Стефан Каргановић: Извештај Комисије професора Грајфа у светлу његових најновијих тврдњи

Сребреница је за Републику Српску и њен народ изузетно озбиљно питање. Збуњујућим и противречним изјавама које стижу са разних страна и из разних извора, то озбиљно питање претвара се у опасну фарсу

Гидеон Грајф (Фото: Танјуг – Р.П.)

Српска јавност, а посебно њен део у Републици Српској, с разлогом је узнемирена вестима које се шире да је проф. Гидеон Грајф, председник Међународне комисије за Сребреницу коју је формирала Влада Републике Српске, израелском листу Хаарец дао изјаве из којих би се могло закључити да одступа од кључних ставова комисије којој је био на челу. Спорна питања по којима се чини да је Грајф променио став односе се на број стрељаних бошњачких заробљеника (његова Комисија је утврдила око 3.700, за разлику од 8.000 као што у службеном наративу стоји), и на то да ли се у јулу 1995. године у Сребреници догодио геноцид, што се у закључку његове Комисије безусловно пориче.

У најновијим изјавама по овим питањима, које се приписују проф. Грајфу, а које преноси Хаарец (12.1.22. и 19.1.22) Грајф каже да ће током наредних неколико недеља објавити „појашњење“ извештаја Комисије којој је председавао, а које ће садржати одговор критичарима који га оптужују за „ревизионизам.“

Ако је десеточлана Комисија током две године рада приљежно и одговорно проучила материју, какво је „појашњење“ сада потребно? Појашњење би имало смисла једино у случају да су се појавили нови докази који неке од закључака Комисије накнадно доводе у питање. У изјави проф. Грајфа о тако нечему нема назнака, већ се само наговештава полемички одговор критичарима који га оптужују за „ревизионизам.“ Зар он на ту врсту критике није био спреман када се прихватио понуде Владе Републике Српске да стане на чело Комисије за Сребреницу?

Што се тиче магичног броја од 8.000 стрељаних жртава, у тексту у Хаарец-у од 19. јануара ове године (погледати текстове на енглеском на крају овог прилога у рубрици ПРОЧИТАЈТЕ ЈОШ – примедба Стања ствари) наводе се Грајфове речи где он каже да „нема другог броја: око 8.000. А ми тај број не искривљујемо, ми га прихватамо.“

Харец: Гидеон Грајф се сада слаже да је у Сребреници убијено 8000 босанских Муслимана

Ако су ови ставови проф. Грајфа тачно наведени, а Хаарец их доноси у наводницама, онда није јасно чему обећана „појашњења“ и шта би се помоћу њих могло постићи. У извештају Грајфове Комисије наводи се цифра од 3.700 жртава. Једино појашњење које би сада имало дејства тиче се разлога и околности за Грајфово удвостручавање цифре наведене у Извештају и могућност постојања нових доказа којима би се тако драстично увећавање могло оправдати.

Ове неочекиване игре бројевима и правним квалификацијама, сасвим разумљиво, изазвале су бројна питања и недоумице. Да би се боље разумело шта се дешава и зашто, корисно је држати на уму позадину ове афере. Пре неколико година, председник Додик нашао се у нелагодном положају када су „Мајке Сребренице“, на обележавању годишњице 11. јула, немачком тужиоцу предале проширени списак са именима преко 20.000 Срба који су наводно учествовали у „сребреничком геноциду“. Тај потез је контекстуално везан за списак са именима око 17.000 Срба који је 2005. године Комисија тадашњег председника Драгана Чавића, такође уз сумњу да су допринели масовним убиствима у Сребреници, саставила и предала Хашком трибуналу на процесуирање.

Као што се могло претпоставити, јавност у Републици Српској се усталасала због безобразлука „Мајки Сребренице“, који се надовезивао на претходни безобразлук Драгана Чавића. Под јавним притиском, Додик је навео низ ствари које ће предузети у знак одмазде, па између осталог и да ће именовати међународну комисију да испита Сребреницу, с тим да шта год она буде рекла он ће то унапред прихватити. Изгледа да тај брзоплето дати carte blanche сада долази на наплату.

На сцену је тада ступио саветник председника Додика, израелски држављанин родом са простора Србије, и особа са блиским везама у израелским структурама. Он је Додику „прискочио у помоћ“ и предложио му два Израелца да предводе планиране комисије, једну за Сарајево а другу за Сребреницу, а управо Грајфа за ову последњу.

Још тада, изразили смо основану сумњу у овај подухват. Разлози за критички отклон према процесу формирања ових комисија својевремено су објављени овде и овде.

Стефан Каргановић: Именовање нове Комисије за Сребреницу – тресла се гора, родио се миш

Питање које је кључно гласи: да ли туђа рука српски свраб чеше? Нема никакве сумње да је Грајф компетентан научни радник и да је добар и заслужан стручњак у стварима које се односе на одбрану израелских интереса. То је логично и треба тако да буде зато што је он Израелац. Али овде се ради о одбрани српских интереса. Он није Србин, а није ни Арчибалд Рајс, Немац (не Швајцарац, као што се погрешно мисли) који је у другој и поштенијој ери заиста свим срцем, душом и интелектом пригрлио и стручно заступао интересе српског народа. Данас, ми живимо у поквареној ери геополитичког подметања и подлих обавештајних игри. Грајф није само научни радник, он је уједно и експонент службених структура своје земље, у чему нема ничег неприродног нити лошег али би требало да наводи на опрез.

Међутим, управо он, са баш таквим педигреом, био је изабран да српски свраб чеше, и то по врхунски осетљивом питању које је уско повезано за raison d’etre постојања његове земље Израела, а то је геноцид. Само су српски занесењаци некога из таквог миљеа могли да изаберу да их брани, исте фантасте које су пре годину дана клицале Сорошевом агенту у Црној Гори: „Дритане – Србине“.

Још увек је рано доносити дефинитивне закључке о Грајфовој улози и преокрету. Неопходно је пажљиво посматрати даљи развој ове ситуације. Али наша оцена од пре три године изнета једном истакнутом београдском аналитичару, да је Грајф увучен у сребреничку игру и постављен на чело Комисије да у овој операцији делује више као gatekeeper (чувар на капији, задужен да ништа што не би требало случајно не прође) него као пуки и беспристрасни истраживач, у светлу ове медијске контроверзе добија јаку емпиричку потврду.

Гидеон Грајф: У Сребреници се десили страшни злочини, али то није геноцид

Међутим, и без извођења коначних закључака, јасно је да се услед провинцијалности и неодговорности руководства Републике Српске ова афера креће у врло лошем смеру. Констелација снага у свету још увек не дозвољава да се чињенице у вези са Сребреницом објективно сагледају и уваже, и трагикомично очекивање многих Срба да ће извештај комисије под председништвом једног Израелца који, као Јеврејин, „зна шта је геноцид“, преко ноћи променити перцепцију Сребренице, подразумева се да на крају мора бити изневерено. Међутим, да је Извештај Грајфове комисије бар остао онакав какав је био, без довођења у питање кључних тачака од стране комисијиног председника, и то би било добро. Овако, рад Комисије је компромитован, вероватно фатално, необјашњивим преокретом и накнадним врдањем њеног председника, чиме је један по много чему озбиљан докуменат претворен у фарсу.

Уколико нисте Хашки трибунал и немате његову лиценцу на игнорисање и прекрајање чињеница, ви не можете да прво кажете да сребренички губици износе 3,700, као што је у пресуди Толимиру претресно веће тврдило да је било око 3.900 стрељаних (мада је  и  таква цифра пренадувана и емпирички непоткрепљена уколико се односи на  жртве стрељања), па да после тога изјавите да је ипак било 8.000, као што је после Толимира учинило веће у предмету Младић, а пре тога у предмету Поповић, и све то без икаквих материјалних доказа којима би се објасниле такве разлике. Ако за своје кривудаве ставове немате артиљеријску подршку глобалних медија и глобалног политичког естаблишмента, спремних да  прикрију и покрију сваку неутемељену бесмислицу, и ако вам је стало до кредибилитета, боље је да се држите једне приче и да од ње олако не одступате.

Шта год било објашњење за „врдање“ проф. Грајфа, једна ствар је очигледна. У позадини операције чији је он део налазе се закулисне игре којима Срби генерално, и руководиоци Републике Српске посебно, једноставно нису дорасли.

Да будемо сасвим фер – у вези са Сребреницом није чудно само понашање проф. Грајфа. Још чудније су неке недавне изјаве високих званичника Републике Српске, формулисане у апсолутно истом духу.

Када смо већ на извештавању израелског дневника Хаарец, новина које вероватно мало ко у Србији и Републици Српској прати, у броју од 6. децембра 2021. његов сарадник Сам Сокол наводи речи председнице Републике Српске Жељке Цвијановић на тему дешавања у Сребреници. Наводи су из интервјуа датог овом листу током званичне посете госпође Цвијановић Израелу. Она ту каже да „нема негирања геноцида“ (директан цитат) и да „њена влада не пориче геноцид, већ да се залаже за то да све жртве буду подједнако запамћене“ (парафраза дописника Сокола).

У односу на наметнути Инцков „закон“ против негирања геноцида, Хаарец директно цитира госпођу Цвијановић да „наша реакција нема никакве везе са садржајем закона“ него се објашњава чињеницом да га је донео међународни представник уместо домаћег законодавца, и да „чак и када би се такав закон односио на облаке или ветар, или не знам ни ја шта, наша реакција би била иста“.

Госпођи Цвијановић се бар не може приговорити за недоследност. Како извештава Хаарец, она је прво изјавила да „не негира геноцид,“ па затим да на закону против негирања геноцида има условни приговор, али само зато што га је донео Инцко, а да не би имала ништа против да су исти такав закон изгласали неки домаћи органи.

Гидеон Грајф (Фото: Печат)

Ову смушеност госпође Цвијановић допуњава изјава министра енергетике и рударства Републике Српске Петра Ђокића, у интервјуу сарајевскоj ТВ Фејс, коју преноси БН телевизија 25. децембра 2021. а која гласи да „геноцид не треба негирати, морамо бити спремни да се суочимо са истином о геноциду! Имамо и пресуде међународних судова, признања, покајања…“

Ако су стварно овакви ставови највиших званичника Републике Српске и владе која је формирала Комисију проф. Грајфа и поставила га да је предводи, онда се Грајфове изјаве, ма колико чудне и непријатне биле, ипак морају посматрати у много блажем светлу.

Сребреница је за Републику Српску и њен народ изузетно озбиљно питање. Збуњујућим и противречним изјавама које стижу са разних страна и из разних извора, то озбиљно питање се претвара у опасну фарсу.

Ми живимо у ери лажних вести и неодговорног новинарства, а Хаарец има традицију отровно антисрпског извештавања која иде уназад до периода рата деведесетих година. Ништа што тај извор пренесе не треба узимати здраво за готово, али на речи које стави под наводнице ипак се мора обратити пажња, ако ни због чега другог онда бар зато што за приписивање лажних изјава постоје правне последице. Невештим наводним ограђивањем Грајфове Комисије, које нико није потписао и за које се не зна ко иза њега стоји, а које је у сваком случају ирелевантно зато што се спорне изјаве приписују проф. Грајфу а не Комисији, не постиже се и не разјашњава ништа. Грајф брзо и ефикасно може да пресече све настале сумње и контроверзе тако што ће захтевати да Хаарец објави његов (а не Комисијин) деманти, под претњом тужбе. То исто може да учини и госпођа Цвијановић, уколико су њене речи погрешно и тенденциозно наведене.

Стефан Каргановић (Извор: standard.rs)

Али у првом реду мора се изјаснити проф. Грајф, да ли је наведено и њему приписано заиста рекао, или не, без икаквих сувишних „објашњења“. Уколико то не буде учинио, биће створен опасан утисак изврдавања, а то ће тешко наштетити кредибилитету Извештаја његове Комисије.  На потезу је, према томе, Грајф и он има начина и обавезу да исправи Хаарецову верзију, уколико је нетачна.

Свако одлагање или двосмисленост, сваки пропуст да се најхитније потврде или порекну ове изјаве које му се приписују и које – уколико су тачне – обарају и дискредитују Извештај његове Комисије неминовно би компромитовало не само његов рад него и сваки поштен и објективан напор да се службени сребренички наратив подвргне критичком испитивању.

Зато, проф. Грајф мора да реагује, и мора то да учини искрено и неодложно.

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‘There’s no genocide denial’: Bosnian-Serb leader’s heated talk with Haaretz on Srebrenica

In an interview during her visit to Israel, Republika Srpska President Zeljka Cvijanovic denies that her government is trying to minimize the Srebrenica massacre: ‘Digging in this topic all the time, we cannot look to the future’

Sam Sokol | Dec. 6, 2021 | 5:46 PM |   4

Among the list of prominent leaders and diplomats to visit Israel in recent weeks, one received very little media attention: Zeljka Cvijanovic, the president of Republika Srpska, the autonomous Serb enclave of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She met with senior Israeli officials during her visit last week, including Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin.

Cvijanovic also met with Haaretz at a Jerusalem hotel, where she addressed some of the most pressing political questions currently making headlines in the Balkans. Her answers probably won’t be viewed favorably by some of her neighbors there.

She strongly refuted allegations of genocide denial and historical whitewashing by herself and her political allies, amid deep internal disagreements over Bosnian-Serb complicity in the 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica.

“There is no genocide denial; there was no genocide denial,” Cvijanovic said, adding that arguments over war crimes are preventing her country from moving forward.

The issue of denying or whitewashing the bloody events of 1995 also made headlines in Israel in recent weeks, after the German Embassy in Tel Aviv decided to postpone giving an award to once renowned, but now controversial, Israeli Holocaust historian Prof. Gideon Greif.

Greif was supposed to receive a medal in honor of his groundbreaking Shoah research, but the ceremony was deferred due to his recent work on Srebrenica. He was involved in producing a 2021 report, on behalf of Republika Srpska, in which he and his colleagues questioned the extent of the tragedy.

Haaretz has published several stories on the matter in recent weeks, including an interview with Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic. She said it was “of the utmost importance to understand why denying the genocide in Srebrenica is so dangerous and has unforeseeable consequences.”

Following that article, Haaretz was offered an opportunity to interview Cvijanovic during her visit to Israel.

Severity of the massacre

Republika Srpska was born out of the U.S.-sponsored Dayton Accords, that ended the 1992-1995 Balkans war. The Accords split Bosnia into two autonomous regions: the Serb Republic (aka Republika Srpska) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (dominated by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks), linked by a joint central government. This was seen by the international community as the best solution following the devastating war between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

In an often heated interview, Cvijanovic told Haaretz that her government has not engaged in genocide denial but has instead pushed for every victim of the conflict to be remembered equally. She said that people need to “find a balance – to say that victims are victims,” and not say that “this mother cries more than that mother just because this one is of this ethnicity and that one is of that ethnicity.”

She added: “We never want to politicize any death.”

Bosnia cannot move forward, she stressed, “because even nowadays, we just discuss these things instead of discussing, for instance, our capacities in the energy sector, which are huge in the region.”

Asked if she meant that Bosniaks are too focused on the genocide, she said this wasn’t what she meant. However, she insisted that “digging in this topic all the time, we cannot look to the future.”

In recent years, Serb leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina have drawn criticism for attempting to minimize the severity of the massacre, in which Bosnian-Serb forces murdered some 8,000 Bosnian-Muslim men and boys in an internationally declared safe zone.

Serb officials have denied the validity of international tribunal rulings describing the killings as genocide, while at the same time increasing calls for separatism. Some fear that this could further fracture the small nation, whose population numbers some 3.8 million, along ethnic lines.

Earlier this year, the outgoing UN high representative, Valentin Inzko – an international peace envoy – published a decree criminalizing genocide denial.

In response, Cvijanovic announced that Republika Srpska would not comply with the new measure, while Milorad Dodik, her predecessor and the current Serbian member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, threatened to withdraw from the country’s army in order to create an independent Serb force. Senior officials in Republika Srpska have also withdrawn cooperation with the institutions of the central Bosnian government.

Cvijanovic, who repeatedly declined to answer questions on whether she believed the Srebrenica massacre was indeed a genocide, said her opposition to the genocide denial law stemmed from the fact that it was imposed by an international representative rather than legislated domestically. “Our reaction has nothing to do with the contents of the law,” she said. “Even if it was a law on clouds or, I don’t know, on winds or something like that, our reaction would have been the same.”

Quizzed on whether she approved the law in principle, Cvijanovic said multiple times that she was in favor of discussions between Bosnia’s various ethnic groups regarding how to deal with the issue. However, she refused to state which position, if any, she would advance as part of such an internal dialogue.

“My position is that I sit together with my colleagues – and it’s always like that. We discuss every [issue like] culture, schools that need to be renovated, war crimes, whatever, to discuss and to see how we can reach common positions on some issues,” she said.

Denial in many forms

Some regional observers have expressed skepticism over Bosnian-Serb leaders’ willingness to engage in a good faith dialogue about the past.

“Political leaders of Republika Srpska, including the current president, Zeljka Cvijanovic, have consistently downplayed and denied the full realities of the genocide,” said Prof. Jelena Subotic, a political scientist at Georgia State University who focuses on issues of memory politics in the Western Balkans.

“This denial has taken on many forms and has evolved over time, from outright denial of the event to minimizing the number of victims, to the current position that acknowledges that events in Srebrenica constituted a war crime, but a crime of reprisal against Bosniac attacks on Serb troops and civilians in the region,” she said.

“It is specifically President Cvijanovic’s position that the Srebrenica events were ‘retaliation’ against Bosniac anti-Serb violence,” Subotic added.

Menachem Rosensaft, associate executive vice president and general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, concurred, accusing Cvijanovic, Dodik and other Bosnian-Serb leaders of “following the playbook of the most egregious Holocaust deniers.”

They not only “brazenly and shamelessly deny that paramilitary Republika Srpska thugs under the command of Gen. Ratko Mladic perpetrated a genocide at Srebrenica,” but Bosnian Serb leaders are also glorifying convicted war criminals “with enormous billboards throughout Republika Srpska,” he said.

“It is the equivalent of denying that Jews were systematically murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Treblinka, and turning Adolf Eichmann into a folk hero,” added Rosensaft, who also teaches genocide law at Columbia Law School in New York.

The current crisis in the Balkans comes several months after the release of the report by the commission led by Prof. Greif, which disputed the international legal consensus that the killings – which were accompanied by mass rape and the displacement of tens of thousands of people – constituted genocide.

Greif himself defended the report last month. “We were 10 serious, professional, honest people who for two years dealt with and discussed the matter,” he told Haaretz. He noted that he was not personally responsible for the part of the report which estimated that only half of the accepted number of victims had actually been killed, though he did say he stood behind his team’s research.

“The term genocide cannot be used for every historic event. Not everything is genocide,” he said, adding that Bosniak criticism should be discounted as antisemitic because they are Muslims – a charge denied by Turkovic, who replied that her “origin is partly Jewish.”

The controversial commission was established in 2018 after Republika Srpska’s legislature moved to reject a previous report, adopted in 2004, which largely validated the consensus view, angering Bosnian-Serb nationalists. Republika Srpska leaders, including Dodik, have claimed that the older report exaggerated the number of victims.

Despite publicly acknowledging her role in establishing the commission, Cvijanovic, who has previously claimed that civilians in Srebrenica were intentionally sacrificed by the West in order to create a pretext for NATO intervention, told Haaretz that “our institutions have nothing to do with the report. It was not organized by the government. The government wanted a team of experts to see what was happening there, but it was not [a] governmental tool.”

Asked about Turkovic’s concerns regarding the future of the country, Cvijanovic accused the Bosnian foreign minister of pursuing “her own ethnic agenda,” snubbing ethnic Serb diplomats and meeting “with some problematic leaders who are associated with some security issues.”

For her part, Cvijanovic said her government has no interest or appetite in fueling further sectarian conflict.

“There is no revolution, there is no war. There is an open door for discussion with our partners, and we think that Muslims or Bosniaks are partners, as well as Croats, and that’s it. They are our partners,” she said.

“I am kind of future-oriented, and in order to have a future you need to have dialogue,” she said. “In order to have dialogue, you need to have partners. In order to have partners, you need to sit together and discuss all these things with them: past, present, future.”

Jews can’t let the genocide deniers win

A scant generation since committing the worst atrocities on European soil since the Holocaust, unrepentant Bosnian Serb leaders are on the secessionist warpath again. This is why Jews, and Israel, must speak out

Esther Solomon | Dec. 12, 2021 | 1:03 PM |   4

„I will never forget,“ Vanja told me, „the gratitude I felt.“

He was one of the children evacuated from Sarajevo on bus convoys organized by international Jewish humanitarian organizations amid its brutal siege by the Bosnian Serbs during the war of 1992-1995.

Conditions in Sarajevo were bleak: The siege, characterized by desperate shortages of food, medicine, water and electricity, lasted 1,425 days – the longest siege of a capital city in modern times – and cost 5,400 civilian lives, including those of 1,600 children, many of whom were picked out by snipers hiding in high-rise buildings along the city’s central boulevard.

Thousands of women and children were evacuated. The Bosnian Serbs refused to allow male relatives to leave.

The war was spattered by atrocious events: the establishment of rape and concentration camps, mass deportations, the widescale destruction of homes, villages and mosques, the siege of Sarajevo, and the deliberate and systematic murder of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians, particularly (but not only) in the area of Srebrenica. All were committed by Bosnian Serb forces.

The massacre in Srebrenica of at least 8,000 Bosniak men and boys, separated from their mothers, wives and sisters in a grim selection process conducted within what was supposed to be a UN-designated and defended „safe haven,“ was determined in post-war trials by both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and International Court of Justice as genocide. They remain the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since the Holocaust.

Now, a mere quarter of a century later, there is apprehension, if not dismay, in Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs are talking up secession again, just like they did in the 1990s, and they are ramping up anti-Bosniak incitement again, just like they did in the ’90s.

A war in Europe, triggered by racist, irredentist hyper-nationalism with a savage track record and indifference to international agreements, mixed with political and economic meddling by Russia and China: This surely sounds like it should grab attention across the Continent and in the White House.

Pushing back against pervasive genocide denial, if not triumphalism, threats to a multiethnic state with a long history of Jewish culture, and the encirclement of another of Europe’s vulnerable non-Christian minorities, whose demonization is a key theme of antisemitic white supremacists across the globe today: These surely sound like issues that should pull in Jews and Jewish advocacy groups.

But even these seething issues struggle to get anything like the attention they deserve, because we’re talking about Bosnia and its most exposed community: Bosnian Muslims.

‘The genie is out of the bottle again’

Bosnia Herzegovina, a country of 3.2 million people in the western Balkans, wedged between Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, is one of the post-communist successor states to Yugoslavia. Its contemporary form, governed by a tripartite presidency (Serb, Bosniak, Croat) divided into two entities, unified by a weak federal government, is the result of a compromise hammered out at a U.S. air force base outside Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, ending three and a half years of war that left 100,000 dead.

Now, the survival of that unlikely, dysfunctional Bosnian state, which nonetheless is a crucial protector of the rights and lives of those of its citizens who fear both statelessness and a repeat of the Serbian atrocities, or who don’t wish to be absorbed into the extraterritorial and often fiercely ethnocentric dreams of its neighbors, is under the most pressure it has faced since its founding.

The Dayton peace process was a success, says Vanja Filipovic, the evacuee who is now Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ambassador to the U.K., whom I met in the London embassy, „but it never addressed the nationalist idea of Greater Serbia. It clamped down on it for a while, but the genie is out of the bottle again.“

There have been cyclical crises before but this time the context is very different, and far more ominous. The international community’s interest has waned drastically, even though their representatives are a key safeguard mechanism built into postwar institutions: from supervising the implementation of the peace accords, to the judiciary, to armed peacekeepers.

At the same time, the Bosnian Serb leadership has ramped up its attack on those institutions, to push the state into comprehensive dysfunction – a prelude to demanding secession.

Those attacks on international engagement in Bosnia and the Serbian separatism are applauded loudly in the Kremlin, playing a long game of geopolitics in the Balkans: intensifying its sphere of influence and closing off the region’s integration with the West, not least with the European Union or NATO. Filipovic says this is contrary to what Bosnians want: „We belong, culturally and economically, to the West. That is where our future is.“

One palpable concern in Bosnia is that Russia, together with China (an extensive regional investor-with-strings-attached), will increasingly quash support for Bosnia in the UN Security Council, while President Vladimir Putin pressures the EU to drop its peacekeeping mandate.

The most immediate threat to Bosnia’s territorial and political integrity today comes from inside the house: from the leadership of one of its two constituent entities, the Republika Srpska.

Republika Srpska is led by Milorad Dodik, a Serb ultranationalist known as „Putin’s man in the Balkans.“ He is a committed genocide denier who calls Srebrenica a „fabricated myth“ and an „arranged tragedy,“ and who introduced legislation striking from use any school textbooks which state Serbs committed genocide and besieged Sarajevo because, in his words, „it is not correct and will not be taught here.“

Dodik is also an LGBT-bashing autocrat who enjoys rubbing shoulders with fellow travelers like Viktor Orbán and France’s far right Éric Zemmour. He is an anti-Muslim demagogue who likes to claim, fact-free, that Bosniaks want a „Muslim state.“ He’s been under U.S. sanctions since 2017 for obstructing the Dayton peace accords, which haven’t hurt his grip on power, nor the willingness of U.S. officials to meet him.

For most sentient observers, it’s clear Dodik is a centrifuge for both state-level destruction and anti-Muslim hate speech in the Balkans. And this is where genocide denial comes in: „It is a targeted political message aimed at creating further division between communities,“ says Filipovic. The aim is nothing less than extinguishing any hope in a shared society.

At the same time, Republika Srpska leaders, such as its president Zeljka Cvijanovic, cynically if not maliciously accuse the Bosniaks of refusing to move on, of refusing to join an „open dialogue,“ while refusing point-blank to admit there had been a wartime genocide.

Bosniaks, says Filipovic, always sought justice, not revenge, for the atrocities committed against them, „even though you never have perfect justice for those types of crimes. But at the very least, they expected leaders of all stripes to allow the victims’ families to mourn their loss and to show them respect.“

Dodik revels in wiping these basic expectations on the floor. His constant denial recalls the tsunami of anti-Bosniak demonization that preceded the war. That targeted incitement created a climate where, eventually, Serbs could shoot their Bosniak neighbors and friends.

Dodik and his like feel today belongs to them. The chilling part is that this is a regression to the Bosnian Serb wartime separatist goals – but this time, to finish the job.

Parallels with Holocaust denial

Along with the bus convoys, among the few heartening episodes of the Bosnian war was the work of La Benevolencija.

The welfare arm of the Bosnian Jewish community, itself founded by refugees expelled from Spain in 1492, La Benevolencija benefited from its unique position as a „neutral party“ to set up soup kitchens in Sarajevo, as well as pharmacies, clinics, educational courses and even, when the phone lines were cut, a two-way radio link to the outside world, all on a nonsectarian basis. It became one of Bosnia’s most effective wartime humanitarian NGOs.

These efforts engendered an affection toward the Jewish community which still lingers today, Jakob Finci tells me by email; he headed La Benevolencija during the war. „It became almost a privilege to be a member of the Jewish community.“ One consequence was a surprising postwar spike in membership, with 150 children of Jewish-Muslim marriages deciding to affiliate in the city that once vied with Salonica for the title of „Jerusalem of the Balkans.“

That connection between the Jewish world and Bosnia continued, not least in relation to the wartime genocide and the postwar denial. Filipovic praises how vocal they were. „When the news of [Serb] concentration camps emerged, and the genocide in Srebrenica, many Jewish organizations were hurt and angry,“ he recounted.

For many individuals and Jewish groups, that indignation and horror has, rightly, persistedpushing back against the concerted efforts to downplay, revise or outright deny the killings, despite comprehensive documentation and the successful prosecutions of perpetrators for war crimes. The parallels with Holocaust denial write themselves.

Srebrenica Memorial Day is marked on July 11 and, in the U.K., there is already a strong tradition of Jewish community participation. The respect is reciprocal: On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bosnian genocide survivors join Jewish commemoration events.

Finci points out that recent legislation in Bosnia outlawing genocide denial and the glorification of war criminals, greeted by fury in Republika Srpska, applies equally to Holocaust denial. More broadly, Finci says the Jewish community in Bosnia fights Islamophobia hand-in-hand with confronting antisemitism: They are „two sides of the same coin.“

But this narrative of an unbreakable bond of solidarity is not quite universal. There is more than a handful of prominent Jewish figures who have publicly refused to call a genocide a genocide, from the Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff to Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer.

And then there are more proactive participants in the Republika Srpska’s revisionism campaign, not least the two Israeli academics (including one Holocaust specialist, providing the full legitimization effect) handpicked to lead so-called “truth commissions” on Srebrenica and the suffering of Serbs in Sarajevo.

The commissions’ reports, blasted out on prime-time Republika Srpska TV shows, unsurprisingly „proved“ far fewer Bosniaks had been murdered, and war crimes had been committed by a few „bad apples,“ and that Serbs were in fact the true iconic victims.

The reports are suffused with language that „others“ Bosniaks, suggesting that they are inherently alien and threatening, just as hard-right rhetoric across Europe and beyond pushes the idea that Muslims can never „belong“ there either.

The terrible sense of déjà vu in Bosnia, and the difficulty of gaining traction for people to care, naturally raises the question whether the post-Holocaust „Never again“ slogan has lost its moral power, or whether it ever really meant anything.

Filipovic is adamant that the battle isn’t over, whether in Bosnia or in any country where radical hate has become mainstream. „Losing faith in ‘Never again’ isn’t giving up on some lofty liberal slogan but on the kind of society in which we all live,“ he said. „Setting the bar lower would be disastrous: it means giving up on our basic human values, our part in a civilized world.“

Israel ‘could speak with a loud, powerful voice’

More fuzzy is the stance of the Jewish state established in the wake of the Holocaust. Israel recognized Bosnia in 1997 but has never formally recognized the Bosnian genocide.

It officially endorsed the UN wartime arms embargo, but there are persistent reports of Israeli weapons being supplied to Bosnian Serb forces, and there is still a gag order covering details of defense exports to the area from 1990-1996, for fear of „damaging Israel’s foreign relations and security.“

Israel’s current finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has been a close business partner and political ally of Dodik for decades, and he is not alone.

The unending scandal surrounding the Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO is only the latest example of how coldly and pragmatically Israel weighs up its defense exports and foreign relations, without losing too much sleep about the nefarious abuses against human rights and democratic values facilitated by those weapons or alliances. The mostly unspoken rule is that Israel can’t afford the „luxury“ of prioritizing human rights in its external relations.

And historical revisionism, if not genocide denial, isn’t much of a red line for how Israel makes friends either: In recent decades, Israel has hunkered down with those European states most committed to a WWII revisionism that whitewashes collaboration with the Nazis and the killing of Jews.

But Filipovic is unperturbed by Israel’s long pro-Serb tradition, pointing out strong Israel-Bosnia relations. He suggests Jerusalem could even apply leverage on the Republika Srpska: „Friends tell friends hard things. Israel can talk to its contacts and allies in Belgrade and Banja Luka, reminding them that this kind of tolerance for hate doesn’t serve anybody’s interest.“

But the real help an embattled Bosnia hopes Israel would offer is to raise its cause with the United States. Filipovic believes Jews’ own experience of genocide gives it particular moral weight if it decided to advocate for Bosnia’s survival, and against the unrepentant genocide deniers: „It could speak with a loud, powerful voice on these issues.“

There were perhaps extravagantly high hopes in Bosnia on Joe Biden’s election, based on his forceful wartime advocacy for Bosnia and Kosovo as a U.S. senator, calling out Serbia’s military aggression and calling for U.S. airstrikes to preempt further atrocities. They hoped the Biden administration would make good on its promises to prioritize human rights in foreign policy in place of the barefaced transactionalism of the Trump years.

More Jewish voices need to be raised in support of Bosnia and against predatory Serb nationalism. Whether the State of Israel will fulfill or disappoint Bosnian expectations of solidarity remains to be seen.

Filipovic is judicious, but still a believer. „I don’t think anybody in Israel would ever publicly support leaders who defy all the international norms and legal norms and engage in brutal genocide denial, who daily voice religion-based hatred and intolerance,“ he said.

I didn’t have the heart, or (as yet) the total loss of faith, to disabuse him of that notion.

Esther Solomon is the opinion editor of Haaretz English. Twitter: @EstherSolomon

Germany cancels award to Israeli historian accused of Bosnian genocide denial

Prof. Gideon Greif denies that he minimized the death toll of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered by Serb nationalist forces

Sam Sokol | Jan. 1, 2022 | 6:10 PM |   7

The German government has reversed its decision to honor an Israeli Holocaust historian who in recent years has come under fire for allegedly engaging in genocide denial regarding the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

The move followed harsh criticism of the German government for bestowing the award on Gideon Greif, an expert on the history of Auschwitz.

“The proposal to award Professor Greif the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was withdrawn. This was done by the previous federal government,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday, referring to the government of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The ministry mentioned the commission on Srebrenica headed by Greif on behalf of Republika Srpska, the autonomous Serb enclave in Bosnia Herzegovina. It said the commission’s conclusions “contradict the case law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.”

Berlin’s decision “does not, however, reduce the recognition of the services that Professor Greif has earned in researching the Holocaust and the German Jews who emigrated to Israel,” the ministry added.

In a letter to a Bosniak Islamic scholar cited in the Bosnian-language media Wednesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier linked the reversal to Greif’s position as head of a commission that minimized the death toll of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered by Serb nationalist forces.

Greif, who is famous for his groundbreaking Holocaust research, has been widely criticized for his participation in the commission, which also contested claims by international criminal tribunals that the incident constituted an act of genocide.

Greif had told Haaretz on Thursday that he had been unofficially informed in recent days that he would probably not be receiving the award.

“The fact that I am Jewish and an Israeli scholar is the reason for such violent, vicious personal attacks,” Greif said, blaming “Islamic Brotherhood organizations” in Bosnia for orchestrating a smear campaign against him. “It’s a black stain on Germany. They are murdering the Holocaust victims for a second time.”

The news was welcomed in Sarajevo, with Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic telling Haaretz in a statement that “no one should be allowed to minimize events that have been judicially and legally established in international courts. Denial of the Holocaust and the Srebrenica genocide empowers perpetrators, which results in the glorification of the convicted war criminals and threatens the repeat of the most horrendous events in our history.”

Turkovic recently attempted to enlist Israel in her campaign against the increasingly bellicose rhetoric of Bosnian Serb nationalists, who have ramped up calls for separatism while opposing a recent law criminalizing denial of both the Srebrenica massacre and the Holocaust.

In a letter to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid earlier this month, Turkovic called on Israel to rally the international community, as long-standing tensions threaten to further fracture her small Balkan nation along ethnic and religious lines.

“The German government’s decision not to honor Gideon Greif with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is wholly appropriate,” said Menachem Rosensaft, associate executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress and a lecturer on genocide law at Columbia Law School.

“Gideon Greif has emerged as the poster child for Srebrenica genocide denial, and honoring him, even with respect to his prior academic work … would have been tantamount to endorsing his wholly specious and both morally and jurisprudentially offensive distortion of the facts regarding the slaughter of Bosniak Muslims.”

Prof. Jelena Subotic, a political scientist at Georgia State University who focuses on memory politics in the Western Balkans, added: “This is not terribly surprising as the controversies around Gideon Greif’s involvement in the revisionist Srebrenica commission have only grown. The German government has to be very careful about stepping into controversies around genocide and Holocaust revisionism. Germany doesn’t need this headache.”

Greif, however, disputed that his report minimized the number of victims at Srebrenica. In a statement, his lawyer, Marcus Goldbach, who was also a member of the commission, said that “neither Mr. Greif nor any member of the commission does question the number of the victims killed or the identity of those victims.

“On the contrary, there were two forensic experts who have found that thousands of victims were in the mass graves and who have also concluded that there must be additional mass graves and victims that have been killed during the shelling of the column that have not been buried in mass graves. So the finding of the report is that not all of the 8,000 victims have been executed but have been killed by other means.”

But Rosensaft of the World Jewish Congress and Columbia Law School had harsh words for the members of the commission.

“The Greif report goes to great lengths to minimize the number of victims at Srebrenica,” he said. “Greif’s and Marcus Goldbach’s much belated attempts to wriggle out from under their disastrous report are disingenuous at best.”

Israeli historian to ‘correct’ controversial Bosnia report after being accused of genocide denial

Gideon Greif now agrees that 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995. However, a critic calls the move a ‘desperate attempt at damage control’

Sam Sokol | Jan. 19, 2022 | 6:28 PM

An Israeli historian accused of genocide denial says he will revise a controversial war crimes report he co-wrote on behalf of Bosnian Serb nationalists – an attempt critics are calling damage control after a months-long controversy over the report into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

“We will be publishing a clarification to the report in the coming weeks,” Prof. Gideon Greif told Haaretz on Tuesday, adding that the new document would answer critics who labeled him a revisionist.

In 2019, Greif was tapped by the government of Republika Srpska, a semiautonomous Serb enclave in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to head a commission compiling a report on the mass murder of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995.

His findings, released last summer, were widely panned by scholars, with most of the criticism directed at his claims that the massacre did not constitute an act of genocide and his assertion that “a significant number of remains exhumed from the mass graves belonged to people who were killed outside the context of mass shootings.”

In a television interview last year, Greif said that “the number does not exceed 3,714 victims,” a claim he now calls a mistake; the report quoted estimates of the death toll as low as 3,900.

“We didn’t diminish even one victim. Not even one victim,” Greif said this week. “It was my personal mistake so we are going to correct it to publish the truth, and I think this controversy around the commission will be reduced significantly.”

However, when asked about the planned changes, Greif appeared to play them down, saying that “nothing will be changed because there is no mistake concerning the number.

“This is the number which is mentioned from the beginning onward, there was no different number: about 8,000. And we do not distort it; we accept it. Of course, we decry the crimes, naturally. And we will do it even more stronger in our clarification.”

His latest comments on the death toll seem at odds with the report, which theorized that some of the dead were executed soldiers rather than civilians.

“It is difficult to know with any precision how many people were killed after the fall of Srebrenica and continuing for several days thereafter,” the report stated.

‘Severe reputation damage’

Prof. Jelena Subotic, a political scientist at Georgia State University who focuses on memory politics in the western Balkans, questioned Greif’s turnaround.

“I read the Greif report. The report specifically, in no uncertain terms, claims that the number of 8,000 victims is incorrect,” she said in an email.

“It is clear that the current backtracking is the result of severe reputation damage the authors of the report have suffered. But this does not change the content of the report and its revisionist nature. The report itself is there for everyone to see,” she said.

Greif’s announcement comes only weeks after Germany rescinded an award for his Holocaust research due to his work on behalf of Republika Srpska, whose leaders have drawn criticism for trying to minimize the severity of the Srebrenica massacre.

Bosnian Serb officials have denied the validity of international tribunal rulings describing the killings as genocide, while increasing calls for separatism. Some fear that this could further fracture Bosnia-Herzogovina, a country of around 3.8 million people, along ethnic lines.

While the Bosnian Serb president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Greif’s planned revision, Markus Goldbach, an attorney for the historian and a member of the commission that wrote the report, said Greif had recently visited Banja Luka, the de facto capital of Republika Srpska, to discuss the matter.

“After reviewing the criticism and being aware of the articles which were published, we felt that the criticism [did] us some injustice because we had no bad intentions; we had no intentions of distortion of history, we had no intention of making the perpetrators free of guilt,” Greif said.

“We are not changing anything. We stand behind our report, but we will make things more clear for the public.”

Menachem Rosensaft, an instructor in genocide law at Columbia Law School in New York and the executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, believes Greif’s new report won’t shift perceptions of the historian.

“His promise or threat that he and his hapless commission will be issuing a revised report strikes me as a rather desperate attempt at damage control. On the whole, if I were Milorad Dodik, I’d ask for my money back,” said Rosensaft, referring to the nationalist Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency.

“No amount of prevarication or sophistry on his part can change the fundamental fact that the parameters of the crime of genocide are set forth in the Genocide Convention and have been repeatedly and consistently applied to Srebrenica by successive tribunals,” Rosensaft added.

In a statement to Haaretz, Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic said that “the genocide in Srebrenica was determined by verdicts of international courts: the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice. Any denial, relativization, or misinterpretation of the genocide must be condemned.”

Bosnia, she added, will cosponsor Israel’s push for a resolution against Holocaust denial at the UN General Assembly later this month.



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