For Immediate Release: August 7, 2013
Washington, D.C. – In a letter today Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino urged President Obama to raise Greece’s struggles to combat antisemitism and hate crime during his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras tomorrow. Greece has seen a resurgence of violent antisemitic incidents in recent years, and the Golden Dawn, an antisemitic political party, holds seven percent of seats in the Greek Parliament while blatantly engaging in xenophobic rhetoric.
“The significant presence in local and national governments of a party that openly espouses racist and antisemitic views and policies is a disturbing dimension of antisemitism’s continuing presence and a formidable obstacle in the path of efforts to confront it,” said Massimino in the letter. “Although mainstream political leaders in Greece do not openly support the views of Golden Dawn, they have not been effective in marginalizing these intolerant political forces.”
Massimino’s letter calls on President Obama to use his meeting with Prime Minister Samaras to encourage the Greek government and influential political leaders there to speak out more forcefully to counteract the negative antisemitic and xenophobic discourse. It notes that hate speech needs to be countered by clear public statements from a cross-section of political and civil society leaders, to condemn prejudice and hatred, and to affirm the dignity and rights of all.
Earlier this year Massimino testified before Congress outlining practical steps the U.S. government can take to effectively combat the problem of global antisemitism.
“The United States has been a strong and forthright voice in international fora on these issues, but it is critical that this message also be delivered directly in bilateral discussions with Greece,” concluded Massimino. “As the United States continues to debate the impact of bias and discrimination here at home, we should be prepared to challenge our allies, like Greece, to live up to their human rights commitments to punish bias-motivated violence, speak out to condemn hatred, and otherwise combat antisemitism and related intolerance.”