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From the Archive: Laos, LAOS and anti-Semitism

New year' dancers in Laos. According to a recent survey, the Southeast Asian country is the world's least anti-Semitic. (Wikipedia)

New year’ dancers in Laos. According to a recent survey, the Southeast Asian country is the world’s least anti-Semitic. (Wikipedia)

A global survey released this week by the Anti-Defamation League revealed that the least anti-Semitic country in the world is … Laos.

Ironically LAOS is also the Greek name for the Popular Orthodox Rally (also translated as Popular Orthodox Alarm), an extreme right-wing party in Greece. The same ADL survey in which Laos came out so well also found that Greece, the home of LAOS, is the most anti-Semitic country outside the Middle East. Not surprisingly, anti-Semitic LAOS has gotten considerably more JTA coverage than the philo-Semitic Laos, most recently last July when former LAOS member Adonis Georgiadis, who had made anti-Semitic statements and published an anti-Semitic book, was appointed health minister of Greece.

LAOS first landed on JTA’s radar in 2007, when it won 10 of the 300 seats in Greece’s parliament, making it the first extreme-right party in parliament since 1974. In its coverage of the 2007 victory, JTA quoted a 2005 U.S. State Department report describing it as a “small, extreme right-wing party (that) supports virulent nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia” and whose leader “regularly attributes negative events involving Greece to international Jewish plots.”

Meanwhile, Laos the country has made infrequent, but largely positive, appearances in JTA, dating back to January 1957, as Israel and Laos prepared to establish diplomatic relations.

In August 1968 Laos’ premier, Prince Souvanna Phouma made a brief stopover in Israel while en route home from Europe. The prince “paid tribute to the technical assistance rendered his country by Israel and declared that relations between the two nations have always been ‘excellent,’” JTA reported, making particular mention of an experimental farm set up by Israeli experts near Vientiane, the Laotian capital.

In 1993,  Laos re-established diplomatic ties with Israel (they were severed in the early 1970s, something JTA neglected to cover at the time); 13 years later, Chabad, the outreach-oriented Hasidic group, added Laos to its portfolio of far-flung countries boasting a shaliach. While Laos has virtually no Jewish population, the Chabad outpost aimed to serve Israeli backpackers and other Jewish tourists. Sadly, one such tourist, Israeli airman Avner Bardugo, died there two years later in a kayaking accident.

 

 

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