Large crowds took to the streets on Thursday, 15 June in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece, protesting the visit of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Greece-Israel-Cyprus summit promoting increased economic and military cooperation between the Israeli occupation, Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in Greece joined a number of Greek and Palestinian organizations in calling for the demonstrations to reject the presence of Netanyahu in Greece as a war criminal. Organizations including ANTARSYA, KOE (Communist Organization of Greece), NAR (New Left Current), EEK (Workers’ Revolutionary Party), KKE ml (Communist Party of Greece – Marxist-Leninist), the Friends of Palestine, the Ghassan Kanafani Front for Resistance and Solidarity, the Friends of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a wide range of anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and social justice organizations and activists joined in the marches that took to the streets in both cities.
The summit, which included Netanyahu, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, convened in Thessaloniki under the auspices of a touted gas deal for pipeline construction between occupied Palestine, Greece and Cyprus. Protesters denounced the role of the SYRIZA-ANEL government in Greece, elected on a left, anti-austerity program with campaign pledges that included an end to joint military exercises with Israel, for its role in enforcing more austerity, greater EU control over Greek resources and a massively intensified relationship with the apartheid settler-colonial Israeli regime.
In Athens, hundreds gathered outside the Israeli Embassy where protests went on for over an hour before a march through the streets to the Defense Ministry, demanding an end to collaboration with the Israeli occupation. A wide array of left organizations and youth participated in the protest and march.
“We are here to protest the presence of the war criminal Netanyahu in Greece. We are against this relationship between the current SYRIZA government and the Israeli apartheid state. We see Greece’s natural position in the Middle East, supporting the people and anti-war. We are against the involvement of Greece in the European Union, more and more, and supporting the colonial machine in the region,” said Mohammed Khatib, the European coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, speaking to reporters at the protest.
In Thessaloniki, an even larger crowd gathered at the Venizelos Statue and marched throughout the city carrying Palestinian flags and red flags, banners and signs demanding an end to Greek cooperation with EU, US and Israeli schemes stripping the wealth of the Greek and Palestinian people. As they marched by the United States consulate in Thessaloniki, protesters stopped and burned an image of a U.S. and Israeli flag, chanting slogans against U.S. imperialism in the region.
Also in Thessaloniki, another protest of hundreds marched from St. Sophia Square to denounce ongoing NATO involvement in Greece and Israeli occupation. Another group of Greek activists protested inside the studios of state-run TV station ET3 until they ran a video protesting the summit and denouncing the role of Tsipras in engaging in military and economic cooperation with the Israeli occupation.
Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled called on all to participate in the demonstration: “This message is to call on all progressive, socialist, democratic, anti-imperialist, anti-apartheid forces to firmly stand strongly against this visit and this summit. Our mutual struggle is based on common interests for our peoples. On behalf of the martyrs, the prisoners and their families, I call upon everyone to participate in the demonstration. Let Netanyahu hear our voices, from Palestine to Greece via Cyprus, that he is not welcome anywhere.” In Athens, Leila Khaled’s message was read aloud in Greek to the crowd.
Earlier, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had urged protests of the summit, calling on Greek organizations to respond: “The PFLP urged all friendly Greek forces and parties to fight the intensifying political, military and economic ties between Greece and the Zionist entity, which necessarily come at the expense of the Palestinian and Arab people whose resources and rights have been confiscated by the occupier, while opening the wealth of the Greek people to looting by the U.S. and Zionist state. The Front denounced the role of the Syriza-ANEL government in escalating this relationship between Greece and the Zionist occupation state to unprecedented levels at the expense of the Greek and Palestinian peoples and their gas and water wealth and resources.”
The Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations in Europe had called on the Greek government to cancel the meeting. “The SYRIZA government was elected with claims of commitment to international law and respect for the will of the Greek people. At the same time, it is standing with imperialism and Zionist forces and the interests of oil and gas companies while receiving a racist war criminal who killed thousands of civilians in Gaza. Netanyahu is a criminal, a killer of children, and his only natural place is in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” said Dr. Fawzi Ismail, president of the Union.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is dedicated to continuing to organize in Greece and internationally against the Greece/Cyprus/Israel gas deal and attempts to extract the wealth of the Palestinian and Greek people for exploitation by U.S. imperialists, oligarchic captialists and Israeli colonialists. The large turnout in Athens and Thessaloniki makes clear that Greek people support justice for the Palestinian people, not war deals with apartheid settler-colonial states.
Video from Thessaloniki:
Video from Athens:
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Photos from Thessaloniki: