ATHENS, Greece (AP) – An international Jewish group on Thursday urged Jewish travelers to avoid visiting Greece for the 2004 Olympics, claiming the government failed to curb what its described as *#8220;growing anti-Semitism and xenophobic expressions of hate.*#8221;
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said the move was prompted by a number of recent incidents, including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials, as well a recent art exhibition in an Athens gallery that *#8220;glorifies*#8221; female suicide bombers.
It also cited recent *#8220;anti-Semitic*#8221; remarks by prominent Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.
*#8220;The center has no other choice but to take this action,*#8221; said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate head of the center, in a statement faxed to The Associated Press.
He said Jews visiting Greece should show *#8220;extreme caution.*#8221;
Last month, an exhibit by Greek artist Alexandros Psychoulis opened featuring an image depicting a woman strapped with explosives in an Israeli supermarket. The government ignored a demand by the Wiesenthal Center to intervene and have the exhibit canceled.
The Center also took strong objection to comments made by Theodorakis on Nov. 4, during a book promotion.
Referring to Israel, he said: *#8220;Today we can say that this small nation is the root of evil, not of good, which means that too much self importance and too much stubbornness is evil.*#8221;
The government objected to Theodorakis comments. It also strongly condemned attacks by vandals in northern Greece earlier this year against a Jewish cemetery and a memorial to honor tens of thousands of Greek Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
The culture ministry earlier this week promised to work toward establishing an annual remembrance day for Greek holocaust victims.
Officials could not be reached Thursday for comment on the action by the Wiesenthal Center.
*#8220;Failing a dramatic change in attitude and policy, the current atmosphere of hate and vilification can only escalate and could also poison the environment leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games,*#8221; said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, referring to the Aug. 13-29 games.
*#8220;Until the situation changes dramatically, the Centers advisory will remain in effect indefinitely.*#8221;
The Wiesenthal Center*#8211;which also has offices in New York, Jerusalem and Paris*#8211;was started by the renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.