How to deal with anti-Semitism in Greece

Moses Elisaf, the first Jewish person elected mayor in Greece. (Screencapture/YouTube)
Moses Elisaf, the first Jewish person elected mayor in Greece. (Screencapture/YouTube)

One interesting, and not well known, fact regarding Greek society is that it functions in ethical contradictions. It is a European society, member of the European Union, and founded under the principles of the most striking ethical and democratic developments of our common European heritage like, for example, the French Revolution and the Enlightenment movement that shape the foundations of the Greek state. However, at the same time, the interconnection between the Greek Orthodox Church, with part of the society, and the political system did not give space to the dynamics that had as inner values the ethics of the European Civilization.

As a result of this societal contradiction the Greek society witnessed and in some cases it still witness the rise of anti-Semitism mainly in the political supporters of parties of the far right and far left that demonize Israel and the Jewish people from completely different perspective but under the same racist notion.

During the recent crisis that Greece faced racist attitudes and opinions that did not have a place in the public discourse were transferred to the centre of the political debate, mainly due to need of important media outlets to increase their viewership of readership via presenting members of far right or even neo-Nazi political parties. Under this racist discourse that dominated the media and the political system during the Greek Crisis, anti-Semitism was on the forefront of the hatred speech. However, it is worth noticing that the mainly differentiation point between the Greek anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitism that dominates other nations is that in Greece, anti-Semitism has a verbal aspect along with the disgraced action of attacks on Jewish cemeteries, till now there is no physical assault towards a personal of Jewish ancestry or a Israeli citizen.

The description of the anti-Semitism phenomenon in the Greek society especially during the years of the crisis is not only an alarming bell for a country that wants to overcome the crisis without dealing with the demons that have infiltrated in the Greek society for decades but wants to show the way out of this racist and toxic environment: The road of understanding, of discussion and mainly focusing on the bigger picture of a Jewish community that has shaped the Greek society for years in political, cultural and economical terms. The recent election victory of Moses Elisaf, a leading and respected member of the Jewish society of Ioannina, as mayor of Ioannina shows the only way that we can overcome our past and build a common and open future is via understanding the power of cultural richness for our societies and the beauty that this richness brings to our common future. Let’s make Elisaf election the first step towards a demolition of anything that is associated with anti-Semitism in our country. It is solely in our hands.

About the Author
Chris graduated from the University of Panteion with a bachelors in sociology, and earned an MSc in Media , Culture and Society at the University of Essex. He was a trainee at Thomson Reuters, and worked at various news websites, such as Huffington Post Greek edition, Hurriyet Daily news and others.
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