In response to the publication, in the paper TA NEA, of the antisemitic cartoon of former Greece’s finance minister Varoufakis and the following editorial by Papachristos, Symbiosis has written to the editor of the newspaper to reaffirm the danger of spreading such antisemitic stereotypes and asked for their apologies.
To the Editor-in-chief of the Newspaper “TA NEA”, Athens
We are writing to you on behalf of “Get the trolls out!”, an inter-European initiative of the Media Diversity Institute (Great Britain), CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe (Belgium), the CIJ – Center for Independent Journalism (Hungary), Licra – International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (France), and Symbiosis (Greece), aiming to respond to the alarming spread of antisemitism - by words or conduct – both in the sphere of politics and mass media. The abovementioned civil society organisations act against discriminations of any kind, and are active in the field of media, while the project “Get the trolls out!” aims particularly to raise awareness against antisemitic speech and to combat it in the new as well as in the traditional media.
With this letter we would like to complain about Ms. Efi’s Xenou unfortunate cartoon in the newspaper of 30th October 2015. We remind you that the cartoon, that accompanied an opinion article by Mr. Papachristos, was presenting a caricature of Mr. Varoufakis replicating the antisemitic stereotype of the medieval “stringy” Jewish money changer.
Although we believe that the renowned cartoonist had no intention to express antisemitic feelings, unfortunately, that particular choice preserves one of the best-established antisemitic myths that was used in the past with disastrous consequences. The prompt reaction of the Israeli Community of Athens – among others – towards your newspaper is not an occurrence. Thus, after those grievances, one would expect from the newspaper for some kind of redress for something that could be considered as an unfortunate inadvertence.
Instead of that, Mr. Papachristos’s response a few days later (in absence of any other response we logically assume that this was also the newspaper’s official policy on the issue) was an unpleasant surprise. In his reply, he more or less accuses the aggrieved of being easily “huffy”, with no reason, while their reactions are even compared to the ones after the Charlie Hebdo attack! In fact, your columnist’s conclusion that the cartoon is not antisemitic has been shocking for international specialists on antisemitism because of the levity of its certainty.
Mr. Papachristos’s argument that Mr. Varoufakis is presented as Shylock, namely as a world literature character, and thus it is not about a racist stereotype, is completely unfounded, since on one side Shakespeare’s inspiration for Shylock was indeed based on an antisemitic stereotype of his times, on the other side we cannot be any sure about whether contemporary readers when they see a cartoon wearing a kippah on the head they think “Oh, it’s Shylock” rather than, “Oh, it’s a Jew!”.
So, it would be useful, in the fight against racism and antisemitism, if your paper apologises through its pages both for posting the cartoon and for the style and content of Mr. Papachristos’s response, and to commit in public that it will be more careful in the future when it comes to such sensitive issues.
Finally, we inform you that for reasons of transparency and information of the public, this letter will be posted on our project’s official website.
Please inform us on the progress of our request as well as on your future actions.
For the project “Get the trolls out!”,
Ljubisa Vrencev Symbiosis NGO