BUDAPEST – A new legislative initiative in Greece promises a radical crackdown on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the country, David Saltiel, the head of the country’s Jewish community revealed on Tuesday. The legislation will be submitted to parliament in the coming days, following the Easter holiday break.
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The legislation was drawn up by Costas Karagouni, the Greek deputy justice minister, following consultations held with Saltiel, who serves as president of the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece. Saltiel told Haaretz that he was able to convince Karagouni that the recent surge of anti-Semitism in the country threatened more than the future of the country’s Jewish community, most of which was wiped out during the Holocaust.
“I explained to him that when we talk about anti-Semitism, it’s not only about the Jews, but also about democracy,” he said. “He understands that the situation today requires a change in legislation.”
Saltiel noted, in an address to delegates at the World Jewish Congress on the final day of their three-day plenary assembly, that the legislation does not provide parliamentary immunity. This means members of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party could be imprisoned or otherwise punished if found in violation of the new law.
According to the legislation, any individual or group that incites against or acts violently toward other individuals or groups “because of their racial origin, the color of their skin, their religion and/or their sexual preferences” could be punished with three months to six years in jail and be fined up to 20,000 euros. The same punishments would apply to Holocaust denial and the National Socialist salute. The legislation also stipulates that if a parliamentary party chief is found to be in violation, public funding for his or her party would be suspended.
The law applies to incitement that is done “publicly, orally or via the press or the World Wide Web.”
Saltiel, who was elected on Monday as deputy vice president of the new WJC board, said he had good reason to believe that the new legislation would pass in the parliament.
Golden Dawn, which started out as a neo-Nazi group in 1980, captured 7 percent of the Greek vote in the May 2012 election, drawing international attention. A public opinion poll conducted last month found it enjoyed 11-12 percent support in Greece.
Asked what the new legislation would mean for the future of Golden Dawn, Saltiel said: “As a democracy, we cannot ask to outlaw this party, but once this law is passed, if they do not obey the rules, they will pay the consequences. It is clear to me that once this law is passed, the party will be diminished.”