New York, NY, January 20, 2010 … In the wake of a second synagogue arson attack on the Greek island of Crete in as many weeks, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged Prime Minister George Papandreou to "make clear that anti-Semitism has no place in Greece."
The Etz-Hayyim Synagogue in Hania sustained substantial damage over the night of January 15-16, when fire gutted the structure, the interior, and a library of religious books. An earlier attack, also deemed an arson, caused significant damage to the synagogue's interior on January 5.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
The Greek government faces a choice. After the first attack, Greek officials remained largely silent, sending a message of impunity to the attackers. That message was apparently received and acted upon. Prime Minister Papandreou can no longer stay silent. He must now stand up to anti-Semitism.
The political and law enforcement responses to this anti-Semitic crime on the Jewish Sabbath must be unequivocal and assure Greek Jews that their rights will be protected. Should the government fail to act, it will send a message that attacks against the Jewish community are acceptable and will not be taken seriously.
We are in contact with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. We understand from them that the second arson was condemned by the government spokesperson, as well as by the ministers of justice, and of education and religion. Their condemnations are welcome, but hardly sufficient. The voice of Prime Minister Papandreou carries special weight. His public and forceful condemnation and promise to take appropriate measures would be commensurate with the seriousness of the attacks. It is also imperative that law enforcement pursue a serious and thorough investigation, so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
We express solidarity with the Jewish community of Crete and to the Greek Jewish community, and echo the concerns of Moses Constantinis, President of the Central Board, who said: "We are worried about the security of the Jewish community and the violation of freedom of religion."