BANJA LUKA displays Israel's flag SARAJEVO displays Palestinian flag
Is there a realistic joint future for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Through which prism do the Serbs view other international conflicts?
As the Middle East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalated, Serbs found themselves in a uniquely familiar position of internalizing the issue, in many cases picking a side and rationalizing the choice based on our own struggles of vital national importance.
For both Israelis and Palestinians, the historic conflict is perceived as an existential threat, much like any attacks on Kosovo and Metohija or Republic of Srpska are for us Serbs. Based on our own past, and in the light of struggles we continue to face, as we aim to protect our national identity and sovereignty, we view other conflicts that relate to ours, through a very similar personal lens.
The historic Israeli/Palestinian dispute certainly rings true for us, and has a connection to Serbian history, but the question posed is should the Serbs pick favorites in that conflict?
Understanding that in geopolitics everyone is driven exclusively and shrewdly by the pursuit of their own national interests on the global stage, rather than idealized sentiments of friendship, Serbs should strictly adhere to the policy of judging the relationships and support, based on which side holds our interests in the Balkans and beyond to a higher regard, including the treatment of Orthodox Christians and guardianship of our shrines in the region of ancient Palestine.
Historically, Serbs have had much contact with ancient Palestine. In the words of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "The friendship of the Jewish and Serbian people has been going on for thousands of years since the time of the Roman Republic. And in modern times, the two nations were united in struggle and suffering, during the terrible years of World War II. We will never forget the role of the Serbian people in the fight against the Nazis. It is an order of honor that we feel deep in our hearts and will always remain there.”
Netanyahu especially emphasizes the time of the Roman Republic, which lasted from 509 to 27 BC, destroying the widely distributed German-school narrative of Slavs immigrating from the Carpathians in the 7th century. Thus, confirming the Serbian autochthonous historical school, led by the historian Milos Milojevic and linguist Olga Lukovic-Pjanovic, that the Serbs are native to the Balkans, stemming from the Vinca cultural heritage, and that Illyrians, Thracians, Macedonians, Dalmatians, Dardanians and others are Serbo-Russian tribes, who at one point controlled the entire Eastern Europe, and had direct contact with Jews, hundreds of years before Christ.
It is also important to note the travels of Saint Sava to the Holy Land where he established the greatest shrines for the Serbian people, such as the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. Saint Sava also bought the Mount of Zion in Jerusalem for the Serbs, and that is the place where the Lord Jesus Christ held the Last Supper with his Apostles, regarded as one of the focal events in Christian doctrine. Serbian king Milutin built the Serbian monastery of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in the old city of Jerusalem, which is today under the administration of the Jerusalem Patriarchate in the Holy Land.
Serbian Revolution and uprisings against the Ottomans subsequently also served as the inspiration for the emerging Zionist movement, leading to the renewal of the state of Israel for the Jewish people. The Zionist idea prevailed among the Jews, many who lived in the Serbian lands, and judging by the written traces, it is their proximity to the Serbian people that was the guiding pillar for the founders of this idea among the Jewish leaders. Therefore, Serbian Jews played a very important role in the founding of the state of Israel.
Furthermore, the Kingdom of Serbia was the first country in the world to endorse the famous Balfour Declaration in December 1917, by which Serbia officially supports the formation of today's state of Israel, the "National Home for the Jewish People" in Palestine. Milenko Vesnic, the head of the Serbian military mission in the United States, addressed letter to the Serbian army officer and Zionist activist Captain David Albala, expressing the unequivocal sympathy and support of Serbia and its people for reviving the Jewish state and founding of Israel.
The Second World War brought about the greatest of struggles, as the Serbs and Jews were tortured and exterminated together hand in hand by the Croatian and Muslim butchers in the Balkans, as well as throughout the network of Nazi German camps. Both suffered immense tragedies only because they were born Orthodox Serbs or Moses' Jews. However, with the arrival of Tito's communists Yugoslavia's position regarding the founding of the state of Israel changed, as Tito's Yugoslavia never recognized Israel and wholeheartedly helped the Palestinian Arabs. PLO leader Yasser Arafat was a frequent guest of Tito’s, while many Palestinians studied at the universities throughout former Yugoslavia. Many Palestinians remain in Serbia today.
Considering the above noted history and more, how should the Serbs approach the conflict between Israel and Palestine that is unraveling before our eyes today?
Since the illegal declaration of Kosovo independence in 2008, Israel has not recognized it, and offered much support to Serbia and Republic of Srpska, which has developed excellent relations with the state of Israel. Israel has been instrumental in spreading the truth about Jasenovac and the genocide and systematic extermination of Serbs in World War II. However, looking after its own interests, as is the case in geopolitics, there was a turnaround in 2020, and Israel, after so many years recognized Kosovo. But keeping in mind that Kosovo is strictly a project and a byproduct of the American foreign policy, that decision was invoked by the American pressure, as noted by Israel’s Ambassador to Serbia, against both interests of Israel and Serbia. He noted that Israel has no reason to now withdraw the recognition, as the Washington Agreement was first and foremost accepted and signed by the Serbian Government and those representing the quasi-state of Kosovo*. Looking at this long-term dynamic, Serbs and Jews will continue nurturing close relations, but the intricacies of the Washington Agreement will have a much more negative consequence for the so-called Kosovo leaders, as this will freeze and bring into question their relationship with the entire Islamic world. Since they are only a useful geopolitical tool, they will continue blindly obeying orders, as so-called Kosovo* leaders have no say in the matter.
It should certainly not be forgotten that during the wars of the 1990s, Palestinian mujahedin arrived to fight against the Serbs. Much help came from Palestine for Bosnian and Kosovo Muslims. The Palestinians were and continue to be against the Serbs, as they wholeheartedly supported the NATO bombing. This should not come as a surprise, because whoever understands the Islamic doctrine, one Muslim will always stand in defense of other Muslims.
London, January 1999
Palestine, April 1999
Consequently, the fact that the Palestinians have not recognized Kosovo is not of such grand consequence, as they are not fully recognized. They would recognize Kosovo immediately if they themselves were not in the precarious position. Again, this is not based on any historical friendship or history, but mere self-interest and preservation. Hence, for the Serbs this carries not much significance.
Palestine, May 2021
Furthermore, what we see today in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is very reminiscent of what we saw during the 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia. It came directly from the Bosnian war. Bosnian Muslim politicians lead by Alija Izetbegovic did not allow civilians to leave Sarajevo, because this would diminish the image and the narrative they had created in the Western media, where the Serbs as the "bad guys" are targeting and killing civilians. It is painfully clear what is being done with these civilian shields of the Palestinians. The tactics used follow the same blueprint, and innocent Palestinians and Jews suffer alike. By putting their mortars and rocket launchers in hospitals, schools, civilian facilities, meanwhile not allowing civilians to leave the battlefields, as used in Sarajevo, Palestinians propagate the horrors of civilian casualties, when Israeli forces respond to a rain of rockets being sent their way, which serves the Western media to provoke public pity and later justify possible military interventions.
The lessons from Bosnia, Kosovo, and the general break-up of Yugoslavia were not learned, and many Westerners still fall for the narrative in their uninformed naivety. The Muslim from Palestine and the Muslim from Bosnia, Kosovo*, or even Sandzak (Raska) will ultimately send the same message. The same blueprint is being used world-wide, including directly in the United States, and our community unfortunately knows it way too well.
What Israel continues to be, is an example of how one needs to fight for its own country and its people, and how our Serbian-American community should think about the challenges we face. Hence, the importance of our SAVA PAC, in emulating the successful strategies and tactics in promoting our interests through direct civic engagement. Ultimately, the only side we need to pick is the common denominators of our own interests.
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