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Greeks and Jews Mutual Benefits

Each time the Golden Dawn Party makes the news, anti-Semitism among some Greeks is re-exposed. In combating this problem, it is important to know about Jewish actions that may have saved thousands of Greek and Cypriot lives and maintained Greece’s territorial integrity. I refer to the Jewish community’s steadfast support of our efforts in Washington to stop continued Turkish aggression following the invasion of Cyprus.

“GREEK ISLANDS SHOULD BE TURKISH!”

Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States threatened Greece during a 1974 breakfast meeting of Senate Committee Staff Directors, of which I was one. He pointed out on a map that many Greek Islands are located closer to Turkey than Athens that they were historically Turkish-Ottoman and should be Turkish today.

This official Turkish position indicates the degree of danger facing Greece in 1974. Turkey had just killed roughly 4% of the Greek-Cypriot adult-male population, captured alive and executed 1,500 in mass graves, and had begun its 40-year militarily occupation and colonization of 1/3 of Cyprus.

Turkey may have thought it had a “green light” for its aggression from President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger had foreknowledge of the invasion of Cyprus and looked the other way, while pressing Greece not to respond militarily. Further, Kissinger refused to terminate military aid to Turkey although American law specifically required him to do so because the aid had been used aggressively. In addition, making matters worse, at that time the Greek Junta had dramatically weakened the Greek military. A war with Turkey could have cost thousands of lives and even redrawn the boundaries of the Hellenic Republic.

In 1975, Congress made clear to Turkey that the light was “red” not “green” by imposing an arms embargo on Turkey. It was the only time in modern history that the Congress overturned the White House on a major foreign policy issue.

Among the Senators and Representatives who stood with us, no group – Democrats, Republican, women, African-Americans, Catholics, etc. – exceeded the level of support we received from Jewish Senators and House Members, 95% of whom supported the embargo. Jewish Subcommittee Chairman Ben Rosenthal of New York was one of our four primary Turkish Embargo leaders, along with then-Congressmen Paul Sarbanes and John Brademas and my boss, Senator Tom Eagleton. Without the support of our Jewish friends, our narrow margins of victory would have been defeated, and the Turkish Arms Embargo never would have happened.

INFLUENCING U.S. POLICY TO GREECE

It was during the Bill Clinton Administration, when our Jewish friends filled all of the positions in policy chain handling our issues that U.S.- Hellenic policy reached its zenith. That Jewish policy chain included everyone from the president’s head of the White House National Security Council, Sandy Berger, and his European expert, Tony Blinken; through the State Department’s Secretary Madeline Albright and Assistant Secretary for Europe and Cyprus Special Envoy, Dick Holbrooke; Ambassadors Tom Miller, Mark Grossman, and Dick Shifter, on down to the lowest State Department desk officer.

During these few Clinton years under exclusively Jewish policy influence:

• The US backed down the Turkish military that was threatening war with Greece from the Greek islet of Imea;

• Holbrooke switched the positions of Germany and France so that Cyprus could begin early EU accession talks;

• Clinton apologized to the people of Greece for American conduct vis-a-vis the Greek Junta;

• Clinton became the first sitting president in history to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate, sending a powerful message to Turkey about America’s view of the importance of his spiritual leadership;

• Holbrooke pressed FYROM to drop language threatening Macedonia Greece from its constitution; and

• The U.S. moved Albania to release from jail the Greek “Omonia Five” prisoners, one of whom was condemned to death.

GREEK SUPPORT DURING HOLOCAUST

The Jewish community supported us in our time of need, and we Greeks supported the Jewish community’s during its greatest horror, the Holocaust. The Greek people were unsurpassed in their conduct. No other national religious leader in a Nazi-occupied country publicly opposed the Holocaust, as did Archbishop Damaskinos; nor had leaders like Metropolitan Chrysostomos and Mayor Karrer of Zakynthos, who submitted only their names to Nazis demanding a list of the Jewish community; nor had so many citizens make the instant decision to risk their family’s death to hide Jewish families. When the Greek people were put to that ultimate test, we truly distinguished ourselves. Greece should build on this image of greatness, and we should avoid anything that might detract from that outstanding Greek accomplishment.

No one had to order Greeks to save the Jewish families, and no one had to order the Jews in the American government to treat Greece and Cyprus well. It happened spontaneously because of our peoples’ share similar worldviews. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in his book “Closing The Ring,” “No two races have set such a mark upon the world. They…have left us the inheritance of their genius and wisdom. No two cities have counted more with mankind than Athens and Jerusalem.”

Today, the relationship between Hellenes and the Jewish community is as important as ever. Attempts in the Eastern Mediterranean to expunge non-Muslims provide a negative reason for Israel, Cyprus and Greece to be closer than ever. As well, the fortuitous discovery of natural gas in the exclusive economic zones of Israel, Cyprus and now Greece provides an equally strong positive reason.

Today, mutual respect and assistance between the Hellenic and Jewish communities in the U.S. and Greece is the only option.

 

[Andy Manatos worked for Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, leading the Senate effort to impose the Turkish Arms Embargo. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter as an Assistant Secretary, he offered to resign when asked to work to lift the Turkish Arms Embargo.

President of Manatos & Manatos (M&M), the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, and the Washington Oxi Day Foundation – contributing half a million dollars’ worth of M&M work annually for Hellenic and Orthodox matters.

Among many other matters he worked closely with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke

and President Bill Clinton to reverse France’s and Germany’s opposition to Cyprus’

early EU accession and enabled the Greek-American community to be the only one

other than the Irish-Americans to have an annual White House meeting with each

U.S. President for 28 years.] 

 

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