To the Letters Editor
26 September 1994
45, East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016
Ms. Elizabeth Rubin did a disservice to both the position of Jews in Serbia and to informed and unbiased reporting by presenting a distorted picture of the attitude of Serbs toward the Jews and the feelings of majority of local Jews for their Serbian compatriots.( Forward of August 5, 1994)
In her report from Belgrade ( In War-Torn Yugoslavia ) Ms. Rubin treats with overt irony the "Serb's publicly proclaimed philo-Semitisme" and "the story of the romance between two persecuted but defiant peoples". She alleged an equally strong Serbian anti-Semitisme, which does not correspond to the present and past position of Jews in Serbia.
If before departing to Belgrade Ms. Rubin consulted the Jewish Encyclopedia (Jerusalem 1971) she would find on page 874 the assessment that after the establishment of Yugoslavia in 1918 anti-Semitic sentiments really originated in Croatia and Slavonia and that in Serbia "the Karageorgevich dynasty and the Orthodox church evinced favourable attitude toward the Jews".
This tradition of Serbian good disposition towards the Jews, nurtured over the whole last century, was not reversed during the Second World War as Ms. Rubin wants to make us believe. As a proof she offers the fact that Serbia under the German occupation had also its quisling government. She omitted to state that this government was not responsible for the anti-Jewish policy decided and carried out by the Germans.
She cites as an additional proof that Belgrade was declared one of the first Judenfrei cities in Europe, but fails to note that the Germans, not the Serbs, cleansed occupied Serbia of Jews. A German commander in occupied Belgrade, SS-Gruppenfuhrer Harold Turner, and not the head of the Serbian governed, boasted as early as summer 1942 that Belgrade was made Judenfrei.
If before departing to Yugoslavia Ms. Rubin had also read the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Collier Macmillan, London 1990) she would probably abstained from insinuating that the Serb were also guilty for the destruction of 87% of Serbian Jews. She would have learnt about the brave resistance of the Serbs to the Nazis and the high price they paid for it and which precipatated the distruction of local Jews. A rebellion broke out in Serbia in summer 1941, three month aftert the German invasion, and the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust described the brutal German terror tactics which consisted in burning down villages and executing 100 Serb hostages for each German soldier killed. In these reprisals the firing squads of the German army executed all the Jewish male population as Serbian hostages and tens of thousand of anti-German Serbs.
While Ms. Rubin projected the present vilification of the whole Serbian nation to the past, we the surviving Jews of Serbia have for them respect and understanding. We know that the basic motive of their recent rebellion in secessionist Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina were their distrust and deep apprehension after they have been slaughtered in the Nazi era by the Croat Ustashas and Muslim SS... We know that... the Croat and Muslim secessions, encouraged and supported by united Germany, Vatican and the hawkish faction of the American establishment, are very much guilty for the Yugoslav tragedy. And in these feelings and attitude we are no exception among the informed Jews.
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Israeli Knesset Mr. Uri Or, who headed a parliamentary delegation to Serbia and Montenegro in July 1994, upon return said that the Serbs had for ever won a place in the hearts of the Jews for the part they had played in World War II. Speaking to the Israeli Radio he said that Israel will not be promoting relations with Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia before sanctions against Yugoslavia have been removed. Mr. Or reminded that unlike the Serbs, the Croats sided with Nazis and Bosnian Muslims with the notorious Mufti Hadji Amin el Huseeini of Jerusalem who opted for Hitler Germany.
Ms. Rubin is wrong in alleging that "the international Jewish organizations" came strongly against Serbian policies in Bosnia. Such a statement represents an unfounded generalisation. The World Jewish Congress or the European Jewish Congress did not came out with anti-Serbian declarations. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the corresponding French CRIF did not adhere to the "bomb the Serbs" lobby. In fact only the leaders of American major Jewish organisation came out against the Serbs not expressing an agreed American policy in former Yugoslavia, but exerting a strong pressure on president Clinton to engage the US in overt interventionist policy.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) adopted in April 1993 a resolution advocating lifting of the arm-embargo on the Muslims in Bosnia, hitting the Serbs from the air and tightening sanctions against Serbia. Thirteen major national and 117 regional Jewish organizations in America signed such a resolution which amounted to an unprecedented Jewish interference in a foreign civil war with strong religious connotations. The NJCRAC and affiliate organizations voted a similar resolution on Bosnia in February 1994.
Adverse consequences of such a side-taking in an alien ethnic war have already been noticed in Serbia. It is not the government, or the Christian Orthodox Church or the broad public who retaliated against the local Jews. In order to prevent possible outbreaks of anti-Semitisme, the Serbian patriarch Pavle paid recently a visit to the Belgrade Jewish Community for the first time in history. However, the anti-Serbian campaign of the leaders of major American Jewish organization was used by the minority extreme anti-Semitic groups and individuals to come into the open. Anti-Semitic articles started appearing with frequency and the "Protocols of the Elder of Zion" were published in Belgrade.
That was not the first time since the end of the WW II that the Protocols were published as Ms. Rubin wrongly informed your readers. The infamous anti-Semitic pamphlet was published already in the mid eighties and was then banned by the Supreme Court of Serbia. They reappeared now, a decade later, after an anti-Serbian campaign was launched by the leaders of the major Jewish organizations in America.
Perhaps some leaders of American Jews believe that they should not bother much about 3,000 surviving Jews in Serbia if some major Jewish interests are served by advocating the supply of arms to the Bosnian Muslims and stern measures against Serbia. One wanders which Jewish interests can be served by it when the Bosnian Muslims are openly receiving arms and money from many Islamic countries, including Iran named by president Clinton as "the world leading sponsor of terrorist activity" and accused of having instigated the terrorist campaign against Jewish and Israel targets in Buenos Aires and London.
In Spring 1994 the Iranian minister for foreign affairs visited Sarajevo and handed an one million dollars check to the Muslim government, which was acclaimed by the Bosnian president Izetbegovic with the following words: "What would we do without Iran". Iran has supplied to Bosnia between 350 and 400 Revolutionary Guards, according to "Washington Times" ( Iranian Weapons Sent via Croatia, June 24, 1994) "The Economist" from London stated on June 30, 1994 that "the pan-Islamic movement, in which Hassan Tourabi of Sudan plays a leading role, is spreading increasingly into Europe, especially into ex-Yugoslavia, where fundamentalist fighters, many trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are helping the Bosnian Muslims". Why on earth should the leaders of American Jewish organizations simultaneously give a helping hand to the Bosnian Muslims whose leader Izetbegovic is definitely a fundamentalist (see his Islamic Declaration).
Instead of sending from Belgrade well researched and balanced reports which may had induced the Jewish leaders in America to start questioning their policies in ex-Yugoslavia Ms Rubin opted for the simplistic anti-Serbian stance ignoring all its wider negative implications. The Serbs do not stand alone in the Christian Orthodox world to which they belong. They have the support of the Russian parliament which passed already twice resolutions in their favour with almost no vote against. The Russian Patriarch Alexey participated on June 30, 1994 in Belgrade in the commemoration of a Serbian saint whose remains were desecrated by the Turks 400 years ago...
Can the Jewish interests really be served by taking sides in a religious and ethnic war in the Balkans?!
The danger of succumbing to orchestrated global anti-Serb propaganda promoted by vested interests in world power politics is great, as Yohanan Ramati, the director of the Jerusalem Institute for Western defense, pointed out in the following statement:
"The organized anti-Serb and pro-Muslim propaganda should cause anyone believing in democracy and free speech serious concern."
Former Deputy President, Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia,
Member of the Board, Belgrade Chapter of Holocaust Survivors
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Last revised: March 4, 2003