Anti-Semitic and other criminal worldviews get additional legitimization in the European Union with the entrance of the Laos (The Popular Orthodox Rally) Party into the Greek government. Its leader, Giorgios Karatzaferis, has promoted many anti-Semitic stereotypes.
In 2001, while still a parliamentarian of the major New Democracy Party, he asked the foreign minister to explain why during the attacks of September 11, 2001, no Jews died. He has also remarked that “Jewish blood stinks.” During Israel’s Cast Lead Gaza campaign, he compared the Israeli Defense Forces to Hitler. According to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Karatzaferis is the publisher of a Greek translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The Laos Minister of Transport, Makis Voridis, has a fascist past. Deputy Minister of Development Adonis Georgiadis has promoted one of the most anti-Semitic books in Europe so far this century - The Jews and the Truth by Kostas Plevris.
Laos has a strong base in the Greek Orthodox world. In 2004, Karatzaferis was elected to the European Parliament. The then-head of the Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, wrote him a warm congratulatory letter saying: “I am certain that with your rich abilities, your insight and your knowledge … you will bring to the broader European family the other intellectual values that spring out of your Christian and Greek soul.”
There have been anti-Semitic and racist parties within other EU countries’ governments before. The Polish Family League was once part of the Polish government. Its leader, Roman Giertych, was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education from 2006 until 2007.
In 2000, the European Union was still willing to react against racist ministers. When the far right FDP Party of Jorg Haider entered the Austrian government, the EU declared some sanctions against Austria. These were hardly effective and were lifted seven months later. Today a suggestion for sanctions sounds ridiculous. To survive its dramatic financial crisis, European Union leaders seem willing to accept almost anything.
One finds extreme racist and anti-Semitic parties in many EU countries, which are not (yet?) part of the government. The largest – in percentage of votes — is the openly anti-Semitic, anti-Roma Hungarian party Jobbik. It received 17% of the vote in the 2010 national elections. Jobbik’s popularity and its ties to paramilitary organizations are so far unique in the European Union.
Germany was shocked in the last few days when it became known that a small neo-Nazi group had murdered German Turks and others over the past several years without being noticed. Now many want to prohibit the extreme rightist NPD party.
Anti-Semitism is widespread among European populations. A report by a government-approved commission of experts, published a few days ago, found that about 20% of the German population holds strongly anti-Semitic views.
Last month, an Italian parliamentary commission found that “some 44% of the Italian population harbor some prejudice or have a hostile attitude toward Jews.” The Chair of the commission Fiamma Nirenstein said, “It was a shock for everybody how much anti-Semitism exists in Italy and Europe.”
The ancient anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish lust for blood have spread to European perceptions of Israel. A recent study conducted by the University of Bielefeld on behalf of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, shows this. The study found that 63% of Poles think that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. The lowest figures in the study are from the Italians and the Dutch respectively, with 38% and 39%. In Hungary, Great Britain, Germany and Portugal, between 40% and 50% think this.
The anti-Semitic atmosphere is evidently not omnipresent, yet it is pervasive. It can flourish partly due to anti-Israel rhetoric from the heads of the European Union. There are many statements expressing anti-Israeli double standards — which are part of the EU official definition of anti-Semitism — by EU commissioners, senior employees, as well as ministers and spokesmen of European governments. Another defamation technique is moral equivalence which puts Israel and Hamas on the same level.
The entrance of Laos into the Greek government is not only linked to the country’s economic crisis. It is also part of the progress of anti-Semitic and other criminal ideologies in the European public sphere. Europe’s economic problems may provide an environment suitable for the further development of hate-mongering. Therefore, this phenomenon must be closely monitored in its entirety.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Several of these address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism