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

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC