Greece’s Former Deputy Infrastructure and Transport Minister Dimitris Kammenos failed to last 24 hours in the job, as his appointment by leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was immediately followed by the resurfacing of a number of offensive anti-Semitic tweets, including one implying Jews were responsible for the September 11 attacks in America.
Kammenos, a member of the nationalist Independent Greeks Party (ANEL), was appointed by Tsipras not more than a day before he stepped down. Syriza officials asked him to resign almost immediately, as the announcement of his appointment was followed by an outcry of more than 20,000 tweets calling for him to step down in two days—tracking time even before his appointment was finalized.
Kammenos’s Twitter account, @portaporta, no longer exists, but Greek websites were quick to screencap his offensive postings. In one tweet, he published a doctored image of the gates of Auschwitz; instead of reading “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes you Free”), the sign read, in Greek, “Menoume Europi” (“We Stay in Europe”). The comparison of a Nazi concentration camp to the European Union offended many.
In another tweet, Kammenos pondered aloud whether Jewish people were responsible for the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. “And let’s not forget 9/11. Of the 2,500 working in the Twin Towers, none of the Jews working there went to work that day,” he wrote.
Upon being asked to explain himself, Kammenos claimed that his account was run by “associates” and that the posts in question “have been carefully forged.” In the statement, he claimed to be opposed to “racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.”
ANEL is a well-known nationalist minority party, brought to power through a coalition deal with Tsipras’s Syriza. The scandal has infuriated many leftists who see ANEL as a milquetoast alternative to Neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn. “Whether it was ignorance, or they were aware of it, it’s inconceivable to appoint such a person to the government,” said Panagiotis Lafazanis, the head of Syriza splinter group Popular Unity, told Reuters. Vassiliki Katrivanou, a Syriza legislator, called the scandal a “disgrace.” PASOK, the leftist party Syriza’s rise turned into a minority, issued a statement calling the appointment of Kammenos a “blatant violation of fundamental principles of the political left.”
On the right, the Greek newspaper Eleftheros Typos ran the headline: “Everyone on Twitter knew about Kammenos except Tspiras” on its cover.
Tsipras has released a statement saying that Kammenos’s presence in the government “would not be compatible with the values” of his party. Tsipras appointed Kammenos at the behest of the head of ANEL, Panos Kammenos (no relation), who has previously claimed that Jews “don’t pay taxes” in Greece and has been widely accused of anti-Semitism.
Panos Kammenos has said of the scandal that ANEL “washes its hands” of it, and Dimitris Kammenos’s statements were “unacceptable and racist.” He denied ever having seen them personally.
ANEL has only ten members in parliament, but this is enough to build a majority coalition with Syriza. The coalition would allow Tsipras to avoid having to weld a similar compromise between his leftist party and the center-left PASOK, or the center-right New Democracy. New Democracy barely lost the elections to Syriza; before the elections, when ND was leading in the polls, Tsipras denied the possibility of forming a coalition with them, calling such a union “unnatural.”