Golden Dawn supporters in Athens 370 (R).
(photo credit: Yorgos Karahalis / Reuters)
Banning the far-right Golden Dawn Party could potentially be counterproductive,
Greek Deputy Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Konstantinos
Karagounis told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Interviewed in Jerusalem
before his speech at the opening of the Global Forum for Combating
Anti-Semitism, Karagounis said that he has “doubts” about the World Jewish
Congress’s recent call for a ban on neo-Nazi parties.
While Greece must
face the rising fortunes of Golden Dawn in a “determined way,” he said, there
are examples of such bans in other countries which “generated the exact opposite
Golden Dawn holds 18 out of 300 seats in the Greek
The party has employed uniformed bands to intimidate
migrants, and party leaders have praised Adolf Hitler and national
Asked about the rise of such sentiments in his country,
Karagounis, who represents the New Democracy party, replied that the
“significant rise of this ultra-rightist party for the last two years” can be
attributed to several factors, not least of which are the economic crisis and
anger over illegal immigration.
Despite the legitimization of
anti-Semitism and the spread of xenophobia in the public discourse in Greece,
Karagounis said that such problems can be mitigated “by solving the
socioeconomic challenges that Greece is facing right now.”
incidents and voices are mainly due to the increase of the migration towards
Greece,” he said, lamenting that there are “some political powers” who are using
populism to take “advantage of this discontent.” Karagounis mentioned that there
are “some expressions of anti- Semitism on behalf of Golden Dawn” and that the
Greek government is exploring its options to “face these anti- Semitic voices
with the criminalization of Holocaust denial.”
A bill aimed squarely at
the Golden Dawn Party, which would have banned public funding to parties whose
leaders engage in Holocaust denial, use the Nazi salute or engage in racially
motivated violence, was scuttled earlier this week in a meeting of the heads of
the partners in the ruling coalition.
The bill, which was drafted by the
Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis of the Democratic Left party, was opposed
by Karagounis’s New Democracy faction, which expressed the opinion that existing
laws were sufficient to stem the tide of extremism.
The bill would have
imposed jail sentences of up to six years for incitement.
Congress President Ronald Lauder expressed his disappointment in the coalition,
saying it is “very worrying that the mainstream parties in Athens are apparently
unable to find a compromise on this important matter.”
The leader of the
Democratic Left, Fotis Kouvelis, also expressed regret over the failure of the
government to pass the measure, telling the Athens- Macedonian News Agency that
an “anti-racism regulation is a must, and no political tug of war is acceptable
on such an issue.”
Asked about the failure to pass the bill, Karagounis
told the Post that the “racist bill has nothing to do with
Anti-Semitism, he explained, is “something else,” a
“special category of racism” that “takes special ways to be faced.”
asked about a call to kill bankers by Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros, who
said that Greeks should “kill those who are responsible for their problems,” the
deputy justice minister replied that “existing legislation provides for these
cases.” Despite referring to a 2012 law that he said ensures that “punishment
will be harsher if violent incidents are motivated by racism,” Karagounis did
not say if the government is considering legal action against
Karagounis cited the participation of Prime Minister
Antonis Samaras in commemoration ceremonies for the deportation of Greek Jews to
Auschwitz and efforts to educate students about racism, saying that there is a
“constant effort to promote tolerance and to teach the new
“The vast majority of Greek people condemn” the rise of the
far Right, he said.
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