September 07th 2008 04:36:59 PM
From Midstream magazine, December 1992 by author Paul Ginieweski: “The Palestinian-Bosnian Connection”
In several respects, two contemporary conflicts, the Serbo-Bosnian War in former Yugoslavia, and the Arab-Israeli struggle, are intertwined. Their linkage should be explained.
First, a well known fact, documented in detail in specialized literature, is largely ignored by the general public and neglected by the media all over the world: a number of present-day Palestinians, who consider themselves and qualify or pose as “Arabs,” are recent descendants of Muslim immigrants from European lands, from Bosnia-Herzegovina in particular.
When the Ottoman Empire lost Bosnia to Austria in 1878, huge numbers of Bosnians were resettled in the Middle East, in the framework of a general policy of Muslim colonization of Turkey’s troubled areas. Quoting from various former studies, the historian Bat Ye’or explains how Ottoman law granted lands in Palestine to the Muslim colonists, with a 12-year exemption from taxes and military service. In the Carmel region, Galilee and the plain of Sharon and Caesarea, lands were distributed to the Muslim Slavs from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Georgians were settled around Kuneitra on the Golan Heights and Moroccans in lower Galilee.
At the same time, measures were taken against non-Muslim immigrants. In the same year 1887, a law was passed forbidding Jews to immigrate to Palestine, to reside there, to buy land, to restore houses, or to live in Jerusalem. It applied only to Jews….
In the course of the 19th century and well into the 20th, the Turkish authorities settled over two million Muslim colonists from the Balkans and Crimea in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia and Anatolia, in order to Islamize these countries and to undermine the national aspirations of the indigenous populations…
The pretense of the Palestinian “Arabs” to be the only natives in a country where Jews are deemed newcomers and intruders, is a myth. Great numbers of Palestinian “Arabs” are Arab in name only, and immigrants of more recent date than many Jews, whose presence in the land of Israel goes back 3,500 years. Many “Palestinians” immigrated even after the mainwaves of Zionist Jews: they came to the land of Israel in the thirties of the 20th century, attracted by the economic prosperity engendered by the Zionists.
Other facts ignored in good faith by some, or concealed and fabricated, belong to the history of a recent Palestinian-Bosnian partnership in war crimes.
In 1942, during World War II, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El-Husseini, leader of the Palestinian Arab activists, settled in Berlin in order to add to the German war effort and to pour fuel on the flames of the Shoah. (He was later listed as a war criminal by the Western democracies.) The mufti met Eichmann, Himmler and Hitler and visited the extermination camps. Many relevant written documents have survived about the mufti’s role, including exhortations to speed up the deportation of the Jews and to prevent their escape. In 1943, the mufti created a legion of Waffen-SS, the “Legion Handjar [alternate spelling: Handzar; Hanschar],” recruited among Muslims from Bosnia. These 19,000 murderers were…abundantly utilized in the Nazi media and the propaganda war. A number of photographs depict the Muslim German-clad muftis and mullahs. The military value of the legion appears to have been close to nil. But the Muslim SS committed various atrocities against the Resistance and the Jewish population in Yugoslavia. They participated in the guard of the railway link between Auschwitz and the Balkans…
It happened half a century ago. But the Palestinian Arabs have neither forgotten nor forfeited their link with their Muslim brothers in Bosnia. During the summer of 1992, a delegation of Arab Israelis visited former Yugoslavia, pledging to establish a camp for Bosnian children in the Jewish State.
The Muslim Bosnians are strongly connected with the Arab-Muslim world. They supported Saddam Hussein during the Kuwait crisis and the Gulf War. [Recall that Yasser Arafat did the same, briefly becoming a pariah in the Muslim world.] Libya is assisting them militarily.
From this past May in the San Francisco Sentinel, by Seth J. Frantzman, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose MA thesis was on the Christian Arabs in the 1948 war: Fascist Muslim Group Expected to Loot Tel Aviv in 1948
On a pleasant Thursday in December 1948, Emilio Traubner, a correspondent for The Palestine Post, found himself near Abu Kabir, not far from Jaffa. Trenches and expended cartridges were strewn about, reminders of the fighting between units of the Irgun and local Arab forces that had taken place there seven months previously. There was a large Arab villa from where Traubner recovered a diary. It turned out to be the daily record of Yusuf Begovic of Pale, a town near Sarajevo in modern-day Bosnia-Herzegovina. In it Begovic had described his activities as a cook for the “Arab Army of Liberation.”
Traubner described who Begovic had been serving: “35 Yugoslav Muslims who had a good reason to expect to be among the first to occupy and loot Tel Aviv, were part of a group of some thousands who came to the Middle East to join the jihad against Israel.”
What were Yugoslav Muslims doing in Jaffa in 1948? How had they managed to get themselves all the way to the Holy Land? What had motivated them? Who had recruited them? What was the Bosnian or Albanian connection to the Palestinians, if there was one?
There was a Bosnian connection: Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, had been in Bosnia in the 1940s. Had he recruited these men? What had become of them?
It turned out that in 2005 a Bosnian had given an interview in Lebanon to a Croatian newspaper and claimed to have fought in the 1948 war. The story began to crystallize.
The Long Shadow of Haj Amin
In October 1937, Haj Amin al-Husseini, mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Arab Higher Committee, was hiding from the British authorities in the Haram al-Sharif, the holy sanctuary atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. On October 13, disguised as a Beduin, he fled to Lebanon via Jaffa. In Lebanon he received sanctuary from the French mandatory authorities but he fled again with the outbreak of war in 1939. This time he made his way to Baghdad disguised as a woman. In Baghdad in 1940 and 1941 he increased his contacts with Germany, offering to aid the Nazis in return for their help in gaining independence for the Arab states. The Italians helped him enter Turkey, and then he made his way to Rome on October 11. He met with Mussolini and then with Hitler on November 28. After the failure of various schemes to create an Arab military unit he eventually settled for recruiting Muslim volunteers to aid the Nazis from the Balkans, Bosnia and eventually Kosovo.
In speaking to potential recruits, Husseini stressed the connections they had to the Muslim nation fighting the British throughout the world: “The hearts of all Muslims must today go out to our Islamic brothers in Bosnia, who are forced to endure a tragic fate. They are being persecuted by the Serbian and communist bandits, who receive support from England and the Soviet Union… They are being murdered, their possessions are robbed and their villages are burned. England and its allies bear a great accountability before history for mishandling and murdering Europe’s Muslims, just as they have done in the Arabic lands and in India.”
Three divisions of Muslim soldiers were recruited: The Waffen SS 13th Handschar (”Knife”) and the 23rd Kama (”Dagger”) and the 21st Skenderbeg. The Skenderbeg was an Albanian unit of around 4,000 men, and the Kama was composed of Muslims from Bosnia, containing 3,793 men at its peak. The Handschar was the largest unit, around 20,000 Bosnian Muslim volunteers. According to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “These Muslim volunteer units, called Handschar, were put in Waffen SS units, fought Yugoslav partisans in Bosnia and carried out police and security duties in Hungary. They participated in the massacre of civilians in Bosnia and volunteered to join in the hunt for Jews in Croatia.” Part of the division also escorted Hungarian Jews from the forced labor in mine in Bor on their way back to Hungary. The division was also employed against Serbs, who as Orthodox Christians were seen by the Bosnian Muslims as enemies.
The Handschar division surrendered to the British army on May 8, 1945. As many as 70,000 Bosnian Muslim POWs and their families were moved by the British army to Taranto in Italy. The creation of Marshal Tito’s Yugoslavia at the end of the war meant that former Bosnian Muslim volunteers in the German SS units could not return home for fear of prosecution or internment. George Lepre, a scholar on the history of the Handschar and author of Himmler’s Bosnian Division: The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943-1945 describes their fate: “Those Bosnians who elected to remain in the camps eventually found asylum in countries throughout the Western and Arab worlds. Many of those who settled in the Middle East later fought in Palestine against the new Israeli state.”
But first they had to get to the Middle East.
The formation of the Bosnian unit in 1947
The Bosnian Muslims, usually referred to as “Yugoslavs” in period newspaper accounts as well as in intelligence reports, remained in DP camps in Italy until 1947, when it was reported in The Palestine Post on April 18 that there was a “request from the Syrian government for the transfer of 8,000 Bosnian Moslem refugees at present in Italy. Yugoslav quarters here say that the Arab League has written to all Arab states, urging them to assist these Moslem DPs, and that some financial help has already been received. Yugoslav officials say that they too want these 8,000 Moslems back, as they are the Handschar Division of the German Wehrmacht which surrendered to the British… The Yugoslavs state that they view with the gravest concern the possibility of the transfer of this group to the Middle East.”
By December 1947 a nucleus of former Handschar officers had made their way to Syria and were beginning to reconstitute their unit in Damascus. A report by Israel Baer in the Post noted that “the latest recruits to the Syrian army are members of the Bosnian Waffen SS… It is reported that they are directing a school for commando tactics for the Syrian Army.”
No doubt the fledgling Syrian army which had been born in 1946 was in need of officers and trainers with experience. Emilio Traubner, writing on December 3, 1947, noted that the International Refugee Organization (IRO) was even convinced to fund the travel of Bosnian Muslims from Italy to the Middle East so that they could find homes since they refused to be repatriated to Yugoslavia.
In January 1948 Arab agents were working to recruit Bosnians for the fight in Palestine. On February 2, it was reported that 25 Bosnian Muslims had arrived in Beirut and were moving to Damascus to join 40 other Bosnians already there. A report by Jon Kimche on February 4 further noted that up to 3,500 were being transferred to Syria to fight alongside Fawzi Kaukji’s Arab Liberation Army (ALA) in its invasion of Palestine. On March 14 a party of 67 Albanians, 20 Yugoslavs and 21 Croats led by an Albanian named Derwish Bashaco arrived by boat in Beirut from Italy. They were hosted by the Palestine Arab Bureau and made their way to Damascus to join the ALA. In the first week of April another 200 Bosnians arrived in Beirut.
A lengthy report by Claire Neikind on March 2 described the procedure by which Arab agents were recruiting volunteers among the DPs in Italy. Men between 22 and 32 were sought and in return they would receive free passage to Beirut and their families would receive maintenance. According to Neikind, 300 men had already arrived and 90 Croatian Ustashi were also making there way. Fifty-seven were sent to Amman. Between December 1 and February 20 a total of 106 were sent to Syria. Neikind noted that “as soon as their families are settled, they enter Arab military service.”
If one accepts merely the low totals from newspaper accounts it appears that there were at least 520 Bosnians, 67 Albanians and 111 Croatians in Syria or Beirut, as well as 135 Bosnians on their way to Egypt and 57 Bosnians in Jordan. Thus 890 volunteers from Yugoslavia and Albania were in the Middle East by April 1948, before Israel’s declaration of independence on May 15, 1948.
Upon arrival the volunteers found their way to a camp at Katana, a military base west of Damascus that the Syrian army had provided for use by the Arab Liberation Army being assembled to invade Palestine. Here they met their commander, Fawzi Kaukji for the first time. Kaukji, 58, was a former Ottoman soldier who had fought in the Arab Revolt. Hagana intelligence estimated as many as 4,000 volunteers had joined his army.
In December of 2005, Hassan Haidar Diab, a journalist in Bosnia, was able to locate Kemal Rustomovic, a Bosnian who had served with the Yugoslav volunteers. He claimed to have been a member of the Arab Salvation Army where 150 of his fellow Bosnians served under a Bosnian officer named Fuad Sefkobegovic.
The Role of the Bosnians in the War of Independence
Since the fall of 1947 Arab forces under Abdel Khader Husseini and other locals had harassed Jewish traffic and supplies moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A mixed Bosnian-Arab unit of the ALA had been dispatched to aid in the siege of Jerusalem and this unit found itself embroiled in the battle for Castel between April 3 and 8, 1948. This battle was part of the Hagana’s Operation Nahshon which was intended to relieve the siege of Jerusalem. It is not clear what became of the Bosnians who fought at Castel. Some may have retired to Ramallah, where it was reported on April 16 that Muslim foreigners including Yugoslavs had taken over the best hotels and “molested” the local population.
The next battle that the Bosnian units participated in was at Jaffa between April 25 and May 5. Jaffa had been allotted to the Arab state in the UN partition plan, but it was surrounded by territory allotted to the Jewish state. The battle began when the Irgun launched an attack on the city. According to the Hagana, there were 400 “Yugoslavs” and 200 Iraqis defending Jaffa. On April 28, Michel Issa, the Christian Arab commander of the Ajnadin Battalion, received orders from Kaukji to move from the Jerusalem foothills to relieve the siege of Jaffa. On the same day, Hagana intelligence noted that there were 60 “Yugoslavs” among the defenders of Jaffa. Issa arrived in Jaffa on April 29 ; the commander of Jaffa, Maj. Adil Najmuddin, deserted the city on May 1, leaving Issa and his Yugoslavs. According to Issa’s telegram to Kaukji, “Adil left [the] city by sea with all [the] Iraqis and Yugoslavs.” Prior to their departure the Yugoslavs had been billeted at local homes and their unit even included a cook.
Kemal Rustomovic recalled in his interview that he had first been at Nablus, then Jaffa and finally at Jenin. Between the evacuation of the Yugoslavs by sea from Jaffa and their reunion with the ALA, the State of Israel was born on May 15, 1948. On the same day five Arab armies invaded Israel and the war became much wider.
The ALA became a disorganized and largely spent force by the time it saw fighting again around Nazareth again in July. During the fighting in the North, Kaukji’s army of 2,500 men was reduced to only 800 and it was driven from Nazareth into northern Galilee. Rustomovic was one of these men according to his interview. The Post reported that the ALA still included “Yugoslavs.” On July 18 the Post reported that the British government’s intelligence had acted to “systematically sabotage [the] Palestine partition scheme” and provided as evidence the fact that England was aware of the presence of Bosnian volunteers in Syria. [This briefly mentions how the Brits helped terrorize both Jews and Serbs.]
During the fighting in October the IDF conquered the entire Galilee and parts of Southern Lebanon. A report on November 1, detailing the capture of the Galilee, noted that some “Yugoslavs” had been captured during the fighting that had driven the ALA and the Lebanese army from Palestine and actually found the IDF in Lebanon.
The Bosnians and the 1948 war, strange bedfellows?
It is not known what became of the Bosnians who served with the Arab forces in the 1948 war. Rustomovic, who was born in the village of Kuti in central Bosnia in 1928, joined the Lebanese army in 1950. He served his adopted country for 30 years, married a local woman and had seven daughters and five sons with her. He was granted Lebanese citizenship, unlike the Palestine refugees who fled to Lebanon, and retired from the army in 1980. According to him, none of the Bosnians who had served in the SS ever returned to Yugoslavia. Some ended up in the US, Australia and Canada. It is assumed that some also settled in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East. Today many would be in their 80s and 90s and it is doubtful that many of them survive.
In the 1990s during the Balkan wars, Arabs would journey to the Balkans to participate in war between Bosnians and Serbs. In a strange twist they would be repaying the debt incurred when 900 or more Bosnian Muslims gave up their homes and past to come to the Middle East to serve the Muslim Arab cause. The involvement of these Bosnians may be seen as an early version of the linkage of Muslim conflicts throughout the world. This has gained increased exposure lately due to the involvement of foreign Muslim volunteers in the Algerian, Lebanese, Kashmiri, Sudanese and Afghani conflicts among others.
From “The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism by Chuck Morse:
The mufti was also a mentor to Yasser Arafat, who is believed to be Husseini’s nephew. Overlooked in the history books is the fact that about 100,000 European Muslims fought on the Nazi side in World War II. They included two Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS Divisions, an Albanian Waffen SS Division in Kosovo and Western Macedonia, the Waffengruppe der-SS Krim, formations consisting of Chechen Muslims from Chechnya, and other Muslim formations in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Bosnian Muslims, who were in the Croatian pro-Nazi Ustasha, were especially brutal toward the Christian Serbs. In 1943, a report on Ustasha activities stated:
“The Ustasha terror began in Mostar. The Ustashi, the majority of them local Mohammedans, are arresting, looking, and shipping off Serbs or killing them and throwing the bodies in the Neretva River. They are throwing Serbs alive into chasms and are burning whole families in their homes. Outside of Zagreb the strongest Ustasha hotbed is Sarajevo. The Muslims committed unbelievable barbarities for they murdered women and children even with scissors.”
As to the Bosnian wartime leader whom the U.S. threw its support behind, and for whom organized American Jewry lobbied for, here is a snippet about him from Srdja Trifkovic’s recent piece “Karadzic’s Arrest: Bosnian Myths Rehashed“:
Already as a young man during World War II, Izetbegovic was a member of the Young Muslims organization (Mladi Muslimani). His was a radical Islamic political organization inspired by the teaching of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Husseini, who toured the German-occupied Europe preaching that the Third Reich and the Muslim world had a natural community of interests that demanded personal commitment of every able-bodied Muslim. Izetbegovic’s ideas subsequently matured into a comprehensive, programmatic statement in the Islamic Declaration (1970), the document that led to his imprisonment by the communist authorities in 1983.
The Declaration became Izetbegovic’s de facto political platform. Reprinted in Sarajevo at a key moment in 1990, it startled the public. In the language familiar to the students of militant jihad everywhere, it called for Islamic moral and religious regeneration, and for the strengthening of different types of Islamic unity—up to, and including, armed struggle for the creation of an Islamic polity in countries where Muslims represent the majority of the population.
And from Andrew Bostom:
Mr. Izetbegovic was a youthful recruiter for Himmler’s Nazi Bosnian Muslim Handschar Division….Here are some of Izetbegovic’s “moderate” views, including his wish to destroy Israel (“occupied Palestine”), as expressed in this 1970 Islamic Declaration… “under the leadership of Zionists, started an action in Palestine which is not only inhumane and ruthless but also shortsighted and adventuresome. This politics takes in account only temporary ratio of power and forgets about overall ratio of power between Jews and Muslims in the world. This politics in Palestine is a provocation to all Muslims of the world. Jerusalem is not only a question of Palestinians, neither is it a question of Arabs only. It is a question of all the Muslim nations. To keep Jerusalem, the Jews would have to defeat Islam and the Muslims, and that — thank God — is outside their power.”
On the subject of the aforementioned Albanians, meanwhile, here is a short but interesting excerpt from the liberal Hamburg-based weekly “Die Zeit” by Theo Sommer, as translated for World Press Review in May, 1996: “A Balkan Intifada? The struggle for Serbia’s ‘Jerusalem’”
Literary historian Rexhep Qosja has emerged as a spokesman for the impatient. “This peaceful strategy is getting nowhere. It has achieved nothing. We have lost six years. The intifada, on the other hand, did get the Palestinians someplace.”
An intifada. That would be it, an answer to the view in Belgrade that Kosovo is “the Jerusalem of the Balkans.” Qosja explicitly rejects terrorism. But anyone speaking of an intifada cannot ignore Hamas.
Quid pro quo:
Similarly, for Bosnia we had:
Islamic Jihad official threatens to fight in Bosnia “again” (Excerpt from report by Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA)
Sarajevo, 19 March : A senior Islamic Jihad official, Ali Abu-Shahin, has said that members of this Palestinian militant organization will, if necessary, fight in Bosnia-Hercegovina [B-H] again.
In an interview for the Bosnian edition of Vecernji list, Abu-Shahin admitted that Islamic Jihad was directly involved in helping “our brothers Muslims in that country” since the start of the war in B-H.
“Apart from the financial help and weapons, we sent them fighters who with their lives gave the greatest contribution to that struggle. This is our pride, and if something like this is necessary again, we shall be available,” Abu-Shahin said. Vecernji list writes that he is in hiding and has strong security because he fears Israel’s revenge.
Abu-Shahin says this Palestinian faction is not surprised by the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which absolved Serbia of guilt for genocide in Srebrenica.
“Even during the war, our brothers who fought in B-H met Alija Izetbegovic [Bosnian Muslim war-time leader] and told him that these were not conflicts with Chetniks [derogatory name for Serbs], as it was said then, but that behind this was the international community which wanted to eradicate Muslims in Bosnia,” Abu-Shahin said.
He said that Islamic Jihad fears that the new pope, Benedict XVI, “sided with the oppressors whose only aim is to destroy Islam”.
Here is just one hint about Bosnia’s current course, and how Jews are regarded today. Here is another: Balkan Islamists Sponsored the Act of Terrorism in Israel. Related: Bosnian hospital treating injured Palestinian fighters and Bosnian-Palestinian Friendship Society
None of this, of course, stops Jewish newspapers from continuing to provide a platform for Bosnian (and Albanian) Muslims, as The Forward did in May when it gave space to former Bosnian foreign minister and UN ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey so he could persuade the readership that there were no mujahedeen in Bosnia.
But thinking people know better. In case they don’t, there is this Sky News video, as well as a documentary titled “Martyrs of Bosnia.” There is also this report about the mujahedeen that “weren’t” in Bosnia, as well as this former al Qaeda officer expressing his frustrations that Bosnian officials — much like the one the Forward gave space to — disagree when he tells them he was a terrorist and committed many crimes during the war. The mujahedeen who helped fight for Bosnian independence stayed on and were rewarded with their own towns once the towns were cleansed of Serbs. A more forthcoming Bosnian official here: News Flash: Bosnia Admits al Qaeda is in the House.
A post script on the Forward’s hackneyed history of anti-Serb bias, making it just another American Jewish newspaper that succumbed to Nazi-Croatian/Bosnian propaganda. From the letters page on June 10, 1994:
“Wrong Assessment of the Chetniks”
I read with interest “The Muse of Serbia” by Elizabeth Rubin, which was published in the Forward on March 11. I have found it very disturbing to realize that Ms. Rubin is not very well informed concerning the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is also terribly wrong in her assessment of the Chetniks as “bearded thugs…Nazi collaborators, rapists, looters and killers.” For your information:
1. The Serbian Chetnik guerrillas were the first resistance fighters in Europe in World War II against Nazi Germany.
2. The Chetniks rescued more than 500 American airmen shot down by Nazis and their friends, Croatians and Muslims.
3. The Chetnik leader, General Mihailovich, was awarded the Legion of Merit by President Truman and the American Congress on March 29, 1948 […] — Dejan Petkovich, Bayside, N.Y.
“Reviewing the Experience of the Serbs”
I look forward to the day when you shall give a few moments of critical review to the experiences of the Serbian people. In a piece by Elizabeth Rubin in the Spring Books section, the Forward, in glowing style, has all but labeled the Serbs and their nation as “Nazis”….How odd that a people who for centuries has had to endure oppression and annihilation has come to be the perpeterators of such crimes. How odd that the anthology that Ms. Rubin reviews, “Why Bosnia: Writings on the Balkan War,” reads more like a piece of propaganda from Goebbels than from actual accounts of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed it is strange that the anthology, edited by Rabia Ali and Lawrence Lifshultz, depicts no dead, no mutilated, no displaced, no missing or hungry Serbs. How amazing that an entire nation of people do nothing but murder and “cleanse” all day! Are those of us who know the Serb victims merely dreaming? Are we imagining that our families have disappeared or suffered greatly? Or is that just what you want us to believe?
If, indeed, this course of “historical” writing shall one day replace what we have come to expect from “scholarly,” objective accounts of the human experience, then I dread what we shall one day read about Jewish history, as told by our most dreaded enemies! I believe this is what we have come to label as “revisionism.” […] — Betsy Lalich, President, Jewish-Serbian Friendship Society of America, Chicago Chapter
Finally, a July 3, 1992 letter to the Forward, also by Ms. Lalich, reveals that the Forward had published a Croatian-American Judenrat:
It is with great sadness that I noted the Forward’s recent publication, in editorial-size form, of the letter from Margaret Casman-Vuko (May 1) and the letters from Katarina Mijatovic and Jason Feer (April 3). Ms. Casman-Vuko, described as “an American who has been a member of the Jewish community of Croatia for the past 20 years,” sounds to me to be a “good Croatian” indeed. She dismisses facts from numerous Jewish and non-Jewish sources and refers to “Serb-backed Yugoslavia” and “Serbian expansionist designs.” She exploits the sensitivity of Jewish readers in particular by citing the existence of “Serbian concentration camps” presently in operation and states that the Serbian people were partners with the Nazis in the Holocaust! She defends Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, who, in his recent book “Wastelands of Historical Reality,” diminishes and condones genocide, and even blames its victims for their fate! Finally, Ms. Casman-Vuko accuses the remaining Serbian enclaves, survivors of the Holocaust, of “aggression upon sovereign states.” She does not mention that several sources have accused these sovereign states of embarking upon their goal by first attempting to rid their population of “foreign” elements, i.e., Serbs. When the Jewish community first noted the neo-fascist character of Croatia and its allies, they blew the whistle. Croatia and its allies, specifically Germany, know they must never again tread upon Jewish lives or sensibilities. Because of this, they have sought to distort history and prey upon our good will. We are not so dumb.
Equally disturbing are letters from Ms. Mijatovic and Mr. Feer. Ms. Mijatovic accuses the Serbian people, citing obscure sources, of being “one of the most anti-Jewish” in the world. She freely refers to “Serbo-communists” and suggests that Serbs, not Croats, ran the death camps [of WWII]. She does not refer to Croatia’s foreign minister, Zvonimir Separovic, who has attributed the current Serbian-Croatian war to a “Jewish-Serbian conspiracy” (source: The Wiesenthal Center). Nor does she address other disturbing facts that the Wiesenthal Center has cited over the past year.
Mr. Feer, who has been reporting from Croatia, is doing an excellent job of presenting Croatian aspiration and know-how. We should all be pleased that “no evidence” of anti-Semitism is “widespread” in Croatia. And we should not wonder about the motivations of pouring “2 million German marks” into the Croatian-Jewish community.
Unfortunately, the American community, and to a lesser extent the Jewish community, has been unaware or in denial of the facts about Yugoslavia and its history, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It should not be distorted or forgotten. Remembrance does not mean war, unless peace is distorted and one-sided. One should examine the evidence detailed extensively from Jewish sources before judging the Serbs, who historically have been allies, both politically and culturally, of the Jewish people.