ATHENS — A newly-appointed Greek minister with a long history on the far-right denied anti-Semitic beliefs Saturday after a prominent Greek Jewish official charged he had a “dark past.”
“I have never been an anti-Semite,” said Makis Voridis, who was appointed agriculture minister by new conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after last week’s election.
Voridis admitted in a statement, however, that as a “nationalist” he had “coexisted politically with people who had such unacceptable ideas.”
“I denounce any act, omission or failure to challenge the acts of another person that could be viewed as anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi,” the 54-year-old lawyer said.
A day earlier, Victor Eliezer, general secretary of the central board of Greek Jewish communities, said Voridis should have publicly repudiated his “dark past” upon becoming minister.
“We cannot be particularly happy that Mr. Voridis was given a cabinet post as until today, he has never publicly renounced the Nazi ideas he represented, and the political alliances he kept,” Eliezer told 24/7 radio.
In the 1990s, Voridis founded a now-defunct ultra-nationalist party affiliated with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front in France.
Voridis, who joined the conservative New Democracy party in 2012, was also in the 1980s general secretary of a youth group created by jailed dictator Georgios Papadopoulos.
Voridis is one of at least three former prominent members of the far-right LAOS party to be given posts in the ruling New Democracy party.
He first became minister in a 2011 coalition government that included LAOS, which was founded by a politician known for his anti-Semitic views, George Karatzaferis.
Another former LAOS lawmaker, 46-year-old Adonis Georgiadis, is the new minister in charge of development and investment.
A firebrand TV book salesman, Georgiadis had to apologize publicly in 2017 for energetically promoting an anti-Semitic tome on his shows.
The tome was penned by controversial lawyer Costas Plevris, a Greek far-right icon whose son Thanos was also elected to parliament with New Democracy last week.
On Friday, Eliezer said the new Greek prime minister’s own pro-Israel credentials were not in doubt.
Greek relations with Israel were first formalized in 1990 under Mitsotakis’s late father Constantine, who was prime minister in 1990-1993.
The elder Mitsotakis was also the first Greek PM to visit Israel, Eliezer said.
Earlier this week, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement that appeared to acknowledge the accusations of anti-Semitism against Voridis.
In addition to welcoming Mitsotakis’s new government, the ministry said “the positions of the State of Israel on anti-Semitism are known.
“We are studying the composition of the new government in Greece, especially the appointment of one of the ministers known for his racist and anti-Semitic views, and examining the significance of this appointment.”
The Israeli ministry did not specify Voridis, or any other newly appointed minister by name.