August 16th 2012 08:40:47 PM
First, let’s hear from a good freund, since there were some themes in Michael Freund’s Jerusalem Post article last week, “Serbia Lost and Found,” which bear emphasizing:
Imagine a country with a long and proud history that is regularly vilified by the international press. It faces mounting pressure to concede its ancient heartland and turn its back on a central part of its cultural and spiritual heritage.
Surrounded by numerous foes, in a region where ancient hatreds run deep, this diminutive but intrepid people perseveres, standing firm on principle rather than selling out its age-old patrimony.
Now, compare this simple, clear and most evident analogy to this one from 2010, by a brainwashed Jew who nonetheless is executive editor of Commentary Magazine:
“…About 90 percent of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians — secular Muslims — demographically overwhelmed in a region where they find themselves surrounded by tens of millions of ethnic Slavs. It’s a situation some Kosovars say resembles that of Israel, surrounded by hundreds millions of often-hostile Arabs.”
He was approvingly quoting some yenta from The Miami Herald, named Frieda Ghitis, whose most recent contribution to “thinking” was titled “In the Long Run, Arab Spring Might Help Israel.”
I doubt the two would agree on much of anything else, but a theme of American “thought” on the Balkans is “Geniuses and Idiots Agree.” From geniuses on the right to idiots on the left, and vice versa, it’s a matter of faith that Serbs are aggressors and Albanians deserve some of their land.
What’s more, according to Idiot (Ghitis) and Genius (Tobin) alike, “Kosovo’s new constitution affirms the nascent country has no designs on any more territory.” Try and wrap your mind around that one as you read the daily reports of Albanian terror in Macedonia and the statements by both Albanian and American officials that Greater Albania is a reality. But what we have is two Jews cheerleading the acquisition of a SECOND Albanian state — and an umpteenth Muslim one — while Jews are made to justify having just one. It takes a genius to do this. Or an idiot.
But back to our non-Balkans-brainwashed Jew:
From the start, the relationship between Serbs and Jews was shaped by a sense of humanity. In the 14th century, Jews fleeing persecution in Hungary found refuge in the Serbian kingdom.
And even after Serbia was defeated by the Ottoman Turks in 1389 and subsequently subjugated, the Serbs nonetheless welcomed Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were exiled from Iberia a century later.
The Serbian town of Zemun, on the outskirts of Belgrade, played an important role in the Zionist movement.
Rabbi Shlomo Alkalai, an early religious-Zionist visionary, preached there in the 19th century, and a Jewish couple grew up there whose grandson, Theodor Herzl, would later alter the course of Jewish history.
More recently, during the Holocaust, Jews and Serbs found themselves the targets of their Croatian fascist neighbors, the Ustashe, who…slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews and more than half a million Serbs in an orgy of violence and terror….That sense of shared suffering is one that Serbs continue to feel towards Jews, and it underlines their strong sense of solidarity with Israel and the challenges that it faces.
This underscores the theme of Serb non-anti-Semitism. Yet perversely, accusations of anti-Semitism is something that Serbs — rather than the deadly Croatian Catholics, or Husseini’s Bosnian Muslims or the Albanian heirs and descendants of “the Skanderbeg volunteer SS division raised by the Nazis [who] took part in the…deportation of [Kosovo’s] few hundred Jews” — are made to defend themselves from. (Meanwhile, did we catch that one factoid? The grandparents of the father of Israel were Serbian citizens. So the seed for the Jews’ return to the Holy Land was planted partly in Serbia. And yet shallow American Jews presume to take the Serbs’ Jerusalem away?)
Indeed, in [an] August 3 interview I conducted with Serbian Ambassador to Israel Zoran Basaraba, which appeared in The Jerusalem Post, he highlighted what he described as “a natural affinity” between Serbs and Jews. This affinity, he believes, can serve as the basis for further enhancing ties between the two peoples.
But in order for this to happen, I believe that Israel and world Jewry must move now to embrace Serbia and to stop viewing the country solely through the lens of the Bosnian war and the Kosovo conflict.
And why are Jews viewing Serbia through Muslim eyes?
…In the coming years…Serbia’s strategic and diplomatic importance will only continue to grow. And with militant Islam actively seeking a foothold in Europe – particularly in places such as Bosnia and Albania – Serbia will undoubtedly play an increasingly significant role on the front-lines of the war on terror.
Well, it tried to do that in the 90s, when it would have had more and lasting effect, but was violently and illegally prevented by the West, to worldwide cheering. Below is an excerpt from Freund’s interview with Ambassador Basaraba:
Freund (Q): The relations between Jews and Serbs stretch back for over 1,000 years and possibly even longer…
Amb. Basaraba (A): …I recently discovered that one of the first forests planted in Israel by [Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund] – I think it was the third one – was planted in honor of King Peter of Serbia…
…Q: The recent election of Tomislav Nikolic as Serbia’s president, and the likely formation of a new, more nationalist-oriented Serbian government have led some commentators to suggest that Serbia is moving away from its pro-Western stance [I WISH!] and perhaps turning eastward. Is there any truth to this assessment?
A: I do not think so. There are a few political commentators who suggest an artificial division, as though Serbia must tilt either toward Russia or the European Union. But I do not know that there is a need for tilting, as the two are absolutely compatible with each other. Serbia’s newly elected president campaigned on a platform of joining the European Union.
Q: How will the change in Serbia’s government affect its policy toward Israel?
A: I see no difference. The new government will feel equally close to Israel as did the previous one. From my personal experience, I can tell you that when I was leaving to take up my post, the previous president spent more than an hour with me, which is rather unusual because the farewell meeting after one’s appointment is mostly a matter of protocol or formality. But in this case he personally showed great interest in the subject of relations, and I have every reason to think it will continue in this manner.
Q: What do you think of the Western media’s portrayal of Serbia? Does it treat your country fairly?
A: Often not. Very often not. Even today, there are examples, after having been treated so badly over the past 20 years – and I am not saying that Serbs are perfect – but enough is enough. In Israel, however, this is not a problem. Generally the attitude is correct, and I am happy with the way we are treated here. But the Western media is still preoccupied with the stereotypes that were created.
Q: What are those stereotypes?
A: That the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s was a fight between good and evil. They did not have a deeper understanding of the roots of the conflicts, which were seeded many years ago. Serbs also had a legitimate story, and while they did not always pursue it in the most ethical and moral level, they nonetheless had a case, and that case was certainly not addressed properly by the West or the media.
Q: And why is that the case? Why do you think the media did not present Serbia’s side more accurately and more fairly?
A: In part I blame the Serbian attitude toward the media and the lack of understanding among some political elites of how the media world works. The modern world is not about truth – it is about perceptions. And perceptions can easily be manipulated. If you do not counter that in the most appropriate way, it is easy to become a victim. But my disappointment with the media continues to this very day – it is still not very fair. The recent election of the president has already fueled some flashbacks in that kind of reporting, even though there is no reason for it. There is nothing in the record of the electoral campaign or the issues that would support any of the claims that this marks a shift in Serbia.
Q: When you look back on the events in the Balkans over the past two decades, does Serbia have regrets?
A: Sure. Having established that Israel reminds me of Serbia, I often think maybe if there had been no war and no destruction, then maybe Serbia’s level of development could have been similar to what I see in Israel. We had a relatively good educational system which could have led to an advanced hi-tech sector. And we were strategically positioned to be in the right place when Eastern Europe opened up. So God knows what could have happened!
Certainly from that point of view, I feel lots of regrets. And of course I feel lots of regret for all those who lost their lives – most of them innocent – on all sides. There were of course symbolic events that immediately attracted the attention of the world, but which also distracted the attention from the fact that there were casualties on all sides of the conflict. So in that sense, I definitely feel sorry for everything that happened. And most reasonable people throughout the former Yugoslavia feel the same.
Q: Serbia borders two Muslim-majority states: Bosnia and Albania. Is there a danger of growing Islamic nationalism and extremism in the Balkans?
Yes. And Islamic extremism is not only across the border. It is also within the borders of Serbia, and it is a very sensitive issue. When you read some of the writings of the mightiest Islamic country in the region – Turkey – you get a sense of why it is of concern for Serbia. The Turkish foreign minister writes about tying Turkish identity to Muslims in Bosnia. He writes about Turkey getting a foothold in Europe, and that touches on Serbian interests. It is a fragile situation, and when you add Kosovo and Albania, it is a combustive mix…
Bosnia in the 1990s was what Afghanistan was in the 1980s – it allowed many unsavory characters to cut their teeth, to get training, to get access to international connections and to become radicalized. The first cadre of Islamic terrorists cut their teeth in Afghanistan, and the second wave did it in Bosnia. Many of the people who are today mentioned in one kind or another of illicit activity were involved with the Bosnian war. It was supported by the most extreme groups in terms of weapons and funding. So it was difficult to understand why the West played into their hands.
Q: Kosovo has been described as the cradle of Serbian civilization and as Serbia’s Jerusalem. Much of the world has been pressing Serbia to forgo Kosovo and allow it to become independent. Israel, too, has come under similar pressure to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem and turn these areas over to the Palestinians. Do you see any parallels between the situations, and does this make your country more sympathetic to Israel?
A: This requires diplomatic nuance [laughs]. The best answer was given by a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs study, which noted that there are many similarities in the approaches of the Palestinian Authority and Kosovar Albanian leaders. This includes delegitimization of the other side, strong PR efforts and trying to achieve something unilaterally within a given time frame.
Regarding Kosovo, the first Serbian state was formed there, and the presence of ancient churches proves the historical fact that we were there, that this was our cradle. And there are now some attempts in UNESCO to refer to these churches as Kosovo Byzantine rather than Serbian Byzantine churches. So there are many similar things. […]
Just a reminder of another special Freund article, from December 9, 2009:
Last week, hearings began at the International Court of Justice in The Hague which could prove to be of immense importance to Israel…
The question before the court is whether the province of Kosovo had the legal right to break away from Serbia…
[T]he right of self-determination is one that the Palestinians regularly invoke to justify their demand for statehood…Where this right begins, and ends, in international relations is of course hardly ever discussed. Indeed, just what exactly are its limits? For example, as a matter of principle, could residents of Brooklyn claim to be a unique nation with their own history, geography and even accent, and seek to break away from the US and form their own state? [Yes they could! And if they decide to, I’ll lend my support, citing the Kosovo precedent. The ICJ ended up ruling that ‘it’s for a state to decide if it’s a state.’]
It might sound silly, or even absurd, but where exactly does one draw the line? Perhaps Gazan Arabs can assert their uniqueness and distinction from their brethren in Judea and Samaria, and insist on separating from them as well….
That is what makes the court ruling on Kosovo potentially so significant….it could indirectly strengthen, or possibly even weaken, the Palestinian argument on this issue.
But even more compelling than all the legalities is the usual spectacle of duplicity that is on display, as various countries weigh in on the matter with what can only be described as a selective approach to self-determination.
France was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, and it has even opened an embassy in the province’s capital of Pristina. But in Paris’ own backyard, it has proven far less amenable to the idea of self-determination when it comes to either the Corsicans or Basques, many of whom would like to be free of French rule.
Apparently, not all “rights to self-determination” were created equal.
This, too, is another reason why Israel should be following events at the World Court closely. After all, we regularly take a battering from various countries who preach to us about the need to grant statehood to the Palestinians.
They stand on principle in lecturing us about Ramallah’s right to self-rule, even as they adopt wildly inconsistent positions….However briefly, the hearings at The Hague will cast a spotlight on the hypocrisy of their stance. It behooves us to take notice, and to remind our critics of it with unflinching frequency.
* Tobin falls into my “Otherwise Intelligent” category that befits most intelligent people when it comes to the Balkans (intelligent and informed on everything but that region). He also embodies the Balkans-amnesia phenomenon, wherein things that commentators knew once, they no longer know. For example, Ann Coulter — who in 1999 went after Clinton for his Kosovo war — by 2008 had absolutely “no opinion” on Kosovo independence. She couldn’t be bothered to make a connection between Clinton’s war and Kosovo independence. The cameras had moved on from Kosovo, and therefore so did she. It’s all about face time, after all.
In Tobin’s case, after reading his 2010 garbage, I was stunned to find this article by him from May 28, 1999, not least of all by its opening, which in the end applies to him as well:
ONE OF THE SYMPTOMS of concussions is short-term memory loss.
People who get their brains rattled around often suffer from a temporary inability to remember recent events. I wonder whether the same is true for a country. Perhaps. Even though it is the Kosovars and the Serbs and pointedly not Americans who are getting knocked around in the war that has entered its third month, most of those reporting and commenting on the war are acting as if they’ve forgotten a great deal of recent history.
Am I the only one to notice that the war in Kosovo has created some interesting paradoxes that have gone largely unnoticed?
…a recent letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent by a Jewish military chaplain…said that so long as Jews were staying away from military service, they should not be so forward about supporting a war in which their own children would not die.
The writer was wrong to single out Jews, since there are few volunteers for the service these days….But it should remind the hawks among us that somebody will have to pay for their rhetoric in blood.
The fact is, as was the case with Bosnia, the Jewish community is out in front on this issue. The cause of a new land war in the Balkans for the sake of the rights of the Kosovar Albanians has united some strange bedfellows as was illustrated by a much talked about advertisement in the New York Times on May 13. The ad was signed by a wide array of Jewish pundits, wonks and organizational types. When reliable conservative Jews like former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz and Weekly Standard publisher William Kristol join forces with certified liberals like Rabbi David Saperstein and Henry Siegman on behalf of a war, you know something is afoot. But when you throw in writers like Saul Bellow and left-wingers such as Tikkun’s Michael Lerner, something very strange is happening.
As the moment grows closer when American men and women may be sent into the Balkans to fight the Serbs and liberate the Kosovo Albanians (if indeed that is really our goal, since so far the war has done nothing to help the Kosovars except increase their suffering), it is time to think about who is pushing for a ground war.
At the top of the list is, of course, President Clinton, whose own selective service record is well known….his selective intervention in the Kosovo case while still indifferent to other human rights causes undermines his case.
Looking further down the political food chain, I was struck by a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about one of the leaders of the pro-war movement in the House of Representatives, Freshman Democrat, Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel III of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
In the piece titled “Vietnam War Dove Turns Into a Hawk” (May 9), Hoeffel, 48, spoke about his own active opposition to the Vietnam War. He also said it was wrong for Clinton to rule out a ground war in the Balkans. I heard him say the same thing when he addressed a recent Philadelphia meeting of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Yet, instead of getting roasted for being the 1999 model of the chicken hawk, Hoeffel has received raves. I find that curious. But more than that, I was disturbed by the capsule history of the Vietnam War that Hoeffel gave the Inquirer and his comparison of it to Kosovo, which he sees as a human-rights war.
“In my view, Vietnam was essentially a civil war driven by nationalistic forces,” Hoeffel told the Inquirer.
“We perceived a Communist threat to our national security. I don’t think that threat ever existed.” He went on to compare NATO’s war in Kosovo to “our fight against fascism in World War II.”
Hoeffel’s distorted view of both Kosovo and communism is breathtaking. If the battle between ethnic Albanians and Serbs over Kosovo isn’t “essentially a civil war driven by nationalistic forces,” then how would he describe it? Does he really think the Kosovo Liberation Army (which many of his fellow hawks want to arm) is any more attractive an ally than the government of South Vietnam? And was communism really never a threat?
And if human rights and the plight of refugees are what drives him to push for war in Kosovo, how does he view the millions of refugees that were created by America’s defeat in Vietnam? Have the “boat people” who desperately sought to escape life in a communist Vietnam with its “re-education camps” been totally forgotten?
Though the media has rightly concentrated on the plight of the Albanian refugees from Serb barbarism [sic], I also find it interesting how little interest there is in the human costs of America’s bombing campaign. A lot of innocent people are getting killed in this war by our bombs….If our cause is just, then these casualties are an unavoidable cost of war. But few Americans seem concerned about our forces’ deliberate attack on civilian targets in Belgrade.
I was particularly struck by the mention of the dropping of American cluster bombs on a village where dozens of Albanian civilians were killed. Doesn’t anyone remember the furor that was caused by Israel’s use of cluster bombs in the 1982 Lebanon war? At the time, it was treated by the press and international opinion as further proof of Israeli “war crimes,” without taking into account the context of the attacks on Israel or the use of civilian shields by the Palestinians.
And does anyone remember how outraged the world was by the Israeli Air Force’s attempt to turn out the lights in Beirut and cut off its water supply? Isn’t that exactly what NATO is doing to Belgrade? Which means that either NATO’s tactics in this bizarre war deserve closer scrutiny or Israel deserves an apology for the abuse it took.
Come to think of it, maybe the answer ought to be yes on both counts.