To celebrate….

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My opinions of Operation Storm are well known and I shall not repeat them today.  All I will say is that it is a day worthy of celebration, that it is intolerable for a nation to be shelled on a daily basis and for its citizens to live in a constant state of war, and that I hope you will spare a thought or prayer for those in Israel suffering under similar circumstances from persistent terrorist attacks.

To celebrate, I would like to offer you a few moments of escapism.  Today, Tuscany Press published a very brief excerpt from near the beginning of my novel The First Realm.  I hope you find it an intriguing and enjoyable read.  There is a field for comments at the end.

Sretan Dan hrvatskih branitelja!  Happy Victory Day, Croatia!

Am I a Zionist?

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You may be wondering why it has taken me so long to write something on the current conflict in Israel and Gaza. The first reason is that I’ve had the ‘flu’, and I still do, so this will be fairly short. Secondly, I have had a hard time keeping up with all the information and misinformation in the media and social media. However, the fundamental reason I’ve been slow to respond is that I’m not entirely sure it’s worth my effort. Allow me to explain.

I don’t believe in writing for the sake of it. If I have nothing to add to a discussion I’m not going to waste your time asking you to read yet another article. I have more articles of interest cropping up each day than I can actually read. (I have a similar problem with books – literal piles I want to read but probably never will.) So, I’m going to put a reading/watching list at the bottom of this so that you can pick and choose what is of most interest to you on this topic. There have been some fabulous articles written in the last couple of weeks while I’ve been down with the ‘flu’ and I am grateful to those writers for speaking out, sharing their viewpoints, and countering the propaganda most of the world is gobbling up with glee.

The other reason I’ve hesitated to write is the intractable mindset of most people on this topic. People who were the first to condemn moral equivalence in Bosnia are now talking about both sides being guilty. People who were aghast at Croatian and Bosnian civilians being shelled day in and day out by the Serbs are now suggesting Israel should just put up with a bombardment greater in proportions than the London Blitz. People who would never accept suicide bombings and missiles raining down in their own cities are telling the victims of terrorism that they must implement an unconditional ceasefire even though Israel has accepted and implemented five ceasefires, all of which were broken (oddly enough) by the Hamas terrorists. Rationality doesn’t seem to have much of a place anymore, and what I do say is no doubt preaching to the converted.

So allow me a few personal observations, seeing as so many people seem to value perceptions and feelings over morality and common sense.

Some things are a matter of debate. How to solve the ‘Middle East conflict’, for example. I don’t know the answer, so I’m fairly open to suggestions. Really. I have not made up my mind on this topic. (Though, I have no say in the matter, so I suggest you address any of yours ‘answers’ elsewhere.) Some things that are part and parcel of this topic, however, are not a matter of debate. (No, I’m not a relativist.) One is that Israel has a right to exist. Another is that Hamas is a bunch of terrorists. In all the brouhaha, these two central facts seem to have been forgotten. You can be pro-Palestinian without being pro-Hamas. You can love the Palestinian people and want the best for them and still support Israel – in fact, if you have any sense, you may realise that Israel is the best chance most Palestinian children will ever have of growing up in a democratic and multicultural society.

Those who think they know better (than everyone else), of course, tend to disagree. They don’t even bother with discussion or debate any more. They just dismiss anyone who isn’t anti-Semitic as a Zionist. They’re not quite as crude as the demonstrators calling for a Palestine “from the river to the sea” and who attack Jewish businesses and chant “gas the Jews”, but it amounts to much the same thing. It’s funny how being anti-Israel is supposedly not anti-Semitic, but wanting Israel to exist and flourish as a nation is Zionist. I want Australia to continue to exist and flourish too. What does that make me? Is that wrong too?

The bottom line is that if you want a Palestine “from the river to the sea” you’re calling for the extermination of Israel. And if you think Hamas terrorists are freedom fighters, you’re advocating the freedom to murder and terrorise. Israel has bent over backwards to accommodate a two-state solution. The Palestinians have rejected every opportunity. Gaza is a case in point. Israel made it Judenfrei and handed it over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. What sort of peace has Hamas given them in exchange? Suicide bombings, missiles, and terror tunnels.

You may say that I’m just as entrenched in my position as the next person. If by that you mean I refuse to accept a world in which Israel does not exist, you’re quite right. If that makes me a Zionist, so be it. I never thought that basic humanity could be so controversial. And, for the sake of balance, let me say that I also yearn for a world in which Arabs/Muslims and Jews live amicably side by side, a world in which Israel has no need to use weapons of war. But I know that’s never going to happen with Hamas calling the shots, and unless ordinary people like you and me (as well as our leaders and journalists) stop giving Hamas this false legitimacy the situation is not going to improve, for Israelis or Palestinians. We need to call a terrorist a terrorist. They are not freedom fighters. They are base murderers killing Palestinians and Israelis alike.

There’s a much a bigger problem than Gaza at the moment, and that problem is us.

So, choose your words carefully next time you chat with someone on this topic. Did Israel “resume its offensive” or did Israel respond to yet another breach of a ceasefire, yet another attack on Israeli civilians? When you mention Israel blew up a hospital in Gaza, don’t forget to mention that Hamas was firing at Israel from that hospital and that Israel confirmed with the hospital director that there were no staff or patients inside and that he had locked all the doors. And when the news reports an Israeli strike, ask yourself whether perhaps Hamas misfired a rocket yet again. (Hamas managed to hit a hospital and refugee camp yesterday, but no mention of that in the media – no, it was reported as an Israeli attack on a kindergarten. Likewise, Israel has been vociferously blamed for the deaths of fifteen civilians in an UNRWA school yard, even though the single shell landed in an empty yard.)

We don’t live in Nazi Germany. I, for one, live in a rather tranquil part of the world. Yet, even here in the Antipodes, I (a gentile) have felt the hatred.

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This is a random (and far from exhaustive) list of articles I’ve appreciated in the last couple of weeks, an antidote to the mostly dishonest reporting of the mainstream media.

The Israeli Genocide in Gaza

Letter to an Anti-Israel Protester

Hamas Human Shields

Shalom

Scared of the Mommies

Gaza’s West Side Story

Europe’s Kristallnacht

Paris’s Kristallnacht

Israeli Nazi Baby Killers

I’m Done Apologizing for Israel

Gaza Media Myths

Moral Clarity in Gaza

Gazans’ Real Enemy is Hamas

Has Hamas end the prospects for a two-state solution

Those TV cameras responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza

Journalists receive death threats after reporting Hamas uses human shields

J’accuse Western Academics

To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter From an Angry Black Woman

Protests Make the Case for Israel

Israel Faces a Biased Barrage

Dear Sayed Kashua

Palestinian UN Rep

Gazan Child Pledges to Become Hamas Martyr

Ten Minutes about living on the Gaza border

Why do they ask the impossible of the Jews?

And, finally, a hauntingly beautiful song for peace, because we must live in hope and not despair: Shalom Aleichem

Towards A Croatian Entity In Bosnia And Herzegovina

mishkagora:

A noteworthy development: “And given that BiH is on its knees, desperately avoiding its total break-up and disintegration, ethnic federalism makes most sense and promises a path to a happier and more productive life. Croats, with their own entity within BiH would gain the deserved sense of equality with the other two (Serbs and Bosniaks) and ethnically based recriminations, ethnic based competitions of all sorts that affect daily lives would be reduced under a model of equal federal representation in the decision making for BiH. Certainly, the international community, or the most influential members of its network who are to blame for the conflicts and problems that have evolved from the Dayton agreement model for BiH, have without explanations or reasons so far been against the creation of a third (Croat) entity. They have treated Croats in BiH as and unplanned child in a family that, for whatever sinister reasons, visualises itself without it. It is no wonder that BiH Croats want their own entity, and why shouldn’t they have it when in effect the other two ethnic groups have it. After all, after 19 years of failed Dayton recipe, this would provide a significant assurance that BiH would indeed exist as a “rich and diverse ethnic make-up” the UK foreign secretary and German foreign minister want because the “richness” here (and everywhere else in the world) is defined and underpinned by equality in the sense that matters to the people most.”
What will be the legacy of Dayton?

Originally posted on Croatia, the War, and the Future:

19 Anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide Photo: Reuters

19 Anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide
Photo: Reuters

When US diplomat Richard Holbrooke and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt gathered Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats together in 1995 at an American air force base near Dayton, Ohio, harassing them into a deal that would end years of terror, genocide and ethnic cleansing that became the modus operandi of what initially appeared to be Serbian resistance to a breakup of communist Yugoslavia but emerged as an utterly brutal attempt to widen borders of Greater Serbia on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the world breathed a sigh of relief. Dayton peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was signed in November 1995. Consequently, Carl Bildt was installed as the first High Representative for BiH and remained in that role during the initial crucial 18 months of implementation of the Dayton agreement.

Holbrooke and Bildt essentially endorsed the partition of the country…

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On the Nineteenth Anniversary of Srebrenica

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1280px-Srebrenica

Genocide denial has such a beguilingly pleasant façade.  It’s nothing like what I imagined as a child.  I grew up thinking that ‘deniers’ were skinheads or crackpots who collected Nazi paraphernalia. The reality is, of course, far more uncomfortable.

I have lost count of the number of people I have come across, some of them friends, who have offered a different interpretation of the conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, despite little or no knowledge of the subject. Some call it historical revisionism, but often it isn’t so much revision as doubt and denial. If I were ignorant of the subject, I might call it scepticism, but the most charitable description I can muster is prejudice. They create a narrative to fit their prejudices.

These doubters and deniers often come across as reasonable and well-informed. They say things like “I’m led to believe that the numbers may have been exaggerated” and “there is some doubt about whether the victims were civilians or soldiers” and “we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions”. It all sounds so reasonable… until you think about it, until you realise that Srebrenica is quite possibly the most well-documented war crime in the history of the world. The number of victims is fairly certain: 8,372. Almost seven thousand of those victims have had their remains positively identified using DNA.

On a personal level, however, the most astounding denials come from those who accept my testimony but point out that my experience of the war wasn’t representative of what really happened. They are, of course, quite correct. When I arrived, the UN Protected Area I worked in had already been ethnically cleansed to a large degree. I did not experience firsthand the grievous violations of international law and human decency that epitomised the siege of Vukovar. It is true that my work with Bosnian refugees was not in places like Omarska or Sarajevo. I was not among the brave Western reporters, such as Ed Vulliamy, Roy Gutman, and Penny Marshall, who went into the ‘lion’s den’ so that we might know the truth about the concentration camps of Bosnia. And is it true that, by the time I arrived in the burgeoning refugee camps across the border in Croatia, indefensible atrocities in places like Ahmići, Bijeljina, Foča, and Prijedor had already taken place.

So, I am forced to admit that my personal experience, as disturbing as it was, was not representative of what happened in the war. I was not raped, tortured, or killed. I was not incarcerated in a concentration camp. I wasn’t forced to walk across minefields and mountains into another country so as to escape such a fate.

However, my good fortune does not cast doubt on the horrific crimes experienced by those to whom I ministered. Quite the contrary! The whispered confidences of emaciated men who had spent months in concentration camps confirmed the pictures we saw in the newspapers. Children in my care took the crayons we gave them to draw scenes of tanks rolling into their towns, their homes burning, and soldiers shooting their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters. Old women held my hand and wouldn’t let go, crying and saying one word over and over again: hvala, thank-you. And fellow aid workers drank themselves into oblivion after each foray into Bosnia, ending up sobbing on the floor in the dead of night as they tried and failed to erase the memories.

To those who have said that my book represents “only one experience” and doesn’t reflect the “whole truth”, I say: Quite right, the war was far worse than anything I could write. If you want a firsthand account of a concentration camp, I recommend Rezak Hukanović’s The Tenth Circle of Hell. If you want the dead to speak to you, I suggest you peruse The Graves by Eric Stover and Gilles Peress. Or if you’re too lazy to read a book, you could simply take a look at Scott Anderson’s article in the New York Times Magazine. He has interviewed people with contrasting views, and the result is a poignant and nuanced exposition. (It also includes some excellent photography by Paolo Pellegrin.) He lets his readers draw their own conclusions, but genocide denial isn’t much of an option for the sane and rational among us.

So, next time someone says that all these anniversaries and commemorations are a “big fuss” or “making a mountain out of a molehill”, please tell them it’s something worth making a fuss about. Please tell them that every single one of those 8,372 lives mattered.

Lest we forget….

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One Hundred Years Later

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One Hundred Years Later

This is a celebration of murder and bloodshed, not twenty years ago during ‘the war’, but yesterday in the heart of Europe.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s last words were reported to be an exhortation to his wife Sophie to stay alive – for their children.

For the sake of our children, we must speak out against such glorification and attempted justification of murder.

Lest we forget….

Worse then expected: Bosnia and Herzegovina will need international help for years to come.

Originally posted on BiHbloggen:

GPBiH
This article appeared in the Swedish daily GP (Göteborgs-Posten) 23 May 2014

He came to Sarajevo last weekend, that´s where the EU-team is working together with the national organization for security and disaster relief but also with the UN and The Red Cross.

“We´re sitting in a basement, our Bosnian colleagues have a very humble attitude but a lot of Bosnians are are completely exhausted. The kind of assistance that will be needed will change once the rescue efforts go into another phase” according to Jan Karlsson.

Jan Karlsson is on loan from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) he was among other things in charge of part of the relief effort in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. His team is working in one particulary hard hit part of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Posavina and the biggest town in the area; Orasje. Both the canton and the town are right next…

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Marko Attila Hoare in Dnevni Avaz: Parallels between Ukraine and Bosnia

mishkagora:

Marko Attila Hoare raises the possibility of RS secession from BiH. A sobering thought….

Originally posted on Greater Surbiton:

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This interview appeared in Bosnian translation in Dnevni Avaz on 2 April 2014

What parallels with Bosnia – if any – can you draw from the situation in Ukraine ?

Ukraine and Bosnia are both multinational states that until the early 1990s were members of larger multinational federations – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia respectively. When these federations broke up, Serbia under Milosevic initially wholly rejected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the former Yugoslav republics as successor states, and waged a genocidal assault on Croatia and Bosnia in order to redraw the territorial borders in its favour. Whereas Russia under Yeltsin adopted an initially more moderate policy and largely accepted the sovereignty and borders of the former Soviet republics, though with some attempts to undermine them – above all in Georgia and Moldova. However, Putin’s policy is closer to Milosevic’s, insofar as he is openly tearing up the territorial…

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