalism in the Jewish cemetery of Athens.”
Minos Moissis, the head of the KIS, remarked in a post on social media shortly after the desecration that outrages such as last Friday were becoming routine. “I will not talk about anti-Semitism because the scum who vandalized the marble headstones at the Jewish Cemetery in Athens might take pride to their act,” Moissis wrote. “Nor will I ask the authorities to arrest and punish them. Nor will I ask the civil society to condemn profane actions. I prefer to just be angry, because we learned to consider such phenomena as insignificant everyday events until the next one which, unfortunately, is usually worse.”
In an advance message of support for Sunday’s demonstration, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) said it “abhors the despicable and cowardly act of desecrating Jewish property and stands firmly with the local Jewish community in urging individuals, organizations, and public authorities to mobilize in any way possible to make it absolutely clear that there is no room for antisemitism in Greek society.”
“Every citizen of Greece deserves the full protection of its government,” WJC CEO Robert Singer stated.
Singer thanked the mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, for his strong condemnation of the desecration and his pledge that “such acts have no place in Athens.”
Greece’s major political parties have expressed fury at the desecration.
“Antisemitism, just as all racism, has no place in Greek society,” a statement from the ruling left-wing Syriza coalition said. “We shall not permit the dissemination of racial hatred by those who are nostalgic for Hitler.”
The conservative opposition New Democracy Party noted that “unfortunately the incident was not an isolated one,” as other Jewish memorial sites in Greece have been vandalized, often more than once.
The Nikaia cemetery was last struck by far-right vandals in October 2015.