Shortly before leaving on his visit to Bosnia, Nebojsa Malic sent me the following piece that he also plans to blog about when he returns. Nebojsa wrote, “While most people are just now opening their eyes to the shock of modern democratic-fascist Croatia, an ‘I want to live under Sharia’ Brit defends his kindred spirit, the Ustasha:

Croatia has moved on from its fascist past
A few Nazi diehards should not obscure the fact that it is a tolerant, cosmopolitan nation, says Stephen Chan

Slavenka Drakulic’s article caused dismay in Croatia, especially among younger people who cannot recognise the country she describes as “showing the world only its pretty summer face but keeping its dubious values hidden” (Shadows in the sunshine, August 29). Drakulic claims that there is in Croatia a refusal to let its fascist past go - in 1941-45 the country was run by the pro-Nazi Ustashe - and asks whether this makes it unsuitable for EU membership.

But the past is not hidden. Everything Drakulic complains of is on the public record and, more importantly, debated. And her examples of reverence for Zvonko Busic, jailed in the US for pro-Croatian terrorism, and at the funeral of the war criminal Dinko Sakic need to be put into perspective. Busic was indeed “welcomed by pro-Ustashe supporters who hailed him with the traditional fascist salute”, but his terrorism was more than 32 years ago. Sakic was unrepentant, but no one has committed Nazi crimes of that sort since the second world war. A few diehards who remember their feats as glorious do not indict an entire nation.

Drakulic was persecuted and harassed under the rightwing nationalist government of Franjo Tudjman in the 1990s, and it seems she is still fighting these battles. But Croatia has changed since she left the country to live in Sweden. I have been visiting the country for a decade, after becoming the son-in-law of one of Croatia’s foremost dissidents, and the debates today are about the proper uses of law and the need to enter Europe.

The only contemporary example Drakulic raises to support her claims of a Croatia still in its Ustashe days is the pop singer Thompson - “whose audiences, dressed in clothes adorned with Ustashe symbols, habitually raise their hands in a fascist salute”. But, as Drakulic says, the Croatian president refused to attend a tennis tournament because Thompson was due to play in the same town; and although Drakulic says “some ministers attend Thompson’s concerts”, this summer the senior minister Jadranka Kosor pointedly told Thompson to grow up.

It’s true that there is a debate as to whether Thompson should be prosecuted and that, as Drakulic says, the Croatian Helsinki Committee defended his right to free expression. But that’s the debate that occurs in all EU countries: where to draw the line between free expression and hate speech.

Drakulic says Croatia still harbours the mentality that “fighters for the ‘national cause’ cannot by definition be criminals”. But not all such fighters were pro-Ustashe, and Croatia made a huge breakthrough against this mentality by surrendering Ante Gotovina to The Hague.

What Drakulic misses is the outpouring of a new, vibrant culture. Writers like Zoran Feric have a cosmopolitan wit and sense of absurdity. She misses the contributions of other dissidents from her era, like Vlado Gotovac and Vlado Primorac. She has not seen on the Zagreb streets the children of mixed marriages - Chinese, Indian, African - all of whom make Croatia more pluralistic. What Croatia needs to encourage and cement all this is not exclusion from Europe, but speedy integration.

· Stephen Chan is a professor of international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London

That’s right, Folks. While Croatian writer Drakulic has re-summoned her dissident courage to once again try to blow the whistle and out her people for the Nazis they are and the Nazis they aspire to once again be, it seems a Chinese Briton wants you to believe that all is well in democratic-Nazi Croatia, and it’s ready for the EU. As Nebojsa implied, coming from a Sharia-lovin’ Brit, that may be an even louder warning bell.

According to Mr. Chan, the EU is just the fix Croatia needs. He thinks that the EU will influence Croatian sensibilities rather than the other way around. Just like independence is the fix that the Kosovo gangsterland needs: in both cases, a stamp of approval for these Nazi and terrorist entities, respectively. Like I keep saying, when I first heard that Europe was re-unifying, I gave away all my Star of David necklaces, locked the door, turned out the lights, hid in the attic and started a diary.

Nor, no matter how much wishful thinking Mr. Chan engages in, is the Ustasha identity the domain of just a “few diehards”; it’s the only national identity Croatia has, and it’s fiercely guarded. Most passionately by the young — whom Mr. Chan claims don’t even “recognize” the country Ms. Drakulic writes of so negatively. Of course they don’t; they’re born and steeped into Croatian hyper-nationalism such that they don’t know that’s what it is or that there’s anything wrong with it. Look at these 20-something Croats in Chicago on a mission to chop down “Serbian Christmas trees.” These are young people whom you would think wouldn’t know they’re supposed to hate Serbs.

Here was just the most recent Nazi-honoring Croatian “incident.” There has been at least one per month since my January, 2007 article about the “Undead” ran and caused all that Croatian fury over being outed. Given the regularity of pro-Ustasha Croatian news reports — and that’s not even mentioning the Hitler sugar packets that were being used last year in a restaurant in Gospic — it’s pathetic that Chan would cite only the Thompson concerts for refutation, and the one minister who just this year told Thompson to “grow up” while other government ministers still enjoy his concerts — not to mention the clergy who do as well. Should we even get into the farce of a Holocaust memorial that the Croatian government came up with at Jasenovac? The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff pointed out, among other things, that not a single camp executioner is mentioned by name. And that has everything to do with the fact that, Nazis or not, these were people who helped secure the Independent State of Croatia and are therefore not condemnable. Here is an excerpt from my blog mentioning this, starting with a 1996 quote from John Ranz, Chairman of the Survivors of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, who wrote a letter to the New York Times explaining that Yugoslavia

“was never taken through the deNazification that the Allies required the Germans to undergo. For this reason, the enormity of the crimes of the Nazi-allied Ustashe and the Muslim Handzar are little known in the West. Ironically, with US help, Franjo Tudjman was able to accomplish last year what the Nazis and their World War II collaborators could not, namely the uprooting of the entire Serbian Krajina population…The World War II fascist regime of Ante Pavelic is being officially rehabilitated in Croatia today. Street and public buildings are being named after the architects of the Holocaust, Nazi-era currency revived, while the numbers and scope of the human carnage are being rewritten.” (Additionally, as Mr. Lapid wrote in the 1994 Jerusalem Post article cited above [see original post], “memorials to partisans who fought the Nazis [were] being razed [and] streets honor[ed] martyrs of the Nazi era.”)

This is very recent history, but clinging to anything that indicates Croatia is making amends for its dark past, several Croats have called my attention to a Jerusalem Post article about a US-based Jewish foundation that held a Holocaust seminar for Croatian teachers and lauded Croatia’s Righteous of WW2. But even this hopeful article is damning: “In the early 1990’s, when Croatia was run by nationalist President Franjo Tudjman, authorities often tried to justify crimes committed by its pro-Nazis and school textbooks often omitted or distorted some wartime events.

“The pro-Western governments that took power after Tudjman’s death in 1999 have openly condemned Nazism and fascism…The issue, however, remains sensitive, and some Croats still play down the wartime crimes. Helena Strugar, one of about 25 teachers at the seminar, acknowledged the treatment of the World War II in schools changed significantly since 2000.”

Does no one else find it disturbing that Croatia started trying to reject Nazism only in 2000? Just as telling, in a recent letter to the Baltimore Sun, press attaché for Croatia’s embassy to the United States Josip Babic called the notoriously sadistic death camp Jasenovac—in which Serbs and Jews were burned alive, among other things–an “internment” camp. He then went on to pride his country on its November opening of the permanent exhibition of the National Museum and Education Center at the Jasenovac Memorial Park.

But the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff was there. He said that, despite all the right words spoken at the opening, the exhibit “lacks materials or explanations about the development of the Ustasha ideology before the war–hatred against Serbs and anti-Semitism, which helped the spread of genocidal policy.” From his recent op-ed in the JTA:

“Also disturbing is the absence of any identification of the individuals responsible for the crimes described…The issue of personal responsibility is ostensibly covered by repeated references to “the Ustasha,” but if not a single Ustasha personally connected to the crimes at Jasenovac is named and not a single photograph of any of the camp commanders is exhibited, then the image is created as if no individual Croatians are actually guilty.

“In this regard, I was amazed that none of the speakers mentioned what is undoubtedly democratic Croatia’s greatest achievement in facing its Ustasha past — the prosecution and conviction of Jasenovac commander Dinko Šaki…Could it be that the punishment of such a criminal…is so unpopular, even in today’s Croatia, that he was not mentioned in the politicians’ speeches, nor does he appear anywhere in the historical exhibition?”

Croatia’s moral crimes of omission are not in dispute. As the AP reported, “The ceremonial opening…marks another step in Croatia acknowledging its vicious past after years of seeking to justify it.”

As for giving Gotovina over to the Hague, that was a grudging, reluctant and unpopular move by the government, whose eyes are fixated on securing EU membership — the motivator for all of the halting “progress” in Croatia today. Mugs, posters and other paraphernalia of this Croatian “hero” are readily available throughout the country. Mr. Chan is not wrong that this was a breakthrough for Croatia. Given what it took to get to this pathetic “breakthrough,” and how recent it was, isn’t it a bit…soon…to be speaking of Croatia’s readiness for the EU? Unless, of course, we’re building the same unified Europe we saw in the 1930s. And we are. Or Jews wouldn’t be fleeing like mad.

Lastly, to buttress Drakulic’s point about Croatia’s “summertime face” — meaning the hospitality that tourists and equally carefree Western leaders come back raving about with regard to Croatia’s famous Adriatic coast — here is part of a letter I got from a Croatian in Montenegro, nicknamed Kolja, in January 2007, after the appearance of my now famous Baltimore Sun article titled “When Will the World Confront the Undead of Croatia”:

The reaction your provocative articles caused from my fellow countrymen is for me expected and because of that not that funny…For me what is interesting is that if you visit Croatia for your vacation, after you return home you will (for sure) tell your friends stories about the same Croatians that are sending you hate mail right now to be the most hospitabile, polite and peaceful people on earth.

Earlier this year, proprietor of SerbBlog, Melana Pejakovich, pointed out that for the last 17 years, the media has been trying to tie Serbs to Nazism. “Yet…Croat teenagers can walk around with neo-Nazi garb hanging off them and export their hate-music worldwide, because they call this rabid neo-fascism “freedom” — and the know-nothing press defends them.” Congratulations, Professor Chan. You have joined the ranks of the know-nothing press.