Greece's Jewish voters are faced with an impossible choice
In the lead-up to next week’s election, Greece's Jews are caught between a rock and a hard place: the political map is dominated by the anti-Zionist far-left, and a center-right that has moved to the extremes and is courting votes from neo-Nazis.
As the Greek financial crisis deepens and elections loom, the atmosphere in Greece is more tense than ever.
Just last Thursday, an MP from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party violently attacked two left-wing female MPs live on national TV an Israeli journalist was beaten up by the same group in central Athens after taking pictures of their attacks on immigrants and a young medical school student shot and killed an Albanian robber who had broken into a few houses in his neighborhood and had threatened his mother.
Fear and insecurity are setting in. Greeks feel increasingly desperate, and members of the small Jewish community in Greece are no exception.
Most Greek Jews are employed in the private sector, or run small businesses. The community has not enjoyed the affluence that partly characterized it before the destruction of the Second World War. In the current climate, Jewish institutions will probably collapse if they don't receive financial assistance from the international Jewish community.
Against this background of personal and communal hardship, increasing fears about personal security and rise of both the far-right and the far-left, Jewish voters are faced with an impossible choice in the upcoming June 17th elections for the Greek legislature.
On the left, the Syriza party will probably lead Greece to a total collapse, if it makes good on its campaign promises. Its leader, the 38-year- old Alexis Tsipras, is a narcissistic populist who comes from a prominent family that owns a construction company. He has never really held a proper job, and his English is embarrassingly poor for a young man in the age of the internet.
Syriza fully identifies itself with the Palestinian cause, and their party platform explicitly calls for an end to Greece's defense cooperation with the "aggressive" Israel, even though on Friday his foreign affairs advisor tried to take a softer stance. Tsipras’ party colleagues and his own inner circle have repeatedly attacked Israel and the "Zionists", claiming that they are not anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist. Syriza's former head, Nikos Konstandopoulos, has consistently offered his services as a defense lawyer for convicted and alleged Arab terrorists who have been arrested in Greece. Sofia Sakorafa, a confidante who has rubbed shoulders with Hamas, and a celebrated former Olympic athlete, requested and received Palestinian citizenship a few years ago, in a bid to represent Palestine in the Olympic Games, when she was well into her 40s.
On the right, New Democracy is the traditional center-right party, that under a new leader, Andonis Samaras, has morphed into an extreme right-wing, nationalistic party. Samaras, 60, also comes from a very prominent family, and, like Tsipras, has never held down a serious job. His family secured him a seat in the Parliament from the age of 26. Samaras has proven his populism and lack of moral feeling several times in the past, and many blame him for Greece's situation today.
In 1993, as a young foreign minister, he brought down the center-right government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis. This was the only government that had managed to balance the country's primary budget and was set to start an aggressive privatization program that would probably had changed the course of Greece's financial history. More disturbingly, Samaras has opened his arms and welcomed into his party a number of neo-Nazis , anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers from the extreme right-wing party Laos, effectively transforming his own party into an extreme right-wing one.
Samaras' campaign head for northern Greece, Panagiotis Psomiadis, recently said in several campaign gatherings that he does not disagree with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, but that he is hopeful that the outcome of current discussion would mean several of its members would join New Democracy, thus confirming Samaras’ co-option of the far-right.
Makis Voridis, an infrastructure Minister in the transitional government, is apparently being groomed by Samaras, and the establishment that supports him, as the next party leader. Voridis, a fascist of the worst kind, has in the past painted swastikas on walls, threatened Jewish students and their families, and violently attacked leftists with the group of thugs he had created. He formed the anti-immigrant party, Hellenic Front, whose motto was "Red Card to the Immigrants", and he ran together with Greece's most famous anti-Semite, Kostas Plevris, in the national elections of 2000.
Plevris, a self-declared neo-Nazi and anti-Semite, wrote the book "Jews: The Whole Truth", which included a call for all Greek Jews to be "killed within 24 hours". He was put on trial for incitement acquitted by the court and his son, Thanassis Plevris, who defended him, has now also joined Samaras' party.
Samaras enjoys speaking about his famous grandmother, the gifted author Penelope Delta, who committed suicide the day the invading Germans erected the Nazi flag on Athens’ Acropolis. She is probably turning in her grave, watching her grandson ‘laundering’ neo-Nazis.
So, in this election, when my 102-year-old grandmother, a survivor of Auschwitz, asks me: "Who is good for the Jews?" I will have no answer: "Nobody, giagia (grandmother), nobody".
Sabby Mionis was born in Athens and moved to Israel in 2006. Founder of Capital Management Advisors and active in Greek business life, he is a former president of Keren Hayesod (the United Israel Appeal) in Athens and now serves as on the UIA Executive and is co-founder of the Israel Center for Better Childhood.