Come May 25, all signs indicate that Greece will have its first neo-Nazi politician sitting on the European Parliament. And a new poll conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reporting the country’s widespread anti-Semitism affirms this likelihood.
In its Global Impact 100 poll, released Tuesday, the ADL reported Greece has the highest index of anti-Semitism in Western Europe, with 69% of the population holding anti-Semitic views. Weighing in at number 17 in the index of the top 100 anti-Semitic countries, Greece is the first non-Muslim nation in the ranking — and several places ahead of Iran’s number 21.
Despite attempts to ban the party from the European parliament ballot, the Greek Supreme Court decided this week that the notoriously xenophobic Golden Dawn party could join 42 other parties in vying for one of the country’s 24 European Parliament seats.
Polls show Golden Dawn, which disputes the Neo-Nazi label, will succeed in placing one, if not two, members in the parliament, which is decided by democratic popular vote.
“This is a very serious issue: it may be the first time a Greek neo-Nazi will participate in the European parliament which is a serious problem, not just for Greece, but for Europe,” Victor Eliezer, secretary general of KIS, the World Jewish Congress-affiliated Jewish community federation of Greece, told The Times of Israel this week.
The Jewish community, said Eliezer, was shocked at the results of the 2012 elections, raising Golden Dawn’s election results from 0.3% of the popular vote to 6.7%.
“Suddenly the Greeks became Nazis? The answer is no,” said Eliezer, who cites the economic recession as the leading reason for Golden Dawn’s popularity.
“…Of course there is a part of the Greek population that is racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic. According to several polls, this is not more than 3-4%. The others are what I am calling the result of the despair the Greek people feel because of the economic crisis. They are disappointed with the current political system and condemned the two main parties whom they felt were responsible for the economic crisis” through voting for Golden Dawn, said Eliezer.
Golden Dawn also has mayoral candidates in Athens and Saloniki running in municipal elections slated for Sunday.
The Athens candidate is Golden Dawn party spokesman MP Ilias Kasidiaris, a known Holocaust denier, who infamously quoted from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in an October 2012 speech in parliament. Kasidiaris is currently out on bail after a September 2013 arrest alongside several other members of Golden Dawn following the murder of an anti-fascist rapper known as Killah P.
The chance of a Golden Dawn win in Athens is thought slim, with the polls indicating a run-off race between the incumbent mayor Georgios Kaminis and challenger Aris Spiliotopoulos of Greek’s ruling New Democracy party. The pair are polling at a two-point difference with several weeks until the elections.
In Spiliotopoulos’s coalition in the number two slot is the controversial MP Thanos Plevris. A former member of the extreme right wing xenophobic party, LAOS, Plevris is the son of Costas Plevris, a self-admitted Holocaust denier who wrote the inflammatory “Jews: The Whole Truth.” The book is considered by Greek Jews as “a monument to anti-Semitism and hatred”.
Thanos Plevris, a lawyer, represented his father in a 2007 high-profile court case brought by the Jewish community against him, claiming incitement of racial violence. The community’s initial win was overturned by the Greek Supreme Court in 2009.
Upon hearing of Plevris’s candidature in the Athens municipality race, the community wrote official protest letters to Spiliotopoulos saying Plevris has never “repudiated and condemned the disgraceful things said about the Jews in the book.”
Spiliotopoulos answered the Jewish community’s central board, affirming his stance against neo-Nazis and totalitarian ideologies and confirming that all participants on his list are in line with his views.
Plevris himself took to Twitter in his condemnation of Holocaust denial, tweeting his disagreement with his father’s views and that his desire to seek punishment of Holocaust deniers through legislation.
“The truth is we are not satisfied: His remarks are just about the Holocaust, not about the anti-Semitic book of his father. We do not consider him a neo-Nazi, we see his announcement as a first step,” said Eliezer.
Referring to Plevris’s candidature, the Left parties’ coalition Syriza told Greek newspaper ENet that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is responsible for his party’s “rich collection of right-wing extremists and Holocaust deniers.”
Ahead of Greece’s elections, at the ADL press conference in New York launching its Global Impact 100 poll Tuesday, an ADL official said the Greek government had invited the US-based group to advise how to address the problem when apprised of the country’s dire ranking.