Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Remembering the Bosnian Genocide

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Review of Hikmet Karcic (ed.), Remembering the Bosnian Genocide: Justice, Memory and Denial, Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks, Sarajevo, 2016, 350 pp.

Hikmet Karcic, who this month defended his PhD at the International University of Sarajevo, combines an intellectual seriousness in his research into the Bosnian genocide with a readiness to engage with the painful essence of the topic in a way that is all too rare. He is not one to rest content with safe platitudes about reconciliation, memory, civic values and the like that often seem to substitute for such an engagement. His readiness to rock the boat was apparent when his exhibit on the Srebrenica genocide, due to be shown at the European Parliament this month, was cancelled by the latter for displaying ‘too many skulls and bones’. For all that the Srebrenica genocide is now commemorated and recognised in Europe, elements of the EU establishment clearly do not like to see their sleek corporate veneer tarnished by a display concerning it that is too frank and prominent. Subsuming the story of the Srebrenica and wider Bosnian genocide within a ‘progressive’ democratic European narrative remains difficult to achieve, given the extent to which ‘progressive’ democratic Europe was implicated in the genocide

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The current volume of essays arose out of an conference organised by the Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks and held in Sarajevo in 2015 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Karcic has managed to assemble a collection of texts covering a range of themes related to the genocide – trials and courts, remembrance and memory and destruction of denial – that are generally of a high scholarly level and likewise pull few punches. In particular, Sandra Cvikic and Drazen Zivic have contributed a withering critique of the form of ‘transitional justice’ promoted by the international community and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), whereby the genuine trauma and memory of the genocide among communities in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia are expected to be suppressed in the name of ‘reconciliation’ and a blander, value-neutral form of memory that tends in the direction of equalising the guilt and suffering of the parties to the conflict and their respective populations. Similarly, former ICTY investigator Nena Tromp provides an account of the tribunal’s pragmatic compromises in the pursuit of truth and justice, in particular with regard to its failure to compel Serbia to hand over the uncensored minutes of the Supreme Defence Council; Tromp’s account is as well informed as one would expect given its author’s expertise, but also very critical of the tribunal’s policies. Norman Cigar’s critique of the US military’s contribution to the Bosnian catastrophe, in the form of its exaggerated estimates of the Bosnian Serb armed forces’ capacity to resist militarily and consequent bad advice to the Clinton Administration, provides an excellent antidote to cliches of US hawkishness, militarism and imperialism.

There are too many more good essays and individual points contained in this volume to list them all, but just to give an example of the range, there is an essay by Safet Bandzovic on the abuse of Bosniak refugees from Srebrenica and Zepa in Serbia during the war – a sideshow to the genocide that has had little attention paid to it – and an essay by Alexandra Lily Kather on the international law regarding genocide that serves as a very good introduction to the subject. I am just sorry that Karcic was apparently unable to prevail upon the always interesting Geoffrey Nice to contribute a fully referenced academic article; his contribution here consists of a rather tantalising list of numbered points.

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Hikmet Karcic

There is, however, one criticism to be made of this collection of essays that transcends any single article, and it applies to many other similar collections relating to the war in the former Yugoslavia: various cliches have crept into several of the texts that should rightfully be dispensed with. Thus, John Weiss claims that in the Communist era in Yugoslavia, ‘The popular memories of the battles of World War II that set Partisan against Chetnik or White Guard, Ustashe against Serb or Jew,  Handzar against Chetnik or Jew, and Yugoslavs against Russian were not allowed expression in the public sphere’ (p. 114). It was certainly a grievance of the Serb nationalists in the 1980s and 1990s that the memory of the Ustasha genocide against Serbs and Jews was supposedly suppressed, but it was not a legitimate one; the genocide was commemorated very publicly, for example in the memorial parks at Jasenovac and at Vraca in Sarajevo, while the Partisan battle against the Chetniks at Neretva in 1943 was depicted in the famous 1969 film ‘Battle of the Neretva’ starring, among others, Yul Brynner and Orson Welles; a more high profile commemoration could barely be imagined. Weiss also argues, in relation to comparisons between the Bosnian genocide and the Holocaust, that ‘As a tocsin to assemble and stir up the righteous, then, “Never again !” retains power, perhaps even more power than it had before the 1970s. But as analytic framework or policy guide, it has to be judged often misleading and occasionally dangerous’ (pp. 122-123). This seems to be an unwarranted concession to the ‘all sides are guilty’ attitude that dominated UN and international community thinking during the 1990s conflict, yet it was the latter, not the ‘Never again !’ position of pro-Bosnia activists, that resulted in the catastrophic international policy that culminated in the Srebrenica massacre.

Bandzovic notes without criticism the view that ‘Everything that happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the Bosniaks between 1992 and 1995 can be observed, according to a number of Serbian politicians and academics, as the continuity and completion of a process that began in 1804. Earlier events included Karadjordje’s uprising against the Ottoman government in the Smederevo Sanjak, the establishment and expansion of the Serbian state, as well as the disappearance of Muslims from this territory’ (pp. 224-225). Such a teleological, essentialising attitude toward Serb nationhood and nationalism as intrinsically genocidal has predominated among some of their critics, but it isn’t warranted: Serb national politics was historically at least as ready to co-opt the Bosniaks as it was to exterminate them, as witnessed in Ilija Garasanin’s 1844 ‘plan’, the readiness of the Serbian government in the 1850s and 1860s to recognised the land-rights of the Bosnian Muslim landlords, the Serbian Army’s generally correct treatment of the Muslim population of the Sandzak during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the 1921 Vidovdan constitution’s recognition of Bosnia-Hercegovina’s historic provinces within the the new Yugoslav state, Milan Stojadinovic’s partnership with the Yugoslav Muslim Organisation in governing Yugoslavia in 1935-1939, and so on. Treating the genocide of the 1990s as simply the logical culmination of Serbian history detracts from the specific responsibility of the Milosevic and Karadzic regimes for organising and launching it.

Samuel Totten’s recommendation, that there be established two major museums and research centres on the Srebrenica genocide (pp. 87-88) seems to follow the trend of over-emphasising the latter to the point where it overshadows the rest of the Bosnian genocide, treating the 1995 massacre as if it were something of an aberration. In fact, as Edina Becirevic’s research has shown, the Srebrenica massacre was the culmination of the genocidal policy begun in the preceding years, and followed on logically from the massacres of 1992 and the siege of Srebrenica of 1992-1995. Since the German courts found, in the Nikola Jorgic case, that genocide had already taken place in Bosnia outside of Srebrenica in 1992, and since the European Court of Human Rights upheld the legitimacy of this conclusion under international law, there is no need to commemorate the Bosnian genocide as if it only occurred in Srebrenica in 1995.

All told, this is an excellent collection of articles that will be of interest to the newcomer to the subject and to the expert alike. But it highlights the fact that there is still more to do in challenging the stereotypes.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, European Union, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Marko Attila Hoare, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Irish racism and Britain’s legalisation of abortion

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As is widely known, abortion was legalised in practice in Great Britain by the Abortion Act of 1967, passed as the result of a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Liberal MP David Steel. Steel had been persuaded to do so by the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) and, in a 2007 interview with The Guardian, he singles out a book by Alice Jenkins, one of the ALRA’s founders, as particularly influential on him:

‘His decision was reinforced, Steel recalls, by his reading of Alice Jenkins’ polemic, Law for the Rich, which highlighted how rich or educated women were getting round the abortion ban by claiming their life was threatened by the danger to their mental health.’

But Jenkins’s book was more than simply a plea for legalised abortion. It was also an anti-Catholic, anti-Irish tract:

Roman Catholic congregations are amongst the most poverty-stricken sections of the community; their numerical strength is growing and their poverty is intensified by their large families. Most people believe in free speech and a free Press, and the Roman Catholic Church has the right to voice its opinions. But we may well ask why it is allowed to exercise so much indirect and often insidious influence in our country, out of all proportion to its numbers. We are told that in 1958 the number of Irish immigrants from Eire was estimated to be 60,000. The number of marriages solemnised in Roman Catholic Churches in this country is greatly increasing, and, if this trend continues, it looks as though there might be a reversion to Roman Catholicism within 150 years. So it is later than we think ! Far too few leading British newspapers concern themselves with this danger…’ (Alice Jenkins, Law for the Rich, Victor Gollancz, London, 1961, pp. 43-44).

In support of her view, Jenkins quotes another book, Your Future is Now by W.J. Thorne:

‘Never since the Elizabethan settlement have there been so many practicing Catholics in Britain, and each year the supply grows as boatload after boatload arrive to seek a higher standard of life. It is not necessary for the Catholics to constitute a majority for their Church to exercise a decisive influence. The power of a united, well-disciplined, numerous minority operating amongst hordes of unattached individualists is usually sufficient to secure de facto power. We can be thankful that the Catholic ‘interest’ has not been formalised in England by the creation of a separate political party. It has achieved that distinction in some other countries and the results are not pretty. The English being what they are, the Roman Catholics get more of their own way by not seeking representation in Parliament, and the Hierarchy may be expected to rely on the existing policy of permeation. Still, a point may be reached when the unravelled majority may find sufficient negative unity to prevent the creation of anything resembling a Catholic state.’ Jenkins adds: ‘To which we can only rejoin “Let us fervently hope so !”‘ (Jenkins, pp. 44-45). She also asks rhetorically ‘How can a Protestant nation be expected to accept dictation from a doctrinal minority ?’ (Jenkins, p. 43)

The ‘boatload after boatload’ to which Thorne referred were, of course, Irish immigrants, and whether because Jenkins misquoted Thorne or because she used a different printing of his book, she omitted the words ‘the Irish’ from the full sentence, which referred to ‘boatload after boatload of Irish’.

The cause of legalised abortion has been from its inception up to the present day closely bound up with eugenicist, Malthusian and Social Darwinist concerns to reduce the birthrate among, and births of, ‘undesirable’ or ‘defective’ people, which in the US included in particular black people, but in Britain was above all the poor and the disabled (and poverty was widely assumed by supporters of the cause to stem from the ‘feeble-mindedness’ of the poor, so that the two groups were not viewed as distinct). The fear was that the ‘overbreeding’ of these groups would ‘swamp’ the ‘better sort’ of people; encouraging abortion of, or among, the poor and disabled was a way to prevent this (see Ann Farmer, By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control and the Abortion Campaign, Catholic University America, Washington DC, 2008). Hence, the 1967 Abortion Act specified disability of the baby as grounds for abortion, and it has served largely to wipe out people with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities in Britain ever since.

Madeleine Simms, one of the principal ALRA activists behind the 1967 Abortion Act, dedicated her 1971 book Abortion Law Reformed (known as ‘the “official” ALRA account of the Abortion Act’), to ‘thalidomide mothers for whom reform came too late’. This was a reference to the babies who had been born disabled after their mothers had taken thalidomide to treat their morning sickness, which had resulted in a spate of births of such disabled babies in the late 1950s and early 1960s – a trauma that helped precipitate the Abortion Act. Simms’s assumption was that any mother with the choice would have wanted to abort such babies.

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Nevertheless, as Jenkins’s book showed, the modern ideologies of eugenics and Social Darwinism could readily coexist with the traditional English paranoia and hostility towards the Irish and the Catholic Church; they too were the supposed demographic threat that legalised abortion sought to counter.

That abortion was legalised in Britain at the initiative of a politician under the influence of an aggressively anti-Irish, anti-Catholic tract is already remarkable. But it is truly incredible that the Republic of Ireland may vote in a few days to emulate Britain, its former colonial master, and remove the constitutional protection for unborn children from its constitution, given the anti-Irish and anti-Catholic roots of legalised abortion in Britain. Jenkins may have hoped that her tract would help counter the supposed Irish Catholic threat in her own country. But that her ideology would then spread across the Irish Sea to combat Irish Catholic breeding in the Republic of Ireland itself would no doubt have seemed a success beyond her wildest dreams.

 

 

Thursday, 17 May 2018 Posted by | Abortion, Genocide, Immigration, Ireland | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If fundamentalists are hijacking #MeToo to promote a socially conservative sexual agenda, is that a completely bad thing ?

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Even Bari Weiss, Opinion editor for the New York Times, says that with the Aziz Ansari case, the #MeToo movement has gone too far: ‘The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches.’ We from a far-left background might call this the movement’s ‘Kronstadt moment’.
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The tendency to treat women as delicate flowers lacking either sin or agency, and men as having a monopoly on responsibility, is indeed extremely sexist. Conflating bad sex or unwanted advances with sexual assault does a huge disservice to the real victims. If a man’s career can be destroyed by unproven, unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous women, that too is injustice. These points are not new; similar ones were already being made a quarter of a century ago by ‘power feminist’ Katie Roiphe.
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But if fundamentalists have hijacked #MeToo and are ironically pushing a socially conservative sexual agenda, is that a completely bad thing ? A post-sexual-revolution culture that abandons more respectful courtship in favour of young men going out to ‘get laid’ with women they neither know nor care about, and young women increasingly emulating their boorish, drunken promiscuity is far from representing genuine liberation, and is likely to encourage sexual harassment and assault. Hence the case of the Stanford University student Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a skip after they had attended a student party together; an assault his father notoriously labelled ’20 minutes of action.’
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Sexually promiscuous women appeal to male fantasy; Modesty Blaise and Lisbeth Salander were created by male writers. But as someone wrote in relation to Sex and the City, ‘Samantha’s inner life stops at her labia but I’ve never met a real-life woman who would envy her.’ However misguided the excesses of the #MeToo movement, perhaps in their own way, they reflect a feeling among many women, and even men, that the blessings of social progress have not been unmixed. Aziz Ansari’s accuser may not be a victim, and her public humiliation of him may have been deeply unfair, but her hurt was undoubtedly real, even if it was due to her own choices. As the highly doctrinaire and aggressive Jessica Valenti tweeted in relation to the Ansari case, ‘part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers “normal” sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.’
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Provided we don’t abandon the principle of sexual equality, maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us to be a bit more prudish and old-fashioned ?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 Posted by | Feminism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apologies for feeding the troll… Brendan O’Neill on sexual harassment

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I know you shouldn’t feed the troll, but professional contrarian twit Brendan O’Neill’s defence of sexual harasser Sam Kriss can only make a pretence of plausibility if you haven’t read the victim’s account.

O’Neill wrote: ‘Mr Kriss is accused by an anonymous person of repeatedly kissing and fondling her when they were on a date. She didn’t like it, which means he should have stopped or she should have gone home earlier. That’s a bad night out with a weirdo who doesn’t know how to court, not sexual assault.’

The victim-blaming is bad enough (‘she should have gone home earlier’), but O’Neill is being actively dishonest.

The victim wrote (in an account that Kriss has acknowledged is accurate): ‘Next, I felt Sam putting his arm round me. Phew, that’s better, some mild affection, not a mauling, I thought. Turns out he wasn’t putting his arm round me, but behind me, to place his hand on the back of my neck, so as to twist my head to face his, wherein, he again forcibly kissed me. This physically hurt.’

And: ‘After realising that I really wasn’t returning home with him, he began forcibly ‘snogging’ (I can hardly call it kissing given it was so aggressive) me at the bus stop. I turned my head away so it was out of reach, to which Sam started grabbing at my breasts with both hands. There were, rather mortifyingly, other people at the bus stop trying to ignore this scene. I felt so embarrassed, so I moved to the doorway behind the bus stop … this moving away was taken not as, ‘please leave me alone’, but as if I had gone to the doorway for us to have more privacy and thus intimacy. At this point Sam actually put his hands up underneath my top to touch my breasts. I protested with statements like, “Sam, seriously, can we not”, “we are outside on the street”, trying to remind him I was not ok with this, but not show any anger in case it escalated his behaviour.’

O’Neill has similarly doctored the facts regarding Rupert Myers’s sexual harassment of Kate Leaver. He writes: ‘For saying ‘I want to fuck you’ to a woman and then trying to kiss her (allegedly), Mr Myers has lost his journalistic jobs and been turned into a pariah.’ He presents it simply as a clumsy advance on Myers’s part, concealing from his readers the fact that Leaver had, according to her own account (as reported by Matthew Scott) explicitly already said ‘no’:

‘She told him that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship. She just wanted to be friends with him. Two weeks later they went to a pub in “Fitzrovia” for another drink. She again said that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, couldn’t they just be mates?

According to her he tried this line:

“I’ve got enough mates, I’d rather fuck you.”

Unsurprisingly this conversational gambit created more ice than it melted, and Ms Leaver decided to leave. He left too and just outside the pub he (to use her words) “forced himself” on her.

This is ambiguous. Only Leaver and Myers know exactly what happened, and because it took place two years ago even they have probably forgotten some of the detail. But she explained a bit more on a Radio 5 Live interview with Emma Barnett:

“He took that opportunity to ignore what I said, grabbed me and forced himself into a kissing situation and touching me inappropriately. … just on my body where I was not comfortable having his hands.”

She agreed with her interviewer that his hands were “wandering.”.’

Myers has not denied the allegations and has apologised for his behaviour. There may be a reasonable debate to be had on what sort of sanction someone should face in such situations, but those arguing for greater leniency are not helping their case by suppressing relevant facts.

Attention-seeking, un-PC trolling is what Spectator columnists do, and we should all try to ignore it as much as possible. But if they have to conceal evidence to make their trolling plausible, then that is a bit sad. For O’Neill, a bit like the old days at Living Marxism, which never refrained either from sneering at sexual assault victims or from shamelessly suppressing evidence.

PS This blog has been rather quiet in the last couple of years as I transferred my commentary to Facebook and Twitter, and no longer have time for many of the longer commentaries that I used to publish here. Consequently, to liven the blog up a bit and to give the wider public once again the benefit of my pearls of wisdom, I may start republishing my longer Facebook comments here – like this one.

Sunday, 22 October 2017 Posted by | gender | , , , , | Leave a comment

Re-making Kozarac: Agency, reconciliation and contested return in post-war Bosnia

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Review of Sebina Sivac-Bryant, Re-making Kozarac: Agency, reconciliation and contested return in post-war Bosnia, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2016, 214 + xviii pp.

Since the war broke out in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1992, its people have suffered many afflictions. One of those that is not acknowledged as often as it should be is the patronising attitude with which many outsiders view them. Very often, foreign politicians, diplomats, NGO staff, activists, journalists and others view them in terms of a dichotomy of irrational nationalists and passive victims, discounting the possibility of positive agency on their part – outside the narrow framework of the agenda that the outsiders themselves impose. A large part of agenda revolves around the fetish of ‘reconciliation’, which often seems to be more about the outsiders’ own ideological shibboleths than the Bosnians’ needs and aspirations.

Sebina Sivac-Bryant’s book provides an extremely welcome alternative perspective. It is a study of the experiences of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) who were driven from their homes by the rebel-Serb campaign of genocidal mass violence in the 1990s, but have since returned. It focuses on the town of Kozarac, near the city of Prijedor – a region that formed one of the epicentres of the violence, and spawned the infamous concentration camps of Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm. Sivac-Bryant is herself a native of the village of Kevljani, near Kozarac, and her family was among the victims; her eldest brother was tortured and executed at Omarska, and she and her mother were driven into exile in Zagreb, where her mother died after being denied adequate medical care. Despite this tragedy, this is a dispassionate and sharply analytical study, but it benefits from the native’s awareness and insights of themes and nuances that a foreign observer might have missed. Basing her research on extensive fieldwork, interviews with returnees and personal observation, Sivac-Bryant has crafted a multifaceted little gem of a local study.

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Although Kozarac was emptied of its Bosniak inhabitants and destroyed, it has become a notable success story with regard to refugee returns to Bosnia’s Serb entity, Republika Srpska (RS), and the restored town today thrives – a stark rebuke to the genocidal goals of the Serb extremists. As Sivac-Bryant explains, this success was due precisely to the fact that so many of Kozarac’s Bosniaks refused from the start to be passive victims. It had its roots in the 17th Krajina Brigade of the Bosnian army; a unit that originated with Bosniak refugees expelled from their homes in 1992, who had taken refuge in Croatia and organised themselves for military resistance. Receiving training from the Croatian Army but unwilling to let themselves become tools of Croatian official policy, they made their own way back to the war-zone and operated as a mobile military unit capable of operating across the country – something that it did very effectively, reminiscent of the legendary Proletarian Brigades with which Josip Broz Tito and the Communists spearheaded the Partisan resistance movement of World War II. This contrasted with local units of the Bosnian army whose soldiers were often unwilling to fight outside their own areas. The 17th Krajina Brigade became one of the most militarily successful units in the Bosnian army.

The Bosnian war ended in October 1995, just when the 17th Krajina Brigade was on the verge of liberating not only their homes in Kozarac, but Omarska and other sites of concentration camps where so many of their soldiers and their friends, family members and neighbours had been persecuted. This was a great disappointment, but not the end of the struggle; rather, the struggle took a new form, as with the momentum of their military effort behind them, they now campaigned to be allowed home in the newly recognised RS. As Sivac-Bryant shows, the obstacles they faced included not only the expected obstruction from the RS authorities, but also the passivity of and lack of support from the international community. The latter eventually adopted stronger action in response to the efforts of significant numbers of refugees to return home unilaterally. This culminated in the shooting dead of Simo Drljaca, the hardline Prijedor police chief, by British Stabilisation Force (SFOR) troops in 1997, marking a turning-point in the history of refugee returns and political reform in that part of the RS. In 2000, the first mosque in the whole of the RS was rebuilt at Kozarac.

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Sebina Sivac-Bryant

Kozarac was consequently restored and repopulated thanks to its inhabitants’ own effort. But as Sivac-Bryant shows, the success remains ambiguous and bittersweet. The RS authorities went from threatening and harassing the returnees to treating them as second-class citizens, who for example might receive only an hour a day of drinking water during summer, but still be charged for using a reservoir they had built themselves. Moreover, refugees suffer from their own internal divisions as well. By basing her research on extensive fieldwork, interviews with returnees and personal observations, Sivac-Bryant is able to bring these to light. She cites, for example, the case of a Serb woman who was persecuted by the Serb extremists because she had been married to a man of mixed Croat-Muslim background; now back in Kozarac, and despite both her husband and son having been killed in the genocide, she remains estranged from her former Bosniak friends and neighbours. In general, many returnees continue to suffer from loneliness and isolation, with many of their loved ones dead and friendships broken. Their dilemmas are very real; between focusing on the past and the need for justice and for recognition of their losses on the one hand, and for economic improvement and cohabitation with RS authorities on the other. The portrayal of the complexity of the returnees’ emotions is one of the great strengths of this book.

Over and above the divisions at the grass roots, Sivac-Bryant argues that a small clique of Bosniak insiders has monopolised both leadership positions in the community and relations with the RS authorities, marginalising other Bosniaks from Kozarac. Such fissures are too often brushed over by foreign observers who often tend to essentialise Bosnians along ethnic lines, even though they may be as significant as those between the different ethno-national groups, if not more so. It is this unflinching scrutiny of the internal politics of the Kozarac Bosniak community, and of the relations between it and the internationals, that is likely to make this a controversial book in some quarters.

The author is merciless in her critique of the model of ‘reconciliation’ attempted by some foreign activists and NGOs, albeit often well-meaning. She recalls attending a conference on reconciliation organised in Malta by a British charity (which she does not name), in which ‘we, the Bosniaks, were supposed to play the role of survivors’; assigned a psychologist, ‘we could not even go to the bathroom alone without the psychologist accompanying us’. Sivac-Bryant describes her experience as follows:

‘Another way of emphasising our status as “victims of trauma” was in the way we were coached to enter the conference room. We were asked to wait for all participants to take their seats and then our psychologist would invite us in. A back corner of the room was allocated for us, and upon entering the room, the participants’ gaze turned towards us. It felt as though they knew something we did not. The conference was organised by a British woman, the organiser, and her daughter, who talked about their own life tragedies, and how they learned to overcome them, which was why they founded a charity that helps others work through their trauma. While the atmosphere was high on a note of self-healing, our group was struggling to remain quiet as our conversation was mostly humorous. Meanwhile, a famous American psychologist began a ‘puppet-show’ in which he described how to regain self-worth. Although we were entertained, we could not fathom what all this had to do with us. Mirza was listening to the psychologist, trying to take on board his advice for personal growth, but the rest of us either did not understand English, or were too bored to listen.’ (pp. 141-142)

The message of the book is that victimhood is not a permanent or unchanging status, and that return to a form of normal life for victims works best when they themselves work towards it on their own initiative. In particular, Sivac-Bryant describes the efforts of two Bosniak entrepreneurs, Jusuf Arifagic and Enes Kahrimanovic, to bring economic activity and jobs to the locality in the face of official obstruction or indifference, as having been particularly valuable for the wellbeing of the community. For all the physical and emotional suffering, and conflict and animosity that Sivac-Bryant describes, hers is ultimately an extraordinary study of human perseverence in the face of adversity:

‘Having witnessed the resourcefulness of returnees to Kozarac over a decade or more, I am optimistic about the potential for returnees to have a positive effect on their home regions, even where return is contested and highly contentious. Learning the lessons from such case studies, I belive can help us design better, more imaginative and more effective policy for similarly affected communities around the world.’ (p. 205)

Monday, 17 July 2017 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Cameron, the Henry Jackson Society and the Libya intervention

French President Nicholas Sarkozy (2-L)

There have been plausible suggestions that the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think-tank influenced the foreign policy of the Cameron government. The following passages suggest, at the very least, a remarkable confluence of thinking between the HJS and David Cameron over the case in favour of military intervention in Libya in 2011.

As the HJS’s European Neighbourhood Section Director, I published the following analysis on the Henry Jackson Society website on 13 March 2011:

‘We cannot afford to let Gaddafi win… The allied invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was, of course, prompted by our desire to strike against al-Qaeda’s terrorist training-camps. That such camps were present in Afghanistan was the product of conditions arising from the state’s collapse and unresolved civil war. We should be very concerned at what the consequences for Europe would be if a similar state collapse and civil war were to be perpetuated indefinitely in Libya – it would be an Afghanistan on our doorstep. An imploded Libya could be a source of terrorism and piracy, as well as of mass immigration into Europe of the kind that sends right-wing politicians apoplectic… And Gaddafi, be it remembered, was never simply a pedestrian dictator of the Mubarak sort, but the ‘Mad Dog of the Middle East’, in Ronald Reagan’s memorable phrase. Most of us remember his support for the IRA and extremist Palestinian factions, and the Lockerbie bombing… Cameron has already shown himself a leader with vision, and must not allow himself to be deflected by US and EU irresolution from the path that he has correctly laid out. This trial will prove the efficacy or otherwise of his military entente with France, so there is a lot riding on this crisis for the prime minister’s vision of British strategy… The urgency of the situation in Libya is one that calls for immediate, decisive leadership. David Cameron must rise to the challenge.’

Five days later, on 18 March 2011, Cameron made the following statement in the House of Commons:

‘In this country we know what Colonel Gaddafi is capable of. We should not forget his support for the biggest terrorist atrocity on British soil. We simply cannot have a situation where a failed pariah state festers on Europe’s southern border. This would potentially threaten our security, push people across the Mediterranean and create a more dangerous and uncertain world for Britain and for all our allies as well as for the people of Libya. That is why today we are backing our words with action.’

Given how badly the HJS went wrong since 2011, people sometimes ask me why I waited so long before breaking with the organisation. The answer is that the policy ideas that I and my colleagues were promoting seemed to be having a positive impact. Although the Western alliance did not plan properly for the aftermath of the intervention in Libya and the situation in that country remains critical, we only have to compare it with the ongoing nightmare and bloodbath in Syria to see how much worse things could have been if we had not stopped Gaddafi. A lot of people in Benghazi and elsewhere are alive today, who would be dead if we had not acted. David Cameron should feel proud that he stood up to the tyrant.

 

Thursday, 15 September 2016 Posted by | Afghanistan, Britain, Conservatism, Genocide, Libya, Middle East, NATO, Neoconservatism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whose is the Partisan movement ? Serbs, Croats and the legacy of a shared resistance

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I published this article in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies back in 2002: it is a comparative discussion of the relationship of the Serbs and the Croats to the Partisan movement, with some reference to the other Yugoslav nationalities as well. My knowledge and understanding of the question have, of course, advanced since then, but my conclusions have not significantly changed. The article has now been republished by Balkan Witness.

The Titoist regime in Yugoslavia encouraged the belief that all Yugoslavs participated in an equal manner and to an equal degree in the Partisan movement and that they did so on a homogenous all-Yugoslav basis. Since the late 1980s this Titoist interpretation has been challenged by Serb and Croat nationalists seeking to expropriate the legacy of the Partisan movement for their respective national traditions while condemning the Communist ‘betrayal’ of their respective national interests. Although this involves the substitution of new nationalist historical myths for the older Titoist myth, the process has nevertheless revitalized a previously moribund historiography, opening up issues that were once ignored or taboo. The three conflicting claims – that the Partisans were a Serb movement; that they were a Croat movement; and that they were a genuinely multinational all-Yugoslav movement – paradoxically each holds a kernel of truth. The Partisan movement was a genuinely multinational movement but the roles played in it by the various Yugoslav nationalities were not equivalent. Contemporary Serb and Croat nationalists have borrowed aspects of the Partisan legacy that support the view that the movement was ‘theirs’ while treating its ‘un-Serb’ or ‘un-Croat’ aspects as evidence that ‘their’ movement was hijacked or betrayed by the other.

Continue reading at Balkan Witness

Thursday, 15 September 2016 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia | , , , | Leave a comment

On ‘Anti-Zionists’ Damian James Read (@CockneyActivist), Jason Schumann (@debatingculture), Alison Chabloz and Charles Frith

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Last autumn, a group of ‘anti-Zionists’ launched a harassment campaign against me. Charles Frith, a notorious Holocaust denier and particularly vicious Jew-hater, who had over 32,000 Twitter followers until Twitter suspended his account, telephoned my employers, Kingston University, posing as a job-seeker. After finding out the name of my immediate manager from an unsuspecting colleague, he sent a series of abusive and defamatory emails to me and my senior colleagues, accusing me, among other things, of ‘Zionism’, and turning Kingston into a centre for ‘child abuse’. Frith is someone who refers to the ‘fake 6m Holohoax figures’. He has tweeted that ‘the Auschwitz chambers were delousing stations in Germany and France’; that ‘Israel’s Mossad did 9/11’; that ‘Jewish Al-Sisi Runs Egypt; Now an Israeli-Occupied Territory’. He has blogged that the figure of six million Holocaust dead was fabricated before World War II, and that the real figure is ‘somewhere in between half a million to a million’. He has referred to David Cameron as a ‘Rothschild-Zionist tea boy’ and accused a senior British Jewish journalist of ‘milk(ing) the Holocaust gravy train like a 6 million lottery payout’. His last email to my university colleagues contained a disgusting war-porn picture, apparently of a graphically mutilated child, which he claimed was ‘Zionism in action’.

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Pic.: Holocaust denier Damian James Read aka @CockneyActivist

Frith had been set on me by his political fellow-travellers. One of these was Damian James Read, who Tweets under the name ‘@CockneyActivist’. Read is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and apparently a Labour Party member, and he likes posting pictures of himself online, dressed in Palestinian flags. When David Cameron tweeted in remembrance of the ‘millions murdered in the holocaust’, Read tweeted back that ‘I think you mean 300,000. An horrific event I agree. But not 6 million is it’.

Continue reading at Engage

PS Since this article was first published, Damian James Read has been busy deleting and ‘unliking’ the incriminating tweets. But I have kept screenshots and printouts, for anyone who is interested 🙂

Thursday, 15 September 2016 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Fascism, Genocide, Holocaust denial, Israel, Jews, Palestine, Red-Brown Alliance, The Left | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Srebrenica genocide denier David N. Gibbs praises Donald Trump on foreign policy

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We have had periodic cause to comment here on the fourth-rate scholar and Srebrenica genocide denier David N. Gibbs of the University of Arizona, author of the propaganda tract First do no harm, which attributed the break-up of Yugoslavia to a German conspiracy and blamed Srebrenica on its Bosniak victims. He has now popped up on ‘OpEdNews’, where he has given an interview entitled ‘Trump Might Actually be Right about NATO’. This is what he says:

‘Well, let me start out by saying that most of Donald Trump’s positions are classic demagoguery and are quite dangerous. But on some foreign policy issues he does occasionally make sense, especially with regard to the issue of NATO. He has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO to US security, as an overly expensive extravagance, and this is a very legitimate issue to raise. To my knowledge no other candidate in recent years, not even Bernie Sanders has been willing to address this issue.’

‘Mostly, NATO seems like an expensive extravagance, a military alliance in search of a justification. Candidates for president should be debating NATO’s value. So far, only Trump is willing to engage the issue.’

‘While Hillary Clinton has been on the hawkish side of the spectrum, the mainstream of both parties has been strongly supportive of NATO, and has favored efforts to find new enemies and new missions to justify the alliance. Until Trump’s recent statements on the issue, there has been almost no criticism of the alliance, and no real debate. Hopefully that will change.’

‘Trump is far from an ideal candidate to be raising the issue of NATO’s lack of value. He is rightly viewed as a racist, divisive figure. But no other candidate is addressing the issue that NATO is a huge taxpayer expense to America’s taxpayer, while providing no real benefit in terms of enhanced security.’

The sort of ‘left-wing’ ideology that leads Gibbs to deny the genocide of a European Muslim people, leads him also to praise the foreign-policy position of someone he admits is a racist; a supporter of banning Muslims from entering the US. He goes so far as to suggest that Trump’s views on NATO are preferable to those of the radical left’s own Bernie Sanders.

I wish I could say I was shocked, but this is sadly predictable.

 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, The Left, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Xavier Bougarel’s errors concerning the Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War

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Xavier Bougarel has reviewed my book The Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War for Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, but appears to have done so without reading it at all carefully. What follows is my correction of his misrepresentation of my work. Although I would have preferred to have published this correction in the journal in question, and although some academic journals (e.g. Slavic Review, Journal of Contemporary History) do permit authors to publish responses or corrections to book reviews, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies is not one of them.

1) On the character of the Muslim autonomist movement

Bougarel writes:

Hoare draws artificial parallels between two movements [the Muslim autonomist movement and the Communist-led People’s Liberation Movement] that had very different characteristics and aims. He ignores the persistent anti-communist views of most members of the Muslim autonomy movement (especially the Muslim clerics). He speaks of a ‘dual Bosnian movement of resistance’ (9), whereas the history of the Muslim autonomy movement is chiefly the story of their collaboration with the Third Reich. He even makes the odd assertion that the SS Handschar Division was ‘the flagship project of the Muslim autonomist resistance’ (103) whose ‘ruling ideology shared some common ground with the multinational Bosnian patriotism of the Partisans’ (195).

Bougarel here seems to be claiming that I have somehow glossed over the Muslim autonomists’ collaboration with the Third Reich, and presented them as some sort of anti-Nazi resistance movement. Yet this is the very opposite of what I actually did write.

i) I wrote ‘Although the Muslim autonomists were not a resistance movement in the sense of being anti-fascist, anti-Nazi or anti-occupier – they were none of these – they were a resistance movement in the sense of being anti-Ustasha and anti-NDH’ (p. 10). They were a ‘specifically Bosnian anti-Ustasha (though not anti-fascist, anti-Nazi or anti-occupier) current of resistance, that paralleled and overlapped with the Communist-led People’s Liberation Movement (NOP)’ (p. 14).

ii) I described the Muslim autonomist leader Uzeir-aga Hadzihasanovic as ‘the de facto leader of the pro-German but anti-Ustasha wing of the Muslim elite’ who ‘adopted a back-seat role in channelling Muslim autonomist opposition to the NDH’ (p. 41).

iii) I discuss the efforts of Muslim autonomists ‘who were anti-Ustasha but nevertheless ready to collaborate with the occupiers’ (p. 40) to seek ‘direct German military administration over the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina’ (pp. 40-41); the stated desire of Murat-beg Pasic, a Muslim autonomist notable from Bijeljina, to ‘fight for Bosnia-Hercegovina, albeit under German military protection’ (p. 44); and the attempts of Muslim autonomists in Hercegovina to ‘express the loyalty of the Muslims of Hercegovina to the Kingdom of Italy’ and seek ‘the establishment of an autonomous Bosnia-Hercegovina under Italian protection’ (p. 50).

iv) I described in detail the Muslim Memorandum to Hitler of November 1942 as ‘the culmination of activity on the part of the pro-German, anti-Ustasha wing of the Muslim autonomist movement. Up until the summer and autumn of 1943, Muslim autonomist activity aimed predominantly at direct collaboration with the Germans to bypass the Ustashas, rather than at direct resistance activity.’ (p. 51).

v) I cite the Memorandum’s enthusiastically pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic words addressed to ‘Our Führer !’: ‘Nobody, not a single ethnic group, not a single tribe, likewise not a single nation in all Europe has with greater devotion felt and understood your gigantic movement to establish a New Order in Europe as have we Bosnians, Muslims of Bosnia. We have in the principles of National Socialism, your movement, felt that it alone brings justice, order and peace to Europe, which has been blighted and ruined by democracy.’ (p. 52) I cite the Memorandum’s reference to the fact that ’the Jewish problem among us has finally been solved…’ (p. 52).

vi) I describe the opposition of the leading Sarajevo Muslim autonomists Uzeir-aga Hadzihasanovic and Mehmed Handzic to collaboration with the NOP (p. 82); the fact that Handzic was the ‘most powerful opponent of both the Partisans and the Ustashas among the Muslim autonomists’ (pp. 247-248) and that the NOP may have assassinated him; the execution by the Partisans of the Tuzla Muslim autonomist leader Muhamed-aga Hadziefendic (p. 137); that Nesad Topcic, leader of the Muslim autonomist ‘Green Forces’, directed his activity primarily against the Partisans (p. 189) and was eventually killed by them (p. 257); that Tito considered Muslim autonomist leader Hafiz Muhamed efendi Pandza, with whom the Partisans collaborated, to have been ‘an agent of the Gestapo all along’ (p. 153); and the Partisans’ execution of Srebrenica Muslim autonomist Ismet Bektasevic after he abandoned them for the Ustashas (p. 143).

vii) I describe the origins of the Handzar Division in the machinations of the Nazi leadership: ‘At Himmler’s suggestion, Hitler approved in February 1943 the establishment of an SS division made up of Bosnian Muslims. The Ustasha functionary Alija Suljak arrived in Tuzla at the end of the March 1943 with the goal of mobilising the Muslim population behind the formation of a Bosnian SS division… The name chosen for the Division was the 13th SS Volunteer Bosnian-Herzegovinian Division (Croatia)’, an attempt to reconcile the feelings of both its Croat and Muslim members. Yet it was more commonly known as the Handschar (Scimitar) Division’ (pp. 53-54).

Regarding my supposedly ‘odd assertion’ of shared ideological ground between the Partisans and the command of the Handzar Division – this was demonstrated by evidence that Bougarel has not disputed.

viii) I wrote ‘The most notorious Muslim quisling unit – the 13th SS Volunteer Bosnian-Hercegovinian Division (Croatia), better known as the “Handschar” or “Handzar” Division, to which this book devotes some attention – was, like the Partisans, the repository of hopes for Bosnian autonomy on the part of sections of the Muslim population; the Bosnian autonomist goal was, ironically, shared by the Communist-led Bosnian resistance movement and by the Muslim supporters of its Bosnian Nazi antithesis.’ (p. 10)

The specific passage in my book to which Bougarel refers is as follows:

‘[the Handzar Division’s] ruling ideology shared some common ground with the multinational Bosnian patriotism of the Partisans. [Its commander Karl-Gustav] Sauberzweig informed his troops “you all know that, in addition to the Muslims, Catholics and people of the [Serbian Orthodox] faith also call this their home. They must all be absorbed into the Bosnian community… We shall give the first liberated land to the Muslims, but we shall not permit the others to be left out. Please consider this and forget the petty hatreds, which only cause new discord.” (p. 195).

Sauberzweig futhermore believed that ‘a community composed of all faiths must be constructed, and that all interests particular to each group must be forgotten in the interests of the community.’ (p. 195)

This echoed the Partisan support for Bosnia-Hercegovina as the common homeland of Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Bougarel has not challenged the veracity of the passages in question, so it is not at all clear why he considers my assertion to be ‘odd’.

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Xavier Bougarel

2) On the Partisans as both a Bosnian and a Yugoslav movement

Bougarel writes:

At the same time, his [Hoare’s] emphasis on the ‘Bosnian patriotism’ of the Partisan movement in Bosnia-Herzegovina leads him to ignore its Yugoslav dimension. Yet this aspect was clearly visible not only in most official resolutions and propaganda tracts, but also on the ground. As Hoare himself notes, the region of Cazinska Krajina was long dependent on the Communist Party of Croatia, the Partisans of Vojvodina fought in Eastern Bosnia and the Bosnian units took part in the ultimate liberation of Serbia and Croatia. Hoare ignores the fact that the Yugoslav idea was decisive in mobilizing Bosnian Serbs, who were the majority of Bosnian Partisans until the war ended.’

Again, Bougarel’s claims that I a) ignore the Yugoslav dimension of the Partisan movement and b) ignore the role of the Yugoslav idea in mobilising Bosnian Serbs, are both directly contrary to what I actually wrote in the book. My actual position, as I elaborate in detail, is that both the Bosnian and Yugoslav dimensions are crucial to understanding the victory of the Partisan movements, but that the Bosnian dimension has been ignored by the traditional historiography.

i) I describe how the Staff of the Partisan Group of Shock Battalions appealed to the Serbs and Muslims of East Bosnia with the slogan ‘Long live the people’s liberation struggle of all the peoples of Yugoslavia !’ (p. 25).

ii) I describe the events of the First Session of the Antifascist Council for the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ), which ‘issued individual appeals to each of the Yugoslav nations, including the Muslims’, and promised the Serbs ‘a free and brotherly union of Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia’ (p. 26).

iii) Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Bosnian assembly and Yugoslav federation’ and largely devoted to the relationship between the Partisan state-building processes at the Yugoslav and Bosnian levels; I argue that ‘The Bosnian and Yugoslav state-building impulses therefore converged. In November 1943 the convening of the First Session of ZAVNOBiH [Country Antifascist Council for the People’s Liberation of Bosnia-Hercegovina] and the Second Session of AVNOJ, establishing a new Yugoslav state on a federal basis, within which Bosnia would be one of six equal units, set the seal on this process and paved the way for the foundation of a Bosnian state’ (p. 155).

iv) I argue that the ‘laying of foundations of Bosnian statehood at this time [autumn 1943] was therefore the product simultaneously of specifically Bosnian, all-Yugoslav and international developments’ (p. 164).

v) I cite the First Session of ZAVNOBiH’s declaration that Bosnia-Hercegovina would be ‘in the great democratic federal union of peoples of Yugoslavia an equal member with the other countries of Yugoslavia’ (p. 179).

vi) I devote a subsection of Chapter 4 to the Second Session of AVNOJ (pp. 181-186), and another in Chapter 5 to the ‘Yugoslav Road to Bosnian statehood’ (pp. 200-203). I quote the KPJ Central Committee’s proclamation: ‘Peoples of Yugoslavia ! Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Muslims ! … Forward for a free Serbia, a free Croatia, a free Slovenia, a free Macedonia, a free Montenegro and a free Bosnia-Hercegovina in a free Democratic Federative Yugoslavia’ (p. 199). I argue that ‘The Bosnian and wider Yugoslav federal state-building processes ran parallel, each decisively influencing the other’ (p. 288).

vii) I describe how, at the Third Session of ZAVNOBiH in April 1945, the third speech was delivered by Sinisa Stankovic, president of the (Partisan) People’s Assembly of Serbia, who stated: ‘At this moment, the enemies and traitors are spreading lies about the disintegration of Serbdom. To this it can be replied, that never in history has Serbdom been so united as it is today in the free union of equal Yugoslav peoples’ (p. 301).

viii) I describe how the senior Bosnian Serb Communist and prime minister of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Rodoljub Colakovic, went out of his way to reassure Serbs that they were united within Yugoslavia: ‘We in Bosnia-Hercegovina do not feel threatened in the slightest. On the contrary, today more than ever, we feel the inseparable bonds that bind us to our brothers in Serbia, our brothers in Croatia and our brothers everywhere where there are Serbs in Yugoslavia. But we, at the same time, also feel fraternal blood ties with all the other peoples of the new Democratic Federative Yugoslavia’ (p. 303) and ‘Nobody is thinking of questioning the right of us Serbs outside Serbia to maintain the closest links with our brothers in Serbia, which will enable the most complete and fastest development of the Serb nation. This development can only be rejoiced over by the other nations of Yugoslavia, for it will mean, like the development of its other nations, the strengthening of our common homeland – Yugoslavia.’ (p. 303)

I could provide many more citations to refute Bougarel’s mischaracterisation of my book, but I will finish by noting his statement: ‘As Hoare himself notes, the region of Cazinska Krajina was long dependent on the Communist Party of Croatia, the Partisans of Vojvodina fought in Eastern Bosnia and the Bosnian units took part in the ultimate liberation of Serbia and Croatia.’ I do indeed note this, for the very simple reason that my book explores in detail the relationship of the Partisan movement in Bosnia-Hercegovina with the Partisan movement in the rest of Yugoslavia. Bougarel has used my actual position to argue against a straw-man position that he has falsely attributed to me.

3) On the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina as ‘a nation-state without a nation’

Bougarel writes:

he [Hoare] describes the new Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a ‘nation state’, a description that results in some semantic confusion: on page 287, he writes that in 1945, Bosnia and Herzegovina became ‘a nation-state without a nation’ (a contradiction in terms), then he concedes that the new Constitution implied ‘a nationally heterogeneous citizenry’ (336) and concludes by speaking of a ‘Bosnian multinational patriotic model’ (380; my emphasis).’

[NB the use of the term ‘Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina’ is Bougarel’s error – in the period under consideration, it was the ‘People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina’]

My terminology simply describes the contradictions of the Titoist state-building project. Here is what I wrote: ‘But although the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina was organised as a nation-state, it was not underpinned by any recognised “nation”, as was the case with the other five Yugoslav republics. It was, in other words, a nation-state without a nation.’ (p. 287)

The Partisans did establish a ‘nation-state without a nation’ in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and my book provides any number of quotations to demonstrate this:

i) The resolution of the Second Session of ZAVNOBiH, July 1944: ‘For the first time in their history, the peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina equally and freely, on the basis of their own will and their own strength, are building their statehood. The Country Antifascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Bosnia-Hercegovina, as the carrier of Bosnian-Hercegovinian statehood and national sovereignty, declares that it recognises no government other than the Antifascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia and the National Committee of the Liberation of Yugoslavia, which alone can represent the peoples of Yugoslavia internationally.’ (pp. 209-210)

ii) Pro-ZAVNOBiH rally in the Kljuc district, July 1944: ‘We are happy and full of pride that, for the first time in history, our people of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which was until yesterday exploited by all anti-people regimes, has gained its statehood.’ (p. 212)

iii) Pro-ZAVNOBiH rally in the Jajce district: ‘We are happy that under your leadership will be realised the age-old dream of the people of Bosnia-Hercegovina for the independent administration of their country, and that the infernal plans of those who in place of brotherhood bring discord and fratricidal strife among the peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina will always collapse.’ (p. 212)

iv) Statement of Vojo Ljujic, Secretary of the People’s Front of Sarajevo, October 1946: ‘According to the statutes of the Federal constitution, the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina has its own Constitution, People’s Assembly and its own government, which in fact guarantees its sovereignty. Nobody gave this to us, nor has it even been given to us in history. Our history is full of difficult pages of slavery under Hungary, Turkey and Austria-Hungary. It is the history of colonial exploitation of slaves and peasants; the exploitation of the riches of our country, mines, forests, cattle and – most importantly – the human workforce. But it is also the history of a people that has always fought for its freedom, justice and statehood.’ And: ‘In the struggle for survival, once again in all its strength was born the aspiration for freedom and for the independent statehood of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and this aspiration our people carried and developed through the struggle, establishing at once a granite foundation for its achievement. Nobody has given us the freedom we have today, nor has anyone given us our statehood. We achieved it in struggle and it is ours’ (p. 312).

v) Statement of Vaso Butozan, President of the Constitutional Council of the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, December 1946: ‘Our Republic, like the other People’s Republics, has expressed its desire to live in an equal union of nations in the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. This program and this unity are of vital importance to the happier future of the Serbs, Muslims and Croats and other Yugoslav peoples. In such a federation, every nation is guaranteed its national development and flowering. In a federation of this kind, sovereignty and the independent exercise of government are guaranteed to every Republic, except those rights that are voluntarily transferred to the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina express, on the basis of this Constitution, their statehood and sovereignty.’ (p. 326)

vi) Statement of Jakov Grguric, First Vice-President of the Presidium of the Constitutional Assembly of the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, December 1946: ‘By ceding one part of its sovereign rights, on the basis of the Constitution of the FNRJ, to the jurisdiction of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina has not thereby lost its sovereignty; rather, it has, on the basis of its sovereign people’s will, only voluntarily transferred the execution of those sovereign rights to the state union; and this precisely in its own interests, for the purpose of a stronger protection of its national freedom and its economic and cultural development.’ (p. 327)

Bougarel has simply ignored the enormous quantity of documentary proof that I provided in my book, showing that the Partisans did indeed seek to establish a Bosnian nation-state, despite not formally recognising a Bosnian nation.

Of course, such a project was paradoxical and problematic, but this is something I emphasised myself: ‘This was, in essence, a nation-state represented by a sovereign “National” or “People’s” assembly, in the tradition established by the French Revolution, a tradition to which new nation-states in Europe had tended to subscribe. There was, however, a tension between the “political nation” or “people” of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the five “nations” recognised by the FNRJ Constitution – the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins. This tension was never resolved during the lifetime of the Yugoslav state and was formally the issue over which the war of 1992-95 broke out”.’ (p. 330).

Bougarel is free to insist there cannot be a nation-state without a nation, but he should direct his criticisms at those who attempted to establish one (Tito and his Communists), not try to shoot the messenger (me).

Monday, 25 July 2016 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, World War II | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment