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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/4/18

Bosnian Jews -- Serbia's Forgotten Victims

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Message Stephen Schwartz

On August 4, 1992, I wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, under the headline, "Serbs Accused of Arrest, Deportation of Jews." I reported then, "Jewish authorities in embattled Bosnia-Herzegovina warn that 'hundreds' of members of their small and historic communities number among the victims of the 'ethnic cleansing' campaign by Serbian forces in the republic, although the plight of deported Slavic Muslims and Croatians has received wider publicity.

"'Ethnic cleansing by the Serbian military has resulted in the arrest of Jews from northern Bosnia and their being dumped like packages, alive but barely so' in the areas of Sarajevo under the control of the Bosnian government, Ivica Čerešnješ [former president of the Jewish Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina] said. 'Some Jews who were caught in the net are unaccounted for, and we fear they may have been killed. We are trying to locate everybody.' He noted that historically there had been sizable Jewish communities in such Bosnian cities and towns as Banja Luka, Vlasenica, which was recently 'cleansed,' Zvornik and others now under Serb control."

"Nedžib -aÄ"irbey, Bosnia's diplomatic representative in Washington, said, 'Anti-Jewish propaganda has begun to be heard in the Serbian media, at the same time as the cleansing campaign has begun to affect Bosnian Jews, as well as the other small minorities in the country, which include some ethnic Turks, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Albanians, Gypsies and even some Italians.

"'It is hard to confirm the exact numbers because of the chaos, but we hear that anybody who is not an Orthodox Christian is a target, which would include Jews as well as Muslims and Catholics. It is interesting that we have some small Russian communities in Bosnia that have not been touched.'

"Čerešnješ said the campaign was a bitter blow because Sarajevo's Jews had warm relations with the Bosnian Serbs in the past. He himself ran for the republic's ethnic-based legislature in 1990 as a candidate of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).

"'This policy is aimed at anybody considered undesirable by the extremists,' Čerešnješ said. 'In fact, they are also killing and deporting Serb inhabitants who are known as Bosnian loyalists or who are considered weak in their support for the so-called cleansing program.'

"Čerešnješ expressed bitterness at the 'abandonment' of the small Bosnian Jewish community by Jewish organizations in Europe and the United States. 'We are a long-established element in Bosnian society,' he said. 'We deserve better than to be left to fend for ourselves.'"

I was criticized by Jewish leaders in America for publishing this reportage, which was deemed "alarmist." Nevertheless, by 1999 I had read details of a specific such incident: the kidnapping and murder of Viktor Glancer, a Jewish citizen of TesliÄ", near the Bosnian town of Doboj. Glancer had been taken for a Croat. His son Damir later described the horror of his own situation, after his father had been killed by a Serbian terror squad known as the "Mice." Damir Glancer recalled, "I prepared a propane bottle, to kill myself if they came to arrest me again." Eventually, the son emigrated to Israel. Seven years later, he returned and located his father's grave. Damir Glancer declared, "I had a hard time dealing with the fact that he was horribly tortured. An autopsy found out that he was missing half his skull and that all of his ribs were broken. He was really bestially tortured." This was how Serb terrorists dealt with Jews who fell into their hands in 1992. I was correct in reporting the terrible campaign that lay behind such atrocities. [i]

The struggle for Bosnian freedom has come to define my life. It is to me as Spain was to the writers of the 1930s. I do not possess the literary gifts of an Orwell, a Malraux, or a Hemingway. But I took a stand and will never forget it. Bosnia is, for me, an unhealing wound. The world stood aside as innocents were massacred. Because of it the same takes place in Ukraine and Syria. Heedlessness in the face of genocide is the syphilis of the West. Luckily, we may say that syohilis has a cure. Let us see if the West may be cured.

[i] PopoviÄ", Vasko and Lidija van der Haiden, and Nezavisne Novine Research Team, "Reign of Terror in TesliÄ" Started with Execution of 38 Bosniaks and Croats," Nezavisne Novine (Banja Luka), September 15, 1999, and Glancer, Damir, "They Slapped me and Put me in Prison: They Thought I Was a Croat," Nezavisne Novine, October 6, 1999.

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Stephen "Lu" Schwartz (Ashk Sylejman) is Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, an international media network, and Founder of the Second Bektashi Sufi Mission to America. He has published more than 33 books and has pursued a (more...)

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