ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — Panos Kammenos, a right-wing politician who said Jews don’t pay taxes, was appointed the defense minister of Greece.
Kammenos, who heads the ultranationalist Independent Greeks, was appointed to the post in the new government on Tuesday after joining the coalition of the newly elected far-left Syriza party, which won handily in Sunday’s national elections.
While the parties are far apart on most issues, they are united by a common rejection of the harsh terms imposed on Greece in the financial bailout.
Kammenos drew condemnation from Greece’s Jewish community in December after he said on television that Greek Jews don’t pay taxes — a remark denied publicly by a government official, who called it “conspiracy theories, lies and slander” that had become a part of “the dark side of the Internet.”
As defense minister, Kammenos will oversee the military ties with Israel that have become much closer in recent years. Even considering the taxes statement, he is still likely to be more pro-Israel than the Syriza lawmakers, who have taken part in protests against Israel, with some even participating in the flotillas to Gaza.
Conspiracy theories are rife in Kammenos’ ultranationalist party, which frequently blames outsiders for the economic woes befalling Greece.
A recent Anti-Defamation League poll found that anti-Semitic stereotypes are widespread in Greece and that the country had the highest percentage of anti-Semitic views in Europe.
In the elections, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party retained its position as the third-largest party in Greece.