ATHENS (Aug. 11)
A few years ago, Jacquelyn Yermiya wanted to become a nursery school teacher in the Greek public school system, but she was rejected because she is Jewish and not Greek Orthodox.
The law at the time said that only Greek Orthodox citizens could become nursery and elementary school teachers in the public school system.
But after a long fight that won support from Greek Catholics, who had also been excluded from teaching, the law was amended.
Most Greeks had thought this discrimination was a matter of the past — until the daily newspaper Eleftherotypia recently found and published a report prepared by the Greek Central Intelligence Agency.
According to the report, which originally was circulated last January to only a small number of people, only those who belong to the Greek Orthodox Church can be considered “honest Greeks.”
The report says that anyone of a different faith is “not an honest Greek since his sense of patriotism is reduced.”
The report goes on to suggest measures that should be taken against “non-honest Greeks.”
Among these measures was the suggestion that only Greek Orthodox citizens should be allowed to enroll in theological faculties at universities. Another said that construction licenses should not be issued for building non-Greek Orthodox houses of worship.
In addition, a May 22 directive that referred to the original agency report goes so far as to suggest that those who are not Greek Orthodox should be kept under surveillance.
According to the newspaper’s account, the documents show that for five months — without any reaction from government officials — the Greek CIA set up a mechanism to spy on people who were not Greek Orthodox.
On May 27, after the report and the directive were leaked — some say to foreign governments — the Greek government sent a letter to the Greek CIA saying that the report and the directive should be annulled “since its findings are not realistic.”
But the newspaper discovered that the annulment order was a forgery. Its only purpose was to satisfy critics; the original agency report was to remain valid and official policy.
‘AN EMBARRASSMENT TO ALL GREEKS’
Once the story broke, an embarrassed Greek government made one mistake after another.
First it said that the report was only the private idea of a lowly clerk in the religious department of the security agency.
But this was soon perceived as a lie, because the report was signed by the head of the agency, Panagiotis Bale, a 57-year-old retired air force officer.
Bale, it turns out, also signed the directive meant to cancel the initial report.
Then the government said that the person responsible was suspended. But further investigation showed that not only was this person not suspended but was rewarded with a citation.
Finally, on Aug. 5, a spokesperson for the Greek government said that the original agency report was “unrealistic and unacceptable” and “therefore it has been canceled.”
Ever since the beginning of the century, Greek citizens have been divided on numerous issues, sometimes with painful results.
During the 1920s and until World War II, Greeks were divided into those who were promonarchy and those who pro-democracy.
From the postwar period until 1967, the time of the military dictatorship, there were divisions between Communists and nationalists.
With the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, the division was between right-wingers and socialists.
Now, for the first time, the division is between those who are Greek Orthodox and those belonging to other faiths.
Although 97 percent of the Greek population is Greek Orthodox, there are also Greek Catholics, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Presbyterians, Muslims and other religious groups.
Interestingly, although the Greek CIA report mentions 70 different religious and semi-religious organizations here, the Jewish faith is not mentioned at all.
“The report is an embarrassment to all Greeks,” said Nissim Mais, president of the Greek Central Jewish Board. “I fail to understand how 50 years after the Second World War, a document like that can be produced in a European country.”