Yugoslavia was a land of many minorities and remains so despite an almost total focus on Kosovo by the N.A.T.O. press.
Hitlerism did not commit genocide only against the Jews; the Nazis endeavored to physically eliminate many peoples and ethnic groups.
Watching CNN on Kosovo, it is easy to conclude that the constant references to Serbian «ethnic cleansing» there mark the Serbian government as fascist.
What, though, do we see when we examine other minorities in Yugoslavia?
One thing we see are reports by minorities of oppression from the KLA.
Material on this is contained in the ftp supplement indexed below on the Roma. I'm very interested in what the Roma say about the Balkan situation. The group knows what fascism is all about for the Nazis killed them in the death camps. Roma groups have published criticisms of all sides in the Balkans, charged all governments with harboring people who engaged in anti-Roma crimes. As a somewhat jaded editor who sees enormous journalistic dishonesty in today's world, I am attracted to these reports precisely because of their all-round criticism.
I am particularly impressed by the Roma support for the Serbian government in diplomatic disputes.
In Kosovo, representatives of the Romani community took the side of the Serbian authorities. Roma and other small Kosovar minorities like Turks, Gorani and `Egyptians' were involved in peace negotiations on the initiative of the Serbian government. The Temporary Executive Council for Kosovo and Metohija, founded by the Serbian government on October 3 with the aim of normalising life in the region, included a Romani Secretary for Information -- Mr Bajram Haljiti, editor of the Roma program in Radio Television Pristina.
Another instance of the political use of Roma by Serb authorities was the Draft of the Framework for Political Self-governance in Kosovo. This document was instantly rejected by the main ethnic Albanian political parties, whilst supported by minor parties and national associations of various ethnic groups from Kosovo, in a declaration signed on November 25 in Pristina; one of the signatories was Mr Ljuan Koka, representative of the National Community of Roma in Kosovo.Foot note 1_1
I find this statement sweeping in the material it presents, particularly given the source and how it impacts on the notion of Serbian «fascism.»
First, they supported the Serbian government. Can one imagine the German Jews doing such a thing? The report also states that other minorities in Kosovo negotiated at Serb initiative. Can one imagine the Nazis setting up a diplomatic initiative for the Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, disabled, and other victims of the death camps? Finally, at least one Roma was on the Serbian negotiating team and another handled the draft document. This is almost incomprehensible if it was coming from a group of «fascists.»
Accurate information is also difficult to come by. But one source was an interview with Hamdiha Effendi Jusefspahic, the Mufti of Serbia. It was conducted by Robert Fisk and printed in the Independent newspaper.Foot note 1_2 The Mufti appears critical of the N.A.T.O. bombing and as someone opposed to earlier U.S. efforts to create a base among Balkan Albanians. He also speaks of a Serbian tolerance for the Islamic minority, marked by «good relations» but also «neglect.»
The Mufti's wife Nabila is also critical of certain anti-Islamic elements in Serbia but maintains that the Serbian government itself is hostile to these forces. She concludes by saying that «We believe Serbia will help us and protect us.»
We also see a different picture of Serbian actions toward the Albanians in Kosovo.
Mr. Milosevic and senior Serbian officials have met with the ethnic Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, who has long advocated a nonviolent path to real political autonomy and, ultimately, independence. Mr. Rugova was regarded by Washington as the most important Kosovar leader until the emergence of the KLA as a military and political player a year ago. -- Steven Erlanger, «Milosevic's Ne Version of Reality Will be Harder for NATO to Dismiss,» NY Times, 8 Apr 99.
Where is the reality? Is it a Serbia utterly hostile to the entire Albanian community? Or is it a Serbia understandably hostile to the KLA that the Western press has portrayed as the representative of the Albanian people? The Times report indicates the latter is more likely true.
The Times's Erlanger also noted that «In a resolution of the Serbian Parliament just before the bombing, when that body rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of United Nations forces to monitor a political settlement there.»
What picture is painted by these different sources?
None changes the view of the Balkans as troublespot nor of Yugoslavia having deep difficulties with national, religious, and ethnic minorities.
But it is also a picture of a country negotiating the solution to these differences in a peaceful fashion. It is a picture where the Serbian diplomacy is supported by the Roma and other ethnic/national groups and with considerable support from the Yugoslavian followers of Islam. It is the picture of a Serbia negotiating with Albanians until the drug dealers of the KLA got N.A.T.O. support.
What then is the likely reason for the N.A.T.O. bombing? It could not be a Serbian push to eliminate minorities within Greater Serbia. Nor could it be to bring the Serbs to the negotiating table. It couldn't even be to create a non-Serbian international peacekeeping force in Kosovo since the Serbian Parliament agreed to a U.N. force.
But the U.N. and the U.S.-led military forces are different organizations, reflecting different values, and ultimately different interests. The U.N. may have created peace in Kosovo but it would not have produced the same level of profit and influence as a N.A.T.O. victory.
The Balkans remain an enormously troubled area, with a high likelihood that individuals from all nationalities have committed crimes against humanity. But the current anti-Serb juggernaut in the Western press does not adequately describe this complex reality.
Nor will N.A.T.O. bombs solve the problems
European Roma Rights Center (news report), «Roma from Kosovo victimized in the Serb-Albanian ethnic conflict,» Dec 98, in TINAF #251.Back to main body of the paper
[Foot Note 1_2]
Robert Fisk, (Independent [London]), «God will not forgive the Americans for this,» 4 Apr 99, in TINAF #248.Back to main body of the paper
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