By Nikolas Sevastakis*, by  JOURNAL OF THE AUTHORS, 8.9.14

The complications that marked the difficult gestation of the anti-racism bill naturally opened up new fields of debate and controversy. Last in the series, the intervention of 152 historical scholars who request the withdrawal of Article 2 of the bill, with the main argument that it poses risks both to freedom of speech and to a cool and unbiased public debate on all issues of the past.

Concerns about free speech and the rights of historical researchers are, unfortunately, justified. In this country, more than elsewhere, there is a demand to adjust scientific knowledge to a nationally correct or state "approved" opinion. And of course for a large part of society, political and ecclesiastical factors, everything that casts shadows of doubt on aspects of our national heritage is considered... suspicious and anti-Greek. How can one not be suspicious when we see that even an archaeological excavation turns overnight into a communication/political tool of the moment?

But here comes the other big issue that I think should not be confused with the debate about the freedoms of the researcher or the expression of opinion. Unless we consider the various Garodis and Faurisons and their progeny in the galaxy of modern deniers to be researchers. So I'm talking about Holocaust denial. And for the need to finally register in this country a limit, a legal and political barrier to the denial or shameless underestimation of the maximum brutality of the twentieth century. Such a step is now being taken in our legal system, even in the context of a bill which raised many doubts.

I'm simply saying that we can't think about this specific issue without looking at the historical and political climate of recent years, the situation in Greece but also in Europe. What I mean; The impressions from the research which revealed the massive penetration of anti-Semitic stereotypes in Greek society are still fresh. We know that for some years both the far-right anti-Semitism of the "anti-Hellenic conspiracy" and the left-wing anti-Semitism that politicizes on the occasion or under the pretext of "Zionist barbarism" have been strengthening. Qualitative exploration of the dimensions of this two-sided anti-Semitism (1) shows the ground on which a daily rhetoric of hate takes root. Who, after all, has not come into contact with this reason which is more attracted than ever by the idea of ​​exterminating the enemy? Well, this reason is not a spiritual affair but pure violence and incitement to evil. And there are now around us many such "discourses" which are merely veils of pure violence: the sermons of jihadists (even if the masked "executor" is nowhere to be seen) are such "discourses". It goes without saying that even in this case you do not engage in dialogue because, quite simply, dialogue has no meaning.

I also have the following question: I often come across here and there the slogan "no freedom for the enemies of freedom" and with it, sometimes from the same actors, the excessive concern for freedom of speech in the case of the criminalization of Holocaust denial. In the same anti-fascism we find the paradoxical combination of Robespierre/Lenin and Voltaire, the coexistence of the call for the immediate suppression of all racist manifestations and the underestimation of the importance that criminal sanctions can have in a democratic legal order. In my opinion, neither the first is conceivable in a democracy nor the second, that is, our collective disarmament against the "speech" of hate.

I contend that in the case of Holocaust deniers or slanderers, one must consider the dangers of our time. Without artfully balancing very different figures (Islamophobia, anti-Semitism) and without caring if it will displease the common feeling of the Jew-phobes of the Right and the Left.

Beyond that, it is always useful to be vigilant against the instrumental uses of History and the conformist diversions of "political correctness". Provided, of course, that the limit on which a political community of freedom like the one we deserve to have has become visible...


* Professor at the Political Science Department of AUTH

 (1). See The analysis of Giorgos Antoniou, Spyros Kosmidis, Ilias Dina and Leon Saltiel "On anti-Semitism and other demons. Aspects of Greek political culture in crisis Greece" in The Athens Review of Books, September 2014, vol. 54, pp. 38-41.