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European Jewish organization raises prospect of banning far-right party in Greece
PRAGUE (AP) ' A major European Jewish organization is urging European governments to quickly adopt measures to tackle anti-Semitism and far-right extremism, including possibly banning a hardline Greek party that did unusually well in recent elections.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, was meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas on Wednesday to seek his support for "emergency measures" to protect the continent's Jewish communities from violent hate crimes.
Kantor would not give details of the measures that his organization plans to propose, but they could involve passing legislation, sharing intelligence, and a public awareness campaign about anti-Semitic threats.
In particular, Kantor expressed concern about Golden Dawn, a party that did well during Greece's May 6 election and whose leader claimed that Nazi concentration camps did not use ovens and gas chambers to kill prisoners during the Holocaust.
The party has rejected a neo-Nazi label but campaigned on an anti-immigration platform. Because the leading parties were unable to form a government in Greece, another election is expected, but the message sent by Golden Dawn's performance has raised fears among minorities.
Kantor said Golden Dawn's "political rise should have sent shock-waves through Europe."
"Before calling on European leaders to act against hate on the street, they must clear their own house and that means banning and ostracizing any politicians and political parties that preach hate and violence," he said. "While we highly value freedom of speech, we all recognize that there must be restrictions, and the visceral hatred propagated by the Golden Dawn is surely outside the boundaries of appropriate political discourse."
Kantor plans to meet with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the congress consulted with Francois Hollande a few weeks before he was elected president of France.
"We have to be proactive. Otherwise we're in a shameful position because we see the problem and we do not do anything," Kantor told The Associated Press in an interview in Prague. "That's why we're here."
The Czech Republic is one of Israel's strongest allies in the European Union. The Czech government pushed for closer ties between the EU and Israel when it held the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency last year.
Kantor said the current economic crisis creates ripe conditions for anti-Semitism and that radical Muslim communities in Europe are ready to attack Jews because of the tension between Israel and the Palestinians and other Middle East countries.
A recent report on anti-Semitism said the number of attacks in Europe declined in 2011, but they were generally more violent than in previous years.
"It is a very dangerous trend," Kantor said.