New York, NY, November 25, 2014 … A delegation of top leaders from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – in Athens last week for a series of meetings with senior government, religious and community leaders – received strong signals that the government is serious and committed to put an end to racism, extremism and anti-Semitism in Greek society.
ADL’s delegation to Greece, November 16-22, engaged the American Jewish leaders in meetings with key government, political, religious and community leaders. The discussions ranged from concerns about the spread of anti-Semitism in society and the safety of Greece’s Jewish community to the importance of maintaining strong bilateral relations with Israel.
The delegation, led by Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, was welcomed by Prime Minister Antonia Samaras at Maximos Mansion.
“The high level of anti-Semitic attitudes in Greece served as a wake-up call to political and religious leaders that change is needed now,” said Mr. Foxman. “The prime minister assured us that, at every level of the government, positive and proactive steps are being taken to address racism and anti-Semitism. We thanked the prime minister for his government’s actions against extremism which included the arrest and prosecution of members of the Golden Dawn and the passage of anti-racism legislation by the Greek Parliament.”
Greece’s leaders were also eager to stress the importance of maintaining strong relations with Israel and the United States. “We came away from our encounters with Greek government officials, the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors with a sharper understanding of the shared interests between the U.S. and Greece and between Israel and Greece,” said Mr. Curtiss-Lusher. “Greece is actively deepening and broadening its relationships with Israel and is an increasingly important NATO partner in security cooperation in the region.”
The ADL delegation also met with -- among others -- Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Education Minister Andreas Loverdos, Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Vasileios Kikilias, and representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece.
In the meeting with Foreign Minister Venizelos, there was a discussion of regional and international developments, Greek-Israeli relations, and the prospects for greater cooperation between organizations of the Greek and Jewish Diasporas. The Foreign Minister briefed the ADL delegation on developments in Greece, focusing on the economy and the prospects for trilateral cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel and the prospects for strengthening Greek-Israeli political and economic relations. Mr. Venizelos also noted the Greek government’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism.
The delegation also had an audience with Archbishop Ieronymous II of Athens, and held meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, David Pearce, and the Israeli Ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba.
Greek government officials discussed efforts being undertaken by law enforcement to investigate allegations of hate crimes and to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, the growing importance of Greece’s contribution to security and stability in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and ongoing interfaith initiatives between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Jewish community.
The delegation was warmly welcomed in meetings with Greek Jewish leaders, where they expressed continued support for the well-being of the Jewish communities of Greece. The visit reaffirmed the strong ties between ADL and the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece and the organizations will continue to work closely in the future.
The ADL leadership delegation also visited Bulgaria, where they held similar meetings with government and community leaders.