Greek lawmakers voted to cut off government funding to Golden Dawn on Wednesday, only weeks after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told American Jewish leaders in New York that he planned to “deracinate” the neo-Nazi party.
Golden Dawn had steadily risen on the back of an anti-austerity and anti-immigrant agenda to become Greece's third-most popular party, until the killing of a left-wing rapper by a party supporter last month triggered the government crackdown. Several senior party members and MPs, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were arrested in a series of raids earlier this month.
Following the arrests, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters that a “democracy can’t fund its opponents.”
The World Jewish Congress, whose President Ronald Lauder called for a ban on European neo-Nazi parties earlier this year, stated that it welcomed the steps that Greece has taken so far.
Parties like Golden Dawn, Jobbik in Hungary and Svoboda in the Ukraine “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,” according to the WJC.
The international Jewish organization commended the Greek authorities for “bringing to bear the full force of the law on the leaders of the Golden Dawn party who are alleged to have been involved in criminal activities,” in a statement released by during the group’s annual executive meeting in Jerusalem.
The organization expressed its hope that “the Greek government will honor its pledge to implement adequate legislation against hate crimes and incitement to racial hatred, as a matter of urgency.”
Greek Jewish leaders have expressed their confidence in their government, with Benjamin Albalas, the head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece telling The Jerusalem Post earlier this month that he believed that the government will “go until the end.”
During the debate over closing the fiscal spigot, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris told fellow lawmakers that the “provision is unconstitutional and illegal.”
Golden Dawn last month filed a lawsuit over state funds the co-ruling Socialist PASOK party received in 2007-2010.
Parliament has stripped four more MPs of their immunity to allow a deeper investigation into accusations against them.
If convicted, Golden Dawn lawmakers face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If they are acquitted, the party will receive the state funds it is owed.
The Israeli Jewish Congress, a Jewish organization that promotes ties between European Jewish leaders and their Israeli counterparts, praised the revocation of the the far right parliamentarians' immunity.
"In a period where the rise of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in Europe has reached unprecedented levels since the end of the Holocaust, the IJC commends the Greek Parliament and authorities for taking these important steps and will continue to work closely with our friends from the Central Board of the Jewish Communities in Greece and the Greek Parliament in the on-going fight against hatred and anti-Semitism," the IJC announced.