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GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM)
Address: P.O. Box 60820, GR-15304 Glyka Nera
Telephone: (+30) 2103472259 Fax: (+30) 2106018760
e-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr website: http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr

PRESS RELEASE

12 November 2007

Greece: Anti-Semitism and the ongoing Plevris – “Eleftheros Kosmos” trial

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) distributes the text of a presentation made yesterday by its Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras at the World International Zionist Organization - AVIV Greece Pan-Hellenic Congress in Athens on anti-Semitism in Greece and the related ongoing trial.


Anti-Semitism in Greece and in the rest of Europe today
and the ongoing Plevris – “Eleftheros Kosmos” trial

Panayote Dimitras
Spokesperson of Greek Helsinki Monitor

Presentation at the World International Zionist Organization - AVIV Greece
Pan-Hellenic Congress (Athens, 11 November 2007)

UNITED (a pan-European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees), on 7 November 2007, stated (http://unitedagainstracism.org/pages/info07n9.htm#1)

“The 9th of November 1938 (Kristallnacht - Night of Broken Crystals) marked the first step of the extermination of European Jewish citizens. More than 2,500 deaths are attributable to this pogrom. Hundreds of Jewish citizens were beaten to death and 30,000 were deported to concentration camps.

Right-wing extremism is an increasing force in the entire continent, hate crimes against vulnerable people are turning into a permanent and invisible Night of Broken Crystals. Official and unofficial reports show that the number of hate crimes has been growing enormously during the last years. According to the European Crime and Safety Survey of the Fundamental Rights Agency, 9 million people have experienced some form of hate crimes in 18 European countries in 2004. Extreme right political parties gain influence and are elected into democratic institutions.

According to reports of the Anti-Defamation League, a large number of Europeans express anti-Jewish attitudes and refer to the classical conspiracy theories that Jewish had to endure through the centuries. It seems that lessons of the past are not painful enough to avoid intolerance in the present.”

In Greece, there are almost no violent hate crimes against minorities but there is much more hatred against them than in the rest of Europe. Systematic EU surveys show that the highest scores for resistance to immigrants, favoring migrants’ repatriation policies, resistance to diversity, resistance limits to multicultural society, ethnic distance, perceived collective ethnic threat, are found in Greece. There are no recent comparative surveys for anti-Semitism but, on the basis of the above, there is little doubt that they would have shown that anti-Semitism is stronger in Greece than in most if not all other EU countries.

Anti-Semitism in Greece is stronger and more deeply entrenched than in the rest of Europe because the Greek authorities and society persist in denying that it (as well as other forms of racism) exists. Consequently, there is no anti-racist education and no systematic, official condemnation of anti-Semitic and other racist acts (other than occasional statements), which would make the general population realize that these acts and rhetoric are extreme, racist and condemnable.

On the contrary, in Greece, there is widespread perception that anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech should be protected in the name of freedom of speech. On the other hand, in the rest of Europe, and most importantly in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, it is held that freedom of speech does not protect hate speech.

Until only a few years ago, the impression that anti-Semitism in Greece was not a major problem was reinforced by repeated statements by the official leadership of the Jewish community to UN, Council of Europe and EU expert bodies that Greece’s Jews do not face such problems. Here are three characteristic quotes.

Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance: visit to Greece (18 to 25 June 1996), prepared by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor,
Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights
http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N96/314/39/PDF/N9631439.pdf?OpenElement

(…) The representatives of the Jewish community have declared that they have freedom of action in religious matters without interference by the State and that they have sufficient places of worship and Hebrew schools. They mentioned some minor problems which, in their view, are linked to the intolerance of certain poorly educated Orthodox priests. It seems, however, that these incidents are resolved through interfaith dialogue. The representatives of the Jewish community have cited both sporadic cases of intolerance by teachers and the occasional anti-Semitic content of school textbooks. However, political leaders have apparently assured the Jewish community that the school textbooks will be corrected. The main problem facing the Jewish community is the fact that religion must be mentioned on identity cards, which is perceived as a potential source of discrimination as borne out by the Jewish experience throughout history. The legislation concerning identity cards is considered contrary to the Greek Constitution and to international instruments. Unlike that of the Catholic and Protestant minorities and the Jehovah's Witnesses, the situation of the Jewish community seems to be eminently satisfactory. (…)

Report by Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, on his visit to the Hellenic Republic, 2- 5 June 2002
https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?Command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&DocId=291816&SecMode=1&Admin=0&Usage=4&InstranetImage=26210

(…) My meeting with Mr Constantinis, Chairman of the Central Committee of Jewish Communities in Greece, left me with an impression of general satisfaction as to their position. He expressed the hope that his community would be able to benefit from the funds granted by the European Union and other bodies for heritage conservation such as old synagogues and old Jewish cemeteries. (…)


EUMC “Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003”
http://fra.europa.eu/fra/material/pub/AS/AS-Country-EL.pdf

In 2003, the Chairman of the Central Jewish Board in Greece stated that he did not consider the rise of anti-Semitism to be alarming.

As early as 1985, Panayote Dimitras published an article in the Washington-based prestigious “Foreign Policy” quarterly, in which he discussed the anti-Western orientation that Greece had assumed since the ascent of the Socialists to power. He touched upon the “latent anti-Semitism of Greek public opinion” and its manifestations. He wrote about the notion of the existence of a “Jewish conspiracy,” the image of the Jews as “Christ-killers,” the comparison of the Israeli intervention in Lebanon to Nazi atrocities, and the “Nazi-inspired slogans that some Greek fans chant during Greek-Israeli sporting events.” Also cited was a 1984 public opinion poll conducted in Athens by Eurodim, a polling agency founded and managed by the author. According to the survey, most Greeks believe “that the Jews dominate the political and economic life in the United States and Europe [and] more than half of those agree that this domination harms their own country as well as other lands.” In response, Stavros Frangopoulos, Press Counselor at the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote a letter to the editor citing Greek solidarity with its Jewish population during the German occupation.

One year later, when similar comments were made in a careless and tactless way by New York Mayor Ed Koch in an article in the New York Post, the Greek press especially disputed the claim that Greek anti-Semitism may have facilitated the Holocaust in Greece, and spoke of a “hidden agenda” and deliberate attempt by Koch to harm Greece. The Central Jewish Board also condemned Koch's position, and vehemently denied the existence of anti-Semitism in Greece. It also disputed the results of the 1984 Eurodim poll on grounds that “a sample of 500 cannot possibly be representative of the population,” and announced that KIS will carry its own poll, which was never done (on 1985-6 see “Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Greek Society” by Daniel Perdurant -1995- available at http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/7perd.htm).

However, in 2002, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Groups-Greece published an extensively documented joint report “Anti-Semitism in Greece – A current picture: 2001-2002” (http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm_mrgg_antisemitism_2002.rtf). An update with Simon Wiesenthal Center, “25 Months of anti-Semitic invective in Greece - Timeline: March 2002-April 2004,” (http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7BDFD2AAC1-2ADE-428A-9263-35234229D8D8%7D/25Months.pdf) was published in 2004. Their publication made it subsequently impossible for anyone to deny the problem of anti-Semitism in Greece. Incidentally, the report was viciously attacked by all major media and, except for a handful of journalists, found no support anywhere, not among even the leadership of the Jewish community. A characteristic reaction was the comment of journalist Jean Cohen that accompanied his posting of the report on his website: “the following report although accurate on the facts gives a distorted picture of the life of Greek Jews.”

At the same time, in 2002, Greek Helsinki Monitor lodged complaints against three Greek national newspapers (“To Vima,” “Eleftherotypia” and “Ta Nea”) on the ground of inciting racial hatred and discrimination through published material. All three newspapers are among the most popular in Greece and fall within the centre-left political spectrum. The material in question related to published readers’ letters, which expressed strong anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish sentiments, with characterizations obviously offensive to the above social/ethnic groups. Moreover one of the above newspapers, routinely published advertisements (‘want-ads’) containing the specification ‘no foreigners’. Several similar complaints on the basis of the anti-racist law followed; as of mid-2007 they reached 35 in number.

Greek courts have to date systematically refused to convict anyone on the basis of that law. Here are excerpts of the texts that were not considered racist, with irrevocable judgments of the Greek courts:

· “Migrants, the scum who are being channeled into Greece. They have come just on a whim, to kill, rob and rape Greece.” [in “To Vima”]
· want-ads for homes for rent and sometimes for jobs that ended with the phrase “no foreigners”, “foreigners excluded.” [in “Ta Nea”]
· “The ‘terrible’ situation exists in Greece because of the ‘Albanian plague.’ We should exhibit exemplary cruelty to those who break the law, in order for Albanians to respect us and the type of society we have managed to create.” [in “Ependytis”]
· “Roma steal from the [non-Roma] resident’s fields, they snatch what they can find from the yards of the homes. They loot our cemetery, they swear, they beat people, they ring our bells. They should be immediately evicted from the area; any postponement or delay in resolving the problem we face will lead to militant action from the residents.” [Patras neighborhood association]
· “We are declaring that we do not want the Gypsies to be present, transit through or stay in our Municipality until the issue is settled in principle. We condemn those who have sold land to Gypsies so far and we regard them as instigators of the situation. Anyone who does likewise is condemned by the entire Municipality of N. Kios as well as by society. There is no room for more Gypsies in our town. We are asking the Gypsies who have bought land in the area to return their property to the municipality since they cannot abide by the law and they upset the order in the area. We declare that we are willing to play a decisive part in this procedure.” [Unanimous decision of the Municipal Council of Nea Kios, Argolida]
· “You cannot have a Gypsy settlement next to basketball court, part of the Olympics 2004 facilities, because Gypsies blemish one’s sense of good taste and in addition, they deal drugs. (…) I do not deny not wanting the Gypsies in our area. (…) I cannot understand with they should be treated in a privileged way. (…) All Greeks serve their military service but only Gypsies have a right to break the law” [Mayor of Nea Alikarnassos, Heraklio Crete]
· “The race of the gypsies is inadaptable and the social problems they create are numerous. Moreover, there is no reason to be optimistic about the prospects of those people integrating to society in the future. Consequently, we should all confront this grave problem and we should understand that the only solution is for people to stop renting their properties to the gypsies, as this creates problems to the local residents and degrades the area.” [Mayor of Gastouni, Ilia]
· “We cannot accept Roma to live next to where people live. We try with the help of the police to evict them.” [Mayor of Kalamaria, Thessaloniki]
· “The Jews today are lucky that no one intends to deprive them of the right to be called human beings, when they aren’t. (…) It’s a proven fact that Jews are untrustworthy and fickle. They infiltrate societies, first playing the poor souls to generate pity and, when the time comes, they’ll grab you by the throat.” [in “Eleftherotypia” and “Ta Nea”]
· “[Greek] Jews should swallow their tongues.” “[The Jews] have vindicated the persecutions of the Nazis. All humanity says that they deserved such an executioner [Hitler] since they have proved to be murderers themselves.” “the President of Malaysia Mahatir Mohammad ‘painted’ the portrait of Israel, denouncing that ‘Jews are in control of the world via their proxies. They lead others to fight and die for them’ [three letters in “Eleftherotypia”]
The Greek state appears to share the judges’ reluctance in implementing Law 927/1979. Thus, the Greek state explicitly acknowledges in its 2004 report to the UN Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) that “up to now, no conviction has been pronounced in application of Law 927/79.” The Greek state goes on to argue that “…criminalization is not the only means to prevent ‘hate speech’. Self‑regulation may play an important role in this respect, as it will be explained hereunder.” (http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G04/409/47/PDF/G0440947.pdf?OpenElement).

On the other hand, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) adopted in December 2003 and released in June 2004 its “Third Report on Greece.” On the basis of Greek Helsinki Monitor’s two aforementioned reports on anti-Semitism and a third -2003- report “Greek Helsinki Monitor Litigation on Greece's Anti-Racist Legislation,” (http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm/anti-racist_litigation.doc, also listed in the end of the ECRI report), it is stated:

“ECRI has been informed by the Greek authorities that since the adoption of the second report [in December 1999], there have been very few prosecutions and convictions under the criminal law provisions addressing racist offences, although a few exemplary penalties have been imposed [note: this information provided in 2003 to ECRI by the state is false; see Greece’s subsequent 2004 truthful related report to UN HRC above]. One of the explanations provided by the authorities to account for this situation is that such offences only constitute isolated cases in Greek society. ECRI is concerned over reports from non-governmental organisations indicating that racist incidents have occurred in Greece - including racist statements made in public or reported in the press, and acts of racist violence - and that such incidents have not been prosecuted or indeed given all due attention by the Greek authorities. This problem may not necessarily be the result of a deficiency in terms of criminal law provision, but rather of an interpretation of the notion of racism by certain judicial authorities, leading to either no charges being brought, or charges being dropped in these cases. (…)

ECRI recommends that the Greek authorities closely examine the implementation of criminal law provisions against racism so as to discern the reasons that they are only sparsely applied, and take appropriate measures to ensure their full application. In this respect, it draws attention to its General Policy Recommendation No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination. ECRI encourages the Greek authorities to facilitate the lodging of complaints with the police or the judicial authorities by persons considering themselves to be victims of racism or discrimination, by such means as bolstering the confidence of members of vulnerable groups in these institutions. A possible modus operandi would be to designate civil servants specialised in combating racism, as responsible for receiving such complaints. Such persons should be specially trained to identify the racist motives, if any, of an offence. ECRI stresses that the role of human rights associations could be enhanced in this area. ECRI deems it necessary to pursue and intensify the human rights training provided to the police, prosecutors and judges. These officials should also be given an appreciation of problems of racism, cultural diversity, and the need to verify, on each occasion, whether or not an offence has a racist character in order to take appropriate action.”

Encouraged by the ECRI report and the related recommendations, GHM intensified the lodging of complaints on the basis of the anti-racist law. Currently, two trials against neo-Nazi “Eleftheros Kosmos” for anti-Roma and anti-Semitic articles are scheduled for 15 November 2007 and 18 December 2007 respectively (http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/index.php?sec=194&cid=3182). Most importantly, the only publicized such trial, of neo-Nazi author Kostas Plevris and the weekly “Eleftheros Kosmos,” is under way (http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/index.php?sec=194&cid=3176).

A first hearing took place on 11 September 2007, before an Athens Appeals Court, which revealed how deeply entrenched and widespread anti-Semitism is in Greece. That anti-racism trial turned into what deservingly the KIS President Moses Konstantinis called in the September 2007 issue of “Ta Nea mas” (“Our News”) an “anti-Jewish trial.” The prosecutor in that trial called Plevris’ book, an anti-Semitic diatribe that parallels Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” “a scholarly work.” He compared the trial of Plevris for his book with a hypothetical trial by a Nazi court of an anti-Nazi book that someone could have written, as an argument that both books should be equally protected from prosecution. He threatened one prosecution witness with arrest and detention as she continued to vehemently testify against the book. The prosecutor finally demonstrated why the highest percentage of resistance to diversity and multiculturalism in Europe can be found in Greece when he declared, “Here, all sorts of perverts and junkies are running around, and all the muddleheaded intellectuals and progressives come out saying: “Oh! The right to diversity. Oh!! The right to [free] expression.” And everyone says: Fine and well!” (http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/index.php?sec=194&cid=3191).

It must be mentioned that all four supposedly anti-racist and non-extremist Greek political parties that have voted the anti-racist law (New Democracy, PASOK, Coalition and KKE) were invited by GHM in August 2007 to take the stand in that trial, so as to indicate in that way their will to see it applied. They responded with a deafening silence, just as they did even after they were informed of the proceedings of the 11 September 2007 trial.

What does the Plevris “scholarly work” say in its 1,400 pages? Here is a very small selection:

“That’s what Jews want. It’s the only thing they understand: an execution squad within 24 hours.”

“Ridding Europe of the Jews is necessary, because Judaism poses a threat to the freedom of Nations.”

“There is a Jewish problem in Europe... The Jewish problem lies precisely in the fact that a non-European racial minority is conspiring against European Nations, which it wants to subjugate. This problem must be addressed because if it is not, the White Race is in danger. I see no other solution than that the Jews should leave Europe...”

“The White Race does not want Semites in Europe, because that is what is in its biological interests.”

“My book, which you are now reading, is simple proof that we are not afraid of the Jews. We scorn them for their morality, their religion, and their acts, which together prove that they are sub-human.”

‘Hitler was blamed for something that did not actually take place. Later the history of humanity will blame him for not ridding Europe of the Jews, though he could have… My dear Jews, I do not ask you to suffer all the things that your holy books tell you that we should suffer from you… You are criminals because that is what your religion has taught you to be. You are murderers because crime is instilled in you from an early age. Therefore we others have the right to deal with you. And that is what we will do.”

The Plevris - “Eleftheros Kosmos” trial will start again on 3 December 2007. The spectacle, on 11 September 2007, of a courtroom packed with neo-Nazis and their supporters, as opposed to a handful of anti-racist activists from the anti-racist organization Greek Helsinki Monitor and Anti-Nazi Initiative, and a mere four Jews from the KIS Board, themselves outnumbered by their six lawyers, gave the court the impression that this was a trial that concerned only the neo-Nazis and the anti-racists, but not the Jews.

For this reason, I strongly urge all of you to bring your relatives and your friends to pack the courtroom on this date. Then, if any judicial official repeats the anti-Jewish antics of 11 September 2007, s/he will see the reactions not just of the activists but also and mainly of Holocaust survivors and their descendents.

Anti-Semitism will not go away if the Jews hide from it. For then, Jews may one day go away again. Anti-Semitism will diminish only if it is systematically fought, primarily by gentiles, but also by the Jews themselves, who are the victims. It is up to the Jews to wake up the gentiles, who are tolerating the intolerant.