Prominent Greek-Americans denounce Golden Dawn

World Jewish Congress

NEW YORK – Prominent Greek-Americans are speaking out against Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi party that aims to spread its venom by winning representation in the European parliamentary elections later this month. The leaders responded to a call by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) which recently published an updated report on ‘Neo-Nazism in Modern Europe’ which highlights the dangers of Golden Dawn and similar movements on the continent.

“We thank these Greek American leaders for their strong stand against Golden Dawn, which is little known in America but a looming problem in Greece,” said World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder. “We hope their words will influence Greek citizens to reject this hateful, extremist party.”

The elected Greek-American leaders who stepped forward include federal and state lawmakers from four states and both major political parties. Together, they represent millions of Americans. They are US Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Dina Titus (D-NV); New York Senators Michael Gianaris (D) and Dean Skelos (R) and New York Assembly Members Nicole Malliotakis (R) andAravella Simotas (D). Joining them is Phil Angelides, the former treasurer of California, a Democrat, and Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, a prominent California businessman.

Golden Dawn’s current popularity in opinion polls means that it could elect at least one member to the European Parliament on 25 May. A virulently anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-immigrant party, the party won 18 seats in the 300-member Hellenic Parliament in 2012 in the wake of Greece’s Eurozone austerity crisis. It is currently the country’s fourth-largest political force, despite the fact that some of its leaders are in jail facing charges that they formed a criminal organization to sow terror and violence in the country.

Golden Dawn maintains chapters in several centers of the Greek Diaspora, including in Italy, Australia and New York City. The World Jewish Congress has urged the Greek government to crack down on the party and enact laws against hate speech. Greek-American organizations, including the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest and oldest grassroots association of Greek Americans andPhilhellenes in the United States, have strongly condemned Golden Dawn.

The statements of the Greek-American leaders follow. The WJC encourages other Greek-Americans to add their voices.

US Representative Gus Bilirakis: “I have shared my deep concerns with Prime Minister Samaras of potential destabilizing extremist elements in Greece and throughout Europe. I am confident he is taking the right steps to ensure the rule of law in Greece.  Violent extremism on any level should be unequivocally condemned. As a member of the United States Congress, and more particularly, the Congressional Caucus on International Religious Freedom, and the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, I will always use my voice to denounce the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities wherever they may be in the world.”

US Representative John Sarbanes: “Thank you for providing me with the WJC’s recently published report, ‘Neo-Nazism in Modern Europe,’ which documents the rise of neo-Nazi extremist elements in Germany, Greece and Hungary. This is an alarming development that demands vigilance on the part of all those who seek to combat anti-Semitism in today’s world. As a member of the House of Representatives, I have long focused on issues of human rights and religious freedom. That is why I host the annual St. Andrew’s Human Rights and Religious Freedom Reception on Capitol Hill, where we recognize those who take a stand on these core values, as well as assess the state of democratic liberties the world over. We must continue to educate the public about the dangers of hate speech and the fundamental importance of respecting human rights. Your efforts in that regard are deeply appreciated.”

US Representative Dina Titus: “Radical extremists parading as political parties like Golden Dawn with their message of hatred and intolerance have no place in our society. We must work together as a global community to root out extremism and instead encourage policies that promote inclusion and equality, in keeping with the ideals of democracy established in Greece thousands of years ago.”

New York State Senator Michael Gianaris: “The painful lessons of history have taught us that extremism and intolerance beget violence, oppression and suffering. Hateful groups like Golden Dawn have no place in modern society, whether in a nation like the United States, which is a beacon of freedom for the world, or in Greece, the birthplace of democracy. Just recently on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the world came together to reaffirm our commitment to rooting out hatred and the violence that comes from it. Let us continue our work by fighting against extreme intolerance wherever it rears its head.”

New York State Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos: “It is important to stand together in opposition to organizations such as Golden Dawn that perpetuate anti-Semitism, and engage in racist crimes, violence and hatred. I hope the people of Greece reject Golden Dawn candidates in the May elections and send a strong message that their agenda and activities will not be tolerated.”

New York Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis: “Neo-Nazi parties and hate organizations like Golden Dawn have no place in any modern political system or society. The party’s representation in the Hellenic Parliament is disturbing and I join in urging defeat of its candidates in the upcoming Greek elections. Golden Dawn’s record of xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism is completely adverse to the Greek principles of civility and democracy I was raised to respect and admire as the daughter of a Greek immigrant. Sadly, Golden Dawn is but a symptom of the overall rise in Neo-Nazism in modern Europe and I will continue working with the World Jewish Congress to generate awareness and push for eradication of this disturbing trend.”

New York State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas: “I join my fellow Greek-American elected officials in denouncing the Golden Dawn Party and its disturbingly intolerant agenda. Extremism, racism, and violent rhetoric have no place in a country known as the cradle of modern democracy. I have always supported Greece, but I cannot support a movement that promotes hatred and bigotry. Golden Dawn claims that they want to preserve Greek culture, but in truth they are seeking an alternate regime grounded in hate. This party does not stand for the values of Greece, or for the principles of humanity, and should never be welcomed into Parliament as a legitimate political entity.”

Former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides: “The World Jewish Congress report on Neo-Nazism in Modern Europe is a wake-up call that must be heeded by government and citizen leaders across the globe. The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece is a matter of grave concern not only to Greece, but also to Europe and the United States. This neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist entity, which has rightly been identified as a ‘criminal organization’ by the government of Greece has no place in the democratic affairs of Greece or the European Union. Golden Dawn’s emergence as a dangerous presence in Greece – the birthplace of democracy and a nation that suffered terribly under a brutal Nazi occupation – is a reminder to all of us that the forces of hate, which prey on fear and economic desperation, are a constant threat that must be confronted and repelled without reservation or hesitation.”

Business leader Angelo K. Tsakopoulos: “As a child, I saw first hand the brutality of the Nazis in Greece.  The idea that Golden Dawn would parade proudly as the ideological successors of the Nazis is unconscionable.  I urge all Greeks to reject the messages of hate and intolerance that Golden Dawn espouses.  I urge them to remember that we Greeks are the inheritors of a culture based on ‘philotimo,’ our ‘love of justice.’  It was our philotimo that inspired so many Greek villagers to risk their lives to protect their Jewish brethren against deportations during the war, and it is philotimo, not hatred, that will carry Greece through the current economic crises, toward a stronger future.”