By NIKOS DIMOU
I am tired of seeing Greece appearing last on all the international lists. Looking for a first place, I came upon a very unpleasant one. As supported by the evidence, we are the leaders in anti-Semitism across Europe. According to an ADL Global survey that was conducted in 2014, 69% of Greeks harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. This study was confirmed by another in 2017, which was carried out by Greek and foreign scientists under commission of the Heinrich Böll foundation, across a representative sample of one thousand individuals. Of this sample, 75% feel certain that the Jews exploit the Holocaust for their own benefit, while 71% believe that the Jews “have a great deal of power” either as citizens, as a state, or as entrepreneurs.
Very similar to these findings is the opinion that you will hear from every other taxi driver; namely, that “the Jews rule the world.” The surveys did not shed any light on the reason why we are so anti-Semitic. Of course, our archaic Orthodoxy has a tradition of anti-Semitism, which has been condemning the Jews from within the church for years.
But we could imagine that it is yet another manifestation of our controversial nature. We are generally “anti”: antisystemic, anti-Western, anti-European, anti-German, anti-American, etc. (But the one thing we are not is anti-Russian. We remain, for centuries now, fans of the “blond race.”) We also take the lead in conspiracy theories. 80% of Greeks (according to a DiaNEOsis study) believe that our lives are steered by secret foreign centers. Yes, well, Jews and conspiracies are a perfect match. In fact, I believe that we are one of the few European countries in which the fabrication by the Tsarist Okhrana titled “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” circulates freely. In this, the view that “Jews rule the world” is documented by fictitious arguments.
It is not enough that we are the leading anti-Semites, but we have also concocted a myth: that the Greeks were supposedly friends of the Jews and helped many to escape the Holocaust during the Occupation.
How many we “helped” is documented by the statistics. Only 20% survived in Greece—the second-worst performance in Europe. The Danes saved 98.5%. Even in Germany, 45% escaped! However, on Zakynthos, the Metropolitan and mayor managed to hide all the Jews, indicating that we could have done better.
I remember when, 20 years ago, I spoke at the opening ceremony of the Jewish Museum in Athens after the politicians (who rehashed the well-known myths). I spoke unpleasant truths. I underwent the most moving, most beneficial experience of my life. When I was done, more than a thousand people, standing, would not stop applauding.
The title of my speech was: “2000 Years of Loneliness.” And I concluded it with these words: “Now the Jews of Greece open their home to us, the home of their tradition. And not just their home—they invite us into the sanctuaries of their faith, to their synagogues, as they have been saved in their precious museum. They show us their art, both the religious and day-to-day. It is an opportunity to get to know them—even if two thousand years later. It is an opportunity to enter the fairy tale—the tragic tale—of their history. And to tell them that, no matter how many times we have hurt them, we want them here, near us. They are, along with us, the most ancient, the wisest, but also the most persecuted people in the world. It’s time to bring two thousand years of loneliness to an end.”
So, “bravo!” to Stavros Zoumboulakis and Yiannis Boutaris, who also dared to speak unpleasant things. And to our nationalists—racists—I say: The saying by Solomos, which is often mentioned, but hardly ever observed, always holds true. Nothing is more national than the truth!