Thessaloniki Tentatively Acknowledges Its Jewish Past, While Greek Anti-Semitism Persists

Jan. 12 2017

While Thessaloniki (formerly Salonica) was under Nazi occupation, the local Greek authorities hired 500 workers to dismantle the old Jewish cemetery in order to build over it. Aristotle University—Greece’s largest—now sits atop the graves, whose 350,000 tombstones were put to use in a variety of projects. Only in 2014 was a monument erected to publicize this gruesome fact, inscribed with the somewhat misleading statement that the cemetery was destroyed by “Nazi occupation forces and their collaborators.” Although the memorial is one of a few tentative signs of changing attitudes toward Jews in Greece, writes Devin Naar, anti-Semitism remains a strong force on both the left and the right:

In November 2016, someone tried to pull the branches off the monument’s menorah and damaged the accompanying plaques. . . . This is one of many anti-Semitic incidents over the last few years in Greece, a country with only 5,000 Jews, by an active neo-Nazi party. That party, Golden Dawn, won 7 percent of the votes in the most recent elections. . . . One of its MPs . . . was the bassist in a punk-rock band called Pogrom before being elected. . . . The title song of the album was “Auschwitz,” and its lyrics are too vile to print.

[T]he university has inaugurated a new professorship in Jewish studies sponsored by the Jewish community. A specialist on World War II who also studies anti-Semitism, Giorgos Antoniou has been amazed by the popularity of his course on Salonica’s Jewish history. . . .

At the national level . . . politicians’ anti-Jewish rhetoric has not been abandoned. In September 2016, the vice-minister of education and religious affairs, Theodosis Pelegrinis from the ruling left-wing Syriza party, denounced Jews in parliament for “appropriating the Holocaust” . . . by convincing the world that the term should apply only to Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis. . . . Indeed . . . a group of scholars . . . concluded that both the right and the left share the belief that Greeks have suffered more than Jews—the difference being that Jews have achieved vindication whereas Greeks continue to be exploited by “invisible world powers.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Greece, Holocaust, Jewish World, Thessaloniki

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy