Greek Mayor’s Protest of Antisemitic City Councilors Demonstrates Need to Combat Extremist Parties
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today applauded actions by Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of the Greek city of Thessaloniki, for wearing a Star of David badge to his swearing-in ceremony. The badge was displayed to protest the induction of an antisemitic member of parliament from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party to the city council. The organization urges the U.S. and E.U. governments must do more to combat antisemitism and racist violence in Europe.
“Mayor Boutaris continued a proud tradition in Thessaloniki of resisting Nazism and standing up for the human rights of all of the city’s residents – a message that’s especially important today as attacks continue in Athens against migrants, LGBT people, and Greek liberals,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “But these actions may be sufficient to combat the resurgence of antisemitic, xenophobic, and neofascist sentiment Greece, Hungary, and elsewhere in Europe. Dealing with that will require a systematic strategy to protect democratic values and human rights inside the European Union.”
Three Golden Dawn officials were sworn in to Greek municipal councils on Friday – two of whom received brief paroles from jail to attend their swearing-in ceremonies. The antisemitic, xenophobic, neofascist party won 16% of the vote in Athens in May, and took three seats in the European Parliament. As documented in a new report from Human Rights First, one of those sworn into the Athens municipal council sports swastika tattoos and read from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion from the floor of the Greek Parliament. The new Thessaloniki municipal councilor, Golden Dawn Member Artemis Mathaiopoulos, formerly paid the bass in a neo-Nazi punk band called “Auschwitz,” won 7.7% of the vote in a city where 90% of Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation.
In protest, the re-elected Thessaloniki mayor came to his inauguration wearing the large Star of David badge that Jews were required to wear during the Nazi occupation.
The new report, “We’re not Nazis, but… The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” includes extensive recommendations for how the United States can work with work with the E.U. and national governments to respond to the threat to human rights posed by the election of 59 ultra-nationalist representatives from 14 countries to the European Parliament, as well as to local and national office. Eight of the 14 extremist parties, including Golden Dawn, see Russia as their natural ally, and advocate pulling out of the European Union and NATO. Two retired Greek generals, elected to the European Parliament for Golden Dawn, have triggered protests by announcing their plans to visit Australia, which was recently rocked by an attack by skinheads on a bus carrying Jewish schoolchildren.
“While international attention and NATO leaders are naturally focused on the crises in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, the rise of violent anti-Semitic, xenophobic parties inside the Transatlantic alliance requires sustained, serious attention, starting with the NATO summit that begins Thursday,” Efron said.