ATHENS, Greece (JTA) – International Jewish groups are expressing concerns over plans to include the extreme right-wing party Popular Orthodox Rally in Greece’s provisional government.
The party, called LAOS in Greek, is led by Georgios Karatzaferis, who is known for making public anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements. According to the agreement among the new government’s coalition parties, no LAOS leader will participate in the three-month provisional government.
Karatzaferis played a central role in the steps that led to the establishment of a government that will try to navigate Greece out of its debt crisis. His small party, which won 7 percent of the popular vote in the last elections, has placed one minister in the new government, as well as two alternate ministers and two deputy ministers.
In recent days, the Central Committee of German Jews published a letter calling on European countries to pressure larger political parties in Greece to refuse to cooperate with Karatzaferis and his party. Meanwhile, committee chairman Dieter Graumann told Germany’s Bild, "A professed anti-Semitic politician cannot serve in a government with which the German government will need to negotiate billions in aid," according to The Jerusalem Post.
David Saltiel, president of the Central Jewish Board of Greece, the umbrella organization of Greek Jewry, told JTA that his organization is following the LAOS participation in the government closely, "but this is a provisional government of three months with one objective: to help Greece with financial problems.”
The executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, in a statement noted his organization’s deep concern of the LAOS presence in the government.
"We urge the new Greek leadership, understandably preoccupied with the economic crisis, not to permit any such expression of outright bigotry or anti-Semitism to emerge from its ranks.”
Harris said the AJC is “long-time friends of Greece,” and expressed “the hope that the leaders would successfully confront the major economic challenges facing the country.”
After the 9/11 attacks in New York, Karatzaferis asked in the Greek Parliament, "Why were all the Jews warned not to come to work that day?" In 2002, during a parliament session, he asked the then-Greek prime minister, "Is it true that your daughter secretly married a Jew?"
During Operation Cast Lead in 2008, Karatzaferis said in an editorial in his own newspaper, A1, that “Jewish blood stinks” and that the Israel Defense Forces was acting "with savage brutality only seen in Hitler’s time towards helpless people."