Efforts to promote Kosovo-Jewish affinity continued this month with the following article in The Forward, a newspaper I was once proud to write for while a budding writer in the mid-90s. In the same section where long ago I wrote such innocent pieces as “Letter from Baltimore” (comparing Russian-immigrant waves in my hometown), I’m sickened to see the same pages now predictably succumbing to the epidemic infection of Albanian propaganda, whose tentacles leave no Jewish publication’s pages unturned.

Last month, in my piece “Twin Evils Consummated,” I described the scene of Pristina honoring a WWII Jewish cemetery and Albanian helpers of Jews, while pointing out the politically motivated focus on specifically Kosovo Albanians in this regard. And I pointed out how Stephen Suleyman Schwartz seized on and disseminated it. The Forward is no stranger to being suckers for Albanians, and here the Jewish paper is helping Washington and Brussels promote the myth of multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Kosovo. Right on schedule. Oh, and of course going to Schwartz for a quote. From writer Liam Hoare, whom we’ve encountered before:

In Kosovo’s Tiny ‘Jerusalem,’ a Struggle To Sustain Jewish Life in Corner of Balkans
Letter From Prizren

By Liam Hoare
Published July 02, 2013, issue of July 05, 2013.
Contact Liam Hoare at feedback@forward.com

…In his office, [Votim] Demiri, president of the Jewish community in Kosovo, proudly showed off photographs of his family meeting leaders, including Israeli President Shimon Peres…The JDC has done extensive work in this breakaway former province of Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008.

Demiri’s house — “the Jewish house,” as he referred to it — forms one point of a triangle in his neighborhood with two Islamic holy places. Later, he took me into the historic center of Prizren, situated around an old stone bridge spanning the Prizrenska Bistrica. He noted that the Sinan Pasha Mosque sits within walking distance of a Serb Orthodox Church and a Catholic school.

“This is our Jerusalem,” he said.

Prizren is more like Jerusalem than one might think, for better and worse. As Demiri boasts, the city 40 miles south of the capital Pristina has a polyglot of ethnicities, including Albanians of various Muslim denominations, Catholics — and a grand total of 56 Jews.

“Albanian Sunnis, Sunni Sufis, Catholics and Jews enjoy a warm sense of common municipal identity in Prizren,” said Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington.

[Anyone missing from that “warm” list? Perhaps Schwartz’s reviled Orthodox Serbs? You know, that group whom Kosovo gave birth to?]

…Although it was spared the worst of the excesses of the Kosovo War, Serb forces did systemically clear some Albanian areas of the city. [”Systematically” cleared “some” doesn’t exactly sound systematic.] Albanians drove out most of the small Serb community after winning a tentative victory in 1999, and forced almost all the rest to leave in a round of riots in 2004.

“While the town is lovely, animated and hospitable,” Schwartz said, “Albanians and Serbs do not get along there.” [Ah, there’s the mention.]

It is within this uneasy admixture that virtually all of Kosovo’s Jews live. The tiny community has “not been a significant presence in public life for a long time,” Noel Malcolm, senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, explained to the Forward. The community has shrunk significantly, even from the 360 or so who survived World War II and the Holocaust.

[And The Forward left every stone unturned in whom it sought out for expertise: Schwartz, and the other official propagandist of the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, Noel Malcolm, who disseminated the official image of wartime Bosnian president Izetbegovic as a democrat rather than the fundamentalist Muslim he announced himself to be, and accused those who took Izetbegovic at his word of being the propagandists.]

And yet in Prizren and Kosovo as a whole, the community’s very existence is valuable because it serves as a powerful example to Europe and the world of how a Jewish minority can survive among Muslims.

[And that’s become the whole point of our Kosovo exercise. But yes, let this aberration — itself a sad commentary — be the guiding rule that Jews can live unharmed among Muslims; I’m so inspired that I’m ready to move to Egypt.]

They enjoy “a real history of positive coexistence and mutual acceptance in what was a predominantly Muslim society,” Malcolm said.

[Now, insert the flattering half of Albanian WWII history]:

This remarkable coexistence was forged in the horror of the Shoah. In April 1941, Kosovo was annexed to Italian-controlled Albania. By September 1943, both territories were under German occupation. [”Liberation,” if you asked the Albanians.] Throughout this period, including the attempt to turn over Jews to Nazi authorities en masse, Albanians refused to cooperate, hiding Jews in their homes, providing them with food and clothing, and giving them Muslim names and fake documentation. In Kosovo, 258 Jews were deported to Bergen-Belsen, 92 of whom perished. But more than 2,000 Jews were saved throughout Albania and Kosovo.

[Now, insert the Albanian blood code in its more positive application]:

One key to understanding the heroism of Albanians is knowing that they were guided in part by besa, an ancient and folkish honor code stipulating that one must provide protection to any person who sets foot on one’s property, even to the point of laying down one’s life.

Schwartz adds that it also reflects “an absence of anti-Jewish prejudice in Albanian society,” related to the “cultural memory” of the tolerated place of Jews within Ottoman society, and to the fact that Jews played a historic role in the Albanian national movement.

[Jews always like to play an important role in movements that get them kicked out of wherever they’re “helping.”]

The struggle to sustain Jewish life has not halted attempts by Kosovo’s Jews and Jewish charities to carry on the spirit of intercommunity cooperation. Between 1999 and 2006, the JDC was active in Kosovo, engaging in nonsectarian projects that benefited the local Albanian population. Perhaps the most significant of these, at least symbolically, was the reconstruction of a mosque in Shqiponja, a hill village in the west of Kosovo.

[Delightful. Jewish organizations joined in on helping the victorious side — which also happens to be the Muslim side — and not the besieged losing side, the Christians among whom the Jews also had lived peacefully, with fewer problematic caveats.]

During Milošević’s onslaught against Kosovo, Shqiponja’s mosque was one of 200 or so such places of worship damaged, desecrated or destroyed by Serbian forces. Working alongside Kosovo’s Islamic and Catholic communities, the JDC [Jewish Dummy Committee] helped finance the…rebuilding of the golden-hued domes and a single minaret.


…Periodically, the JDC also makes sure the children are able to partake in Jewish summer camps organized for all the youth in the former Yugoslavia, held in Pirovac, Croatia.

Ah, the lands of Albania and Croatia. Together in the same breath, yet again. Well, I suppose the JDC wouldn’t want to be politically incorrect by holding the Jewish camp in the non-Axis part of the region, Serbia.