Jewish leaders came out strongly in favor of Greece’s Saturday crackdown by
antiterror forces on the leadership of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which
resulted in the incarceration of several senior party members, including leader
The arrests, which are the most significant
crackdown on a political party in Greece since the fall of its military
dictatorship in 1974, are the biggest setback to Golden Dawn since it entered
parliament on an anti-immigrant agenda last year.
Ranked as Greece’s
thirdmost popular party, Golden Dawn is under investigation for the murder of
rapper Pavlos Fissas, who bled to death after being stabbed twice by a party
sympathizer last week. The party has denied any links to the killing of
Saturday’s raids saw the arrests of Mihaloliakos, party spokesman
Ilias Kasidiaris, three other lawmakers and 13 party members, while the party’s
No. 2, Christos Pappas, turned himself in to police in Athens on Sunday
The detainees were taken under high security to the prosecutors’
office, and charged officially on evidence linking the party with a string of
attacks, including the stabbing of the rapper on September 17 and the killing of
an immigrant earlier this year, court officials said.
The party is noted
for its activities against immigrants.
Calling Golden Dawn a criminal
organization, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias stated that “the investigation
will not end here,” implying that a wider crackdown may be in the
After Fissas’s murder, Dendias proposed legislation that would cut
off state funding to parties if their leader or more than a tenth of their
lawmakers are charged with a felony carrying a 10-year jail term.
Saturday’s crackdown, the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has so
far resisted calls to ban the party, which has been called “anti- Semitic” by
senior members of his administration.
A ban of the party could
potentially be counterproductive, Greek Deputy Minister of Justice, Transparency
and Human Rights Konstantinos Karagounis told The Jerusalem Post earlier this
Karagounis’s statement came in response to calls from World Jewish
Congress leader Ronald Lauder for European nations to ban far-right political
The WJC has alleged that parties such as Jobbik in Hungary and
Golden Dawn in Greece, both of which have become significant political forces in
their countries’ respective parliaments, “openly glorify Hitler’s Nazi regime;
publicly utilize Nazi terminology in respect of Jews and other minorities; and
espouse the toxic combination of extreme anti-Semitic discourse, aggressive
national chauvinism, and anti-capitalist and anti-socialist rhetoric that
hallmarked the thinking and deeds of the Nazi Party.”
organizations redoubled their calls for a ban of Golden Dawn after Fissas’s
“Words of condemnation, although important, won’t
Greece’s leaders need to take action against those who create a
climate of fear, and who pose a threat to many of their fellow citizens,” Lauder
said last week.
Golden Dawn’s popularity has taken a significant hit
since the murder.
Dendias said that outlawing Golden Dawn would require a
constitutional change, a process that could take years, though he said that “the
time may have come to debate that possibility.”
“As Jews, we are very
happy” about the arrests, Benjamin Albalas, head of the Central Board of Jewish
Communities in Greece (KIS), told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “This group, I
don't call them a party, is a neo-Nazi group and I think that the government
will go until the end.”
David Saltiel, former president of the KIS, told
the Post that he didn’t see a blanket ban of the party in the offing, but did
encourage the removal of the party’s leadership.
Golden Dawn is “not a
political party, but a gang,” he said, echoing his successor. “The Jewish
community always said that the Golden Dawn was a Nazi party and that the
government has to be aware.”
“What is happening is an incredible thing.
The government is showing resolve in eliminating this neo-Nazi party and it’s
the first time that the Greek government [is] showing this kind of determination
in reestablishing order in Greek society,” said Sabby Mionis, a Greek- Israeli
financier who has been under fire by Golden Dawn for refusing to testify before
a Greek parliament that he said contained Holocaust deniers.
will ban Golden Dawn, or dismantle it – one way or the other – but Golden Dawn
as we knew it is over for good,” he said.
Jewish groups outside of Greece
have expressed their hope that the government will continue applying pressure on
“We congratulate Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on the
crackdown of neo-Nazis and hope that the Greek leadership will make this a
central part of the European Union Presidency which they will assume in January
2014,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in a
“While we are mindful of the risks involved with taking on a
political party that serves in the Parliament, there are limits, which in the
case of Golden Dawn, were passed a long time ago,” said American Jewish
Committee Executive Director David Harris.
“Laudably, the government of
Prime Minister Samaras has recognized the absolutely necessity to say ‘enough is
enough,’ and to take meaningful actions to stop the madness of Golden Dawn. A
party cannot be allowed to cynically use the freedom that democracy offers to
subvert that very freedom.”
The Israeli Jewish Congress also expressed
approval of arrests, with IJC CEO Michel Gourary calling Golden Dawn “a party
motivated by pure hatred and racism, and in particular, anti-Semitism and
Gourary told the Post: “The IJC will continue to work
closely with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and our friends
in the Greek Parliament in the ongoing fight against racism and anti-Semitism.