Paris, 7 April 2010
In a letter to Greek Prime Minister and President of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, lamented a spate of antisemitic discourse and acts throughout Greece over this Easter/Passover season.
Samuels urged the Prime Minister "to consider appropriate measures against the nation's largest circulation daily TA NEA, for arguably 'ad hominem assault on your honour'". The letter also suggested that "the Centre's pre-Olympics travel advisory, alerting against visits to Greece, be reinstated should the atmosphere of hatemongering persist."
Samuels' protest was based on a report of the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) (http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/) and the link it provides to "an Athens News Agency article which refers to the perpetuation of the 'Judas burning' ritual. (http://omogeneia.ana-pa.gr/press.php?id=9532)". For quoted examples,such as "the burning of the House of Judah in Chania, Crete", see below Note 1.
The letter asks the Prime Minister " is it any wonder that , in this atmosphere of hatemongering, the only refurbished synagogue on Crete - in Chania itself - was twice the target of arson this year. The entire Jewish community of Crete perished in the Holocaust yet their every vestige is still burned."
Samuels greatest concern related to the "the cartoon noted by GHM in Ta Nea, your country's largest nationwide circulation daily newspaper" (http://images.tanea.gr/assetservice/Image.ashx?c=14198104&r=0&p=0&t=0&q=100&v=1&s=1&w=380&h=500)
- Lord, the Germans have tortured me!
- Why, George [Papandreou], what have they done to you?
- Horrible things, Lord!
- And did you feel pain?
- Yes, a great deal!
- Terrific! I'll send the Jews there!
- But, what do the Jews have to do with it?
- They're the ones that tortured me!
The Centre suggested that this "portrayal of the Greek Prime Minister and President of the Socialist International, George Papandreou - carrying his cross and protesting to Jesus regarding the torture inflicted upon him by the Germans - in negotiations over Greece's financial crisis - is ugly enough". The letter claimed that "in fact, Ta Nea can be construed as breaching any measure of media ethical standards, by having Jesus respond: 'I will send you the Jews for they're the ones that tortured me'."
Samuels considered that " the cartoon, subliminally, conflated the classical antisemitic messages of deicide,capitalist domination and treacherous sabotage of the Greek economy.",insisting that, "Church leaders should be reviled by this blasphemy, world Jewry will view this as group libel, while it behooves you, as Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreou, to respond to this personalized assault on your honour", continuing, "our Centre urges you to forcefully condemn TA NEA and consider appropriate measures, as a warning, to contain Greek media's obsessive racist excesses".
The Centre noted that " six years ago, we issued a travel advisory, as an alert against visiting Greece in the then prevailing atmosphere of antisemitic and Gypsophobic discourse and threat. Prior to the Olympics,the climate slightly improved - undoubtedly due to the authorities' efforts - and our advisory was suspended. Should this season's hatefest persist, it will behoove us to reconsider its reinstatement."
"Europe must be enriched by your legacy of Plato and Aristotle - not that other Greek concept, too common in our lexicon - 'xenophobia'."concluded Samuels.
Note 1: Two examples from the article (independently translated)
"In every neighbourhood of Nea Peramo, the City Services Department revived the tradition of burning the effigy of Judas. The entire city, illuminated by dozens of fires, sends the people a message of cleansing..."
" In Chania, Crete, on the eve of Easter, the children built a huge wooden pyre with a scarecrow on top representing Judas. When the priest proclaimed 'Christ is Risen', they ignited and burned the Judas. The village bell rang and the sky was decorated with colourful fireworks. In many places, especially rural areas, shots in the air were heard...The faithful left their houses to go to the Church, where there was a small fire in the courtyard burning the HOUSE OF JUDAH. They heard 'Christ is Risen' and all the young adults passed by this pyre, making the sign of the cross and in prayer."