Wednesday, May 9th, 2012...1:05 pm

Editorial: Neo-Nazis rise in Greece

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This week’s editorial deals with recent event in Europe — a subject that’s usually not as touchy, in terms of vituperative feedback from readers, as, say, Israel. The big news this week was about the victory of French Socialist Party presidential candidate François Hollande, who edged out Nicholas Sarkozy — and ended a 17-year reign by French conservatives.

However, the more ominous election results were in Greece, where Golden Dawn entered the Hellenic Parliament for the first time, with seven percent of the vote (in the last general election they gained a fifth of one percent of the vote). This far-right faction is referred to as “ultra-nationalist” in some press accounts; but with their stylized swastika logo and outstretched arm salutes, Golden Dawn is clearly a neo-Nazi group.

The mainstream Greek parties, New Democracy and PASOK, the Socialists, which both backed the agreement to refinance the nation’s sovereign debt, failed to gain a majority of seats in the parliament. Along with Golden Dawn, a party called Syriza, a coalition of the radical left, made significant electoral gains. This all renders the Greek political situation more unstable — on top of the ongoing economic crisis, which includes a looming debt default later this summer.

Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant agenda apparently struck a chord with a significant minority of Greek voters. The online version of the Mail, the London newspaper, reported that the party’s leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, when asked what Golden Dawn’s first action in parliament would be, responded: “All the illegal immigration out! Out of my country, out of my home!”

Asked how that would be accomplished, he angrily said, “Use your imagination.”

There was another interesting detail in the Mail story: at a press conference after the elections, Golden Dawn members “order assembled journalists to stand to attention.”

No word as to whether they also were required to give a Nazi salute.

Of course, Greek Jews are quite concerned about the election results, which boosted the fortunes of the xenophobic party. Haaretz reported that 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.”

Haaretz reported: “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 [of three percent], but in this election, voters banded together in protest against the country’s two large parties, and that helped the small parties.’”

“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,” Haaretz reported.

The Greek election results bring to mind the warning issued last year by Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Department of State’s special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism. Rep. Keith Ellison brought Rosenthal to the Sabes JCC for a community forum, “Confronting Anti-Semitism and Religious Intolerance,” which also featured Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and imam and executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim (ADAM) Society (5-27-11 AJW).

At a briefing for communal leaders, which I attended, Rosenthal said that there is “almost a tsunami of ultra-nationalism in Europe,” which targets the Roma (Gypsies) and immigrants.

The State Department envoy noted that the rhetoric of these surging right-wing parties mimics that of the Jew haters of old, with its avowal “to protect our country’s purity.” She also mentioned the phenomenon of Holocaust revisionism and “glorification,” notably, parades with Waffen SS veterans in the Baltic states. Rosenthal called the upsurge in this kind of behavior “very troublesome.”

In the 20th century, Europe descended into barbarity. Demagogues in Germany turned their nation’s defeat in World War I and subsequent humiliation into a program of anti-Semitic scapegoating. The Nazi regime set the continent aflame, and 6 million Jews, and millions of others, were murdered in the years of carnage.

Europeans have never been very good with the “Other,” the religious and ethnic minorities in their midst. The ascent of Golden Dawn is a worrying symptom of Europe’s turn to simplistic and dangerous solutions. The situation in Greece, and in other European countries with fascist tendencies in the ascendancy, should be carefully watched.

— Mordecai Specktor / editor@ajwnews.com

(American Jewish World, 5.11.12)

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