International Piracy in Kosovo
Raphael Israeli
Jerusalem Post, March 26, 1999

Imagine an increasing Mexican population in southern California, or a growing Arab community in southern France, which would declare its will to secede from the American or the French heartland, and would use violence and terror to achieve its goal.

Would Mexico or Algeria be entitled to bomb Los Angeles or Marseille in support of the dissidents’ claim for independence? If they did, the civilized world would be unanimous in condemning this as an act of international piracy.

This is more or less what is happening in Kosovo today. The Serbs have considered Kosovo the cradle of their culture and ethnic identity, and as the stage where their history has unfolded, since the fourteenth century. Over the past decades, due to poverty and misery in neighboring Albania, tens of thousands of (mostly illegal) migrants have infiltrated into Kosovo to seek new opportunities. This is not unlike the process of illegal migration from Mexico to the southwestern states of the U.S., or from North Africa to France.

And yet, those same countries which would not allow an illegal immigrant population to secede politically while tearing away part of the national turf, stand at the forefront of the western effort today not only to deligitmize the legitimate Serbian endeavor to protect its national territory, but use force to achieve that morally and politically questionable goal.

NATO is not bombarding Yugoslavia because Serbia rejects peace in Kosovo, but because the West backs the Albanians’ demand for self-determination at the expense of their hosts, and insists on the presence of an international force on the sovereign territory under Belgrade’s lawful jurisdiction. This is something the proud Serbs reject, exactly as Washington and Paris would oppose any interference of outsiders in their internal matters.

True, there is the moral question of atrocities, and the international obligation to avert them. But, in addition to the proven inefficacy of the Western threats in this regard, there is also the factual question of presenting a true and balanced picture to the world.

The atrocities did not begin with the Serbs. They have an interest in maintaining peace and quiet in Kosovo, if only to ensure the livelihood of the Serb minority there.

Once the Albanians back up their demand for independence with violence and terror, what are the Serbs supposed to do? Bow out and withdraw from their sovereign territory? Under conditions of guerilla warfare, atrocities are bound to happen, on both sides, gory and inexcusable as they be.

If this new form of international piracy is allowed to continue, more foci of unrest will arise at the heart of the West. Instead of focusing the struggle against the the rising threat of fundamentalist Islam (in which the Serbs have stood in the forefront, first in Bosnia and now in Kosovo), the West will make a grave error if it weakened itself in this exercise of self-immolation that is hard to understand, much less to condone.

The writer is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Truman Research Institute.