An [unpublished] response to Andrew Apostolou’s Wall Street Journal piece

To the Editor [of the *Wall Street Journal*]:

Andrew Apostolou’s “The Shame of Modern Greece” (Opinion Europe, January 20,
2010), about the arson attacks on a historic synagogue in Chania on the
island of Crete,  represents a case of a premature judgment used to support
a simple-minded sermon without respect for the complexity of the historic
relationship between the Greeks and the Jews, which stretches back about
2,500 years.

Contrary to Mr. Apostolou, who did not have all the facts, of the five
people accused of arson four are *foreign*, i.e. non-Greek nationals (two
are British and two Americans), and one a Greek national; the two British
and the Greek individuals have been arrested by the Greek police and will be
charged based on video taped evidence of their actions and the confession of
at least one of them. The US nationals are fugitives.

As for the larger issue of anti-Semitism in Greece, there are indeed bigots
of all stripes in the country, though these are few and tend to be
marginalized; Greece does not have an extreme rightist fascist or racist
party that espouses anti-Semitism. Some on the left (including a major
left-wing daily) promote “the now banal comparison of Israel with the
Nazis,” a view that may be obnoxious but hardly racist. The comparison to
anti-Semitism in Turkey falls flat, given that Hitler’s *Mein Kampf* has
sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the last few years in that
country, not to mention the fact that its political leadership is not
particularly warm towards the state of Israel,

The relationship between the Greeks and the Jews  is too complex to be
reduced to slogans such as “[m]any Greeks do not know that their second
largest city, Salonika, had a Jewish majority for most of its modern
history.” The reality is that the many Greeks know this fact, as they also
know that in 1492 the Jews were settled in Thessalonica by the Ottoman Turks
after the latter had massacred and enslaved the Christian population of the
city and seized its properties. The Jews replaced the tax base of which the
Ottomans deprived themselves as a result of their massacres.

In the more recent past while during World War II over eighty percent of the
Jews of Greece were exterminated by the National Socialist occupation
forces, assisted by local collaborators (as in all of Europe), a significant
number of Christian Greeks (including the family of the undersigned) simply
assumed it their duty to protect and to hide their Jewish friends and
neighbors. Mr. Apostolou’s accusatory tone about “the often shameful and
ambiguous stance that too many (sic) Greeks took during the Second World
War” reflects a studied ignorance of human nature universally and serves an
anti-Greek political agenda. How many Europeans or Americans really
intervened to stop the genocide of the Armenians, the Greeks and other
Christians is Asia Minor by the Turks? Indeed many western countries still
refuse to recognize that event, which prompted Raphael Lemkin to coin the
very term genocide.

Aristide Caratzas
New York/Athens

Source: MGSA-L

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