NEW YORK – The president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Ronald S. Lauder, today expressed disappointment with Greece for its continued failure to adopt new legislation to combat hate speech, racism and the denial of the Holocaust. “It is very worrying that the mainstream parties in Athens are apparently unable to find a compromise on this important matter. Hate mongers and extremists such as the leaders of Golden Dawn are not only a threat to minorities such as the Jews; they are a threat to democracy as a whole. Hence, they ought to be fought vigorously by all democratic forces, and with the full force of the law,” Lauder declared.
On Monday, a meeting of the leaders of the parties that form the Greek government on this issue broke up without an agreement. A draft bill by the Greek Justice Ministry is reportedly being opposed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party, which argues that existing legislation suffices in order to deal with racism and hate speech.
According to media reports, the bill would outlaw public incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders. It would also include hate speeches made in Parliament. Moreover, political parties that receive public funding would see that funding suspended if their leaders publicly deny the Holocaust, take part in racist attacks or use Nazi salutes or symbols in Parliament.
In March 2013, the WJC held a meeting of its Executive Committee in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. It urged “the Greek authorities to: take serious and concerted actions against Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia; implement all relevant European laws in that domain; and unite all democratic forces against the enemies of democracy, so as not to allow society to drift into the darkness of racial hatred and anti-Semitism.”
At the time, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and Greek Jewish Community President David Saltiel also held talks with Samaras in which they raised the danger posed by the extreme-right and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn movement.
About the World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.