In light of the recent arson attacks on Chania’s Etz Hayyim Synagogue, the subsequent rather nasty Opinion Article in the Wall Street Journal (see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704320104575014571634292264.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle ), and the raised eyebrows by officials in the US State Department, I would like to offer my thoughts on the matter. As is reported today by Georgios Delastik in Ethnos (see: http://www.ethnos.gr/article.asp?catid=11826 ), which was reproduced in various news media including Israeli, and on the blogosphere (see: http://history-of-macedonia.com/2010/01/25/misuse-of-anti-semitism-in-the-arsons-of-chania-jewish-synagogue/ ) the culprits in the attack were two Americans working on the Souda US military base, two Britons responsible for training NATO’s marines, and one Greek citizen who acted as the “lookout”. It has also been reported that the two US citizens have sought refuge from Greek police on the base and are likely not in Greece anymore. The US is not cooperating with the Greek local authorities in the matter and refused to release the names of the two Americans. Finally, the two Britons are now being reported to be local British “bartenders” and not involved with NATO. In my view, this smacks of a political “game” gone terribly wrong. If the story as it is unfolding is true, then the question that remains is why was this done? What could have been the motive for something like this? Moreover, the criticism by the US State Department, and the unfortunate article in the Wall Street Journal by a certain Andrew Apostolou were obviously knee-jerk reactions and quite incendiary. The article then continues on to blame Greek indifference to the attack. How could the whole country of Greece and the Greek people be painted in such a negative light for the actions of a few shameful individuals? I for one reject the accusations thrown at the feet of Greeks as a whole. I also have seen reports of how the people of Chania are disgusted with what has happened.
As was asked by Ethnos today: “The nationality of the culprits raises a crucial political question: Were the British and the American culprits using their bases to firebomb the synagogue twice due to their own personal dislike of Jews, or were they acting on orders of the secret services of their nations? In other words, are we dealing with random acts of antisemitic cretinism by four brainless Americans and Brits or with a political provocation of foreign agencies whose aim is to smear Greece’s name to the Jewish world, which holds an important place in the worldwide banking system, during a time when our country finds itself in a very difficult economic situation and therefore needs the help of foreign banks?”
Conspiracy theory or not, what I fear as I humbly conclude is that these few individuals were indeed following some sort of orders, and that Mr. Apostolou was way too “ready” to point the finger at a whole nation. So far everything is being hush-hushed. I am very keen to see what the conclusion of this fiasco is going to be.
Yes, antisemitism is present in Greece as it is present everywhere. However and thankfully, I have not seen the rampant expressions of hate there as I have seen reported in places like Central Europe and even the United States. The recent firebombings are in fact quite uncharacteristic for Greece. To put things in perspective, two years ago a local synagogue and Jewish school were attacked by Islamic extremists in Montreal, Canada despite the warnings to authorities by the local B’nai Brith chapter. Were Canada and Canadians tarred and feathered for something that they were not responsible for? The actions of a few should not overshadow the goodness of a whole people. As Dr. Katsetos so eloquently pointed out in a recent posting on the MGSA-listserve, testament to the majority of Greeks’ anti-antisemitic character is the human chain formed around the vandalised Jewish cemetery in Ioannina. I would also offer my personal story of how my grandfather helped hide and then smuggle Jews out of Kastoria during World War II, the unsung acts by many Greek priests who changed documents and names of many Greek Jews fleeing the Holocaust (many of who still retain the Greek names given to them out of thanks), and the following story of Euboeia native General Mordechai Fritzis written by Michael Schwartz (see: http://www.sefarad.org/publication/lm/039/3.html ). Mordechai Fritzis was one of the first Greek officers to die during World War II. He was revered by all and his family received honours by the King and by Ioannis Metaxas. His statues are found in Chalkis, Euboeia and Kalpaki, Epirus (near Ioannina). To quote Greek poet Alexandros Gabrielidis:
“A legend was created in October 1940, as Greece refused for ever to accept Fascism. In a corner of the fields of Kalpaki history was written an example of great courage to younger generations. A shining courage brought glory to Greece, as one icy-cold morning a group of men died. On a proud horse he galloped to victory – the laurel wreath and the crown of roses belong to Mordechai. The name of Mordechai Frizis, pride of Chalkis, will live forever, a golden ray of sunshine. No one has forgotten him – heroes are not forgotten. He passed among the Immortals, and hymns will be sung in his honour. The mountains of Albania and the narrow banners and Flowers of Chalkis will ring out with song. The Greek people – Christians and Jews – will pray for you, young and old Farewell my hero, who gave your life – my brother, we will always be in your presence”.
All this is in stark contrast to what Mr. Apostolou has written about the lack of morality in Greece, and how Greeks are supposedly not taught about the once flourishing Jewish communities in Greece thereby placing all Greeks on the same level as the arsonists who, subsequently and for the most part, seem not to be Greek at all. The same is true about the criticism from the US State Department. This is a time for self-reflection for everyone and not a time to play the “holier than thou” card on the international stage. I remember something about glass houses and throwing stones here…
I wish I could write this to the Wall Street Journal and have them publish it. I realize though that I wish many things but they are just that…wishes.
Christos Karatzios MD
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