Greek election day: Jews worry about far-right

Head of Jewish community in Athens expresses concern over expected election of neo-Nazi party to parliament.

Golden Dawn party activist waves flag with party logo 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
Golden Dawn party activist waves flag with party logo 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
The head of the Jewish community in Athens worried on Sunday that two far-right political parties might enter the Greek parliament.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on the day of the general election, Benjamin Albalas said his main concern was Golden Dawn, a supremacist group expected to enter the legislature for the first time.
“According to the polls the prediction is, unfortunately, that [Golden Dawn] will be elected,” the Jewish leader said over the phone from Athens. “This is an insult not just to Jewish people but to the country as a whole. Golden Dawn is not only Right or extreme Right but a neo-Nazi party. It’s a shame to permit this bunch of people to become members of parliament.”
Golden Dawn’s is a nationalist party hostile to ethnic minorities. Its charter excludes “non-Aryans” from becoming members. Recent polls indicated the group – whose official emblem is similar to the Nazi swastika – might win 5 percent of the vote.
The other far-right party predicted to pass the 3% threshold and return to parliament is LAOS, whose founder, Georgios Karatzaferis, has repeatedly made anti-Semitic comments.
In 2000, for instance, Karatzaferis told the public to vote for his party because it did not include any Jews, communists or gay men and lesbians.
Albalas said that he rejected several attempts by Karatzaferis to patch up his relationship with the Jewish community in recent years.
“He apologized publicly two years ago, but we know who he is and we could not accept this,” he said.
Of the two extremist parties, however, the Jewish leader said that Golden Dawn posed a much bigger threat even though its focus was not on the country’s Jewish community, which numbers an estimated 5,000 people.
“Now they are attacking Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals and foreign workers but not the Jewish people,” Albalas said. “Not yet.”
The elections in Greece are taking place under the shadow of the deeply troubled economy. The markets took a nose dive in 2010 after it became apparent that successive governments lied about the size of the national debt.
The introduction of reforms and austerity measures at the behest of the European Union has so far failed to put the country on an even keel. Experts say the expected fragmentation of votes among several parties this year and the rise in support for fringe groups is symptomatic of the public’s deep disappointment with the system.
Albalas said that regardless of who wins the country’s elections, the Jewish community hopes the next government will provide stability and repair the broken economy.
The Jewish community was recently saved from a fiscal crisis when it received donations from a coalition of Jewish groups including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Albalas thanked Jewish groups abroad for their help saying the cash infusion prevented the closure of Jewish institutions in Athens, where most Greek Jews live.
Still, he said so long as the economy was suffering the community would depend on outside support.
“The books cannot be balanced because a lot of our income is from property, which is a problem because our tenants threaten to leave and our income is diminished,” he said.
Official results of the election were not available by press time.
The Greek Interior Ministry released an exit poll giving New Democracy 19.2% of the votes, PASOK 13.6% and the Left Coalition 16.3%.