by Khalid Amayreh
On the eve of his visit to Israel, Greek President Karolos Papoulias spoke of the "strong relationship in all aspects" between his country and the Zionist state. The fact that Israel continues to occupy Palestine, expand Jewish-only colonies on occupied territory and persecute millions of Palestinians, including many who practice Greek Orthodox Christianity in the West Bank, seems to have little or no bearing on the evolving relations between the Greek and Israeli governments.
"We are now involved in an intensive process of cooperation. Our ministers and officials systematically consult and work together on all levels and in key areas, including energy, defence and security, as well as agriculture and tourism," said the Greek president.
He added that "we are also working together on international issues and matters of regional concern to both countries. We are pursuing a strong relationship on trade, investment, political and security cooperation."
Greece is a sovereign state and should be free to pursue its various interests as its sees fit. However, it must also be aware of the negative ramifications that come with having close ties with what is essentially a rogue state whose modus operandi is based on ethnic cleansing, land theft and organised state terror against the Palestinians native to the Holy Land.
In recent months and weeks, the Greek air force has held joint exercises with its Israeli counterparts in the eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, the Greek authorities are widely believed to have connived with Israeli intelligence agents to thwart the Freedom Flotilla II planning to take much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, still in the grip of Israel's siege. The flotilla was set to highlight the illegitimacy, illegality and utter criminality of the 5-year-blockade on the coastal enclave.
The latest measure by the Greek authorities is quite inexplicable; Athens stands accused of condoning Israel's near fascist persecution and repression of the Palestinian people. Papoulias spoke of a "common culture" between Israel and Greece, ignoring the all-too obvious fact that racism represents the heart and soul of Israeli political and popular culture today. Is such vile discrimination held in common with the Greeks?
No doubt Israeli leaders will praise Papoulias for collaborating with Israel on the flotilla issue. While they are in such an expansive mood, perhaps the Greek president could ask his Zionist hosts if Greece should ask its Jewish citizens to pledge loyalty to the Hellenic republic as an Orthodox Christian state, as 97% of the population follow that branch of Christianity. After all, the Israeli government is demanding all of its own non-Jewish citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.
Papoulias could also ask his interlocutors why the Israeli government tolerates, encourages and bankrolls Yeshiva students and rabbis who insult Christian monks in the streets of Jerusalem as a matter of course. And why those students and rabbis are allowed to issue religious edicts permitting genocide against non-Jews on the grounds that Gentiles are not authentic human beings and therefore their lives have no sanctity, especially in comparison to Jews, "the chosen people".
I doubt whether Papoulias will have the rectitude, let alone the moral courage, to confront the Israeli leaders on these basic issues. Failure to do so begs the question, what "common culture" between Greece and apartheid Israel is he talking about?
There are signs that Greece, which is going through a massive financial crisis, is looking for an alliance with Zionism which officials in Athens believe, and rightly so, more or less controls US politics. Why else would the Greeks, who already have a fairly strong lobby in Washington, look for ways to cooperate with AIPAC, the powerful American Israel Lobby, in order to promote common Israeli-Greek interests? Earlier this year, Greece hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, comprising some of the most fanatical supporters of Zionist fascism in Palestine. Unfortunately, the brashly racist tone of many of the participants raised no eyebrows among Greek leaders and officials, which suggests that freeing the Palestinian people from the shackles of Israeli occupation and oppression is the last thing on their minds as they pursue relations with Israel.
It remains to be seen if Greece has completely abandoned its erstwhile moderate stance vis-à-vis the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. An important indication will be how the Greeks vote at the UN when the Palestinian Authority seeks international recognition for a putative Palestinian state. If Greece votes against the Palestinian request, it will herald a new era of Greek-Zionist alliance against the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.
In the final analysis Greece and other countries must understand that an ambiguous stance on the Palestinian plight won't be acceptable; it is a sign of hypocrisy to forge an active alliance with a manifestly rogue state, an occupying power no less, while issuing rhetorical statements supporting the Palestinians, the occupied people.
Finally, it is clear that the evolving alliance between Israel and Greek is directed first and foremost against Turkey, following the marked deterioration of relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv post-MV Marmara. Employing a characteristically arrogant approach towards Turkey, Israel has been trying to woo Ankara back into the Zionism's lap. However, the latest efforts to that effect seem to be going nowhere if the bluntly anti-Turkish statements uttered recently by the Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are anything to go by.
Whatever happens, Turkey as well as Arab and other Muslim states in the region, including Egypt and Iran, will no doubt be monitoring the Israeli-Greek love-fest very carefully.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|