Wednesday, November 05, 2008

European Antisemitism: Stupidity, Malevolence, or Both?

I wish one could laugh at the stupidity of this headline, which the editors of the Greek daily Avriani saw fit to print yesterday, and which came to my attention via the American Jewish Committee:
The anticipated victory of Obama in the U.S. elections signals the end of Jewish domination. Everything changes in the USA and we hope that it will be more democratic and humane.
If only it weren't so evil, in addition to being completely out of touch with reality.

Perhaps the headline of my post, which refers to "European" antisemitism is misleading. But I happen to think that there is a significant minority of Europeans who share the sentiment of Avriani but are still too cautious to articulate it in public. Granted, antisemitism in post-war Greece, on both the left and right, which is one of those phenomena that seems to defy rational explanation, is especially virulent. But didn't the talk of Jewish neo-cons and lobbies strike the biggest chord in virtually Jew-free Europe?

I fear that pointing out the overwhelming support for Obama among American Jewish voters (77%!) is the wrong strategy for handling this nonsense. And alerting Avriani's editors to the biography of Obama's rumored pick for chief of staff might be similarly counter-productive. The great champions of "democratic and humane" values would do well to examine themselves more closely.

8 comments:

Yannis said...

I agree that there is a strong antisemitic current in greek public opinion stretching from far right to far left that is hiding behind an antiisraeli, propalestinian discourse. But I have to point that Avriani is the quintessential populist Greek newspaper. It started as a prosocialist newspaper during the premiership of late Andreas Papandreou but now it has a right-wing position. During the last ten years its readership is constantly declining. For me it is far more dangerous that personalities with a bigger influence and a leftist pedigree like the composer Mikis Theodorakis are overtly antisemite.

Nobody said...

According to this, "Jewish domination" is only increasing.

Anonymous said...

You might think that Israelis understand better than, say, Greeks or French people, that there's a difference between Democratic Jews and Republican Jews, but that is often not the case.

Amos said...

Thanks, Yannis, for the background on Avriani. What you say is worrisome and illuminating. I didn't realize that Theodorakis was also an antisemite. My parents have some of his records actually, and I enjoyed listening to them when I was a child.

Maybe it is not such a big mystery, but how do you explain the virulence of antisemitism (as well as "anti-Zionism") in Greek political discourse?

Is it a result of Greece's ties to the Arab countries? Residual Soviet era leftism? Greek Orthodox attitudes? General xenophobia / chauvinism?

Amos said...

Anonymous - I am not sure I understand your comment. Which Israelis can't tell a Democratic from a Republican Jew, and what's at stake exactly?

ontheface said...

Hi Amos -

Re. Theodorakis: in 2003 he told Ari Shavit, in an interview that was published in Haaretz, that the Jews were "the root of all evil."

Israelis were pretty horrified, of course; Theodorakis's music is very popular here - especially his Ballad of Mathausen (which my parents listened to quite frequently when I was a child).

For me, that interview was more evidence than I ever wanted of the anti-Semitism that plagues Europe's so-called Left. Very sad.

Best,
Lisa

ontheface said...

Sorry, I forgot to leave a link to Shavit's interview of Theodorakis. And now I see that it was in 2004 (not 2003).

Article is here.

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