April 2013


******UPDATE AT BOTTOM******

More stirrings in Vojvodina.

Rights row in northern Serbian province sparks protest (Reuters, April 12)

Thousands of supporters of Serbia’s ruling parties rallied against the leadership of the country’s autonomous Vojvodina province on Friday, against a backdrop of rising political tension over the northern region.

An area of flat fertile plains, Vojvodina is the agricultural bread basket of Serbia and home to a large minority of some 300,000 Hungarians. Its level of autonomy has seesawed over the past several decades, and has come under renewed scrutiny since power changed hands in Serbia in mid-2012.

Vojvodina is controlled by Serbia’s opposition Democratic Party in coalition with an ethnic Hungarian party.

The latest row erupted this week when the Democrats, who lost power at the state level last year, tabled a parliamentary declaration reaffirming the rights and powers of the autonomous region.

The two main parties in Serbia’s ruling coalition…accused the Democrats of trying to stir up separatism.

Milosevic stripped both Vojvodina and Serbia’s then southern Kosovo province of their autonomous powers in the late 1980s. The Democrats, who helped oust Milosevic in 2000, restored their privileges….

Igor Mirovic, deputy head of Serbia’s ruling nationalist Progressive Party of Serbia, called for the ouster of the Vojvodina government and its Prime Minister Bojan Pajtic, who is deputy head of the Democratic Party.

“We do not need more divisions between Belgrade and Vojvodina … we are demanding retraction of that shameful declaration, early (provincial) elections and resignation of Pajtic and his clique,” Mirovic told the cheering crowd.

Elections in Vojvodina are scheduled for 2016.

Faced with backlash from Belgrade, the Vojvodina government postponed debate on the declaration, but defended the text.

The dispute has the potential to stir tension between Serbia and its northern neighbor, European Union-member Hungary, which watches closely for signs of discrimination against ethnic Hungarians who make up some 13 percent of Vojvodina’s almost 2 million people.

Well isn’t that rich. As Liz, who circulated the item earlier this month, put it: “No doubt ‘northern neighbor watches closely.’ All of Serbia’s ‘neighbors’ watch Serbia closely. Problem is Serbia’s neighbors not ‘watched’ by anyone.”

One must ask a question, the likes of which also should be asked of Croatia and Albania: Is it discrimination that Hungary abhors, or supremacy that it enforces? Ten days after The Hague reversed the convictions of two war criminals in Hungary’s kindred spirit, Croatia, we got this seemingly unrelated little item:

Hungarian Far Right Politician Demands a List of Jewish MPs (Business Insider, Nov. 27, By Adam Taylor)

Márton Gyöngyösi, the deputy group leader of the Jobbik, a far right group in Hungary, made headlines around the world today when he asked for a list of Jews in government and parliament.

“It is high time to assess many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary,” Gyöngyösi said on Monday, according to Politics.ru, before adding that Hungary’s Foreign Ministry had “rushed to make an oath of allegiance to Israel.”

This morning the comments were brought to international attention by the JTA, while the Hungarian Prime Minister released a statement condemning the comment. The AP reports that MPs, Jewish or otherwise, wore yellow stars today as hundreds of protesters rallied in Budapest.

Jobbick is currently the second largest opposition party in the Hungarian parliament, and has built much of its support on anti-Jewish and anti-Roma rhetoric. However, the party fails to have much legislative power due to the government’s majority.

Gyöngyösi apologized today, saying that his comment was only directed at dual Israeli-Hungarian citizens. However, he has some form on the subject, having lashed out at investigations into Nazi war crimes in Hungary.

Jobbik party members have something of a checkered recent history. Earlier this year one key party member, Csanad Szegedi, resigned after he discovered he was Jewish, and at least 3 members of the party have been forced to resign after admitting their past careers in pornography.

Without commenting on the party member resigning in shame over his Jewishness, which apparently is on par with pornography, the name Jobbik rang a bell, and turned up the following from 2011 about the then-conviction of the two Croatian war criminals:

Jobbik Finds Sentence Against General Gotovina Shameful (Jobbik Party Statement, April 24, 2011)

Jobbik considers the sentence brought against General Ante Gotovina by the International Court of Justice in the Hague as unjust and morally unacceptable.

The convicted general is a national hero, an example of heroism and bravery not only for the Croatian people, but for every freedom-loving nation of the world.

Ante Gotovina and the other heroes of the Croatian ‘War for Independence’ stood up for territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country, and they took a major part in creating national cohesion and pride. It is an unfortunate development of modern times, that the so-called ‘international community’ considers their acts as crimes. The war fought by Croatia was a rightful, and just act of self-defense against former Yogoslavian - later Serbian - military and paramilitary units.

General Gotovina - the leader of ‘Operation Storm’ - was a significant figure of this struggle, whose patriotism is an example for us all.

Ante Gotovina heroj!

Márton Gyöngyösi
President, Jobbik Foreign Affairs Committee

As for Gyöngyösi’s resentment over Nazi war crime investigations of Hungary, chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff wrote in April 2010, “If the ultranationalists become the main opposition in Hungary, it is unlikely [WWII gendarmerie officer] Sandor Kepiro will ever be brought to justice…[and will have] potentially very dangerous consequences, especially for the country’s minorities.”

Apparently, becoming the second-largest opposition party was good enough in Hungary, which in July 2011 acquitted Kepiro, who helped organize the murder of 1,200-3,000 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies in the Hungarian-occupied Serbian city of Novi Sad (and whom Zuroff found in 2006 living in Budapest undisturbed). He died peacefully two months later at the age of 97. Zuroff in 2010 offered a possible explanation for Hungary’s foot-dragging on trying Kepiro: “[T]he authorities hoped he would die and spare them the trouble and embarrassment of a trial which would highlight Hungarian complicity in Holocaust crimes.”

Indeed, if you’re trying to repeat history, you certainly don’t want to refresh people’s memory of it. Upon Kepiro’s acquittal in 2011, Zuroff said, “This is a joke.” Serbian chief prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said, “I was shocked at the behaviour in the court and the fact that the verdict was greeted with applause. It was a nauseating scene.” And Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Ana Frenkel, of Novi Sad, said, “It is not unexpected from a Hungarian society which is not yet mature enough to face its past.”

That goes double for Croatia, abetted by a world that is simply not interested in punishing Serb-killers, which — interestingly — the last of the surviving Nazis were.

Last year Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel noticed that Hungary also has been whitewashing its past, even honoring the late pro-Nazi writer Jozsef Nyiro, a loyal member of Hungary’s WWII far-right parliament. Parliament Speaker Laszlo Kover and another senior government official attended a ceremony for Nyiro in a heavily Hungarian part of Romania (Incidentally, the Hungarian government claims to be very concerned about ethnic Hungarian populations in Austria, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia and have issued them passports, a harbinger of territorial pretensions to come.) The Hungarian government even made Nyiro part of the official school curriculum, Haaretz reported in June, adding that “public spaces were named after Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s head of state when the country allied with Nazi Germany….[A]bout one thousand Hungarians attended the unveiling of a statue of Horthy in a village with activists in paramilitary outfits flying the flags of the far-right Jobbik opposition party and various nationalist groups.”

Yes, we should really care what Hungary thinks about Serbia. And take the concern for its infiltrators there as genuine.

******UPDATE******

I forgot to include this recent (March) JTA article about Hungary:

Hungarian politicians chided on anti-Semitism, war crimes suspect (JTA, March 6, 2013)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — An American Jewish organizational leader met with Hungarian political leaders to express concern about growing anti-Semitism in the country.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and Simon Samuels, head of the Paris office of the Wiesenthal Center, met in Budapest with Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics.

“My presence here in Budapest is to deliver a message of concern over the increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary,” Cooper told JTA. He said a number of issues triggered his visit, among them a lack of progress on bringing Hungarian Nazi war criminal László Csatáry, 98, to justice. Csatáry is currently under house arrest in Budapest.

Navracsics told Cooper on Wednesday that he will urge the public prosecutor to move swiftly to commence the Csatáry trial for complicity in the murder of 12,000-15,700 Jews in 1944 in the town Kassa.

“We are deeply concerned, particularly because of Csatáry’s advanced age, that the trial begin without delay,” Cooper said in an interview…

Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem Wiesenthal Office, found Csatáry living in Budapest after being stripped of his Canadian citizenship and deported from Canada 15 years ago.

“There is a unique situation in Hungary in terms of anti-Semitism,” Cooper said. “Anti-Semitism here is due to the revisionism of collective memory in terms of World War II.”

Cooper criticized the center-right Hungarian government, saying, “There is not enough of a tough line concerning the extremists.”

During talks with Hungarian politicians, Cooper said he encouraged them to “draw a much tougher line between themselves and the extremists.”

I’ve been meaning to post this November item, because while it’s about a Gaza flare-up, interestingly the photo accompanying the article is specifically of Bosnian Muslims. Notice also of course the presence of the meaningful neck accessory that’s always highly visible at anti-Israel rallies.

Israel, Hamas agree to truce starting Tuesday midnight (AP, Nov. 20)


Bosnian supporters of Palestinians walk through the center of Sarajevo carrying Bosnian and Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian banners in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

Israel and militants from the Gaza Strip have agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that will come into force at midnight local time, Hamas official Ayman Taha said, speaking to Reuters from Cairo.

Hours before Morsi spoke, a man identified as Hamas’ militant commander urged his fighters to keep up attacks on Israel, and Palestinian militants fired a rocket toward Jerusalem, just minutes before U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in the holy city. Israeli airstrikes killed a senior militant and five others in a separate attack on a car, according to Gaza health officials.

Residents of Jerusalem ran for cover Tuesday when Palestinians fired a rocket toward the holy city for the second time since the fighting started last Wednesday…Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the rocket landed in Gush Etzion, a collection of Jewish West Bank settlements southeast of the city. Last Friday’s attempt to hit Jerusalem, nearly 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Gaza, landed in the same area. No one was wounded in either attack.

Jerusalem had previously been considered beyond the range of Gaza rockets — and an unlikely target because it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine. Israeli officials feared Gaza’s Hamas rulers will try to stage similar attacks deep into Israel’s heartland ahead of any possible truce.

Shortly afterward, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a car in Gaza City killing five people and seriously wounding four others. Their identities were not immediately known.

The U.S. considers Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide and other attacks, to be a terror group and does not meet with its officials. The Obama administration blames Hamas for the latest eruption of violence and says Israel has the right to defend itself. At the same time, it has warned against a ground invasion, saying it could send casualties spiraling.

An airstrike Tuesday killed a senior Hamas militant identified as Amin Al Dada and wounded two others, Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel this week, the military said.

“I prefer a diplomatic solution,” Netanyahu said in a statement after meeting with Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is also in the region trying to advance peace efforts. “But if the fire continues, we will be forced to take broader measures and will not hesitate to do so.”

Westerwelle said a truce must be urgently pursued, “but of course, there is one precondition for everything else, and this is a stop of the missile attacks against Israel.”

The conflict erupted last week, when a resurgence in rocket fire from Gaza set off the Israeli offensive, which included hundreds of airstrikes on militants’ underground rocket launchers and weapons’ stores.

The onslaught turned deadlier over the weekend, as airstrikes began targeting the homes of suspected Hamas activists, leading to a spike in civilian casualties…

Hamas is deeply rooted in densely populated Gaza, and the movement’s activists live in the midst of ordinary Gazans. Israel says militants are using civilians as human shields, both for their own safety and to launch rocket strikes from residential neighbourhoods.

Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt. It also wants international guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt’s Sinai region, which abuts both Gaza and southern Israel, to attack Israelis.

Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007…

******SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM******

Yes, that’s really the title.

In Bosnia, Turkey brings back a gentle version of the Ottoman Empire (Washington Post, March 24, By Michael Birnbaum)

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA — Turkey conquered the Balkans five centuries ago. Now Turkish power is making inroads through friendlier means. [Yayyyyyyyyy!]

Two Turkish-run universities have opened in Bosnia’s Ottoman-influenced capital in recent years, bringing an influx of Turkish students and culture to a predominantly Muslim country still reeling from a brutal ethnic war almost two decades ago.

[As Jim Jatras pointed out when this was circulated: You’d never know Bosnia has a Christian majority. Of course, it had a Christian majority the first time Turkey conquered it too.]

Turkish investment has expanded across the Balkans….Turkey also has helped broker talks between formerly bitter enemies in the Balkans. This growing presence has given Turkey an expanding field of influence in Europe at a time when the country’s prospects of joining the European Union appear dubious.

[i.e. Like we’ve been saying: Bosnia is Turkey’s backdoor into the EU. And like I’ve been saying: we gave Turkey the Balkans back in exchange for keeping it out of the EU.]

“Turkish leaders are working at a new Ottoman empire, a gentle one,” said Amir Zukic, the bureau chief of the Turkish Anadolu news agency’s Sarajevo office, which has expanded in recent months…

…[D]uring the mid-1990s, as Yugoslavia fell apart, Turkish aid started flowing to the Muslims who make up about half of Bosnia…

Now Turkey’s cultural influence is hard to miss. Turkish dignitaries are frequent visitors to Sarajevo. A grand new Turkish embassy is being built near “sniper alley” …Billboards advertise round-trip flights to Istanbul for the equivalent of $74. And this year, a baroque soap opera based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent, a 16th-century ruler of the Ottoman Empire, has mesmerized couch potatoes amid Bosnia’s dreary winter.

The biggest outposts in Bosnia have been the two Turkish-backed universities, which have mostly Turkish students.

At the International University of Sarajevo, students who enter the main door of the sunny building that opened two years ago have to pass under the watchful eye of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman ruler who introduced Islam to Bosnia in 1463. The private university is backed by Turkish businessmen who are close to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party…

Administrators are transparent about the school’s ambitions.

“The Turks are attracted to come here because they believe that Bosnia, for all its problems, will be in the E.U. before Turkey is. And they see this as a bridge between two countries,” said Muhamed Hadziabdic, the vice rector of the school, who is a Bosnian Muslim.

Turkish people “like Bosnia,” he said. “It’s European, but it still feels like home. The smell, the culture, it’s recognizably Turkish.”

…The other Turkish school in Sarajevo, the International Burch University, opened in 2008 and has connections to Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish Muslim preacher who runs an international religious and educational movement from Pennsylvania…[There was quite an eye-opener on the Gulen movement, especially vis-a-vis the Balkans, in Chris Deliso’s book The Coming Balkan Caliphate.]

Turkey’s expansion into the region comes as the country’s long-held dream of joining the European Union seems remote

But Bosnia is firmly within Europe — even though Sarajevo’s old city is a dense warren of shops and centuries-old storefronts that is reminiscent of Istanbul. Turkey’s growing presence in European regions that were once part of its empire is one way of making up for being excluded from the E.U., some analysts say.

Turkey’s increasing influence has upset some Bosnian Serbs, who maintain a parallel government [???] in Bosnia under the complicated system dictated by 1995 peace agreements. Officials from the parallel government [???] have complained that the Bosnian Muslim part of the country is falling under the influence of a former imperial power.

“For Islamists, a return of Turkey back to the Balkans is a fulfillment of ambitions. But for many Serbs and also for many Croats, their national struggle in the 19th century is still in their minds,” said Esad Hecimovic, the editor of news programs on OMT, the private television station that has been airing the soap opera based on Suleiman’s life.

Many in the Balkans think they are merely a way point on the route to Turkey’s broader goals.

“They are a big regional power,” said Hayruddin Somun, a former Bosnian ambassador to Turkey. “The Balkans was always their path to conquering Europe. They had to come through here.”

******UPDATE******

The Jewish reporter of the article above, written in a voice that almost applauds a Turkish caliphate, made me think of the Jewish man that comedian Bill Maher recently debated on his HBO show “Real Time.” One also needs to emphasize that even the ever-slow-in-coming-around-to-the-obvious, Maher, finally gets it re Islam:

Maher To Defender Of Islam: Equating Christianity And Islam “Liberal Bullshit”

Video at link.

HBO host Bill Maher debates guest Brian Levy, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, about the Boston Marathon Bombers’ Muslim faith playing a role in their terrorism.

BILL MAHER, HOST: So you’re obviously the perfect person to have here today. You study this all the time, the mind of crazy people who do horrible things. I’m always interested to know how people like the people we caught today up in Boston can have two minds going at the same time.

I mean, if you read what the older brother wrote on his –on the internet, he said his world view [is] Islam; personal priorities: career and money. And we see this a lot. I mean, the 9/11 hijackers went to strip clubs the night before they got on the plane.

BRIAN LEVIN: But could I just interject? Look, it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and end up doing not so nice things.

MAHER: You know what? Yeah, yeah. You know what? That’s liberal bullshit right there. I mean, yes, all faiths –

LEVIN: Are there no Christian hypocrites?

MAHER: No, there are. They’re just –

LEVIN: You make a career on that.

MAHER: They’re not as dangerous. I mean, there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So, you know, I’m just saying, let’s keep it real. (Real Time, April 19, 2013)

Wanderer takes path from Kosovo to grand final (The Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2013)

Labinot Haliti rarely thinks of his youth in war-torn Kosovo, or his arrival in Australia as a refugee, friendless and unable to speak English.

‘’That was in 1999 and it was an interesting chapter,'’ the Western Sydney Wanderers football star says. ‘’But since then, I don’t think any of us, my brothers or my parents, has looked back. We’ve all taken the next step, next step, next step, and now I find myself playing in a grand final.'’

Kosovo War prompted Haliti’s parents, Sam and Zana, to move the family from Pristina to Australia. ‘’We had a good life,'’ Haliti says. “But as time went on, things started to happen around the country with politics and my parents decided we had to leave.

‘’They made that choice for us. They had three boys and they wanted to give us a better future.'’

After a few months at a reception centre in south-western Sydney, the family settled in Parramatta, not far from the Wanderers’ home ground, Parramatta Stadium, and the three brothers, Labinot, Don and Lorik, attended Holroyd High School.

Labinot put everything into football…Haliti joined the Newcastle Jets in the A-League’s first season, 2005, played in Albania and Poland from 2007 to 2009 and returned to the Jets, before joining the Wanderers. […]