Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the first world leaders who called on Sunday, the winner of Greek elections Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to congratulate him on his victory. Kyriakos Mitsotakis is considered strongly pro-Israel and last year he addressed the first-ever American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum in Israel, where he accepted an AJC award honoring his late father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who was the first Greek Prime Minister to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
AJC’s executive director David Harris was in Athens on Tuesday to receive the highest honor of the Hellenic Republic and he had a chance to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. But, as The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday, quoting a senior diplomatic source, Israel will not work with Greece’s new Agricultural Development and Food Minister Makis Voridis because of his antisemitic past.
World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder issued a statement after the election saying that Mitsotakis “is a true ally of Israel and has always demonstrated deep support and friendship for the Jewish community in Greece.”
“We look forward to working together with him in the months and years to come, and trust that he will include among his top priorities the serious need to eradicate any and all remnants of antisemitism and neo-Nazi ideology from within the country.”
Lauder noted that the extreme-right and antisemitic Golden Dawn Party failed to pass the 3% election threshold, and thus will not have representation in the new parliament. It had 18 seats in the outgoing parliament.
However, according to Filippa Chatzistavrou, an assistant political science professor at the University of Athens, a significant part of Golden Dawn voters migrated to New Democracy (ND). In an interview with France24 news, she said that ND is no longer the liberal party it once was, but has a “new ideological profile” that includes voices from the far Right.
Voridis is considered one of those voices. He founded the now defunct ultra-nationalist Hellenic Front Party, and ran for parliament in 2000 alongside a man who wrote a 1,400-page screed about the Jews. And in 2005, he merged with a party whose leader – George Karatzaferis – blamed the Jews for 9/11 and said after Operation Cast Lead in 2008 that “the Jew smells blood.”
Sabby Minos, a Greek Jew who made aliyah, wrote in Haaretz in 2012 that Voridis has “a long history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism and xenophobia, including physical threats to Jewish families and leading groups of thugs against immigrants and leftists.”
Minos wrote that when the new Greek agriculture minister was a student at the elite Athens College high school – a school he himself attended – “Voridis formed the fascist student group ‘Free Students’ that painted the walls with swastikas and saluted each other using the Nazi-era greeting ‘Heil Hitler.’”
Voridis joined New Democracy in 2012 and was named health minister in 2014 during the last ND government under then prime minister Antonis Samaras. After the small Jewish community protested this appointment, Voridis wrote a letter expressing his commitment to “putting an end to antisemitic racist prejudice, which is an outright violation of human dignity.”
At the time, Voridis’s appointment replaced another far-right politician with an antisemitic past, Adonis Georgiadis, who was also appointed on Tuesday to the new government – this time as development and investment minister.
Georgiadis owns a publishing house that sold and promoted an antisemitic book – The Jews, The Whole Truth – written by Konstantinos Plevris, who describes himself as a “Nazi, fascist, racist, anti-democrat and antisemite.” According to JTA, Georgiadis in the past has said that “all major banks belong to the Jews” and that “the Jewish lobby” would determine the fate of Greece’s foreign debt.
However, Georgiades was able to heal his relationship with the American Jewish Community and during the recent visit of the AJC delegation in Athens he had a chance to briefly meet with them. As a member of the delegations said, “if Voridis is as repentant as Adonis Georgiadis, things may work out.”
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that it is “studying” the new composition of the Greek government and the significance of Voridis’ appointment. Though not mentioning him by name, the statement said that the new minister is known for “racist and antisemitic positions.”
Despite the condemnation of Voridis, the statement also congratulated Mitsotakis on his victory, pointing out that Netanyahu spoke with him regarding the continuation of “excellent relations” between the two countries.
Another note, however, was struck by vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel, who called on Mitsotakis to cancel the appointment. Hagoel said he was “astonished” and that “it is clear that Mitsotakis is a supporter of Israel and the Jews, but it is forbidden to appoint to the government a clearly antisemitic minister.”
VORIDIS REJECTS ACCUSATIONS
“I have never been anti-Semitic,” Rural Development and Foods Minister Makis Voridis said on Saturday, though admitting that he had for many years been a member of nationalist political parties and organisations and had “coexisted politically with people that had such unacceptable ideas.”
“To resolve any doubts, therefore, I denounce all action, omission or tolerance on my part to the act of a third party that might be interpreted as anti-Semitic or neo-nazi,” he added.
Voridis was responding to the General Secretary of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Victor Eliezer, who he said had “called on me to publicly denounce by anti-Semitic past” in a radio interview.
“I also wish to notify Mr. Eliezer of the following, hoping to assuage the concerns he expressed:
1. As a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in consultation with my colleagues in the Knesset, I have for three successive years proposed the rejection of the Palestinian Authority’s request to become a member of the parliamentary assembly and unremittingly and systematically supported the condemnation of anti-Semitism. My Israeli colleagues know this.
2. I have spoken in parliament against the so-called antiracist law, recognising as its only positive point the penalisation of denial of the Holocaust.
3. I am the only Greek politician that has written articles in support of transferring the Greek Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
4. I am the only Greek politician that has supported the signing of a defence and not just a strategic alliance with Israel.
5. I am the only Greek politician that has adopted a position against Israel’s condemnation for the incidents in Gaza.
In light of these, I hope that his concerns have been alleviated,” Voridis said.