Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What’s happening in our neighbourhood

A quick note on some articles (in Greek) I read today that aroused my interest.

First, there was this article on the Greek minority in Lebanon – which according to the author amounts to some seven percent of the Lebanese population. The author claims that of all the ethnic groups in Lebanon, the Greeks are the worst organised and the most prone to Arabisation, to Arab propaganda that they are not Greeks but Syrians, proto-Arabs or pre-Islamic Arabs. The author makes a plea for Greeks in Lebanon to establish their own political party and protect their ethnicity and identity, which goes back to Hellenistic and Byzantine times.

The story is further proof of Hellenism’s retreat and Greece’s indifference to those Greeks beyond the borders of the Greek state. It’s also worth pointing out that Greeks from Cyprus should feel a special affinity for the Lebanese Greeks because many Cypriots are descended from the Greek communities of the Levant, which fled the Arab invasions and found refuge in Cyprus.

Secondly, I read Kathimerini editor Alexis Papachelas’ interview with Ahmet Davoutoglu, on the eve of the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Greece. The interview covers the Aegean – including Davoutoglu’s assertion that Kastellorizo is not an Aegean but a Mediterranean issue – Turkey’s vision for itself and energy and economic co-operation between Greece and Turkey.

You’ll have to wait until the last paragraph to find Papachelas asking Davoutoglu something about Greece’s so-called number one foreign policy issue, i.e. Cyprus, and then Cyprus is only mentioned in relation to the Turkish Cypriot protests against Ankara, giving Davoutoglu the opportunity to reassure Papachelas that there is no rift between Turkey and the TRNC – the ‘TRNC’ is referred to in the piece without caveats, as if it were a de jure entity.

I note that Kathimerini, Papachelas and Skai TV are from the same stable and the underlying servility of the interview provides us with clear proof as to what Skai’s infamous series on the 1821 revolution is driving at: Greece sacrificing its national interests and watering down its national identity in order to achieve ‘reconciliation’ with Turkey.

And, finally, I read this piece in the Cyprus edition of Kathimerini. It refers to contacts and briefings Cypriot journalists have been given by senior Israeli officials in light of President Christofias’ upcoming official visit to the Jewish state. (The fact that the communist Christofias is even making such a visit is extraordinary and tells us the extent of the changes in strategic relations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean).

The article reveals Israeli fears that the neighbourhood is becoming more threatening and their hopes for stronger relations with Greece and Cyprus, especially in the energy field given the significant hydrocarbon finds in the Israeli and Cypriot EEZs. The article also says that not all Israeli officials have given up hopes for rapprochement with Turkey, but there are others not so optimistic, believing that Turkey, under Erdogan, has set itself firmly on an Islamic course:

‘Regarding Turkey’s European accession process, it is believed in Israel that Turkey is not serious about entering the EU. Instead, Erdogan and his party are using the European card to weaken the military and the Kemalist elite…

‘After the [June] elections in Turkey, and if Erdogan emerges completely victorious, then Turkey will make a significant turn towards a clear Islamic outlook, which will take Turkey further away from Europe. Such a turn might also lead to Turkey adopting a stance on Cyprus outside of the parameters the UN has set for a Cyprus solution.’


Hermes said...

I think part of the reason the Lebanese Greek Orthodox have not been so organised in the past was because they tended to throw their lot in with Pan-Arab or Pan-Syrian nationalism i.e. Baathists and so on. I suspect this was because in this way they would not be swamped by the larger religious groups within Lebanon i.e. Maronites, Sunnis, Shias and it would also reduce the influence of religion; particularly, Islam in politics. Given that the role of Islam in politics in much stronger than the 1950's and 60's then this political orientation is likely to change. It helped create a space for them.

It is interesting that the first Greek Orthodox Churches i.e. Holy Trinity in Sydney, Australia were built with the finances of Greek, Syrian and Lebanese parishioners showing there was close solidarity over 100 years ago. Of course, the fact that there relatively few Greek Orthodox back then binded them together. Also, when I was in school I knew several Greek Orthodox Lebanese and Palestinian families. I can attest to the fact that they looked to us as family. In fact, almost subserviant. This is another areas where modern Hellenism as failed. Our idiotic Greek "leaders" and youth prefer to support every dipshit Leftist movement rather seeking to reconnect and work together with Greek Orthodox all around the world.

John Akritas said...

Yes, Baathism was an ideology developed by Christians, partly as a response to political movements that stressed Islam; and, yes, I too have noticed the goodwill of Middle Eastern Greek (and Oriental) Orthodox have towards Greece. And it's not a big step from being a Greek Orthodox in religion to being a fully-blown ethnic Greek with a Greek consciousness. A little investment in Greek-language schools in the Middle East would have gone a long way to bringing these people closer to the ethnos.

John Akritas said...

And while we're on the subject of Greece failing to advance the interests of Greeks outside the borders of the Greek state, perhaps the most shameful example of this is the abandonment of the Northern Epirots, which I'm reminded of by Dean Kalimniou's good piece on the subject here.

Hermes said...

Of course, the scolding of the Greek Northern Epirus diplomat a few weeks ago was shameful. However, Greece does even protect Greeks within its own borders. Look at how Davutoglu has pranced around Thrace and Kavala?

Hermes said...

John, do you know of the Russians that live in Cyprus, how many of them are Greek Pontians and how many of them are Slavic Russians?

John Akritas said...

I'm not exactly sure, but I'd say there's between 5-10,000 Pontic Greeks – most seem to have settled in Paphos – and between anything between 10-40,000 permanent Russian residents. Russian numbers swell during the tourist season when loads and loads come over. The Pontians – to be honest – are somewhat demonised in Cyprus society, for being prone to crime, violence – knife fights – and so on. There's also a suspicion that they're not that Greek – and have only declared so to get out of Georgia and so on.

John Akritas said...

And just on Davoutoglu's visit to Kavala, I remember that as you entered the city there used to be a billboard plastered with 'Δεν ξεχνώ' and the famous map of Cyprus with the Turkish occupied part dripping blood. If it hadn't been taken down already, I'm sure they would have done so to avoid any misunderstandings or embarrassment οn the arrival of their esteemed guest.

lastgreek said...

If it hadn't been taken down already, I'm sure they would have done so to avoid any misunderstandings or embarrassment οn the arrival of their esteemed guest.

It's a shame really the Greek government doesn't hold the diaspora Greeks in such high esteem as it does the foreign minister of a hostile nation.

From the WSJ recently:

Greece Targets US Investors With $3B Of Diaspora Bonds

The US investors "targeted" are, of course, the Greek Americans. Does the Greek government take the Greek Americans for total suckers? Haven't Greek Americans, along with their fellow Canadian and Australian Greeks done enought?

Only a half-wit born yesterday would dare entertain the crazy notion of buying bonds from an insolvent country.

Here's a loony thought: Why don't the Greek shipowners with all their billions stashed away in Swiss banks offer to purchase these bonds?

"G-Pap". That's how the Greek prime minister is referred as in the financial blogs.

John Akritas said...

I agree, LG. The Greek government has got a lot of front trying to tap the diaspora for money. I knew from the start that all these slash and burn tactics would amount to nothing because G-Pap and Pasok didn't have the vision or gumption to do the harder things, like make sure the state works, enforce the rule of law, take on vested interests – both labour and capital – and so on. I hate to keep slagging off Greece, but the country, at this rate, doesn't stand a chance and, like you said, Greeks from the US, Canada, Australia and so on, would be mugs to invest there. Throwing your money down the drain is not a sign of patriotism.

Hermes said...

How about the Greek government sort out the right to vote issue for the Diaspora first?

Buy Greek goods or go on a holiday to Greece and spend your money there. At least then you know where it has gone. Buying Greek bonds will only mean Pangalos can afford more burgers and Bulgarian whores.

Hermes said...

John, an interesting interview with William Mallinson on Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Russia, ELIAMEP and more.


John Akritas said...

A very thought-provoking piece. (I really should buy his book on Cyprus). Keep your distance from Israel, cosy up to the Russians and whatever you do don't trust the British and Americans. Good advice. And who could disagree with him that Greek policy towards Turkey is motivated by fear, or that Greece doesn't want to antagonise Turkey over Cyprus because it's concerned Turkey would retaliate in the Aegean? Interesting too what he says about Diamantopoulou and Verimis. Of course, he's also correct to assert that Greek politics and society is plagued by discord and lack of common purpose. In fact I had an epiphany today, which is that what Greece needs is a presidential system, a Gaullist system like in France, which would diminish the all-powerful role of parties and parliament in favour of stronger, more dynamic leadership.

Anonymous said...

Great site just came across it recently. Did anyone see this article. I hope its not true.

Turkish company to provide satellite service for Greek army



Hermes said...

John, I agree. However, you also need a De Gaulle or even Mitterand, although he was a much diminished figure. Definitely, not the midget Sarkozy. If you get a chance read, De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur and Modern Democracy. You'd really understand how De Gaulle embodied in himself the disparate groups of France in order to move forward.

John Akritas said...

Since everyone has recognised that the post-74 system in Greece has failed, I'm surprised there's been no debate about a dramatic revision of the constitution. Also, we've all been saying recently that Greece is too 'democratic' and not sufficiently authoritarian and, since, it's unlikely and undesirable that a military strongman will seize power, then the next best thing is an elected strongman. Of course, you are right, there are strongmen and there are strongmen and all depends on the quality. It's just unhealthy that Greece doesn't seem to have these kind of debates about its constitution, as if it were set in stone. Erdogan is plotting to move Turkey to a presidential system, with him as president. I read a review of the book you mention. Interesting.

Ted. I'm glad you like the blog. I laughed when I read that story in Zaman. It's wrong on so many different levels.

Alexander Hourani said...

John Akritas,

"And it's not a big step from being a Greek Orthodox in religion to being a fully-blown ethnic Greek with a Greek consciousness."

The Orthodox Greeks (el Rum el Ortodoks) of Lebanon and Syria and Palestine call themselves "Greeks" (Rum in Arabic and Romaioi in Greek) because they are Greeks. "Orthodox" indicates their doctrine. "Greeks"/Rum doesn't indicate their doctrine. In fact, Catholic Greeks (el Rum el Katolik) call themselves also "Greeks" (Rum). "Rum" is not the name of a sect.

The concept "Greek Orthodox Church"/Ελληνορθοδοξη Εκκλησια is a Western European concept that started appearing in the Greek language after 1830. But the Greeks of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine have always called themselves as Rum before 1830, just as the Greeks of Anatolia call themselves Rum in Turkish and just as the rest of the Greeks call themselves Romaioi in Greek.

The lies of few Arab, Syrian or Hellenic nationalists cannot change the historic reality because the historic sources are there.

Besides, language doesn't necesarily indicate any ethnic belongingness. The Greeks of Anatolia spoke Turkish before their migration to Greece after 1922, nevertheless they were always considered as Greeks. In the province of Adana, you had Greeks who spoke Turkish, Greek and Arabic. I don't understand why the Greeks of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan are considered an exception.