Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 - 20 of Tishri, 5782

Jewish community of Greece not pleased with the appointment of new minister who made controversial statements

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The newly appointed Health Minister, Athanassios Plevris, KIS had said, commenting on a reference to the Nazi Auschwitz death camp: ‘What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that “I want to exterminate someone?”‘

The Central Board of Jewish Communities urged the newly appointed Health Minister Athanassios Plevris ‘’to apologize to the Jewish people” for his Auschwitz reference and ”to express his unequivocal condemnation of intolerance, antisemitism and Holocaust denialists, conforming with the declared positions of the Greek Prime Minister.’’

Plevris later responded:‘’I never wanted to insult the Jewish people and I apologize if I have done so.”

 

The Jewish community of Greece is not pleased with the recent Greek government reshuffle which includes the appointment of three new ministers from the extreme right.

The community was particularly outraged by the appointment of Athanassios Plevris, who has made notoriously anti-Semitic remarks in the past, as Minister of Health.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) reminded that in 2009, as a lawyer of his father, Plevris stated before the Greek Court of Justice: ‘’I will refer to issues that have puzzled you. You are concerned about the reference to Auschwitz. The one that says “to keep the camp of Auschwitz in good conditions”. I will examine the most extreme interpretation. That the defendant with this reference means: “Keep the camp of Auschwitz in good conditions because I want, at some point, the national socialist regime to come back, Hitler to come back, take the Jews and put them in Auschwitz”. What kind of instigation is this? What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that “I want to exterminate someone”?».

The Board urged Plevris ‘’to apologize to the Jewish people for this reference and to express his unequivocal condemnation of intolerance, antisemitism and Holocaust denialists, conforming with the declared positions of the Greek Prime Minister.’’

‘’We also hope that the new Minister will address all citizens equally, regardless of skin color, race or religion,’’ the Jewish group said.

The newly appointed minister reacted swiftly on his social media account to the KIS statement. ‘’My respect towards the victims of the Holocaust of the Jews is absolute and I am contrary to any kind of antisemitism. I have demonstrated it through many public statements, in a manner beyond any doubt. The reservations of KIS about me -due to my statement while acting as defense lawyer of my father, whom I totally disagree with- are understandable,’’ Plevris wrote.

He added, ‘’I never wanted to insult the Jewish people and I apologize if I have done so. I am sure that through my work as Minister of Health I will lift all the reservations of all those who doubt my respect to the victims of the Holocaust of the Jews and they will realize that I have no antisemitic feelings.’’

The government reshuffle is aimed at appeasing public opinion, as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been in power for two years, has been particularly criticized for his handling of the fires that ravaged large parts of the country this summer.

The head of government created a civil protection portfolio, and also replaced the minister of Citizen Protection and the Secretary of State for Defence.

Analysts say that by appointing as Health Minister, the Prime Minister hopes to appease anti-vaccine advocates, whose leaders come from this political camp.

This arrival of several extreme-right ministers in the government revived the spectre of the ultranationalist and antisemitic Golden Dawn party, which in 2015 became the country’s third largest political force.

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