The links between Serbia and Israel remain strong – opinion

The friendship between Serbia and Israel is not based only on current geopolitical and economic interests, but on traditionally good relations between the Serbian and Jewish people.

SERBIAN PRESIDENT Aleksandar Vucic leaves a polling station after voting in the first national election since the coronavirus lockdown, in Belgrade on June 21. (photo credit: MARKO DJURICA/REUTERS)
SERBIAN PRESIDENT Aleksandar Vucic leaves a polling station after voting in the first national election since the coronavirus lockdown, in Belgrade on June 21.
(photo credit: MARKO DJURICA/REUTERS)
When we read the text, “Kosovo is a test of Israeli moral character” – another in a series of systematically planned ideological pamphlets with clear but ethically, politically and legally unfounded goals – the first thought was, it did not deserve an answer. However, as descendants of the suffering victims, one of the Serbian and the other of the Jewish people as well, we have no right to remain silent when the predominantly Israeli or Jewish readers generally are told lies about killed, wounded or forcibly expelled Serbs and other non-Albanians from their homes.
Thousands of those who hope to find out the fate of their loved ones, whom the administration are forced to classify as “missing persons,” and many others, completely innocent, who have experienced the most difficult destinies, expect us to be their shofar.
It can be said that the relations between Serbia and Israel have been constantly rising in the past few years, and that thanks to President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, as well as Israeli leaders, Serbia has raised Israel on the map of its foreign policy priorities. The friendship between Serbia and Israel is not based only on current geopolitical and economic interests, but on traditionally good relations between the Serbian and Jewish people, who too often shared a gloomy fate and fought side by side for the civilizational values of the modern world and society.
Some of the most eminent personalities in Serbian history were Jews and were largely responsible for the development of the Serbian state and society. Along with this, the grandparents of the visionary, the initiator and leader of the national movement for the creation of the Jewish state, Theodor Herzl, lived in Zemun, part of the capital of Serbia, Belgrade. In 2018, at that site, Presidents Reuven Rivlin and Aleksandar Vucic ceremoniously unveiled a plaque with the name of the street named after Herzl.
Not far from there, pedestrians can walk to the street where the Ashkenazi synagogue building is located, and which is named after Judah ben Solomon Chai Alkalai, in the memory of the Sephardi rabbi, writer, and forerunner of modern Zionism who lived and worked in the 19th century, and certainly influenced the atmosphere in which Herzl’s ancestors lived.
Of the impressive number of promotional acts in recent years, in relation to the local Jewish community and world Jewry in general, we will single out just a few:
• Serbia has unanimously passed a law in parliament on the return of property and compensation to the heirs of Holocaust victims, and will allocate 950,000 euros a year from the state budget for the next 20 years for the functioning of Jewish municipalities on its territory.
• This year, the government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, thus once again showing that it stands firmly with the Jewish people and carries the banner of the fight against antisemitism and revision of history, which unfortunately rears its head in many European countries, especially in the Western Balkans.
These concrete moves point to the alliance between Serbia and Israel, whose relations cannot be disrupted by any current political or any other interest, although there are not a few stakeholders who are interested in that.
The particularly aggressive activities of Kosovo Albanian lobbyists are interwoven with constant insinuations in flattering Israel, intertwined with the disavowal of Serbia and the Serbian people, all with the aim of intensifying pressure on Israel to recognize a unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. Namely, they are used to spreading propaganda without corroboration and facts, losing their compass due to a series of foreign policy failures caused by the empowerment of Serbia at the geopolitical and economic level.
THUS THEY allow themselves to even play and manipulate the victims of the Holocaust, trying in a shameful and bestial way to compare the six million victims of the most brutal and unique crime in human history with the victims of the Albanian people in Kosovo and Metohija, most of whom were members of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army.
Such a comparison relativizes the Holocaust. If anyone is expected to see through such shamelessness, it is the Jewish people, especially that part living in their homeland, the State of Israel, which has suffered for decades from unbalanced and politically motivated depictions of events in the Middle East. If it could, the Jewish people would take the stars from the sky to replace the event that caused the post-trauma in which it still lives, the Holocaust, with the events in Kosovo and Metohija in the 1990s.
During a visit to Yad Vashem, we expect government officials from Priština to confront the crimes of Balli Kombëtar, known as Balli, collaborators during World War II and the Holocaust. Not only are they hiding behind the chivalrous behavior of the Albanians in Albania itself, who were rescuing Jewish refugees; even more, and once and for all, to take a stand on May 14, 1944, when members of the 21st SS Mountain Division “Skenderbeg” (1st Albanian) stormed Jewish homes in Priština, arresting 281 members of the community, who were then transported to the German Nazi Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Should at least the readers of the respected Jerusalem Post in this context be interested in the role of Muhammad Amin el Husseini, known as the Jerusalem Mufti, in creating the Waffen SS Division among the Muslims of the Balkan Peninsula? Unfortunately, instead, an offer of trade followed.
They state that Israel should pay tribute to the victims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and Metohija, by recognizing the false state of Kosovo and establishing full diplomatic relations with it. Furthermore, it is stated as an argument that the independence of the so-called “Kosovo” was supported by Nobel laureate Eli Wiesel, and that the so-called “Kosovo” was recognized by 111 countries, including the USA, and the vast majority of EU countries.
However, there is not a single word about the motives for such decisions. A large number of small, economically underdeveloped countries have recognized the independence of “Kosovo” under the pressure of some of the great powers. However, with the diplomatic action of Serbia, which resulted in the annulment or suspension of the recognition of “Kosovo” by 18 states, today fewer than half of the UN members recognize “Kosovo,” and any attempt on their side to join international organizations is doomed to failure.
In this regard, the claim that Serbia discourages and puts pressure on other countries not to recognize “Kosovo” is preposterous. Serbia has a reputation and authority in the region, Europe and the world gained, through its responsible competent policy, adherence to its international obligations, efforts to resolve any conflict peacefully, which is the foundation of Serbia’s reputation and social power to work with international community actors and representatives of Kosovo”to peacefully cut the Kosovo knot, which is damaging the Serbian, Albanian side and the region as a whole.
Finally, after 2,000 years of suffering, longing and prayers, the Jewish people fought back and experienced deliverance from the Diaspora into their own sovereign and democratic state. As such, the State of Israel makes decisions in accordance with its own interests.
BEARING IN MIND its own geostrategic and state-political constellation, the last thing Israel needs to support is an imposed unilateral solution to the conflict, which is not the result of direct negotiations between the interested parties. Just like Serbia, in spite of everything, is fighting for its soul – Kosovo and Metohija – so Israel jealously guards its own Jerusalem.
Moreover, Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo was not questionable until its violent abduction. Principled Israel’s adherence to its own interests, in this case, coincides with international law and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia.
We cannot help but comment on the position that Kosovo, i.e. unsuccessful attempts to separate Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia and the creation of a false state of Kosovo, is the sui generis case. Nevertheless, none of the authors of that claim offered any argument in favor of its accuracy. They could not because such arguments simply do not exist.
The fact that many of the European Union member states, which face a similar problem, have refused to recognize Kosovo, clearly speaks of a latent danger and precedent. It is like holding an unscrewed bomb in your hand, relying only on the fact that your hand will not tremble by chance. Therefore, we do not want anyone to experience the consequences that would occur in the case of recognition of Kosovo and its admission to the UN.
Well-known statements and claims that in the 1990s Serbia introduced a dictatorship, that it banned media and textbooks in the Albanian language, that it persecuted and fired Albanian intellectuals, that it formed paramilitary forces, etc., are pointless to discuss, bearing in mind that in the abducted southern Serbian province – the cradle of Serbian spirituality, culture, history and national identity – shrines are being destroyed.
Cemeteries are vandalized, Serbs are beaten, illegally arrested, and their property set on fire. Without a doubt, there were those on the Serbian side who committed crimes. However, there is a key difference. Serbia has arrested and tried its criminals in accordance with the law, unlike Albanian criminals who have been rewarded with military ranks, promotions, political and social positions and, as a whole, strong resistance to take all those who deserve it to finally stand before justice. In the end, everyone today understands that Kosovo is a failed project that is unsustainable in every regard.
Albanian separatists have recently entered a new phase of the fight against Judeo-Christian civilization, which is that after many years of burning churches and monasteries, and expelling monks and priests and the Serbian people as a whole on a purely discriminatory basis, they are now appropriating that heritage, medieval monasteries included, in the UNESCO list, and are grotesquely trying to present it as their heritage.
To the manipulative-selective portrayal of relations, it is necessary to add the Kosovo Albanians who fought on the side of the Islamic State had commanders there, such as Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who was famous for his cruelty.
We are fully convinced that Israel will remain consistent with its own interests, supporting direct negotiations, which are the only way to a compromise solution and delivery of the sustainable peace. Israel, like Serbia, a sovereign country, is not subject to any pressure or misinformation that appears in the Israeli and Serbian media from time to time.
Israel has a fruitful cooperation with all stakeholders in the Western Balkans region. The growth and enrichment of the diversity of trade exchange, cooperation in the field of science, culture, arts, sports, sensitive attitude toward the Jewish community and finally, ever closer bilateral relations, are concrete indicators of the best intentions of the Serbian side toward Israel and the Jewish world in general.
Prof. Vladimir Marinkovic, is deputy speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group with Israel.
Alexander Nikolic is honorary consul of the Republic of Serbia in Israel.