Without permission, for fair
They Shared Our Fate
by Mr. Joseph Lapid,
a columnist and editorial
writer for "Ma'ariv" a leading Hebrew daily.
Published in: The Jerusalem
Post, February 4, 1994.
In his article "Astonishing Argument" (The
Jerusalem Post, January 23), Prof. Igor Primorac accuses me of taking remorselessly
pro-Serbian stand in the present Yugoslav conflict. He states my position
as follows: we Jews have a clear and irrevocable historical obligation
to the Serbs, to support them and give them all the sympathy we can - "no
matter what they might do".
As Jews, we do indeed
have a historical obligation to the Serbs, though we may not support
everything they do. In fact, we may not support many things they do, but
will feel obliged to stand by them. just as many diaspora Jews who disagree
with Israeli policies....
It is true, as Primorac states, that there
were Serbs who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, just as there
were Croatian and Bosnians who fought bravely against Hitler. But Primorac
also knows that the Serbs are one of
the very few philosemitic people in Europe; that a great majority
of them tried to help "their" Jews during the Nazi occupation and that
hundreds of thousands of Serbs were slaughtered, together with 30,000 Jews,
by Croatian Ustashi.
He also knows that Bosnian
Moslems enlisted, voluntarily, in the infamous Hanjar
SS division, whose flag was personally consecrated by the Mufti of
Jerusalem. In fact, they guarded the trains which transported their Jewish
neighbours from Sarajevo to Auschwitz.
Does this justify the wholesale slaughter
of the grandchildren of those who might have perpetrated such gruesome
acts? asks Primorac. Of course it doesn't. Nothing justifies the slaughter
of innocent civilians. But as Primorac well knows, the
present Croat leadership deliberately cultivates the spirit of the Nazi
head of the independent Croat state, Ante
The state symbols
of present day Croatia are identical
to the emblems of Nazi Croatia, as is its currency, the kuna. Memorials
to partisans who fought the Nazis are being razed, streets honoring martyrs
of the Nazi era are being renamed after people like Mile Budak, Minister
of Religion and Education in the Ustashi government, who introduced racial
laws in Nazi Croatia.
And then there is,
of course, the vituperative attack against the Jews in The
Wasteland of History, a book written by Croatian president Franjo Tudjman
and published in Zagreb in 1989. Most foreigners can read only the
expurgated English export version of the book, But Prof. Primorac and I
read the Serbo-Croat original, didn't we? and wasn't
it President Tudjman who openly said, in an election address: "I'm
happy that my wife is neither gypsy nor Jewish"?
So it isn't only the shadows of the past.
As for Alija Izetbegovic,
current president of the Bosnian Republic, his The
Islamic Declaration - a program for the islamization of the Moslem
peoples is a tract of which Khomeini could have been proud. He distinguishes
between good Jews and bad Jews, the latter being the Zionists, against
whom every devout Moslem should fight to his last breath. His present "moderation"
may bring him sympathies in the West, but can hardly mislead those who
recognize a Moslem fundamentalist when they
Apart from humanitarian considerations,
why should any Israeli in his right mind support his cause? One should
also state, if only in parenthesis, that while Serbs have obviously committed
many atrocities in Bosnia, Croats and Moslems have also had their share
in the slaughter.
The Yugoslav tragedy in the ironic outcome
of Germany's first postwar diplomatic venture into the Balkans. In the
late 1980s, Yugoslavia was on its way to becoming a confederation, with
its central authority weakened but viable. It was then that the
Germans, with a little help from Austria, decided to support the full independence
of the two federal republics which were closest to them historically, culturally,
religiously and economically: Croatia and Slovenia.
The Germans pulled along other Western nations,
without whose support neither the Croats nor the Slovenes would have dared
to sever their ties with Yugoslavia entirely. Suddenly, the balance between
the Serbs and the smaller nations of old Yugoslavia was askew.
The Bosnians and Macedonians felt threatened
by an overwhelming Serb majority within the remnants of Yugoslavia. Bosnia
was never independent and has never had the attributes of a separate national
entity. It was forced into independence by
German interventionism, Austrian opportunism, Croatian nationalism and
the fear of Serbian dominance.
The Bosnians didn't anticipate the violent
reaction of the Serbs. They should have known better; they should have
taken into account the collective memory of horrors the Serbs suffered
at the hands of Croats and Moslems in Nazi times.
identify with people who shared our fate. We understand them
when they say "never again," and act accordingly. We appreciate their motivations
and identify with their fears, without condoning their misdeeds.
Nazi Croatia ]
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Last revised: March 31, 1997