Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
This article originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on February 18, 2012
For months, the people of Greece have vigorously protested decisions by their government. Now they should add their voices in protest against the judiciary, because justice itself is being perverted in Athens.
The courts of Greece are turning a perpetrator of anti-Semitism into the victim, and the victims into perpetrators.
Moisis Konstantinis, the former president of the Greek Jewish community, four other prominent Greek Jews, and two human rights activists are scheduled to go on trial starting Feb. 21 on charges of "aggravated defamation," for calling a self-professed anti-Semite … an anti-Semite!
In 2007, they testified against Konstantinos Plevris, a right-wing extremist Greek writer and author of Jews, the Whole Truth, who was accused of violating Greece's Anti-Racism Law. Plevris had written, "I am a Nazi and a fascist, a racist, anti-democratic and an anti-Semite" and that his book "is simple proof that we don't count on the Jews. We despise them for their morality, for their religion, for their deeds, which all prove they are sub-humans…."
Mr. Konstantinis and others argued that these statements represent insults to the Jewish community. The trial court agreed. Plevris was convicted by a three-person panel of judges, despite a dissent by one judge, who had reportedly written on her personal blog: "(expletive) Jews, I wish Hitler had exterminated you completely."
However, Plevris was acquitted by the Athens Appeal Court, which explained in its decision: "The defendant does not revile the Jews solely because of their racial and ethnic origin, but mainly because of their aspirations to world power, the methods they use to achieve these aims, and their conspiratorial activities."
Only one thing was more outrageous than the Appellate Court's use of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about world domination to reverse the conviction – the Greek Supreme Court concurred.
Such is the justice system in which Mr. Konstantinis and the others accused must defend themselves against a charge of libel, the determination of which relies more on judgment than uncontested facts.
After an arson attack against a Greek synagogue in 2010, former Prime Minister George Papandreou wrote to Moisis Konstantinis that he and the Greek government "declare and reaffirm that phenomena such as anti-Semitism and racism are condemned and have no place in the Greek society."
The Greek judiciary, though, clearly missed that message. A Greek court suspended prosecution of those arrested for burning the synagogue, citing insufficient evidence. Instead, it is the Greek Jewish leadership in the dock facing the accusations of Plevris, the infamous anti-Semite.
In classic Greek tragedies, either fate or a character flaw dooms the hero. The ludicrous situation Mr. Konstantinis and his co-defendants find themselves in is not a tragedy, but a travesty. Kafka, not Aeschylus, comes to mind.
Greece is currently suffering from a financial crisis and a political crisis. Should the Greek judges rule against the leaders of the Greek Jewish community, fair-minded observers will add "moral crisis" to that list. And Greeks demanding true justice will have every reason to go into the streets.
On May 22, 2013, Konstantinos Plevris dropped all charges.