January 25, 2013 – Athens – AJC, the global advocacy organization, concluded a two-day visit to Greece on Friday. The ten-person AJC group, chaired by Executive Director David Harris, was joined by Greek-American leader and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce Andrew Manatos. Leaders of Greece's Jewish community, including Central Board President David Saltiel and Athens President Benjamin Albalas, as well as AJC leaders from across the U.S., rounded out the delegation.
AJC was received at the highest levels of the Greek government, beginning with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, with whom the group met for 90 minutes. In addition, the program included separate meetings with six members of the Cabinet – the ministers of foreign affairs, national defense, public order, justice, education and tourism. The delegation also met with Evangelos Venizelos, president of PASOK, the junior coalition partner in the current government, as well as the ambassadors of the United States and Israel to Greece.
The presence of AJC in Greece raised the ire of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which decried the visit as an attempt to exert "Jewish influence over Greek political issues." A statement released by Golden Dawn Thursday evening went on to assail Harris and predict that Greece's political leadership "will once again express its total subjugation to the whims of the ‘chosen’ people."
"The anti-Semitic diatribe of the Golden Dawn thugs didn't dampen our visit one iota," said Harris. "If anything, these statements reveal once again the true nature of these individuals, and serve to highlight the stark difference between their vile rhetoric and the vast majority of Greek society, and certainly the present Greek leadership. The officials we saw here in Greece, beginning at the top with the prime minister, could not have been stronger in their resolve to forge a new and brighter future for Greece.
"In our meetings, we consistently heard expressions of profound respect for the U.S. Administration, deep commitment to the Greek-Israel relationship – which officials here refer to as a 'strategic choice' – and fierce condemnation of all forms of racism and xenophobia," added Harris.
In a tangible demonstration of solidarity, AJC and the Greek-American community announced a $100,000 joint donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres Greece during the visit to provide needed medical care to some of Greece's most vulnerable individuals. The Greek Orthodox Church and numerous other organizations and individuals representing a cross-section of the Greek-American community came together for this joint endeavor.
AJC also donated $50,000 to the Greek Jewish community for the care of Holocaust survivors, following on the heels of similar humanitarian contributions made to the community in the last year.
This was the third time in the past eleven months that AJC delegations have visited the Hellenic Republic. Aside from regular visits to the Greek capital, the relationship is maintained constantly via dialogue with Greek officials and diaspora communities in AJC regional offices around the country, including in Boston, Chicago and New York.
This partnership will be on full display June 3rd in Washington, D.C. when Prime Minister Samaras is set to address the prestigious World Leaders Plenary at AJC's Global Forum.
AJC has long maintained an association agreement with the Greek Jewish community, one of 31 such agreements worldwide.