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New Law Bans Holocaust Denial in Greece

Hate speech legislation a response to rise of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party

Stephanie Butnick
September 10, 2014
Parliament in Athens, Greece.(Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Parliament in Athens, Greece.(Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

In response to the chilling rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece—the far-right group currently holds 19 of 300 seats in Parliament—lawmakers are cracking down on hate speech, a move the Jews of Greece say is long overdue. Greece’s Parliament has approved a new law that bans Holocaust denial or trivialization, as well as similar comments about other recognized genocides, JTA reports.

The measure passed late Tuesday with 55 of the 99 lawmakers present in the 300-member Parliament voting in favor.

The law increases jail time for instigating racist violence from two years to three years and imposes fines on individuals and groups. Groups found inciting racism can be barred from receiving state funds.

While Western Europe has claimed much of our attention this summer for its overt displays of anti-Semitism (see: Paris; Berlin; London), Greece’s small but historic Jewish community is witnessing the legitimization of the Golden Dawn party, whose leaders routinely use Nazi imagery and deny the Holocaust. (One member of the group, a Greek doctor, was arrested in March for posting a ‘Jews Not Welcome’ sign outside his practice.)

While the neo-Nazi group’s political ascent in modern-day Greece is a frightening prospect, outlawing hate speech is itself a controversial legal practice. Still, according to JTA, the local Jewish community has been pressuring lawmakers to take legislation action on their behalf for a while now. The ban on Holocaust denial, it appears, is for them a step in the right direction.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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