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Spirit of Olympic Games Must Inspire Greece to Deal with its Antisemitism

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To date, Greek police seem uninterested in pursuing the perpetrators of hate crimes against Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, or providing security to prevent repeated desecrations. Combined with the tepid reaction of police, is the Greek media's disinterest. To cite one telling example, when a Holocaust memorial in Ioannina was defaced (pictured left), there were no arrests or even mention of the outrage in the Greek media. When graffiti stating, "Out with the Jews" and "Death to Jews" was painted in a most conspicuous spot overlooking the Corinth-Tripoli highway where thousands of Greeks, including prominent governmental officials, drive by every day, an open letter to then-Prime Minister Costas Simitis from the Greek Helsinki Monitoring Group asking that the authorities remove the antisemitic graffiti was met with further silence. When renowned "Zorba" composer Mikis Theodorakis described Jews as "the root of evil," Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Education Minister Petros Efthymiou stood beside him, smiling, at a book signing ceremony heavily covered by the Greek media. Not too long ago, Giorgos Karatzafer, leader of the extreme right Popular Orthodox Party, used the party-owned Piraeus television station to denounce Greek politicians with "Jewish origins" and to claim, "Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks." Cartoons like this one portraying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a butcher of humans and other cartoons equating Israelis with Nazis are commonplace in Greek newspapers. The government ignores protests and does nothing - despite its obligation under European conventions to act against incitement to racism and violence. Earlier dialogue between senior Greek diplomats and Wiesenthal Center officials from New York to Berlin has been met with largely empty promises. Therefore, join with us in demanding real leadership and action by Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis to counter antisemitism in Greece today.

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Kostas Karamanlis - Prime Minister of Greece

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