30 Novembre 2022

Atene: conferenza internazionale di sindaci contro l’antisemitismo

A two-day international mayors’ conference aimed at combating antisemitism kicked off in Athens on Wednesday evening.

Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, chairman of the 2022 Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism (MSAA), welcomed more than 25 participating mayors at a dinner with a warning that “intolerance poses an imminent threat to our democratic way of life.”

Brief remarks welcoming the participants were made by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Deputy Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who also received a civic leadership award from the Combat Antisemitism Movement, a global grassroots movement that is also one of the co-hosts of the event, along with the Center for Jewish Impact (CJI) in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). Other participating organizations include the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) from Canada, the Jewish Community of Athens, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI).

“Antisemitism is on the rise in America and around the world. It has become normalized. My fellow mayors from around the world and I are fighting back. Proud to stand with them in Greece and honored to have received the prestigious Civic Leadership award,” Adams tweeted later Wednesday.

Also attending, and recognized at the dinner for his contributions to the fight for human rights and freedom, was professional basketball player Enes Freedom, formerly known as Enes Kanter, who has stood up to abuses of power and threats to freedom in his native Turkey.

Addressing the participants, Bakoyannis touted Athens as a “city that has maintained meaningful relationships with the Jewish world for thousands of years, and has to this day constituted a safe, open and free space for its Jewish community.”

And yet, he said, “in the previous decade, there was a time when Athens resembled the Weimar Republic. The biggest economic crisis in its recorded history allowed discrimination, hate and fascism to enter the Greek Parliament.”

Bakoyannis was referring to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which, at one point – the 2014 election for the European Parliament – gained 9.3% of the votes cast. Before that, it had entered the Athens Municipal Council, riding on its anti-immigrant platform.

“Yes, it is sadly true that neo-Nazi Golden Dawn was born in the Athenian streets. But it also died in an Athenian courtroom,” said Bakoyannis, referring to the heavy sentences imposed on Golden Dawn leaders for their part in leading what was officially deemed a “criminal organization.”

Bakoyannis said that, from this episode, “we certainly got out with more resilient institutions and a more robust democracy.”

“Make no mistake. This is not a time to rest [satisfied] and remain [complacent]. Just look at the EU and the US at the moment, where extremism and hate are creeping over… We must stay alert. The threat of intolerance, hate and antisemitism is always just an election away… We must… commit to stay open, inclusive and civil. We cannot and must not allow the politics of fear to overshadow the politics of hope,” Bakoyannis added.

The meeting will resume Thursday morning and conclude in the evening with the release of a statement.

On the sidelines, mayors Adams and Bakoyannis will sign a declaration of twining of Athens and New York City. Adams will also meet with President Sakellaropoulou and Parliament Speaker Kostas Tassoulas.