Greek parl

“Heil Hitler”, the infamous Nazi salute, is unacceptable, if not even a criminal offence, in every European country that describes itself as fundamentally democratic. Yet the particular phrase was heard three times in a controversy that erupted on Friday in the Greek parliament between the sitting president of the Parliament and members of the neo-nazi party Golden Dawn. The incident not only shows the worrying dimensions of the rise of the extremist ultra right and neo-nazism in a country deeply hit by economic crisis; it also confirms the real nature of the Golden Dawn’s ideology, whose members claim to be just “nationalists” and thus manage to remain a legal political party.

Golden Dawn’s MP P. Iliopoulos was warned by Mr Dragasakis, who was chairing the session last Friday,that he would be thrown out of the Parliament for using inappropriate language towards the opposition leader. Mr Iliopoulos continued his insults by referring to the parliament members as “goats”, “pathetic” and “scoundrels” with the vocal support of the other Golden Dawn MPs and he was expelled from the session. As he and his fellow lawmakers were being led out of the parliament mid the ruckus, the cry “Heil Hitler” was clearly heard three times from their side although it is still unclear who shouted.

The incident sparked a dispute between Golden Dawn members and Syriza, the left wing opposition party, over who was responsible for the nazi salute. Syriza accused Golden Dawn spokesman Mr Pappas who had already referred to Hitler in the Parliament earlier that same week. Golden Dawn denounced Syriza, especially its MP Mr Pantzas, whose ‘Heil Hitler’ is written in the Parliament records, although he claims he was being ironic towards the Golden Dawn.

It is not the first time Hitler has been mentioned in the Greek Parliament. In a parliamentary gathering earlier this weeka Syriza MP read an article written by Mr Pappas which was praising Adolph Hitler and was calling him “visionary”. Mr Pappas not only did not deny writing this piece, he thanked the opposition “for bringing up writings from our youth”. “Nationalism is the youth of the world and future belongs to nationalism” he concluded.

The game of respective accusations between the Golden Dawn and Syrizais of little importance. The former incident with Mr. Pappas illustrates clearly the deep, dark beliefs of the Golden Dawn and leaves little doubt over where the shouts came from. And this is only the most recent in a series of incidents indicating Golden Dawn’s roots with the darkest ideology of our time.

Hate speech, racism, and food “only for greeks”

This is not the first time the Golden Dawn has made headlines. The Greek neo-nazi party that made it into the Greek Parliament in the June 2012 national elections with 7% of the vote winning 18 seats, is known for everything a democratic political party should not be. Racism, hate speech, extremism, violent attacks against immigrants and even public figures, and pending convictions over crimes are only some of them. The party has continuously provoked the public sentiment by organising food distributions “only for Greeks”; to be eligible to receive some meat, vegetables, or a bag of potatoes one needed to present a valid Greek identity card. A Golden Dawn MP attempted to physically attack the Mayor of Athens for banning them from operating such a food distribution in Syntagma, Athens central square. Even more appalling were the infamous blood donations which thankfully sparked strong reactions from the medical sector and the public. Some weeks earlier even the Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights Mr Muiznieks suggested that the party should be banned as the increased rise of racism poses a serious threat to democracy.

We could go on and on about Golden Dawn’s shadowy past, its connections to nazism, its former articles praising Adolph Hitler as a leader, its anti-Semitic rhetoric, denial of the holocaust, even its symbol which conspicuously resembles the swastika. However, this would need another article (if not a whole book) to be explained fully.

The important part is that the aggressive character of the Golden Dawn, which escaped the back streets of Athens and found its way into the Parliament, is clearer than ever. Now its deep and dark past is being shouted proudly in the parliament. No matter how strongly they deny it, it can’t be hidden. The rest of the parties of the political spectre have been proven quite reluctant to take serious measures against the Golden Dawn and outlaw it. They might not agree on anything else, but both right wing and left wing put up with them in the parliament for the sake of some cloudy freedom of speech. They turn a blind eye to attacks, not only against immigrants, but also against public figures in public spaces. They keep condemning it of course; yet do nothing about it. There is still time to ban what is no more than a neo-nazi group and try to build up Greek democracy once again, whatever the barriers and the limitations.