SOFIA – Bulgaria’s investigatory report placed the blame squarely on Hezbollah
for the murders of five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver last
Since the disclosure on Tuesday by the Bulgarian interior minister,
the country’s media has been saturated with coverage of the findings.
a series of interviews with The Jerusalem Post over the past few days with media
experts, journalists and a top Jewish leader, a diverse picture of reactions has
Solomon Bali, president of the B’nai B’rith Carmel lodge in
Sofia, said, “I was not surprised by Hezbollah” being identified as the agent
behind the terrorist attack, but about the timing of the
Bali had expected the Bulgarian authorities to attribute
the blame to Hezbollah at a later stage. “The truth has to be spoken,” he
When asked about the effects on the local Jewish community, Bali
said, “Yes, that brings some tensions against the Jews.
It is not nice
for us to see some of the comments [on the Internet], but we will
“I am amazed by the reaction in the social media against the
decision of the government,” he added. Some of the Internet comments said the
Bulgarians blamed Hezbollah “because of the Jews and Americans,” and this
“brings terrorism into the country,” Bali said.
Ivo Indzhev, a
distinguished journalist and author, praised the report’s conclusions. “Bulgaria
dares to take responsibility,” he wrote on his blog.
“It was time to take
responsibility for our own security, even though it is potentially threatened in
the future by a possible terrorist revenge,” he added.
In his blog entry,
Indzhev, who was vice president of the Association of European Journalists (1995
to 2000), debunks the arguments of opponents of the report. A telling example,
Indzhev writes, is “the... ridiculous ‘argument’ that this was not typical for
Hezbollah because... so says Hezbollah.
They never take the blame for
terrorist operations, they didn’t take responsibility in this case either, and
therefore could not be blamed.”
Indzhev wrote that “I have a response
based on personal experience: When in October 1983 the headquarters of the US
Marines and the headquarters of the French paratroopers in Beirut were blown up
before my eyes, nobody doubted that Hezbollah did it. It didn’t matter that the
pro-Iranian group did not admit it officially but loudly celebrated the victory
in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital.”
He continued, “The
evidence that the Americans and the French had absolutely no doubt regarding the
responsibility of Hezbollah, was the fact that the former opened fire from their
ship artillery, and the latter sent their Mirages [jets] against Hezbollah bases
in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.”
In an analysis for the Post, Elena
Zaharieva, a close observer of Bulgarian-Israeli relations in the media, noted
that the BNT public broadcaster’s Referendum program stacked its talk show on
the subject with people who rejected the report’s conclusions.
guests almost unanimously stood against the government’s decision to publicize
results from the investigation and voiced their disbelief about the involvement
of Hezbollah,” she said. “Iraqiborn journalist Muhammad Khalaf, who lives and
works in Bulgaria since 1978, was the only one on the panel who defended the
officially announced results from the investigation.”
Khalaf said on the
show that he “immediately recognized Hezbollah’s hand in the attack.” He was
regularly interrupted every time he started to speak, Zaharieva
Khalaf quoted on the television show a late July report in the
Lebanese newspaper Al- Nahar, in which Ibrahim Bayram (who according to Khalaf
has Hezbollah connections) wrote that “Hezbollah is spreading to new territories
different from the usual, such as Bulgaria,” Zaharieva said.
The rest of
the BNT show’s panel consisted of two journalists and four security and policy
experts. They argued that there had not been any convincing evidence for the
involvement of Hezbollah in the terrorist attack, that Bulgaria had been
pressured by Israel and the US to blame Hezbollah, and that the government had
put Bulgaria in danger.
“Bulgaria has been pushed into a [Israeli]
scheme, which starts with Hezbollah but ends with Iran,” journalist Georgi
Responding to the discussion on Referendum, Bulgaria’s
Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said on BNT that the government would not have
issued a statement linking Hezbollah to the Burgas attack if it did not have
“Nobody has ever exercised any pressure over Bulgaria,”
the minister said, adding that there had in fact been pressure not to publicize
the Hezbollah link.
Mladenov expressed regret that foreign countries
showed a stronger trust in Bulgarian institutions than many within the
Bali criticized the Sofia-based Bulgarian Center for Middle East
Studies and its director Mohd Abuasi for serving as the “official
representatives of Hezbollah” in Bulgaria and for stoking anti-Israel
During the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead operation to stop Hamas
rocket attacks on southern Israel, Abuasi said in late December 2008 that Israel
was creating a Holocaust in the Gaza Strip, speaking during an interview with
the FOCUS news agency.
Radio Bulgaria’s Dimitar Oushev’s cited Abuasi’s
opinion a day after the terrorist attack in Burgas: “Perhaps it is due to the
fact that over the last couple of years this country took several times the side
of Israel in the Middle East conflict.”
Bali added that the Bulgarian
Center for Middle East Studies studies played a role in sending Bulgarian
journalists from TV station 7 to Beirut after the Burgas attack to broadcast
anti- Israel interviews via a Hezbollah- controlled television network.