Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revising History for the Holocaust Leverage

Whether it was the words out of Stuart Eizenstat’s mouth or it was, as Julia Gorin claims, Haaretz’s “strained insertion,” the article published in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper on Friday did accuse Serbia of participating in the Holocaust and did call on the European Union “to exact the maximum amount of leverage” against countries applying for membership, namely Croatia and Serbia, to coerce them “to take responsibility for their roles in the Holocaust.” Those were loaded words regardless of who spoke them. They were loaded on many levels.
It would not be the first time a newspaper with agenda puts words in people’s mouth to “set the mood” for furthering that agenda. However, Stuart Eizenstat is not just anybody. Before he was a lobbyist for Covington and Burling and a senior strategist for APCO Worldwide communications consultancy firm, Eizenstat was, among other things, the U.S. Ambassador to the EU (1993-1996). In this capacity, he served as a kind of a Holocaust compensation czar, i.e. he was one of the foremost agents of what Norman Finkelstein famously branded “the Holocaust industry.’’ Namely, Eizenstat went after selected European countries, beginning with Switzerland, who ostensibly profited from the persecution of Jews. With Switzerland in particular, Eizenstat negotiated a $1.5 billion payout to Jewish organizations that represented victims. Similar efforts against countries like Poland and Belarus appear to be ongoing.
I will not get into Finkelstein’s criticism; you can check The Holocaust Industry online. I can’t even say that I am against the shakedown where it is proven to be warranted, although there is a question of reverse injustice. This mini highlight reel of Eizenstat’s career should just serve as the backdrop for his motivation for the Haaretz statement. It is neither unexpected nor unusual for Eizenstat to engage in such rhetoric and it is almost certain that Eizenstat did point the finger at Croatia and Serbia as potential targets for a restitution shakedown and that Haaretz dutifully relayed it. Even outside the official capacity, Eizenstat is continuing his mission; if there are more countries to shake down, the agenda is set and he is on top of it. Eizenstat is lining up targets, that’s all. But to line Serbia up next to Croatia is not only outrageous, but very devious on his part.
Forget about the fact that Serbia - the political entity - did not exist during the Holocaust even as a German puppet, but as a divided, occupied and ever-restless region whose guerrilla brigades tied up in fighting a disproportionate number of Nazi troops that would otherwise be adding to the German power at Stalingrad. Forget about the fact that the largest part of what is Serbia today was under direct occupation of Wehrmacht. Forget about the fact that Srem was annexed to the Independent State of Croatia; that Bačka was annexed to Nazi ally Hungary; that Banat was under a direct control of the Volksdeutsche, its German minority; that Kosovo and Metohia were under the fascist Albania and that southern parts, today’s Macedonia, were annexed to Nazi ally Bulgaria. Forget about the facts that Serbia accepted Jewish refugees prior to the Nazi occupation, at the time when FDR was turning away from the U.S. coast the ships with fleeing Jews and when American companies were enjoying great business relationships with Adolf Hitler’s government. Historical findings and analyses cemented the notion that Serbs were the primary victims of genocide on the territory of Kingdom of Yugoslavia and that Serbia, which did not exist as a separate political entity since 1918, could not be held responsible for crimes against Jews committed by German, Croat, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Albanian fascists on its territory at the time these same occupiers committed the same horrible crimes against the Serbs. How could the occupied Serbia be responsible for crimes against Jews when it didn’t even possess so much power to prevent the German policy of executing 100 Serbian civilians for every German soldier killed by the Serbian anti-fascist guerrilla on its territory? Germany had allies and puppets; Serbia was neither. Serbia was a German, Croat, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Albanian-occupied, torn up land with citizens bleeding and dying without discrimination. The Semlin death camp, the largest death camp in the territory that is Serbia today was a Croat-run camp, in the Croat-occupied Srem, to which Serbs, Jews and Roma alike were brought to die.
It is especially egregious that Eizenstat puts Serbia into the same basket with Croatia. If there is a moral or legal ground to go after the Republic of Croatia for crimes committed by Croat fascists in the World War II, it is at least helped by a proven fact that the genocide committed against Jews, and especially Serbs, on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia was indeed committed by Croats, not by Germans or Italians. The Croatian defense against the shakedown attempts is entirely up to the Croats. Two things are certain: Croatia committed the genocide against Serbs, Jews and Roma and it was a country ruled by Croats. There is a catch in Eizenstat’s proposal, though. Leveraging, the key word he used, will not be possible with Croatia, because Croatia’s membership in the EU has been approved. The levers can only be pulled in the case of Serbia, who is only a candidate and whose membership is very uncertain and far down the road, at best. I am sure Eizenstat would like to shake any country down indiscriminately, but in this instance, the general idea of his proposal allows only for Serbia to be blackmailed in such a way. Of my particular concern is not whether Serbia’s road to the EU membership would be impeded by a sudden condition from EU related to the restitution. As a eurorealist, I advise against Serbia even encroaching on the suicidal path towards the EU membership. I am alarmed by the grave danger of Serbian history being revised to accommodate Eizenstat’s vision, equating victims of the genocide with the murderers.
Eizenstat’s “advice” to the European Union is a matter of policy that he and his cause can utilize, it is not about history. However, without revising history, the policy he proposed can neither be implemented nor can the Jewish organizations utilize it for their ends. Unfortunately, policymakers that ostensibly aim to rectify past injustices rarely consult historians in good faith, other than those who are willing to manufacture “findings” in service of the set agenda. To hold Serbia responsible for Holocaust, the policymakers Eizenstat tries to influence have to undertake a serious revision of history of the World War II. Revising history in any way that paves the road for holding Serbia responsible for Holocaust would mean equating victims and the perpetrators. Such a revision would not only leave Serbia open for a shakedown; it would unjustly negate the historical role Serbia and the Serbs played in the anti-fascist struggle, including the salvation of fleeing Jews at the time it was still possible to do. It would negate the fact that the first uprising against Hitler's rule in the occupied Europe was started in Serbia and by the Serbian Royalists of general Draža Mihailović. It would open a Pandora’s box of radical misinterpretations that would further strain Serbian wits and deeper distort the consciousness about the just struggle Serbs embarked on in service of anti-fascism and freedom.
George Orwell famously wrote in 1984: “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past.” A conscious and forward-looking Serb cannot afford any further revision of the Serbian history by self-serving agents of foreign interests consistently seeking leverage to undermine Serbian defenses or simply to increase their own gains, even if those gains are tied to a righteous cause on some level, as is Eizenstat’s motivation. Eizenstat is justified to seek revenge against the injustice committed against his Jewish brethren and he has no obligation to feel sympathy towards the Swiss or the Croats, if he feels their governments had a hand in it. But by going after the nations that suffered under the same fate as his Jews, Eizenstat’s cause loses the high moral ground it operates on. Finkelstein would negate the existence of the high moral ground in the first place, but I will not. To each his own.
Holding Serbs responsible for Holocaust opens a door into future in which anyone, without exceptions, can be held responsible for the World War II genocides committed against Jews, Serbs, Russians, Poles, Roma and every other European and non-European people. Once you equate victims and perpetrators, anyone can fall into either group and no one can monopolize either group.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Balkan Benelux: Sneaking in Greater Albania

When one runs into a headline "Balkan 'Benelux' would speed up EU entry" the thought of a successful regional customs union gets squashed by the oxymoron created by mingling the word "Balkan" with the word "Benelux." There is nothing "Beneluxian" about the Balkans, nor there is a genuine desire among the warring Balkan nations to erase borders between them; if anything, the tendency to carve additional borders is as present as ever. Benelux Customs Union served as a core for the economic powerhouse of European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of the European Economic Community, which deteriorated into a political empire and a stumbling economic behemoth with an uncertain direction and an even less certain future. The Dutch, the Belgians and the Luxembourg Germans formed it to advance business interests of their economic elites, to make production and trade cheaper for the already advanced local markets.
The cynic in me turned into a shocked cynic after I began reading the opinion piece and saw that the "Balkan Benelux" proposal is in fact a veiled promotion of the Prizren League-inspired ideal of Greater Albania! Yes, the writers, an Albanian from the Serbian province of Kosovo and an Austrian living in Albania, proposed that this union include Albania, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the rogue state of Kosovo. In other words, forget insurgency, terrorism, organ trafficking and other state-building methods; let the EU buy off the surrounding countries and give them on a silver plate to the "unifying" factor that is the Albanian people. If this hasn't been the goal of the pan-Albanian elites since at least 1878, I would laugh this proposal off. But it is far from a laughing matter, although the authors do add a form of a caveat:
               "It is important to convince the international audiences that this is not some kind of Greater Albania through the back door." 
Of course it is important. And they will take your word for it.
The proposed union, regardless of the pretenses it was proposed under, would round up the three countries and Kosovo, the NATO-occupied province of Serbia in which Albanians control close to 90 percent of the territory. Assuming the authors of the article meant for the entire NATO-occupied Kosovo to be subjugated to this "union," such a creation would be populated by about 7.5 million people and 5 million of them would be Albanians! Yes, the ethnic cleansing they have been conducting would produce a greater degree of domination, if completed, but the geopolitical situation may be changing and I'm not surprised that alternative, cleaner solutions for the question of Albanian expansionist appetites are being sought.  Regardless of the laws governing relationships between the four entities, Albanians dominate two of them, share power in the third and, as such, can hold the fourth one, Montenegro, a hostage to its Albanian minority. 
The economic parallel of this proposal with the Beneluxian principle is as irrelevant as it is non-existent; there is no border between Albania and Kosovo to speak of; the one between Albania and Macedonia is as porous as any considering Albanians live on both sides of it and the Macedonian Albanians are more loyal to the cause of Greater Albania that to the state they live in; Montenegro is similar to Macedonia in this aspect. Add to this the fact that criminal industries such as drug trade, prostitution, human trafficking are often cited to take up a large portion of this region's economy, with a hub in Kosovo. It is easy to conclude that economic reasons cannot be the basis for creation of the Balkan Benelux, as the "goods'' already flow through "freely" and the production is virtually non-existent. You don't combine broken parts to make the engine work.
It is not surprising that this proposal is being peddled at the time of the seemingly no pasaran situation in North Kosovo. As Serbia continues to block Kosovo Albanians' independence and as the Kosovo Serbs continue to resist the Albanian occupation of the North, this new concoction could be seen as a circumvention maneuver. The authors are somewhat honest about it:
"Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia can also serve as stepping-stones for Kosovo towards Italy, Greece and the rest of EU."
They forget that Kosovo is not an independent state, and that after all, Greece does not recognize it. 
If the rogue state of Kosovo illegally joins a union of independent states for the ostensible purpose of advancing regional cooperation and expediting the EU accession, then it automatically gets the international representation and recognition. If such a union is fast-tracked into the status of an EU candidate, then the question of the North Kosovo and of the Kosovo independence in general becomes a matter of a relationship between two EU candidates and a subject to even more pressure on Serbia from Brussels. In other words, it becomes an EU matter rather than a UN Security Council matter, negotiated according to Brussels-imposed rules rather than under the UNR 1244. And we have seen how the EU involvement has damaged Serbia's interests in its occupied province's status negotiations. What the EU members like Spain or Greece, who haven't recognized Kosovo, have to say to that has been rendered irrelevant by the current economic tumult they are in. In case this proposal surfaces as a viable political initiative, Greece may want to keep its head down and pray that the Greater Albania architects leave it outside of all the combinations.
Albania and the Kosovo Albanians would rush headfirst into this unification. Macedonia has never been a country that made its own decisions and, since 2001, its government is a power-sharing structure that mandates the active participation of its Albanian minority. The constant threat of an Albanian insurgency has Macedonia teetering on the brink of implosion. Montenegro, on the other hand, is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and since the entire country can be bought off by an average Western European bank, it is not crazy to expect that proposals like the ridiculously sounding Balkan Benelux do appeal to the already-blackmailed Montenegrin leadership, if arranged on some type of a bailout platter.
It would be a small step for the EU, but a gigantic one towards building a Greater Albania.
Following the trajectory of the Albanian aggressive expansionism, this looks like another fast one their pundits are trying to sneak in and pass as a viable option. Considering it serves the Euro-Atlantic expansionism as well as the Turkish inroads back into the Balkans - remember, the Prizren League promoted the Greater Albania ideals under the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan - one has to be a fool to wave it off as a pipe dream. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hamlet's Soliloquy by the Ibar River

Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory. - Sun Tzu

While Serbia’s politicians continue to betray the electoral will of the people, keeping the country in limbo, haggling over one unholy post-electoral alliance after another and widening the disconnect between the consent of the governed and the license to rule, KFOR bulldozers have been cutting off the North Kosovo Serbs from the central Serbia, roadblock by roadblock. As the agony of the coalition-building power grab, void of any ideological premise or context, further deteriorates Serbia’s ability to sustain itself politically and economically, the North Kosovo Serbs seem to be in the care of no one. The roadblocks, the only security the unarmed population of North Kosovo has at its disposal, are being dismantled one by one, strategically, apparently severing all the physical connections these Serbs had with central Serbia. The Serbs standing on the left bank of the Ibar River find themselves increasingly alone.
After the German and American NATO troops fired at the people of the village of Rudare on June 1 with live ammo, wounding six, another attack occurred on June 16, in which another roadblock was removed, close to Brnjak, and two more people were wounded, this time by rubber bullets. It is a path the NATO occupiers have chosen and they appear determined to gradually and systematically steamroll the remaining free Kosovo Serbs out of Kosovo.
Serbia’s government, with the constitutionally limited new president, the acting prime minister who was irrelevant even during his mandate, and the new cabinet still being bartered over, is incapacitated and seems to be fine with it. Who would want to have to make difficult decisions about Kosovo anyway? In the power vacuum, KFOR and the Albanians can do what they please and no one in Belgrade will lose sleep over it because everyone has an excuse. President Nikolić, the only legitimate agent of Serbia’s government, is waiting on the cabinet to be formed and even if he weren’t what could he do? Threaten to mobilize the Army like President Milorad Dodik of the Serb Republic hinted at? No one believes the Serbian Army can fight NATO. No one even believes the Serbian Army can bluff NATO. Hell, I believe NATO, through Boris Tadić and Dragan Šutanovac, made sure the Serbian Army can’t even fight the Kosovo Protection Corpse. And these two stooges have even better an excuse: they are effectively out of power and, sorry, they can’t do anything to stop the ethnic cleansing of the North Kosovo Serbs. Not that they broke a sweat over it when they were in power. (Technically, Šutanovac is still the minister of defense, but no one expects anything patriotic of him.)
The only ones with no excuse and literally no way around are the North Kosovo Serbs. Their situation is precarious. Somewhere between fifty and eighty thousand people – closer to fifty, I’d say – are trapped in one corner of the province, unarmed and put in a headlock by the enemy force. They have been denied the right of self-determination granted to the Kosovo Albanians by the NATO bombs. Well, the Serbs have no bombs, no powerful overlords, so they cannot claim the right to determine their own political fate. Their democratic will to reject the Kosovo Albanian authority, expressed in the February referendum, was ignored. And, as the North Atlantic community’s excuse goes, borders in the Balkans cannot be changed any further so the Serb-populated territory of the North Kosovo cannot hope for any solution that carves them out of the rogue state of Kosovo, like NATO and the Albanians carved Kosovo out of Serbia, 13 and 4 years ago, respectively. Sure, these borders could be changed all up until 2008 when most of the North Atlantic community recognized Kosovo Albanians’ declaration of independence. But that was a precedent because the North Atlantic community said so to the rest of the world. Most of the world did not fall for this browbeating, the rogue state of Kosovo has not been recognized by 60 percent of the UN members, but the boot stomping on the Kosovo Serbs has spoken: the Kosovo Albanians and the Kosovo Serbs are not to have the same rights and will not be treated equally. To uphold this principle, the North Atlantic community is bent on subjugating the Kosovo Serbs to the rule of the Kosovo Albanians. And although there is a number of Serb communities that have so far allowed to survive the subjugation, most notably in Gračanica and Štrpce, it is clear that these are token communities, allowed to survive only to portray the false picture of tolerance and multi-ethnic society that the Albanian Kosovo is most definitely not. A more believable picture of tolerance could have been painted if the Albanians didn’t eradicate a number of similar enclaves in the three-day pogrom in March of 2004, killing Serbs, looting and burning Serb homes and churches across the province, drastically reducing the number of Serbs living in Kosovo and crucially changing the more even demographic distribution that testified to the past demographic character of the region. It had to be a rude awakening for any Serb who thought that a cohabitation setup was possible under the Albanian rule and the NATO occupation. Fool me twice – shame on me. The survival of the enclaves south of Ibar is not fooling the North Kosovo Serbs. If the North falls, it will be a matter of Albanian convenience as to how quickly the life of the southern Serb enclaves becomes a hell on Earth. Despite the somewhat successful tug-of-war in the international legal and diplomatic arena, Serbia’s dwindling chances to keep Kosovo hinge on the presence of Serbs in the province. In the end, the North Kosovo Serbs have nowhere to go, but to become refugees in Serbia, which, under the specific economic conditions, is a prospect as catastrophic as staring into NATO’s gun barrels. Blocking the roads with gravel and their bodies is the road they are forced to take. 
The geopolitical paradigm in which the Kosovo issues operate has ostensibly been shifting and NATO and the Albanians are striving to adjust. The Konuzin humanitarian “sortie” combined with the Tadić election loss has caused some uneasiness in Priština and the time of reckoning with the North has seemingly come. No chance to chip away at Serbia can go underutilized, Camp Bondsteel has to be secured long-term by rounding off the rogue state of Kosovo, and most importantly, a door to a Russian return to Kosovo in any capacity, even a peacekeeping one, has to be shut tight as soon as possible, especially in the light of the impending proxy war in Syria between the North Atlantic –Sunni Muslim axis and the Russo-Sino-Shia Muslim alliance. The peaceful resistance of the North Kosovo Serbs has denied the aggressor the needed pretext for an all-out overrun, which has forced NATO to resort to a more methodical approach. Nevertheless, the Albanian and NATO determination to drive the Serbs out of Kosovo seems to be so strong that it can only be alleviated by an agreement to have Russian peacekeepers indeed stand on the Ibar River and guarantee the physical survival of the North Kosovo Serbs. This should be the official demand by Belgrade, if its bark had any teeth, and all the status negotiations should be conditioned on this. Reverse any concessions Borislav Stefanović made and refuse to negotiate the status without the security guarantees. 
Kosovo Albanians’ aggressive maximalist agenda backed by NATO has left the Serbs with no choice. They cannot surrender. And, although alone, they have survived so far.