To its credit, the Greek government has arrrested the leader of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and a number of his senior associates on charges of having formed a criminal organization.
Greece took this drastic decision, the first of its kind in decades, after police raided Golden Dawn’s offices in Athens and Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias urged Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to change the definition of a criminal gang.
Golden Dawn holds 18 seats in parliament, making it the third largest political party in Greece. But its xenophobic views have placed it beyond the pale, and its members have reportedly engaged in criminal violence against immigrants and political rivals.
In the most shocking case, Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old Greek rapper who sharply criticized the policies and tactics of the far right, was recently stabbed to death by an alleged supporter of Golden Dawn, which has risen from obscurity, feeds on Greece’s economic malaise and denounces the continual flow of African and Asian immigrants into the country.
Outraged by its affinity for violence, Evangelos Vezizelos, Prime Minister Samaras’ chief coalition partner, recommended that Golden Dawn be treated as “a criminal organization.” As he put it, “Golden Dawn has gone beyond all limits. The state must intervene.”
On Sept. 22, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece also called for a crackdown on Golden Dawn.
For understandable reasons, Jews in Greece, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, fear and abhor Golden Dawn. It panders to racist impulses. Its banner looks remarkably like a swastika. Its leader has indulged in Holocaust denial. One of its parliamentarians, Ilias Kasidiaris, once brazenly read from the antisemitic Protocols from the Elders of Zion, a notorious czarist forgery, as he delivered a speech in parliament.
It’s clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Golden Dawn is a dangerous and destabilizing organization whose inflammatory tactics and intolerable campaign of intimidation against immigrants and critics alike do not serve Greece’s national interests.
In the aftermath of Fyssas’s murder, Prime Minister Samaras said that his government was “determined not to allow the descendants of the Nazis to poison our social life, to commit crimes, to terrorize and to undermine the foundations of our country that gave birth to democracy.”
These are noble sentiments, but is the Greek government prepared to ban Golden Dawn? Prime Minister Samaras should seriously consider this option now that he has incarcerated Golden Dawn’s leadership.