By Antonis Gazakis (Symbiosis)
Eleftheri Ora, a Greek far right-wing newspaper distributed on a national level has been violating basic rules of journalism ethics by spreading frightful hate speech and antisemitic slanders. “The rabbi, the imam and Tsipras Islamise Greece! Greeks, wake up to see who you voted for – the Jewish ‘messiah’ and Europe’s genocide by the Islamists” is just one of the xenophobic and hateful headlines appearing on its front pages.
Despite its relatively small circulation, state prosecution and media association in Greece could have done more in reacting to antisemitism on the pages of the newspaper smearing against Jewish observances (“the horrible predictions concerning Jewish“Shmita”–the“year of Lucifer began on September 13!”), claiming conspiracy theories (“The Jewish free masons Merkel and Schäuble try to snaffle Greece’s fossil resources!” and “They hide Jews in the Lagarde list”! – Giorgos Palmos: They are considering prescription to support the Jews of their…employee, Alexis Tsipras!”), and giving voice to incendiary antisemites (“General Ayfantis: “‘Tsipras, an Islamised Jew’ – how he plays the Zionist game – SYRIZA attempts to complete the murder of the Greek nation”)
The past of Eleftheri Ora is closely linked with the Greek military junta (the Greek dictatorship between 1967-1974), while its former publisher (father of the current one) had been convicted for blackmailing attempts in which he was involved as journalist and publisher. The ideological orientation of the newspaper is a combination of nationalism, fundamentalist Greek Orthodoxy, theories of conspiracy, antisemitism, racism, anti-communism, and in general terms, of irrationality in all its forms. It leans – especially during the past years – towards pointing out monks’ “prophecies” on various dangers for Greece, among which someone can regularly find the Jews and Zionism. Its daily circulation reaches the 3500 copies and it can be found in every kiosk or news stand all over the country.
Therefore, since it is about a newspaper with small circulation and with questionable credibility and reliability, someone could assume that its blatant antisemitism lies within the margin of absurdity and no one takes it seriously. However, is it so? Unfortunately, the real facts as well as the particular features of this newspaper’s antisemitism, prove the assumption wrong and render it dangerous.
Eleftheri Ora’s antisemitic front pages have two features that somehow counterbalance both its small readership and its surrealistic irrationality: visibility and repetition. With regard to the first one, as mentioned above, the newspaper is circulated all over Greece and its front pages are strung in common view in kiosks, newsstands and any other place selling it. Thus, much more people read the front pages rather than buy the newspaper, since, as it is widely known, reading the headlines of strung newspapers is a very common habit. Now, add to that the fact that the newspaper’s front page presents antisemitic content every 4-5 days, often repeating the same issue, and you will get the typical case of telling lies often enough so that people will eventually come to believe it.
Indeed, there might be only few who actually believe each word of the outrageous headlines they see often in Eleftheri Ora’s front pages against the Jews, but still the continuous presentation of different versions of the same pattern of bad-Jews-who-want-to-destroy-Greece-and-take-over-the-world, prepares the ground for part of the readers to think that it cannot always be the Jews to blame allegedly, they must have done something wrong. In other terms to recall the Greek saying: “where there is smoke, there is fire” [even a small one], regardless of the smoke being in that case a-far-right-wing-newspaper’s-delirium. Thus, the impact of those front pages is latent and cumulative, as they strengthen, together with other similar online anti-Semitic posts and some even more radical right wing publications, the idea of a “Jewish Danger”, which they try to establish as “commonplace” in the public sphere.
This is not about conjecture and scaremongering: with 69 percent of Greeks harboring antisemitic views (and 90 percent of Greeks stating that Jews have too much power in the business world), this construction of “Jewish Danger” is widely seen in significant parts of the Greek society, in higher levels than in most of the European countries. The first to support this construction, and boost it as well, is the Greek far right-wing groups, from the Nazi political party of Golden Dawn to the nationalist right, as well as some people within the Orthodox Church. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated anti-Semitic text that described a plan for Jewish world domination, have been published in full by the newspaper Stoxos, close to the Golden Dawn, while Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn MP, read them aloud in the parliament with no condemnation by the present MPs. The Orthodox Church has not officially absolved the Jews for the death of Christ.
Since the far-right wing groups and religious Greek Orthodox have been declared as “Eleftheri Ora’s” target groups, its antisemitism retains two particular features. Firstly, through many of its front pages it is directly linked with Orthodoxy, that Jews and Zionism supposedly despise and thus they are considered as Antichrist’s organs. The question is thus given a direct religious dimension that takes it back to the first rough form of medieval anti-Semitism, when Jews were persecuted as those who “had crucified Christ”.
That is of great importance for the introduction and continuation of antisemitic views in the Greek society, since the dominant Greek-Orthodox part of it evaluates as greater danger the one threating its faith. In the same framework, the combination of “Jewish” and “Islamic” danger is presented as a coalition against the Greek nation and Orthodoxy. That results to antisemitism and Islamophobia at the same time!
Another presumption of Eleftheri Ora’s narrative is that political Left, in all its forms, considered as the main ideological and political opponent, cannot but be linked with the Jews. Very often, on the newspaper’s front pages, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his party SYRIZA are put in a connection with the Jews, either by claiming that – atheist – Tsipras is an “(Islamised) Jew”, or by writing that SYRIZA cooperates with the Jews in order to destroy the Greek nation. Here, the typical anti-Semitic prejudice “he’s Jew, so he’s evil” is completed by, or even better, it completes the prejudice “he is evil, so he must be a Jew (and Muslim)”. In fact, what the newspaper considers as the ultimate evils (political Left, Jews, and Islam) is the “Ultimate Evil” manifesting itself in three different forms, the one editors define as “Antichrist”.
Eleftheri Ora’s antisemitism is indicative of the wide spread and latent antisemitism and irrationality as characteristics of large part of the Greek society, while at the same time it reveals the way the phenomenon continues and grows, something that is not irrelevant with the political raise of the Nazi Golden Dawn. The solution to this problem is not easy, as it is in conflict with the freedom of expression, although the Journalists’ Association could have intervened in all those cases of defamation and hate speech against Jews.