Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Kosovo gets the Israel treatment

The ‘Israel of the Balkans’ was how journalist Michael J. Totten once described Kosovo. Well, Kosovo is certainly receiving the Israel treatment now: real or alleged crimes of its political and military leaders are being loudly trumpeted by the very states that would like to see it wiped off the map. The Putin regime in Russia, which for the past two years has blocked Kosovo’s full international recognition as a ploy to divide Serbia from the West and derail the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans, has led demands for an international probe into allegations of organ trafficking on the part of Kosovar officials. This is the same Russia that ranks 154th out of 178 countries on Transparency International‘s corruption index – 44 places lower than Kosovo, at 110th place, and 63 places lower than Albania, at 87th place. Serbia’s President Boris Tadic has likewise been prominent in demanding an international probe. He has lambasted the role of organised crime in the Balkans, claiming that ‘It subverts politics. It corrupts economies’ and ‘it kills to steal parts of people’s bodies’, an unsubtle allusion suggesting that his statement had less actually to do with opposition to organised crime, and more with the ongoing Serbian campaign to undermine Kosovo’s independence.

Both Kosovo and its enemies are, however, agreed that an international investigation must take place. Both Prime Minister Sali Berisha of Albania and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo – himself the most prominent Kosovar accused by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s report into organ trafficking – have called for an independent international investigation into the allegations. Such an investigation is indeed essential. If Thaci and other accused Kosovars are guilty, then they must be brought to justice. If they are innocent, they must be exonerated. Either way, it is in the interest of Kosovo and its people that the matter be resolved. Thaci was re-elected prime minister of Kosovo in December, and it would be a monstrous injustice to Kosovar democracy for a freely elected prime minister to carry the stigma of crimes of which he is innocent; equally, a democratic Kosovo founded on the rule of law requires that any war-criminals or other criminals from among its ranks be brought to justice, no matter how high-ranking they be. If Kosovo is the Israel of the Balkans, it is worth remembering that it is a tribute to the Israeli justice system that Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav was recently convicted of rape and sexual harassment by an Israeli court.

Since Thaci has accepted the need for a full and independent international investigation into the organ-trafficking charges and is not attempting to obstruct the course of justice, he is entitled to the degree of respect due to the democratically elected leader of a national government, and should be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Other high-ranking officials of former-Yugoslav states have been prosecuted for war-crimes but found not to be guilty – including Serbia’s former president Milan Milutinovic and Bosnia’s former chief of staff of the army, Sefer Halilovic. Earlier investigations having failed to uncover any evidence that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were involved in trafficking the organs of their captives. There is therefore reason to give Thaci and his fellow accusees the benefit of the doubt – so long as they continue to cooperate with international investigations.

Were Marty’s report merely the result of an impartial investigation into allegations of war-crimes, it would be something that all Kosovars and all friends of Kosovo could welcome unequivocally. After all, the prosecutions of Serb and Croat accused war-criminals by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) were welcomed by all Serb and Croat democrats, and opposed only by nationalists. Indeed, a previous sitting Kosovar prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, was indicted and prosecuted by the ICTY, and though acquitted, is now in the process of being re-tried.

What makes Marty’s accusations problematic is not the idea that a high-ranking official of Kosovo should be accused of war-crimes, but that they are linked to an anti-Kosovar political agenda. Marty was a sworn opponent of Kosovo’s independence, and chose to publish his report immediately after its principal target, Thaci, was victorious in Kosovo’s general election. The report is not limited to specific criminal allegations against individual Kosovars – such as might be found in an ICTY indictment – but also constitutes a critique of Western policy. Marty’s report pointedly states: ‘The NATO intervention had essentially taken the form of an aerial campaign, with bombing in Kosovo and in Serbia – operations thought by some to have infringed international law, as they were not authorised by the UN Security Council – while on the ground NATO’s de facto ally was the KLA.’ The strong implication is that the ‘some’ include Marty himself. The language used in the report, including the use of terms such as ‘frightful’, ‘horrendous’, ‘wicked’, ‘insane’, and references to Marty himself in the first person, including a reference to his own – ‘sense of moral outrage’ – suggest above all a personalised statement of opinion and value-judgement.

As Marty’s report presents it, international intervention in Kosovo has been unduly biased in favour of the Kosovo Albanians and against Serbia: ‘The appalling crimes committed by Serbian forces, which stirred up very strong feelings worldwide, gave rise to a mood reflected as well in the attitude of certain international agencies, according to which it was invariably one side that were regarded as the perpetrators of crimes and the other side as the victims, thus necessarily innocent. The reality is less clear-cut and more complex.’ And again: ‘All the indications are that efforts to establish the facts of the Kosovo conflict and punish the attendant war crimes had primarily been concentrated in one direction, based on an implicit presumption that one side were the victims and the other side the perpetrators. As we shall see, the reality seems to have been more complex.’ And again: ‘what emerged in parallel [to the crimes being carried out by Milosevic’s Serbia] was a climate and a tendency according to which led to all these events and acts were viewed through a lens that depicted everything as rather too clear-cut: on one side the Serbs, who were seen as the evil oppressors, and on the other side the Kosovar Albanians, who were seen as the innocent victims.’ Consequently, ‘The international actors chose to turn a blind eye to the war crimes of the KLA, placing a premium instead on achieving some degree of short-term stability.’; ‘International officials told us… that the approach of the international community could be aptly encapsulated in the notion of “stability and peace at any cost”. Obviously such an approach implied not falling out with the local actors in power.’ Marty’s unconcealed agenda is to correct this perceived pro-Albanian imbalance in international policy.

On another occasion, Marty said ‘Most of the facts mentioned were known … and there is a silencing of facts… Those things were known to intelligence services of several countries. They were known to police services, to many people who told us in private, “Oh yes, we know this,” but chose to remain silent for reasons of political opportunity.’ This represents an indictment of the international community as much as of members of the KLA. But it is not a fair one: the ICTY indicted sixteen individuals for war-crimes in Kosovo, of whom seven were Albanians and nine were Serbian officials. Albanians, responsible for less than a fifth of the killing during the Kosovo War, made up two-fifths of the ICTY’s indictees for war-crimes in Kosovo. A sitting Kosovar prime minister was, as noted above, himself indicted. Marty’s claim that only one side has been treated as guilty and the other as innocent by international bodies is therefore false.

Marty’s report complains that ‘the ICTY carried out an exploratory mission to the site of the notorious “Yellow House”, though proceeding in a fairly superficial way and with a standard of professionalism that prompts some bewilderment.’ He has not so much sought to complement and build upon the work of existing mechanisms for international justice, but to dismiss them in the service of his own political narrative, critical of the supposedly pro-Albanian policy of the international community. Rather then let his allegations against members of the KLA speak for themselves, Marty himself tells us what the conclusion should be: ‘The evidence we have uncovered is perhaps most significant in that it often contradicts the much-touted image of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, as a guerrilla army that fought valiantly to defend the right of its people to inhabit the territory of Kosovo.’

None of this means that Marty’s allegations against Thaci and other Kosovars are necessarily untrue. But it does mean that they are not the accusations of an impartial investigator, but of someone with an unhidden political agenda. Marty is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and as Denis MacShane writes, ‘the Council of Europe is not some disinterested gathering of Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch parliamentarians but a deeply conflicted politicised body where states mobilise to promote support for their current Weltanschauing.’ MacShane links Marty’s accusations to Russian machinations in the Council of Europe. In these circumstances, there should be no automatic assumption that Marty is right and that Thaci and his fellows are guilty. On the contrary, the onus should very much be on Marty and his collaborators to provide the evidence to substantiate their very serious allegations against the democratically elected prime-minister of a European state.

From Serbia’s Karadjordje Petrovic to Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk and beyond, leaders of national-liberation struggles have carried out massive atrocities but continued to be revered by subsequent generations of their respective nations, and often by outsiders as well. Today, we expect a higher standard of respect for human rights and human life from contemporary statesmen, and are ready to prosecute members of a national-liberation struggle guilty of war-crimes. Yet the crimes of Karadjordje and Ataturk do not invalidate the independence and statehood of Serbia or Turkey; nor do the crimes of Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman invalidate Croatia’s independence and statehood; nor does the Deir Yassin massacre invalidate Israel’s independence and statehood. Whatever the truth of Marty’s allegations, Kosovo’s struggle for freedom and independence from Serbian colonial rule was legitimate and just. Now, more than ever, the democratic world should rally round Europe’s newest democracy, and make clear that independent Kosovo will never, ever be wiped off the map.

This article was posted today on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.

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Friday, 28 January 2011 Posted by | Albania, Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Israel, Kosovo, Marko Attila Hoare, Serbia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dressing chauvinistic hatred up as ‘class warfare’ or ‘anti-imperialism’ does not make it a good thing

One of the most insidious things about the radical left-wing discourse of class warfare and imperialism is the way in which it is increasingly providing a cover under which the worst forms of bigotry, even murderous or genocidal bigotry, can masquerade as something ‘progressive’. So effective is this propaganda technique that today it is increasingly being adopted by members of the right and far right as well. Indeed, right-wing and left-wing opponents of our contemporary, cosmopolitan, global civilisation are increasingly resembling each other, dressing up anti-Semitism and other forms of racism as resistance to imperialism or capitalism.

Take the example of anti-immigrant racism. The BNP regularly presents its racism in class-warfare terms: ‘The only political party in Britain that is opposed to the immigration racket and its devastating effect on British jobs is the British National Party. We are poised to throw the entire weight of our campaigning machinery into action in support of striking British workers. We, unlike the unions and Lib-Lab-Con, will stand by our own people no matter what the cost. For decades we have had a simple slogan explaining our position: BRITISH JOBS FOR BRITISH WORKERS!’

But even less crude opponents of immigration are ready to play the class-warfare card. In the words of Jeff Randall, writing a couple of years ago in the Daily Telegraph: ‘By lowering wages, migrants enable the middle classes to hire more home-caterers, dog-walkers, house-cleaners and hedge-trimmers for less cost than before. Very nice, if you’re an investment banker in Kensington. Not so hot, if the last job you had was polishing his Bentley.’ Of course, working-class families might also benefit from Polish plumbers charging less than British plumbers, but this particular Telegraph columnist has learned the value of dressing up his right-wing viewpoint in quasi-Marxist clothes.

He is far from alone. Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Bernard Dinneen complains that in permitting mass immigration, ‘Labour politicians were the culprits; they betrayed the working class. ’[] Sue Reid, in the Daily Mail, wrote an article entitled ‘The great white backlash: Working class turns on Labour over immigration and housing’. She argued that in light of increasing ‘white working-class’ receptivity toward the BNP, ‘Perhaps this should serve as a timely warning to Hazel Blears and the rest of the New Labour hierarchy, who many feel have let down the ordinary people who put them in power.’

The problem is not that the language of the left is being cynically misused by racists and right-wingers, but that the links between left-wing discourse of ‘class warfare’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ on the one hand, and racism and anti-Semitism on the other, are much deeper than leftists are often ready to admit. When Ukrainian peasants rebelled against their Polish aristocratic landlords in 1648, their ‘class warfare’ was directed in particular against the landlords’ Jewish estate-managers; in practice against Jews in general, tens of thousands of whom were slaughtered. I hope it is unnecessary to point out that anti-Semitic slaughter of this kind does not become acceptable simply because it is an expression of ‘class struggle’.

For modern socialists and anarchists, hostility to capitalism frequently went hand in hand with hostility to Jews, as evidenced by the anti-Semitism of Proudhon, Fourier, Bakunin and others, including Marx himself. Fascism itself had radical socialist origins, as the brilliant historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell has demonstrated. Early fascists replaced the class struggle with the national struggle as the weapon for attacking liberalism and democracy; they believed redistribution of wealth and power should occur between nations, rather than – or in addition to – between social classes.

The most radical ‘national socialist’ experiment was, of course the one undertaken by Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. As Hitler said: ‘We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.’ Hitler saw the task of his National Socialists as freeing the German workers from the influence of ‘Jewish’ international socialism, and of freeing the German economy from the control of ‘Jewish’ international capital. In power, the Nazis expropriated the wealth of Jews and of other nations, redistributing it in favour of Germany and German ‘Aryans’.

Yet genocidal impulses are scarcely an aberration in the revolutionary left’s tradition. Notoriously, Marx and Engels believed in the existence of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ fit only to be exterminated. In 1849 Engels called for a ‘war of annihilation of the Germans against the Czechs’ as the ‘only possible solution’; he described the Croats as a ‘naturally counter-revolutionary nation’ and looked forward to the day when the Germans and Hungarians would ‘annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names.’

Left-wing radicals, unrestrained by any belief in the virtues of moderation and restraint, will frequently slip down the slope from aggressive radicalism into outright chauvinistic hatred, with their radical ideology simply a means by which their inner rage against particular groups of people can find socially acceptable expression. And in recent years, the more the prospect of revolutionary social change in the direction of socialism has receded in the advanced capitalist world, the more radical leftists and their fellow travellers have been ready to descend into the gutter of chauvinism directed against ‘counter-revolutionary nations’.

During the Wars of Yugoslav Succession of the 1990s, a considerable portion of left-wing opinion in the West made it abundantly clear that it did not respect the right of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ such as the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians even to exist, let alone to receive solidarity in their struggles for national survival. The genocidal campaigns of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic were invested with an ‘anti-imperialist’ content, so had to be defended against ‘Western media bias’ and ‘demonisation’. What was chilling at the time was that, once the nations in question had been marked as ‘pro-imperialist’, their only legitimate option – as far as the ‘anti-imperialists’ were concerned – was to lie down and die. Any attempt at resistance to their national destruction on their part was condemned as a crime equivalent to – indeed worse than – the original Serbian assault on them, while any expression of solidarity for them by others in the West was condemned as ‘support for Western intervention’.

The Western leftists who defended Milosevic’s genocidal campaigns internalised the Serb-nationalist ethnic stereotypes of Croats as ‘Ustashas’, Bosnian Muslims as ‘fundamentalists’ and Kosovo Albanians as ‘criminals and drug smugglers’. There were plenty of ironies in the sort of arguments used to deny the right of these peoples to national existence. Opportunistic anti-Semitic statements made by Croatian president Franjo Tudjman in his book Wastelands of Historical Truth were cited to tar the entire Croat nation with the brush of fascism by leftists who have consistently turned a blind eye to – if not actively apologised for – the far more extreme and integral anti-Semitism of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah or of the Iranian and other Muslim regimes. The Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, who never expressed any chauvinism toward Christians or Jews and who presided over a secular state, was condemned as a reactionary Muslim by leftists who would soon be supporting ‘resistance’ to ‘imperialism’ and ‘Zionism’ in Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan on the part of genuine murderous Islamists, or uniting with British Islamists to form the ‘Respect’ party.

Leftist stereotyping of Kosovo Albanians as drug smugglers and criminals is simply the same stereotyping as that employed by the BNP against Albanians and other immigrants or ethnic minorities. Thus, the Socialist Unity website cited popular left-wing blogger ‘Splintered Sunrise’ to back up its own opposition to Kosovo’s independence, quoting him as saying ‘I’m opposed to independence for Kosovo because the place is run by a bunch of mafiosi, its economy is based on the trafficking of drugs, arms and women, and giving this basket case the attributes of statehood will make a bad situation worse.’ The BNP, too, opposes Kosovo’s independence on similar grounds, arguing ‘Albanians are spread all over Europe and especially in the criminal underworld. They are notorious for their effectiveness, unpredictability and incredible cruelty. Their main advantage to the other organized crime [sic] is the fact that they speak language [sic] nobody understands, their organization is based on family ties and if someone dares to speak out that person is being brutally murdered. In Europe, today the Albanian mafia is the main engine of traffic of drugs and humans, theft and falsification of passports, weapons and human organs trade, abductions, extortions and executions. In London these people control the entire network of prostitution, in Italy and Greece they deal with weapons and drugs’ smuggling. There are entire towns in Italy where the business is controlled by Albanians.’ However, ‘Splintered Sunrise’ attributed the BNP’s support for Serbia over Kosovo not to anti-Albanian racism, but to the Albanians’ own alleged sins: ‘the new BNP position has its roots in Londoners’ fear and loathing of violent Albanian gangsters’.

What is horrifying is not that the leftists in question are accusing Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovar leaders of things they are often not guilty of, or that the leftists in question are inconsistent or hypocritical. It is that such accusations are simply so many pretexts to support the destruction of the nations in question. These leftists do not want to give solidarity to progressive Croats who oppose anti-Semitism, or progressive Bosnian Muslims who support secularism, or progressive Albanians who oppose organised crime, with the goal of making Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo better places. On the contrary, the leftists are seeking to provide ammunition to those who would like to wipe these countries off the map altogether.

But for all the venom directed by ‘anti-imperialist’ leftists at the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, there is one state that they hate even more. Israel, in their eyes, is the ‘counter-revolutionary nation’ par excellence; its Jewish majority citizens condemned as ‘settlers’ (unlike immigrants in the West, who are not so condemned); its academics boycotted. Such leftists will line up with the most murderous and bigoted elements in the Muslim world against even the most progressive nationally conscious Jews on an ‘anti-Zionist’ basis; their need to deny Israel’s legitimacy as a nation and state trumping any opposition to anti-Semitism, fundamentalism, misogyny or homophobia they might be expected to have. Once again, they oppose Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank or discrimination against its Arab citizens not because they wish to align themselves with progressive Israelis who also oppose these things, but because they would, fundamentally, like to see Israel destroyed altogether.

The pretext for this left-wing hatred of Israel is that it is a ‘hijack state’ based upon the dispossession of most of the Palestinians who lived there until the 1940s. But this ignores the fact that other states are based upon similar or even larger-scale dispossessions of national groups, without their right to exist being called into question. For example, the Czech Republic’s relative ethnic homogeneity stems from the Czechs’ expulsion, following World War II, of two and a half million ethnic Germans from what was then Czechoslovakia. Likewise, modern Turkey is founded upon the extermination of a million Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Greeks during the 1910s and 1920s, and the expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands more. But nobody claims the Czech Republic or Turkey is an illegitimate nation-state. It is Israel alone which is deemed to have forfeited its legitimacy as a nation on account of its leaders’ crimes of decades ago.

In each of the examples presented here, extremists try to dress up their bigoted hatred of whole ethnic groups or nations in radically progressive clothes. So the BNP will present its hatred of immigrants in terms of ‘supporting the British working class’, and radical leftists justify their hatred of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ on the basis of ‘anti-imperialism’. Chauvinistic hatred does not become progressive simply because it is dressed in progressive clothes, and it is always worth looking beyond the window dressing to see what the agendas of such groups and individuals really are. Equally, it is time to acknowledge the problematic nature of such radical left-wing concepts as ‘class warfare’ and ‘anti-imperialism’, and the reasons they lend themselves so readily to abuse. When they are increasingly becoming the justification for the most extreme reactionary politics, something is very wrong.

This article was published on 10 August by Engage.

Friday, 14 August 2009 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Israel, Jews, Middle East, Red-Brown Alliance, SWP, The Left | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey: Time for Erdogan and the AKP to go

erdoganperesWe have long defended the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the face of anti-democratic attacks from the Turkish Kemalist establishment and the ultranationalist right. This government has been a reforming force in Turkish politics and society, promoting democratisation and human rights at home and presiding over great economic growth while pursuing a moderate, progressive foreign policy abroad. The AKP government has improved the rights of women and Kurds, pursued detente with Armenia and Cyprus, tried to restrain Turkey’s hawks over the PKK and northern Iraq, and supported the fragile, threatened Balkan states of Macedonia and Kosova.

Nevertheless, any progressive regime that remains in power too long will cease to be progressive. And the indications are that the AKP government has reached this point. Its initially moderately Islamic ideology mirrored, for a time, the moderate Christianity of European Christian Democratic parties, and provided an appealing alternative Islamic message to that of the Islamists. By challenging the Kemalist establishment over the ban on headscarves in universities and the public sector, the government has simply been standing up for the right of religiously observant women to education and a career. Yet the government, whose public support has been declining and which performed badly in local elections last month, is increasingly slipping down the slope from moderate Islam to Islamic populism. In January, Erdogan flounced off the stage during a panel discussion with Israeli president Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum, after accusing Peres over the Gaza offensive: ‘When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.’ During the Gaza offensive, Erdogan regularly denounced Israel in Islamist terms, suggesting that ‘Allah would punish’ Israel, whose actions would lead to its own ‘destruction’.

That this had more to do with pandering to Muslim populism and rising anti-Semitism than to any genuine concern at Palestinian suffering is indicated by the fact that Erdogan has not displayed quite the same degree of anger at the crimes of the Islamist Sudanese regime in Darfur. Indeed, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir was invited to Turkey in January 2008, when he reviewed a military guard of honour in Ankara in the company of Turkey’s president, the AKP’s Abdullah Gul, who described him as a ‘friend’. Bashir was invited to Turkey again in August, despite his indictment for genocide by the International Criminal Court. The Turkish government has extended a similarly warm welcome to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with whom it is developing a close friendship, and who was permitted to put on an anti-American and anti-Israeli display at Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Ankara is also pursuing an increasingly close collaboration with Russia, and is obstructing the transit of Azerbaijani gas to Europe via the Nabucco pipeline project, thereby threatening a source of energy for Europe that would be independent of Moscow.

Perhaps most worryingly, Ankara has been blocking the accession of Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to become the next secretary-general of NATO, on account of his handling of the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005. In Erdogan’s own words: ‘We are receiving telephone calls from the Islamic world, telling us: “By God, this person should not become the secretary general of Nato and we have to take into consideration all these reactions”.’ The AKP’s Islamic populism is thus threatening the functioning of NATO.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has hardened its stand on the Kurdish issue, with Erdogan warning the Kurdish people that, with regard to Turkey, they should ‘love it or leave it’, creating major difficulties for the AKP’s own Kurdish deputies in relation to their constituents. This is apparently linked to increasing government paranoia over the role of the US and Israeli intelligence services in the country. This shift may account for the AKP’s poor showing in Kurdish regions in Turkey’s recent local elections.

Erdogan is mutating from a Muslim moderate into a Muslim bigot; his government is becoming a negative force in world politics. It is time for them to go.

Saturday, 4 April 2009 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Armenians, Darfur, Iran, Islam, Israel, Jews, Kosovo, Kurds, Macedonia, Middle East, NATO, Russia, Sudan, Turkey | 1 Comment

Was Franjo Tudjman a Holocaust denier ?

tudjman1When faced with claims made by revisionist writers concerning the wars in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s, that they present as ‘challenging accepted wisdom’, it is generally a safe working assumption that they are all falsehoods, unless the writers in question actually present hard evidence to back them up. This can be shown by even the most casual glance at the ‘sensational revelations’ that these writers have been making since 1991: that Germany ‘encouraged’ Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia in 1991; that the Croatian chequerboard symbol was a ‘fascist’ symbol; that Bosnia’s Alija Izetbegovic recruited for the SS during World War II; that Izetbegovic’s regime reestablished a five-thousand strong SS ‘Handzar Division’ in Bosnia in the 1990s; that the Western media ‘fabricated’ the existence of Serb concentration camps in Bosnia; that the Bosnian Army was guilty of shelling its own civilians in Sarajevo in order to provoke Western bombing of the Serbs; that the US imported mujahedeen or Wahhabi fighters into Bosnia during the war; that Izetbegovic was a friend and ally of Osama bin Laden and shared his politics; that the fighting and massacres in the Srebrenica region were initiated by the Bosnian Army; that there is ‘no proof’ that the Srebrenica massacre occurred; that Croatia’s Operation Storm was the ‘largest single act of ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslav wars’; that there was no Serbian ethnic-cleansing in Kosovo before the NATO bombing began in 1999; that no mass graves of Kosova Albanians were found in Kosova after NATO moved in; that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has focused disproportionately on Serb war-crimes suspects; and so on and so forth –  all these claims, and others, have either been shown to be complete fabrications or, at best, wild exaggerations, or they remain entirely unsubstantiated. Generally, only a bit of research is necessary to reveal each new claim of this kind as yet another falsehood.

On this occasion, I should like to turn to one of the older claims made by the members of the Milosevic-Karadzic lobby and by others who defend Milosevic and the Great Serbian record: the claim that the late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman was a ‘Holocaust denier’. This claim has generally been linked to Tudjman’s turgid, rambling, 1989 study of genocide and mass violence, Bespuca povijesne zbiljnosti: Rasprava o povijesti i filozofiji zlosilja [Wastelands of historical truth: A discussion of the history and philosophy of violence] – citations here are from the first edition, Nakladni zavod Matice Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1989.

This is what Tudjman wrote in Bespuca (p. 153) about the Holocaust:

After Hitler’s military forces had foundered in the Soviet expanses, together with the myth of German invincibility in the Blitzkrieg, there disappeared also for Germany the possibility of a territorial solution of the Jewish question outside of Europe. Already from the very start of the German-Soviet war, from the summer of 1941, the persecution of the Jews was increased, with fanatical propaganda about the need for the merciless uprooting of all members and supporters of Jewish-Bolshevism. Since with the development of the war the possibility of expelling the Jews to Madagascar had vanished, and the conquest of large Polish and Soviet expanses in the East had opened other possibilities for a territorial solution, so Hitler, at the start of 1942, with the goal of a ‘final solution’, took the decision on the resettlement, that is the expulsion or ‘deportation’ of the Jews to the East. Although the Berlin (Grossen Wannsee) confererence (21.01. 1942), at which Heydrich gave instructions to the high Nazi officials on the execution of Hitler’s new orders, spoke only of ‘evacuating’ the Jews from all European lands to the East, it was obvious that the final solution of the Jewish question in this way aimed at achieving their step-by-step annihilation. H. Frank had, before German functionaries in Krakow, spoken more directly of the ‘final solution’. Mentioning that in Poland there were now almost 2.5 million Jews, and including the mischlings perhaps up to 3.5 million, he would say that they ‘cannot all be executed or poisoned’, but that it was necessary ‘to take measures that would bring about their annihilation’, because the war would not be a complete success if Jewry survived.

Thus, in the third year of the Second World War (1942), began the period in which the Third Reich would attempt through the ‘final solution’, that is, the exclusion of the Jews from the life of Germany and the other European nations, to achieve their step-by-step extermination. But, as that goal could not be announced to the world public, and was in the form of a secret directive notified to only a narrow circle of Nazi confidants, this was also kept hidden from the majority of Germans, who took the deportation of the Jews to the East to be their resettlement in the Polish-Russian territories, and held the concentration camps to be work camps and not death camps.

Thus, the accusation that Tudjman was a ‘Holocaust denier’ is simply untrue. But nor is it quite true that the accusations came completely out of nowhere: in this case the lie contains three grains of truth:

1) Tudjman cast doubt on the figure of six million Jewish Holocaust victims (pp. 155-156):

Regarding the total number of Jewish victims in the Second World War, in world literature there is still not even an approximate scientifically determined fact. On the one hand, estimates range from about four million (G. Reitlinger, 1953) to up to six million (J. Lestchinsky and the American Jewish Congress, 1946, and N. Levin, 1968 and 1973). Raul Hilberg, whose book (1961 and 1973) in terms of comprehensiveness and quality exceeds that of Nora Levin, judges that the total losses exceed about five million or about one third of the pre-war Jewish population, but in his statistical overview alleges that of 5,100,000 deaths there are records for the deaths of 900,000, and casts doubt (putting question-marks) on some other numbers in the framework of the total figure. Those are, presumably, the reasons why there is a need to mention that, on the other hand, some consider the figure of six million deaths to be highly ‘exaggerated’.

This passage has frequently been misquoted to accuse Tudjman of putting the figure for Jewish Holocaust victims at only 900,000, though Tudjman was in fact claiming that a leading Holocaust scholar, Raul Hilberg, had put the figure at 5.1 million and the number of those for whom records existed at 900,000. However, Tudjman then argues (p. 156)

That the mentioned estimates of up to six million dead are based too much, both on emotionally partisan testimony, and on one-sided and exaggerated figures of the postwar settling of accounts for wartime misdeeds and retribution against the defeated perpetrators of war-crimes…

After discussing differing estimates of Jewish, Polish and other casualties at Auschwitz, Majdanek, and elsewhere, Tudjman nevertheless concludes his discussion of the Holocaust (p. 158):

Of course, these examples – whether unconfirmedly indiscriminate or highly contradictory – of giving different figures, do not bring into question the enormity of the war losses of particularly the Jewish and Polish, as well as some other peoples, and in particular are not important for an overall condemnation of the genocidal acts of their perpetrators.

2) Tudjman cites self-evidently anti-Semitic sources to try to show that in the Ustasha death-camp of Jasenovac, Jewish inmates had enjoyed a privileged role in relationship to other groups of prisoners, including Serbs and Gypsies, and had even participated in the persecution and killing of the latter (pp. 316-320). Typical of the way Tudjman gives credence to anti-Semitic testimony against the Jewish inmates of Jasenovac is his citation of an anti-Semitic Bosnian Serb former Jasenovac inmate, Vojislav Prnjatovic, whose statement Tudjman quotes (p. 318): ‘A Jew remains a Jew, even in Jasenovac. They have retained all their vices in the camp, only these are now more apparent. Selfishness, cunning, unreliability, avariciousness, treacherousness and a propensity to snitching are their principal characteristics.’

Tudjman then comments (p. 318):

This judgement of Prnjatovic’s reeks of exaggeration; we could say an anti-Semitic inclination, but similar things are said by other witnesses. Some of the Jewish camp officials were armed and participated in the killing. Furthermore, in their hands was, to a large degree, the ‘selection’; i.e., the separation of prisoners for ‘liquidation’, and partly even their actual execution.

Tudjman did not deny the crimes of the Ustashas against Jews in Jasenovac, but his discussion of the Jewish inmates of Jasenovac is dominated by their supposed role as perpetrators, rather than their suffering and loss of life. 

3) Tudjman moves straight on from his discussion of the Holocaust to a discussion of Israel and Palestine, in which he compares Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi treatment of the Jews (p. 160):

After everything that it had suffered in history, particularly that terrible suffering in the Second World War, the Jewish people will in a very short space of time carry out against the Palestinian people such a brutal, genocidal policy that it has justly been termed judeo-Nazism.

Tudjman described Israeli policy as tending toward a ‘“final solution” of the Palestinian question‘, and complained:

And all this is taking place in the middle of the nineteen eighties, when world Jewry still has the need to recall its losses in the ‘Holocaust’, and even to try to prevent the election of the former general secretary of the UN, Kurt Waldheim, as president of Austria ! (p. 160)

Tudjman had fought as a Yugoslav Partisan during World War II, against the Croat Ustasha fascists; his ‘anti-Zionist’ views concerning Israel and Palestine should be attributed not so much to any right-wing Croat nationalist tendencies on his part, but primarily to his formation as a Yugoslav general under Josip Broz Tito’s fiercely pro-Arab and anti-Israeli Communist regime, with its close links to Nasserite Egypt and the Non-Aligned Movement.

In sum, therefore, Tudjman was not a Holocaust denier, but he cast doubt on the figure of six million Jewish Holocaust victims; went out of his way to portray Jewish inmates of the Jasenovac death-camp as perpetrators rather than as victims; and relativised the Holocaust in a manner that can only be deemed deliberately offensive and provocative toward Jews – by comparing it to Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

Tudjman was a crude Croat chauvinist who was entirely ready to write offensively about Jews, as he was about other groups, and to repeat anti-Semitic cliches about the role of ‘world Jewry’ in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to its alleged use of the memory of the Holocaust. But hostility toward Jews was not central to Tudjman’s worldview, as it was for ideological anti-Semites in the mould of Hitler, Corneliu Codreanu, David Duke, Osama bin Laden, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmud Ahmadinejad or other contemporary Islamic radicals. What was central was a profound cynicism and callousness with regard to questions of genocide and its victims, which led him to veer in the direction of anti-Semitism.

Originally a hard-line doctrinaire Marxist, Tudjman began his evolution into a Croat nationalist through his work as a historian, in which he had attempted to evaluate Croatia’s World War II history more positively; this involved emphasising the Croatian contribution to the Partisan movement. But it also involved challenging the view favoured by some Serb intellectuals, that the Croats were a ‘genocidal nation’, and challenging the high figures given by Yugoslav and Serb historians of Serb victims in the Ustasha genocide, in particular at Jasenovac. These were legitimate gripes: the widely accepted figure of several hundred thousand dead at Jasenovac was indeed a gross exaggeration; the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington today places the figure at 56-97,000 (though Tudjman’s own estimate of 30-40,000 was too low). Likewise, the overall figure for Serb deaths in the Ustasha genocide has frequently been put at around a million or upwards. But studies of war-losses carried out by the demographers Bogoljub Kocovic and Vladimir Zerjavic, a Serb and Croat respectively, have shown that the total number of Serbs killed on the territory of Croatia and Bosnia during World War II – including battlefield deaths and civilians killed by the Germans, Italians, Chetniks, Partisans and other non-Ustashas – was somewhat over three hundred thousand. These and other sources suggest a total figure of somewhat under three hundred thousand Serb victims of the Ustasha genocide.

As a historian, therefore, Tudjman was entirely justified in questioning the figures for Serb casualties in mainstream accounts of the Ustasha genocide, particularly where Jasenovac was concerned. But this bee in his bonnet then mutated into the highly cynical and offensive general theory set out in Bespuca, with its anti-Semitic overtones, in which genocide was relativised and the distinction between victims and perpetrators was deliberately blurred. This involved, as we have seen, a questioning of the figure of six million Jewish Holocaust victims; a portrayal, based on anti-Semitic sources, of Jewish inmates of Jasenovac as perpetrators rather than as victims; and a description of Israeli policy toward Palestinians as ‘Judeo-Nazism’. Tudjman had moved seamlessly from skepticism about mainstream evaluations of the Serb death-toll in the Ustasha genocide and resentment of the image of Serb victimhood in it, to skepcitism about the figure of six million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust and resentment of the image of Jewish victimhood in Jasenovac.

The type of anti-Semitic views expressed by Tudjman in Bespuca, particularly where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was concerned, was of a kind that is today not unusual among supporters of the UK’s ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and ‘Respect’ party, or among speakers at the Socialist Workers Party’s annual conference. They reflect, in part, Tudjman’s background as a Yugoslav general under Tito’s fiercely ‘anti-Zionist’ Communist regime. But Tudjman was not a Holocaust denier. The accusation that he was, of course, is frequently made by radical leftists in the West, such as supporters of the SWP, who are themselves often apologists for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime – all incomparably more anti-Semitic than was Tudjman. Such radical leftists hold views on Israel and Palestine that are generally similar to, if not more extreme than Tudjman’s, and share his hostility to the Bosnian Muslims, to the idea of a united Bosnia, and to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Of all the revisionist myths that such radical leftists peddle about the former Yugoslavia, the myth that Tudjman was a Holocaust denier is particularly cynical: insofar as it has any origins in reality, it derives from him having said the sort of things about Jews that they do themselves.

Friday, 6 March 2009 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Israel, Jews, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia, SWP, The Left | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Israel today like Serbia in the 1990s ? An exchange

gaza3I received today a critical response to my post yesterday about the conflict in Gaza from my friend Jasmin Ademovic, who is an intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and is from Srebrenica in Bosnia. With Jasmin’s permission, I am publishing his letter along with my response to it.

Marko,

Hope all is well. I just read your blog article on the Palestine-Israel issue, and felt that I had to comment, something I rarely do on websites such as the Guardian, New Statesman etc because ignorance or the belief of righteousness can rarely be defeated. Perhaps I’m just too cynical.

However, reading your article disappointed me, probably because it was from you. It seems that you’re willing to go further in condemning the Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo than you are in relation to the Israelis, which is somewhat upsetting because I see a level of similarity between the Republika Srpska and Israel, i.e the creation of an entity (with the hope of eventual statehood through policies of attacks and non-refugee return) and the state of Israel which has expanded over 60 years to what it is now. This has been achieved through ethnic cleansing; Ilan Pappe and my own former personal tutor Oren Ben-Dor describe it as genocide. However, after my dissertation I’m not as convinced as they are about this because of the difficulty in law in defining it.

Anyway, we can all agree on Hamas rocket attacks being probable war crimes and pointless. Personally I hope for the Palestinians to become more like the Black South Africans in terms of violence/non-violence as a tactic. However, saying that ‘given the equal justice of both…causes’ does not seem to be accurate – in 60 years’ time if Bosnian Muslims were firing rockets at the RS I would not be saying that the Serbs had a ‘just cause’ and neither would you.

And as far as the Hamas rejection of Israel – they have said they would recognise them (because it would be practical and necessary to do so) if they fulfilled certain criteria. Considering Israel always wants its criteria fulfilled before it ‘talks’ about ‘peace’ why should it be any different for the Palestinians after 60 years of aggression, repression and war crimes ?

I could go on forever, do another dissertation on this etc, so I’ll stop here. Hopefully you can make out some valid points, as I feel that was more of a rant.

All the best.

Jasmin

Jasmin,

I do understand where you’re coming from, and I used to feel that way about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict myself. But I think there are important reasons why one should be more even-handed with regard to Israel and Palestine than with regard to Serbia and Bosnia or Kosova.

Firstly, nobody in Bosnia or Kosova denies the right of Serbia to exist as a state, or denies the legitimacy of the Serbs’ national existence. Nobody is threatening to wipe Serbia off the map. By contrast, what makes the Israeli case unique is the way that wide sections of the Arab and Muslim worlds have linked the Palestinian cause with rejection of the legitimacy of Israel as a state and nation, and a belief that Israel ought rightfully to disappear

Secondly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t just about the Israelis and Palestinians. The international campaigns in defence of Bosnia and Kosova were for the most part benevolent, progressive and democratic. By contrast, while one section of the pro-Palestinian movement is indeed progressive and democratic, the Palestinian cause has unfortunately been to a considerable extent hijacked by some extremely poisonous elements: anti-Semites, Islamists and other members of the extreme right and extreme left in the West; people who hate the US and liberal democracy, and interpret the Palestinian struggle against Israel in anti-Western terms.

Very often, these are the same people who have supported Milosevic and the Great Serbian cause for the same anti-Western reasons. This is an entirely negative and reactionary category of people. By contrast, I feel I have a lot in common with liberal Zionists who support a two-state solution; many liberal Zionists have been staunch defenders of Bosnia, and opponents of the genocide in Darfur.

Thirdly, whatever the faults of the Izetbegovic regime, it was not on a par with Hamas, which is an explicitly fundamentalist, anti-Semitic organisation. Izetbegovic favoured Muslim coexistence with non-Muslims in Bosnia; Hamas would like to wipe out the Jews or drive them into the sea. Its rocket attacks on Israeli civilians have to be seen in this context.

I agree that there are some parallels between the Republika Srpska and Israel, but ultimately the differences greatly outweigh the similarities.

Firstly, the Serbs before 1992 already had their own national state – Serbia – and an independent multinational Bosnia was an entirely reasonable compromise solution to the Bosnian Serb national question. Bosnian Serbs had traditionally viewed Bosnia as their homeland and supported Bosnian autonomy, and a part of them did, indeed, accept Bosnian independence in 1992. But the Jews have no national state but Israel, and there was no realistic alternative for the fulfilment of their national aspirations; a bi-national Jewish-Arab state in Palestine was not a serious possibility.

Secondly, whereas it was the Serb nationalists who rejected the moderate option and started the war in 1992, it was the Arabs who rejected the UN partition plan of 1947, which was the most reasonable compromise solution. After losing the Israeli war of independence, the Arabs then refused to make peace with Israel or recognise it. They thereby ensured that the Palestinian refugees would remain refugees, and their implacable hostility led directly to the war of 1967, which resulted in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Of course one should condemn the Israeli ethnic-cleansing of Palestinians in the 1940s and Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, but it is ultimately the Arab side that bears the greater blame for the outbreak and persistence of this conflict.

Finally, there is a practical reason for being even handed: the world is bitterly divided over the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; international efforts to resolve it will only be effective and have legitimacy in the eyes of the world if pressure is put on both sides. But as for your point about the desirability of Palestinian resistance evolving to be more like Nelson Mandela’s black South African resistance; I entirely agree.

Best,
Marko

Thursday, 15 January 2009 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Islam, Israel, Jews, Kosovo, Palestine, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia | 1 Comment

Jasa Almuli and Holocaust revisionism: The making of a Serbian anti-Wiesenthal

almuliEarlier this year, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade came under attack from Jasa Almuli, a Serbian journalist and former president of the Belgrade Jewish community. What apparently provoked Almuli’s ire was the claim made by the Helsinki Committee’s 2006 report: ‘During the course of the Second World War, the Jews in Serbia perished at a high rate, not only at the hands of the German occupation authorities, but at the hands of the Government of National Salvation of Milan Nedic, the Ljoticites [Serbian fascists], gendarmes and Special Police, whose effective work contributed to the fact that, already in August 1942, Belgrade, as the first European capital city, was proclaimed a city cleansed of Jews (Judenrein).’

Almuli objected: ‘This equation of the German occupiers and the quisling organs in the destruction of the Serbian Jews does not accord with the truth.’ Allegedly basing himself on Serbian Jewish sources, Almuli claimed that ‘they all state that the German occupiers alone decided on the destruction of the Jews in Serbia and that the perpetrators were German organs.’

This is far from the first attempt by Almuli to defend the Serbian fascists and quislings of World War II from the charge that they participated in the Holocaust. In a letter published in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph on 27 February 1994, Almuli wrote:

‘As one of the few Serbian Jews who survived the Holocaust I can testify that the Serbian government of Milan Nedic under German military occupation did not “manage to deport every Serbian Jew to face the Holocaust”, as Tom Carter alleged (letter, February 20). The deportation of Jews in Serbia and their complete destruction was a crime exclusively committed by the Nazi Germans. They alone deported the Jews and killed them in camps they established in Serbia. The Serbs, who always resisted German invasion, rebelled against the Nazis and were subjected to exceptionally cruel reprisals in which for each German soldier killed by the Serbian partisans 100 Serbian hostages were executed. All Jewish males were killed by the German army as Serbian hostages, and no history of the Holocaust written by Jews blamed the Serbs for their deportation.’

However, what Almuli claims – that the Serbian quislings of Milan Nedic were innocent of any role in the Holocaust, and that no history of the Holocaust written by Jews blames ‘the Serbs’ for deporting Jews to the Nazis – is untrue. According to Israeli historian Menachem Shelah, writing in Israel Gutman’s Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (MacMillan, New York, 1990), the extermination of Serbia’s Jews was indeed the work of the Nazi SS and military leaders, but ‘Others involved in determining and carrying out Jewish policy were… the Serbian quisling puppet government, under Milan Nedic, whose police and gendarmerie assisted the Germans in rounding up the Jews.’ (p. 1341) Shelah writes in the same volume (p. 289): ‘There were many instances of Chetniks murdering Jews or handing them over to the Germans.’

Thus, whereas Almuli claims that the deportation and extermination of the Serbian Jews was ‘exclusively’ the work of the Nazis and that the Serbian quislings were innocent of any involvement, a respected standard reference work on the Holocaust says otherwise.

This is not the extent of Almuli’s efforts to whitewash the role of the Serbian quislings in the Holocaust. But before I go into this in greater detail, it is necessary to say a few words about him. According to the Serbian independent news magazine Vreme in June 1992, Almuli was one of a group of Serbian Jewish leaders who ‘directed all their efforts to just one goal: to be as close as possible to the existing regime.’ The regime in question was the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. This resulted, Vreme‘s journalist continued, in ‘the fact that Mr Almuli was a frequent guest at sessions of the Serbian government, at which propaganda activities were discussed.’ (Ivan Radovanovic, ‘Guzva u jevrejskoj opstini: Ovozemaljski izbori’, Vreme, 1 June 1992). Another member of this group of Serbian Jewish leaders was Klara Mandic, who founded the ‘Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society’ in 1987, to lobby the Jewish world, and in particular Israel, on behalf of Milosevic’s Serbia. Mandic had been a close ally of Milosevic and his intermediary in dealings with semilegal business enterprises on whose support he drew. She lived for nine months with the Serb paramilitary leader Dragan Vasiljkovic (‘Captain Dragan’) and was a close associate of both Radovan Karadzic and Zeljko Raznatovic ‘Arkan’. She was murdered in Belgrade shortly after the overthrow of Milosevic.

According to Vreme‘s journalist, Almuli resigned as Belgrade Jewish community president in the face of opposition from among Belgrade Jews to his initiative to publish an attack on the leadership of the sister Jewish community in Zagreb (for its own alleged closeness to its ruling regime – in this case, Croatian). He subsequently emigrated to the UK. Whereas Mandic was a flamboyant propagandist for the Serbian nationalist cause, her former mentor Almuli more quietly wrote letters in defence of the Serbian cause, as he saw it, for publication in newspapers.

On 25 May 1992, at the height of the Bosnian genocide, a letter of Almuli’s was published in the Jerusalem Post, attacking what he claimed was the Israeli newspaper’s ‘lack of objectivity’ with regard to Serbia: ‘We deplore your one-sided, biased presentation of the situation in the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. You do not state a single fact or argument bearing out your claims that Serbia is “aggressive and cruel”, that it has become a “grave danger to stability in Europe” and that it should be punished by a “total trade embargo and diplomatic isolation”.’ In a non sequitur which was already becoming all too familiar to anyone paying attention to Serbian propaganda in the early 1990s, Almuli then jumped straight from the events of 1990s Bosnia into an account of Serb suffering and Croat and Muslim wrongdoing in World War II.

Almuli then proceeded to present the Serb-nationalist case to his Israeli audience:

‘We, the Jews, who, together with the Serbs, suffered in Ustasha death camps – of which Jasenovac is recorded in the Hall of Remembrance in Yad Vashem – understand their current concerns. The Serbs want the Yugosalv crisis settled in a way that will not reduce them in the republics other than Serbia to a helpless minority… The republic of Serbia is not indifferent to the fate of the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the same as Israel is not indifferent to the fate of the Jews in the Diaspora.’

In a further apparent effort to mitigate Serb war-crimes in Bosnia and appeal to Israeli sensibilities, Almuli claimed: ‘In recent years, the Republic of Serbia took on the leading role in demanding the re-establishment [by Yugoslavia] of diplomatic relations with Israel.’

In other words Almuli, as the former pro-regime leader of the Belgrade Jewish community, was using these credentials to agitate on behalf of the Serb nationalist cause. Despite his readiness to attack his fellow Jews in Croatia for their own alleged closeness to their own regime, he frequently presented his polemics in terms of ‘we Jews’ or ‘us Jews’ – as if his past history of official service in Serbia qualified him to make statements on behalf of all Jews in the former Yugoslavia. Thus, in a letter published back in November 1993 (see below), Almuli claimed that ‘In the present propaganda battle among the waring factions in former Yugoslavia the history of the Holocaust is insistently revised with the aim of making the opposing faction guilty of killing the Jews.’ He finished by saying that ‘I plead with the warring factions in former Yugoslavia, and with their respective friends abroad, to stop using Jews in their propaganda warfare.’ Yet he failed to mention that he himself sided with one of the warring factions, that his own agenda was to whitewash his own country’s (Serbia’s) role in the Holocaust while emphasising the role of its enemy (Croatia), and that he himself was ‘using Jews’ in his own propaganda warfare aimed at defending the role of Serbia in the Bosnian war.

Almuli made an additional intervention in the propaganda war over Bosnia in January 1994, in response to an article in the International Herald Tribune by Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, who condemned Serb aggression as involving ‘genocide’ and a ‘Holocaust that is taking place in the heart of Europe’, and who called for US military action to halt in, and for the lifting of the arms embargo against Bosnia. Almuli responded:

‘It is very dangerous for a Jewish leader to take sides in an alien civil war with strong religious connotations, as Mr. Siegman does in Bosnia. He barely mentions the Catholic Croats, although they exposed themselves to widespread criticism by their military involvement in Bosnia and the resurgence of Ustase elements, which are of grave concern to the local Jewish community. He strongly supports the Bosnian Muslims, despite the fundamentalism of their leader, Alija Izetbegovic. And he invites Western military intervention against the Bosnian Serbs, who are Christian Orthodox, thus provoking possible reactions against Jews in other Christian Orthodox countries.’

In this way, Almuli attempted to silence Jewish criticism of the Serb genocide in Bosnia by raising the spectre of Orthodox Christian retaliation against Jews elsewhere.

In his recent attack on the Serbian Helsinki Committee, Almuli claims:

‘I am not defending Nedic or his regime, but defamed Serbia, and I fight always against revision of the history of the Holocaust. Therefore I present the question: Do the ladies and gentlement of the Helsinki Committee in Belgrade not know all this, or did not know how to read ? Some great Western powers, in the absence of any kind of international legal basis, claim that Serbia has no moral right to Kosovo, because it has killed there many Albanians at the time of the bombardment in 1999. Does this moral disqualification of Serbia need to be covered by the lie that Serbia is just as guilty as the Germans for the murder of the Serbian Jews ?!’

So it is, that this former leader of the Belgrade Jewish community sees his task as ‘defending defamed Serbia’ over Kosovo by whitewashing Serbia’s Nazi collaborators.

If readers are wondering why I am bringing up the subject at this time, it is not only because I have only just learned of Almuli’s attack on the Helsinki Committee, but also because I figured in his attack, as a ‘Briton with family links to Croatia’, who has also been ‘guilty’ of bringing up the Nedic regime’s role in the Holocaust. Almuli refers to a letter he had published in the London Review of Books back in November 1993, in which he accused me – back when I was a 21-year-old undergraduate – of making false claims about the Nedic regime. You can read his letter here. Indeed, I made some mistakes; above all, I put the figure for Jewish Holocaust victims in Serbia at 23,000, when it was closer to 15,000 (though Almuli, through confusing the territory of wartime Croatia proper – which I referred to – with the territory of the ‘Independent State of Croatia’, falsely accused me of getting the figure for Croatian Jewish victims wrong as well). I also mistakenly attributed the building of the quisling Serbian death-camp of Banjica to Nedic, though in fact its construction was initiated in quisling Serbia before Nedic personally took office. Yet while Almuli correctly pointed out the first of these errors, his letter otherwise consisted of a factually inaccurate apologia for the quisling regime in Serbia.

Almuli wrote:

The allegation that the regime of Milan Nedic, installed by the Germans in Serbia in August 1941., enthusiastically participated in the Holocaust, is the second incorrect statement in Mr. Hoare’s letter. No anti – Jewish legislation was passed by this regime, no death camp for Jews was established or run by it and virtually no killing perpetrated. All that was done by the German Army, police and SS which had almost entirely destroyed the Serbian Jewish population by May 1942., although several hundred Jews were still hiding with Serbian friends. The German police were hunting them and many were caught with the help of police loyal to Nedic’s regime, attracted by the financial reward the Germans were paying. This is all that can be found about Nedic in the published research of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia. The Germans themselves dealt with the Jews in Serbia; the duty of Nedic‘s regime was to carry out internal administration.

The half – truth in Mr. Hoare’s letter refers to the concentration camp Banjica in Belgrade. It was indeed a death camp and staffed by Serbian policemen, but it was not destined for Jews. This camp was established by German order and the Serbian personnel were subject to the control of the Gestapo. The camp was intended for Serbs who opposed the German occupation, for Partisans, Communists and liberal patriots. Out of 23,697 persons who were imprisoned in this camp only 455 were Jews.

In absolving the Nedic regime of responsibility for anti-Jewish legislation, Almuli did not choose to mention that the German commander in Serbia had issued an anti-Jewish and anti-gypsy decree on 31 May 1941, which required Jews to register with the Serbian police and wear the yellow star, banned them from public service, prevented them from visiting theatres and cinemas, and so forth. The decree specified: ‘The Serbian authorities are responsible for carrying out the orders contained in this decree.’ As Serbian prime minister from August 1941, Nedic presided over the enforcement of this decree by the Serbian authorities. Almuli’s claim that the Germans alone were responsible for measures against the Jews, while Nedic merely carried out internal Serbian administration, is therefore false.

As for Almuli’s attempt to downplay the role of the Serb quislings in the organisation and management of the Banjica death camp, and its role in the destruction of the Jews, historian Jennie Lebel (Zeni Lebl), in her book ‘Until the final solution: The Jews in Belgrade 1521-1942’ (‘Do konacnog resenja: Jevreji u Beogradu 1521-1942’, Cigoja stampa, Belgrade, 2001, pp. 312-313), has this to say:

The decision [to establish the Banjica camp] was taken in the staff of the German military commander for Serbia on 22 June 1941, and the same day the chief of the administrative staff Dr Turner informed the first person of the Commissars’ Administration [Serbian quisling government] Milan Acimovic of it. As it was a question of a joint, Nazi-collaborationist camp, the carrying out of the order was entrusted to the administrator of the city of Belgrade, Dragi Jovanovic, i.e. to the Administration of the city of Belgrade, the Belgrade municipality and the Gestapo. Dragi Jovanovic appointed on 5 July Svetozar M. Vujkovic as the first manager of that first concentration camp in Belgrade; and for his assistant, Djordje Kosmajac. They maintained daily close contact with the Special Police and with them decided the question of life or death for tens of thousands of prisoners in the camp. The security of the camp was exercised by a special detachment of the gendarmerie of the city of Belgrade, under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and with the special engagement of the Department of the Special Police. The German part of the camp was under the administration of the Gestapo.

The camp building had to be very quickly repaired and organised to suit its new purpose. According to the model of German concentration camps, metal walls, iron doors and bars were put up at Banjica, and grates were put on the windows. The first prisoners were brought to the newly formed camp already on 9 July, while the adaptation of the building was still in progress, even before the building of the high camp walls. The bringing of prisoners, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, was carried out at a fast tempo, as were their daily executions.(emphasis added)

Lebel is not the only historian to write about the role of Banjica in the Holocaust. Sima Begovic, a Yugoslav historian who was himself imprisoned in the camp during the war, is the author of a two-volume history of Banjica (‘Logor Banjica 1941-1944’, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Belgrade, 1989). He writes the following (vol. 2, pp. 25-26):

Larger groups of Jews reached the camp at Banjica on 14, 15 and 16 September 1941. Among them appear the surnames of well known Belgrade Jewish families: Albano, Gris, Finci, Pijade, Konfino, Sabitaj, Demojorovic, Mandilovic, Ruso, Gozes, Solomon, Almulzino, Amar, Demajo, Benvenisti, Janjatovic, Frajdenfeld, Isakovic, Zonensajn, Nisim, Altarac, Singer, Adanja, Melamed, Karic, Masic, Kon, Nahimijas, Kabiljo, Naftali, Grinberger, Anaf, Mor, Razencvajg, Munk, Blau, Hercog, Gutman and others. From the Banat group there were in the Banjica camp four Jews, doctors by profession: Djordje Farago from Petrovgrad (Zrenjanin), Franjo Loza from Srpska Crnja, Pavle Miler from Kovino, and Branko Auspic from Vrsac. In those three days alone 202 Jews were brought to the camp at Banjica. All of these were transferred, as recorded in the first register of the Banjica camp, to a different camp on 17 September 1941. Because the camp at the Old Fairground still was not completely finished, this was probably a matter of transfer to the camp at Topovske supe. It is a still more likely assumption that they were then, or a little later, executed at the village of Jabuka in the Banat, where the first executions were carried out both of Banjica prisoners and of Jews imprisoned at Topovske supe.

In terms of the numbers of Jewish victims from Banjica, Begovic writes (vol. 2, p. 28):

It is not easy or straightforward to determine the number of Jews who resided at the camp at Banjica and from it taken to the execution site. Judging by the Banjica registers, that number just exceeded 900 individuals. However, not all Jews were recorded in the registers of the Banjica prisoners.

Thus Almuli’s claim, that ‘only 455’ Jews passed through Banjica, is false. His figure of 23,697 prisoners at Banjica is also rejected by both Begovic and Lebel, who point out that this only represents the number of prisoners recorded in the camp registers, and does not include the thousands or possibly tens of thousands more who went unrecorded.

The camp at Topovske supe that Begovic mentions is described by Lebel as ‘the first Jewish death camp in Belgrade’. She writes (pp. 312-314) of the incarceration of the Jewish prisoners:

‘The guard was kept by Nedic’s gendarmes, who were inhuman and, to show their loyalty to the Germans, often worse than the latter. They prohibited them things that the Germans sometimes permitted. At the entrance there were not many guards, and even on the occasion of the transport of the prisoners to work there was not a particularly prominent guard. But it was made clear to them that every attempt at escape would be punished most strictly. They were soon convinced of this: when some nevertheless attempted to escape and were caught, in front of all the prisoners they were hanged in the camp courtyard.’

Nedic himself was an anti-Semite. As I demonstrate in my book, ‘Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943’ (Oxford University Press, London, 2006), he peppered his speeches with references to the ‘Communist-Jewish rabble’ and ‘Communist-Masonic-Jewish-English-mafia’ against which he was supposedly fighting. On 22 June 1942 he wrote to German General Bader to complain that Serbian prisoners-of-war in German camps were being confined alongside Jews and Communists, and requested that ‘it would be very desirable if Jews and leftists-Communists be removed from the common camps and kept apart from the nationally healthy officers.’ Consequently, ‘The Serbian government, concerned by this action, would be extremely grateful if the German Reich would take effective measures for a maximally rapid separation, etc.’ (‘Genocide and Resistance’, pp. 158-159; the citations are from archival documents that I located in Belgrade; photocopies of them are in my possession).

The Serbian historian Olivera Milosavljevic, in her recently published study of the Serbian quislings (‘Potisnuta istina: Kolaboracija u Srbiji 1941-1944′, Helsinski odbor za ljudska prava u Srbiji’, Belgrade, 2006, p. 25), based principally on an extensive examination of the Serbian quisling press, has this to say of Nedic’s official ideology:

‘The principle of a ‘clean’ nation encompassed all spheres of social life in Nedic’s Serbia, in which state officials, professors, pupils and students had to demonstrate that they were Serbs. The ‘Aryan paragraph’ entered the official documents of Nedic’s goverment which, on the occasion of employment in state service, required that candidates provide evidence that they were of Serb nationality and ‘Aryan origin’ and that their families did not have ‘Jewish or Gypsy blood’. Confirmations were provided by the municipal authorities.’

The Serbian fascist leader Dimitrije Ljotic, a central figure of the Serbian quisling regime, was most explicit in his statements on the Jews. For example, in a speech over Radio Belgrade in August 1941: ‘I have said, that the Christian nations have become so blind, that they see danger in every imperialism – except the most dangerous imperialism: the Jewish’; ‘Only the Jew could on the one hand be the creator and user of capitalism, and on the other create Marxism and lead revolutions, supposedly against capitalism’; ‘And to the Jews it must be clear that for the forseeable future the realisation of their dream of world revolution is ended’; ‘You will only then, with the fall of red Bolshevik Moscow, see what wrong toward the Russian nation and toward you, Serbian tribe, has been committed by those renegades, who convinced you that that Jewish-Unrussian creation is – your Slavic Russia’. (Dimitrije V. Ljotic, ‘Sabrana dela’, vol. 8, Iskra, Belgrade, 2003, pp. 46-48). Ljotic’s militia was closely involved in hunting down and arresting Jews.

This, then, is the true face of the Serbian quisling regime of World War II, whose record Almuli sees fit to defend. Almuli’s record may be set against that of Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who devoted his life to bringing Nazi war-criminals to justice and fighting Holocaust revisionism. In contrast to Wiesenthal, Almuli has tried his best to ensure that the crimes of his own fellow-countrymen, who participated in the Holocaust, are forgotten.

Updates on Almuli’s revisionist activities can be found here and here.

Addendum: For another defence of Milan Nedic’s Nazi-quisling regime, one that writes its role in the Holocaust out of history, see amateur historian Carl Savich at Serbianna.com, who writes that in its collaboration with the Nazis, ‘the regime Germany established in Serbia had no choice in the matter. They were not allies or loyal partners as Ante Pavelic was. The goal was to preserve the Serbian population.’ The Nedic regime’s involvement in Nazi genocide has also been written out of the history of World War II by the Jasenovac Research Institute and other Serb nationalist organisations and websites that claim to deal with the subject.

Saturday, 15 November 2008 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Israel, Jews, Kosovo, Serbia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is the Socialist Workers Party about to join the War on Terror ?

Picture: British imperialist general Sir Michael Rose, described by the SWP’s Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour as ‘certainly no sympathiser with the Bosnian Serb forces’, carrying out imperialist intervention against his sworn enemy, the leader of the Bosnian Serb anti-imperialist resistance, General Ratko Mladic.

The internal politics of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), spearhead of British opposition to imperialism and Zionism, may be thrown into turmoil by revelations made on Friday by leading SWP blogger Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour. In a comment on his blog Lenin’s Tomb, Seymour challenged the prevailing SWP wisdom that it is Western imperialism that is attacking and oppressing the Muslim world, and that the Left should be supporting the Muslims. According to Seymour’s iconoclastic claims, it is actually the other way round.

Citing a former senior official of Western imperialism (Philip Corwin, former UN chief political officer in Sarajevo), Seymour argued that Serb shelling of Sarajevo civilians and hospitals during the war in Bosnia was all deliberately provoked by the Muslims in the first place, furthermore that the Muslims were oppressing the Western imperialist forces: ‘Philip Corwin’s memoir recalls that BiH provocations weren’t just intended to draw Serb fire. They were also aimed at coercing UNPROFOR. Thus UNPROFOR troops were repeatedly shelled by BiH [Bosnian army] forces, more or less each morning. And UNPROFOR’s attitude, given that its role was to be co-belligerents with the US and the local clients, was to refuse to mention these in its situation reports or even protest too vigorously.’

With this radical challenge to prevailing SWP orthodoxy, Seymour claimed: 1) that the imperialist forces were the victims and the Muslims were the oppressors; 2) that all accusations made by Western imperialist officials against Muslims should be assumed to be true; 3) that the Bosnian army was shelling the UN forces every day, because they were allies against the Serbs; 4) that the UN was on the side of the Muslims against the Serbs, so never mentioned the fact that it was being oppressed by the Muslims – except in the published memoirs of its leading officials, available for purchase at Amazon.co.uk; and 5) that this UN-Muslim conflict renders UN officials the most objective judges of Muslim wrongdoing. 

Seymour goes on to argue that the popular belief that Sarajevo in the 1990s was shelled and besieged for three and a half years by Serb forces was a myth cooked up by the Western imperialist media, and that it was actually the Muslims who were shelling and massacring themselves in order to blame it on the Serbs. To prove this, he cites the testimony of the Western imperialists, who were engaged in a campaign to demonise the Serbs and who are therefore best placed to testify that the Muslims were really to blame for everything. Responding to a critic who argued that the Markale massacre of Sarajevo civilians in 1994 was the work of a Serb shell, Seymour cut him down: ‘your sense of who was responsible is curiously at odds with the views of UNPROFOR, which accused the Bosnian government forces of “firing to provoke the Serbs, and of using hospitals and public buildings as cover for such fire”.’ These imperialist accusations against the Muslims support the view, argues Seymour, that the Muslims were clients of the imperialists and that the two were working hand-in-glove againt the anti-imperialist Serbs. 

In addition to Corwin, Seymour cites a second Western imperialist official, British UN commander Sir Michael Rose (pictured above) in support of his argument that the Markale massacre was carried out by the Muslims: ‘UN experts had determined, according to General Sir Michael Rose (no Tory as far as I am aware, and certainly no sympathiser with the Bosnian Serb forces), that the shot came from the Bosniak side. UNPROFOR itself openly declared that the Bosnian forces repeatedly engaged in “false flag” operations to provoke Serbian attacks on civilian buildings.’

Picture: Dutch UNPROFOR troops carrying out imperialist intervention against Mladic and his Serb anti-imperialist forces at Srebrenica, July 1995. Thanks to Western imperialism’s support for the Muslims against the Serbs, the ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica was successfully defended from Serb anti-imperialist assault, and eight thousand Muslim men and boys were not massacred, left-wing sources say.

Sir Michael was unavailable for comment. However, he is known as a leading scholarly expert on Islamic culture and civilisation. In his published memoirs, Fighting for Peace, Rose argued that Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic was probably incapable of appreciating Mozart because he was a Muslim. Having attended a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in besieged Sarajevo alongside Izetbegovic, Rose wrote, ‘I wondered if he understood the Christian sentiment behind the words and the music’. Despite this demonstrated sympathy for Muslims and Islam, it is notable that Rose agrees with Seymour on the nefarious character of the Izetbegovic regime; Rose writes that Izetbegovic’s ‘talk of creating a multi-religious, multi-cultural State in Bosnia was a disguise for the extension of his own political power and the furtherance of Islam.’

Seymour’s allegations are likely to prove controversial among SWP members, who have spent the past several years supporting the jihad of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iraqi insurgents against Western imperialism, under banners such as ‘We are all Hezbollah now’, and were thus under the impression that radical Islamists were the good guys and Western imperialists the bad guys. SWP supporters have also tended to argue that while it is acceptable to support anti-Semitic Muslim groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah out of principled opposition to Zionism, it is unacceptable to support anti-Semitic Croats such as the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman because Tudjman and the Croats are reactionary nationalists, and socialists are not supposed to take sides in disputes between reactionary nationalists. Yet this SWP attitude, too, may change in light of Tudjman’s consistent opposition to Izetbegovic, multiethnic Bosnia and the Bosnian Muslims – an opposition that closely mirrors that of Seymour, Rose and UNPROFOR. Tudjman also shared the anti-imperialist left’s opposition to Israel, which he described as a ‘Judeo-Nazi hijack state’, to the imperialist war-crimes tribunal in the Hague, and to US imperialism in general, even taking steps to rehabilitate the World War II Ustasha fascist ‘Independent State of Croatia’, which declared war against the US in 1941.

As one left-wing opponent of imperialism and Zionism said yesterday, ‘We are all Ustashas now’.

Greater Surbiton News Service

Update: In response to this post, Seymour has accused me of being a ‘demented stalker’. For the record, I have posted about him fewer times than he has posted about me. Before I had ever written a word about him, he was libelling me on his blog. Five days ago, he launched an open thread on his blog so that his weird anonymous cronies could post defamatory comments about me and my family. So the question of who is a ‘demented stalker’ is probably not one that Richard should be raising. My advice to Richard is: if you can’t take it, then don’t dish it out. And as for which one of us needs, as he puts it, to ‘get a fucking life’… 🙂

Monday, 8 September 2008 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Islam, Israel, Jews, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia, SWP, The Left | Leave a comment

Extremists are poisoning my trade union

As someone who believes that trade unions have a vital role to play in a democratic and pluralistic society, and as an academic, I am a member of the University and College Union (UCU), and was previously a member of its predecessor, the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which merged with another union in 2006 to form the UCU. The UCU/AUT has been responsible for raising the salaries of academic staff such as myself, and I feel that I and other academics should support it. Yet I am becoming increasingly worried that my union is being hijacked by political extremists who are less concerned with defending the salaries and working conditions of its members, and more concerned with promoting an extremist political cause that most of its members do not support. As a non-activist member, I periodically learn from outside sources about steps being taken by union activists to promote this cause, over and above the heads of ordinary members such as myself.

So it was, back in 2005 when I was working at the University of Cambridge, I and other non-activist members learned after the fact that, via its secretary, the Cambridge branch of AUT had voted in favour of an academic boycott of Israeli academics, when the AUT’s national council had voted to implement such a boycott. The secretary in question was a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a viciously anti-Zionist group that supports the destruction of the State of Israel and that has, in recent years, pursued a strategy of alliance with Islamists on a common ‘anti-war’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ platform, involving vocal support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and for the Iraqi ‘insurgents’. The decision of our branch secretary to support the boycott led to a ‘backwoods rebellion’ by non-activist members, who bombarded the branch leadership with complaints, prompting even the SWP-supporting secretary to admit he had been wrong to support the boycott in the absence of a mandate from the membership. At the special branch meeting called to discuss the matter, I and others voted overwhelmingly to overturn the branch’s decision to support the boycott.

The nature of the ‘boycott Israel’ movement requires some explaining. As someone who spent years campaigning against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, and in defence of the national rights of Kosovars, Bosnians and Croatians, it never occurred to me to support an ‘academic boycott’ of Serbian academics – indeed, I collaborated with mainstream Serbian academics while Milosevic was still in power. Likewise, as someone who has written and demonstrated in support of Palestinian national and human rights, I opposed the boycott of Israeli academics. The movement to boycott Israeli academics was the work of extremist left-wing elements, such as the SWP, which view not just Israeli treatment of Palestinians, but Israel and Israelis themselves as illegitimate. Whereas such elements may or may not be prepared to condemn other oppressive regimes in other parts of the world, it is Israel alone that they single out for condemnation not merely for its oppressive actions, but for its very existence and national identity. This racist hostility to Israel forms part of a generalised ‘anti-imperialist’ discourse; the campaign against Israel, ostensibly in support of Palestinian rights, is in reality part of a wider campaign against ‘imperialism’ and ‘globalisation’. UCU activists from the ranks of the SWP and other extremist currents would like to turn our union, from an organisation set up to defend members salaries and working conditions, into a forum for their anti-imperialist and ‘anti-Zionist’ crusade. To learn more about the nature of the boycott movement, see Engage.

Such left-wing extremist elements inevitably find common ground with anti-Semites from the ranks of the Islamists and white supremacists, who share their hatred of Western civilisation and the liberal-democratic world order. So it comes as no surprise to learn that a certain UCU activist, apparently in an attempt to justify support for the boycott of Israeli academics, recently posted a link on the UCU’s mailing list to the website of the US white-supremacist David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Harry’s Place, a blog for which I write periodically, broke the story that the UCU’s mailing list was being used to circulate material from a white-supremacist, anti-Semitic source. In response, the popular, world-famous blog appears to have been shut down after the company with which its domain name is registered was apparently threatened with a libel suit.

I should like to express my complete solidarity with my comrades at Harry’s Place in the face of this attack on their freedom of speech, and to thank them for bringing to my attention these extremely nasty goings on in a union to which I belong. While I completely sympathise with former UCU members such as Eve Garrard, who feel they can no longer belong to a union that behaves in this manner, I fear the consequences of abandoning this and other unions completely into the hands of the extremists; unions are a vital part of our democracy. Yet there is undoubtedly a structural problem, which is that extremists are likely to be those who will devote the energy to infiltrating and hijacking unions, giving them a voice within the union movement out of all proportion to their actual popularity among the members. Ordinary union-members should take note: a union run by extremists will not be a proper defender of their interests. Union activists should take note: a union promoting unpopular extremist causes will lose members and cease to be effective or credible as a union. It is time to put a stop to this violation of our union.

For more on the attack on Harry’s Place, see Modernity, Engage, Bob from Brockley, Max Dunbar, Cafe Turco, Flesh is Grass and Ignoblus. See also Harry’s Place’s response.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Israel, Jews, Middle East, Palestine, Political correctness, Racism, Red-Brown Alliance, The Left | 4 Comments

A Russian war against Israel ?

Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has reportedly gloated over the Russian crushing of Georgia as a defeat for Israel. ‘[Israeli brigadier-general] Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia and they too lost because of him’, said Nasrallah; ‘Relying on Israeli experts and weapons, Georgia learned why the Israeli generals failed… what happened in Georgia is a message to all those the Americans are seeking to entangle in dangerous adventures.’ This opinion is endorsed by Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, who writes in the Tehran Times : ‘The collapse of the Georgian offensive represents not only a disaster for that country and its U.S.-backed leaders, but another blow to the myth of Israel’s military prestige and prowess.’

Nasrallah is not the only sworn enemy of Israel and the US to feel heartened by the Russian victory. According to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: ‘It is not possible for the United States, which even failed to protect its ally Georgia, to attack Iran. The US could not even protect its own ally. US clout in world politics is decreasing. Moreover, it is in a major economic depression.’ He went on: ‘We will see that the US empire will crack and eventually collapse. There is nothing that the US can do against Iran.’

Meanwhile, Moscow is reportedly planning to establish large-scale military, naval and air-bases in Syria, including nuclear-capable Iskander missiles, and to supply previously withheld advanced weapons systems to Iran.

Until the outbreak of the current conflict in the Caucasus, Israel and Georgia had enjoyed close, friendly relations. Israel armed and trained Georgia’s armed forces, apparently supplying Georgia with some $200 million worth of equipment since 2000. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, for his part, has been a staunch ally of Israel. As Brenda Shaffer, an expert on the Caucasus at Haifa University, writes in Haaretz : ‘One of the first telephone calls I received from overseas in the summer of 2006, while missiles were showering on Haifa and the north, was from a senior adviser in Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s bureau. He said the president had instructed him to call me and say he was willing to fly over immediately to display solidarity with Israel in its hour of need.’

Now, however, Russia appears to have scared Israel away from continued support for Georgia, by the threat of increased military support for Iran and Syria. The Israeli foreign ministry has recommended suspending further military cooperation with Georgia, reportedly on the grounds that ‘The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons’, in the words of an Israeli official. This, indeed, was the Russian intention. According to Theodore Karasik, director for research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, ‘with immense strategic implications, Russia is also trying to send Israel a clear message that Tel Aviv’s military support for Tbilisi in organizing, training and equipping Georgia’s army will no longer be tolerated… Further, Israel’s interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines is growing and Russia seeks to stop this activity at this time.’

The failure of the West to respond effectively to the Russian assault on Georgia, and Israel’s retreat before Russia’s threats, are nevertheless likely only to strengthen the confidence of other enemies of the US and Israel, including the regime in Tehran. As Shaffer writes: ‘Tehran is learning from the crisis in the Caucasus. If the U.S. fails to help its ally in Tbilisi, Tehran’s power will increase. On the other hand, serious American activity in Moscow’s back yard would teach Tehran a completely different lesson.’

Quite. Russia has opted to fight a new Cold War against the West, so there is no point in labouring under the delusion that it will join with us to contain the Iranian nuclear threat, while our failure to resist Russia in Georgia is emboldening Iran. To sacrifice Georgia – a loyal ally of Britain, the US and Israel, and the third-largest contributor of allied troops to Iraq – in the naive belief that a sufficient amount of grovelling will dissuade one sworn enemy from joining with another, can only strengthen and encourage both enemies.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008 Posted by | Abkhazia, Anti-Semitism, Caucasus, Former Soviet Union, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jews, Middle East, Red-Brown Alliance, Russia, South Ossetia | 1 Comment

With its nose bloodied, democratic Turkey needs our support

Yesterday, Turkish democracy received a bloody nose, but not a knock-out blow. Turkey’s constitutional court voted six to five in favour of banning the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – to which Turkish President Abdullah Gul also belongs – and banning its leading figures from politics. The court vote fell short of the seven-vote majority needed for a ban. Nevertheless, the court voted to cut the AKP’s state funding. Hasim Kilic, the court chairman and chief justice, described the ruling as a ‘serious warning’ to the AKP: ‘I hope the party in question will evaluate this outcome very well and get the message it should get,’ he said; ‘The verdict on cutting treasury aid has been given because of members who decided that the party was the hub of anti-secular activities’, although ‘not seriously enough’ to ban the party.

This attempt to bully democracy is taking place in an EU candidate country with the seventh-largest economy in the Council of Europe and the fifteenth-largest in the world, and which has pursued a for-the-most-part highly progressive foreign policy in recent years. Under the AKP, Turkey has been attempting to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. The Turkish government has attempted to restrain the hawkish voices favouring an onslaught against the Kurds of Northern Iraq. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Kosova, and was alone among the larger NATO countries in staunchly supporting a Membership Action Plan for Macedonia at the April NATO summit in Bucharest. It has sincerely worked for a resolution of the Cyprus dispute and for rapprochement with Armenia.

The AKP government has also pursued a reformist policy at home, improving Turkey’s democratic and human rights credentials to the point where the EU, despite strong opposition from some of its members, was compelled to start accession negotiations. And it has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the Turkish economy. All the more poignant, therefore, that the court’s move to ban the democratically elected party of government appears to have been triggered by the latter’s attempt to push through a democratic freedom for Muslims that is already enjoyed across Christian Europe: the right of women students to wear headscarves while attending university. The readiness of the Turkish Kemalist establishment to wreck its country’s democracy and economy and to plunge it into constitutional chaos, and possibly civil war, simply in order to maintain its exclusive grip on state power at the expense of the new Muslim middle class represented by the AKP, indicates the difficulties Turkey faces in its journey toward full democracy.

Turkish democracy is not under attack only by the secular establishment, but by fascist terrorist elements – both from the ranks of the secular ultra-nationalists and from the ranks of the Islamists. Earlier this month, Turkish police foiled preparations for a violent coup d’etat by members of the Ergenekon clandestine organisation; those arrested included three retired Turkish Army generals. This was followed by an Islamist terrorist attack on the US consulate in Istanbul, and then days ago by a terrorist bomb attack on a civilian target in Istanbul that the government and police have blamed on Kurdish PKK separatists but which some observers suggest was more likely to have been the work of Ergenekon. There have been credible suggestions that the apparently antithetical Kemalist and Islamist extremists have, in fact, been coming together on the basis of the values they share: opposition to the West, the US, ‘Zionism’, democracy and liberalisation. As Mustafa Akyol writes in the Turkish Daily News: ‘I can’t say anything about whether there are indeed criminal links between these groups, but the ideology they share is all too similar. Their aim is simply to keep Turkey as a closed society cut off from the world and ruled by an authoritarian state. What they fear and abhor is democratization and liberalization.’

With the constitutional court’s verdict, Turkish democracy has been shaken but not toppled, but the dangers facing the country remain, as do the dangers facing the Western alliance in relation to Turkey. Turkey’s political classes have been increasingly disillusioned in recent years, both with the EU and with the US. The slowness of Turkey’s EU accession process, coupled with the apparent outright refusal of some EU countries such as France and Germany ever to allow Turkey to join, have reduced the EU’s appeal among Turks. Meanwhile, Turkish relations with the US have been strained by the apparently ‘distabilising’ policy being pursued by Washington in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union: the war with Iraq; the possibility of an attack on Iran; support for regional democratisation and ‘colour revolutions’; and above all the US’s alliance with the Iraqi Kurds. Conversely and consequently, Turkish relations with both Russia and Iran have been improving. Indeed, the Kurdish issue has strained Turkey’s relations not only with the US, but also with Israel, which is also unhappy with Turkey’s broadening cooperation with Iran in the field of energy.

In the current Turkish political constellation, it is the AKP that is the EU’s and US’s best friend. Indeed, Turkey’s Public Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, responding to Western criticisms of his attempt to close down the AKP, denounced the EU and US as ‘imperialists’ seeking to erode Turkey’s national sovereignty by using ‘collaborators’ such as the ‘fundamentalist’ AKP and Turkish liberals who ‘claimed to be intellectuals’. While we may wish to retain good relations with Ankara irrespective of which regime holds power there, our inability to remain silent in the face of assaults on democratic freedoms, coupled with the inevitably anti-Western outlook and rhetoric of those launching such assaults, will ensure that a potential future replacement of the AKP regime with a more authoritarian Kemalist one will inevitably damage Turkey’s relationship with the Western alliance. Conversely, a more authoritarian Turkey will find authoritarian Russia, Iran and even China as increasingly congenial partners.

The lingering threat to Turkish democracy is a threat to the West’s relationship with a crucial member of its alliance; indeed to positive stability in the Middle East, Balkans and Black Sea region in general. The failure of the constitutional court to ban the AKP has averted a still worse danger – that the suppression of the democratic, moderate Islamic political option would have driven disillusioned AKP supporters into the arms of the Islamists, laying the basis for an Algerian-style civil war in Turkey. But so long as the secularist establishment remains determined to curb the AKP, this is a danger that has been kept at bay, not ended permanently.

Turkey resembles Serbia, in that it is a Balkan country undergoing a long-drawn-out transition to full democracy, in which there can be no quick or easy success. But Turkey’s size, strength, geographic location and geostrategic importance make it much less amenable to pressure than Serbia. Indeed, with Turkey at the height of its power as a country, but with its internal divisions stretching it to breaking point, the Turkish Kemalist establishment may increasingly feel rather like the Serbian Communist establishment under Milosevic in the late 1980s and early 1990s: ready to gamble on an extreme solution, on the assumption – probably correct – that the West would lack the will to resist it. In this context, although Brussels was correct to indicate that Turkey’s EU accession process would be halted in the event of the ruling party being banned, nevertheless the carrot may prove more effective than the stick in advancing the cause of Turkey’s democratisation. This, however, cannot mean unprincipled concessions over the Kurdish or Cyprus questions that would damage the West’s moral standing.

Keeping Turkish democracy alive requires keeping Turkey’s EU accession process alive, for it is EU membership that has provided the crucial motor to Turkey’s democratisation. But at present, it is Turcophobic EU leaders such as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy who are dominating public discourse in Europe over the Turkish issue. If Turkey is to be saved for democracy and for the West, the UK has to fight back in the arena of public opinion – both at home and in Europe. The UK has traditionally supported Turkey’s EU accession; quite apart from the geostrategic arguments in favour preserving Turkey’s pro-Western alignment, an EU containing Turkey would be less dominated by the Franco-German axis and more resistant to centralisation, therefore more congenial to the inclinations of both Britain’s political and its popular classes – and indeed to the inclinations of some other EU members – than an EU without Turkey.

The British government must fight a sustained public campaign in favour of Turkey’s EU membership, to persuade the Turkish people that they have a European future, to bolster the fortunes of our friends in the AKP, and to convince the British and European publics of the crucial importance of the Turkish connection. Sarkozy is pursuing a thoroughly unprincipled and damaging policy toward South East Europe, but to his credit, he is not afraid to be outspoken and assertive in pursuit of what he perceives to be France’s national interests in this region. We must not be afraid to be similarly outspoken and assertive. If the present trends in EU politics continue, we shall lose the battle for Turkey. And with it, we shall suffer a major defeat in the battle for both the Balkans and the Middle East.

This article was published yesterday on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.

Friday, 1 August 2008 Posted by | Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, France, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, NATO, Russia, Serbia, Turkey | Leave a comment