Dozens of Israeli soldiers visited this northern port city Friday to pay homage to Greek Jews who died fighting in the Greek armed forces during World War II and those who perished at Nazi concentration camps.
The visit by 185 officers was part of an annual IDF program called "Uniformed Martyrs," which includes a visit to Auschwitz and a trip to a European city with a historic Jewish presence. Thessaloniki was chosen this year for the first time.
More than 12,000 Jews fought for Greece's armed forces on the Albanian front, and 513 were killed in combat. More than 90 percent of Greece's 80,000 Jews perished at Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.
"We salute the sacrifice of Greek Jews who fought the Germans, and on the Albanian front," said Brig.-Gen. Dan Ganot, who headed the Israeli delegation.
After laying a wreath at the Memorial for Fallen Greek Jews at the Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, Ganot said, "Greece and Israel are two countries of common principles and values. The principle of freedom is the basis of our cooperation."
The ceremony was also attended by officers of the Greek army and members of the city's small Jewish community.
Ganot said the Israeli unit had just visited Auschwitz to remember the 1.5 million people who died there before it was liberated by the Soviet army.
Thessaloniki, which saw 96% of its Jewish population killed during World War II, was once a vibrant hub of Jewish culture and also known as the "Pearl of Israel." Greek Jews now number fewer than 5,000, with about 1,100 in Thessaloniki.
Some 52 years after the end of the war, Greece honored its Jewish citizens with the memorial in Thessaloniki.
Last year, parliament voted unanimously to make January 27 – the day Auschwitz was liberated – an annual day of remembrance for the country's Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Critics point out that filling a prescription is a very different job from writing one, and question whether pharmacists can deny a legal drug on moral grounds. And the patients who have been denied are simply angry to see their prescriptions become fodder for a public debate - especially when the prescriptions they wanted filled were for something as time-sensitive as emergency contraceptives, often known as the morning-after pill.
"Most observers seem to say it [refusing to give out contraceptives] is picking up, and there seems to be a more organized campaign to allow pharmacists to refuse," says Adam Sonfeild, an analyst with the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues.
And as the issue gets more attention, politicians are weighing in - on both sides:
• In Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) last week issued an executive rule clarifying his view of state law: Any pharmacy that sells contraceptives must promptly fill a woman's prescription for them.
• Four states, including California and New Jersey, are considering laws that would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions despite any religious or moral objections, unless they could find an alternative that doesn't inconvenience the patient.
• Thirteen states are considering giving pharmacists the kind of conscience-clause outs that doctors have, allowing them to refuse to fill some prescriptions that go against their personal beliefs. (Four already have such laws on the books.)
• In a related issue, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) exercised a rare veto this week, for a bill that would have required all hospitals - including Catholic ones - to inform rape victims about the availability of emergency contraceptives. Among other concerns, he questioned the constitutionality of forcing religious institutions to engage in speech counter to their principles.
With the pharmacist battles, it's principles of individuals, rather than institutions, that come into play. While no hard numbers are available, anecdotes have cropped up with increasing frequency.
Two pharmacists at a drugstore in Texas refused to fill a prescription for an emergency contraceptive for a woman said to be a rape victim. They were later fired. In Wisconsin, a judge reprimanded Neil Noesen this year for not only refusing to fill a college student's prescription for birth-control pills, but for balking at transferring the prescription to a pharmacist who would fill it.
Governor Blagojevich's ruling was prompted by a pharmacist at a downtown drugstore who refused to give emergency contraceptives to two women. "The governor said that there seems to be a pattern here, and it was important to take action quickly to make sure pharmacies in Illinois know they have an obligation to ensure a woman's access to health care," says Abby Ottenhoff, an aide to the governor.
Public opinion tends to come down in favor of the patient. In a November New York Times poll, just 16 percent of respondents said they believed a pharmacist should be able to refuse to dispense birth-control pills for religious reasons. Among white evangelical Christians, that number grew to just 24 percent.
But many pharmacists believe it's possible to accommodate their consciences and still ensure a patient gets her prescription. "We support the pharmacist stepping away, but we don't support them stepping in the way," explains Susan Winckler of the American Pharmacists Association, which adopted a policy calling for conscience protections, as long as the pharmacy had an alternative system in place - another pharmacist on duty, for instance, or an agreement with a neighboring pharmacy. The issue first arose not because of contraceptives, she says, but over pharmacists in Oregon concerned about taking part in assisted suicide.
Jewish leaders claim Mormons continue to posthumously baptize Jews and Holocaust victims, and will confront church leaders with a decade of frustration over what they call broken promises.
"We have proof, and we are bringing that," said Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
The Mormon church has long collected names from government documents and other records worldwide for posthumous baptisms. Church members stand in for the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for the dead to reach heaven. The church believes individuals' ability to choose a religion continues beyond the grave.
Michel plans to show posthumous baptism records to church officials in meetings Sunday and Monday. He says the records prove tens of thousands of Jews, including some who died in Nazi concentration camps, were posthumously baptized over the past 10 years and as recently as last month.
A 1995 agreement signed by Jewish leaders and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for an immediate halt to unwanted proxy baptisms. After evidence was found in the church's massive International Genealogical Index that the baptisms for many Jews — including Anne Frank — continued, the two faiths reaffirmed the agreement in 2002.
Jewish leaders in New York have bitterly complained the baptisms never stopped, and last year asked Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton to intervene. She met with Sen. Orrin Hatch (news, bio, voting record), an Utah Republican and active Mormon, though neither side would discuss what was said.
The church, too, declined comment Thursday. "The church won't be commenting at all on this issue for the moment. We are looking forward to discussions with our Jewish guests," spokeswoman Kim Farah said.
Under the Mormon practice, most Catholic popes have been proxy baptized, as have historical figures like Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha, according to Helen Radkey, an independent genealogical researcher in Salt Lake City.
However, the church directed its members after 1995 to not include for baptism the names of Jewish Holocaust victims, celebrities and people who aren't relatives.
The church also assumes the closest living relative of the deceased being offered for proxy baptism has consented.
Carol Skydell, also a researcher, said that didn't happen when her paternal grandparents and aunt and uncle apparently were given a baptism by proxy. She found their proxy baptism records in 2002.
"Nobody asked me, nobody asked my cousin. It's ridiculous," Skydell said.
Orhan Pamuk, wielder of Turkey's finest pen, has spoken and cut a swath through his country's conscience. His most recent novel Snow was set in Kars and peppered with references to the Armenian culture of that formerly Armenian city. Brilliant novelist, translated in 20 languages, winner of international prizes, he has become a hate figure.Rev. Krikor Aghabaloghlu:
His crime was one sentence in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger this month. 'Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Almost no one dares speak but me, and the nationalists hate me for that.' All hell broke loose. The press attacked him for dishonouring the Turkish state and incitement to racial violence. He has been called a liar, 'a miserable creature' and a 'black writer' in the daily Hurriyet. Professor Hikmet Ozdemir, head of the Armenian studies department at the Turkish Union of Historians, rejected his statement as a 'great lie'.
A lone voice, Halil Berktay, professor at Sabanci University, supported Pamuk: 'In 1915-16 about 800,000 or one million Armenians were killed for sure.'
Mehmet Üçok, an attorney, filed charges at the Kayseri public prosecutor's office. Another charge was filed by Kayseri Bar Association attorney Orhan Pekmezci: 'Pamuk has made groundless claims against the Turkish identity, the Turkish military and Turkey as a whole. He should be punished for violating Articles 159 and 312 of the Turkish penal code. He made a statement provoking the people to hatred and animosity through the media, which is defined as a crime in Article 312.' They say 'incident'. To me it's genocide
While there have been many talk shows on the Armenian issue, no one has ever dared to go on Turkish TV and repeatedly assert in a bold and brazen manner, as Rev. Aghabaloghlu did, that there is no doubt a genocide was committed against the Armenians. Both Hulki Jevizoglu, the host of the show, and his main guest, historian Mehmet Saray were dumb-founded and tongue-tied by the Armenian clergyman’s unexpectedly outspoken remarks. In a very calm and congenial manner, and with always a smile on his face, Pastor Aghabaloghlu said on national Turkish TV that all Turks in Anatolia know the truth about the Armenian Genocide. He said that no one dared to talk about this subject and that anyone who had the courage to speak about it, is called a traitor, condemned by the media, taken to court, and sent to jail.And Turkish historian Yusuf Halacoglu says "let's investigate objectively." That's a start.
Despite all attempts to shut him up during the show, Rev. Aghabaloghlu kept on insisting that as a clergyman he has the obligation to tell the truth. When asked to back up his comments, he said that he knew the facts first-hand from the experiences of his own family. Besides, he added, there is plenty of evidence for the Genocide in thousands of books and that everyone knew that the Armenians in Anatolia were the victims of Genocide. Otherwise, he said, what did happen to the Armenians inhabiting that region? Did they evaporate? Did they decide to migrate en masse? Are there any Armenians left in Anatolia?
Making the Turks even angrier, Rev. Aghabaloghlu said that since Armenians are mistreated in Turkey today, one can only imagine how much worse their treatment must have been back then under the Ottoman Empire?
Mehmet Saray, the Turkish historian, was so enraged by the Armenian clergyman’s assertions that he kept asking the host of the show, "where did you find this man?" Saray said he would have refused to appear on the show if he had known that he would take part in such a "low quality" discussion and that his years of research and his books on this issue would be ignored.
When a viewer from Erzeroum called to say that mass graves of Turks were recently uncovered, Rev. Aghabaloghlu immediately retorted: "How do you know that these bones did not belong to Armenians?"
This astounding conversation, broadcast live to millions of Turkish viewers, went on until the wee hours of the morning. PASTOR SHOCKS TURKISH TV VIEWERS BY BOLD REMARKS ON GENOCIDE