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Jewish Groups Express Outrage over Atrocities in Bosnia

In language rife with the imagery of the Holocaust leaders of Jewish organizations are calling on the United States and the United Nations to put an end to the atrocities being perpetrated by Serbian nationalists against Moslem and Croatian residents of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Though the 600 Jews who remain in Sarajevo are not in more danger than any other residents of the besieged Bosnian capital, the brutal attacks on innocent men, women and children throughout the former Yugoslav state are resonating in the collective memory of the Jewish community.

For Jews, the events unfolding in Bosnia eerily echo the Holocaust, when world leaders ignored early reports of the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

The republic’s still-functioning government claims that Serbian nationalists have set up 94 concentration camps around the country, have detained approximately 238,000 people and have killed 9,100 of their civilians captives.

The existence of two concentration camps in the northern part of the republic, in which at least 1,350 civilians have been murdered, and in which 11,000 more are being held until they die, was reported Sunday by two men who said they had been held there.

MORE THAN 20,000 KILLED SO FAR

In total, upwards of 20,000 people have reportedly been killed and tens of thousands have been injured by the strife.

In addition, 2.5 million residents of the recently independent republic have fled their homes and become refugees, according to a statement released by the Bosnian government’s mission to the United Nations.

The United States confirmed Monday that civilians have been tortured and murdered in Serbian-run concentration camps, but administration spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington has no plans to make an issue of the conditions, such as calling a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

The camps are part of a policy termed “ethnic cleansing” which Serbian nationalists have instituted since early April in their effort to drive Moslems and Croats from wide areas of the republic.

Representatives of the Bosnian mission to the United Nations compared “ethnic cleansing” to apartheid and Nazi deportations and murders, and on Monday asked the world body to declare the policy a crime against humanity.

Maynard Wishner, chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, called upon U.N. Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali to “begin immediately to mobilize whatever U.N. peacekeeping forces are appropriate” to restore peace.

A “more assertive posture” by the U.S. “is essential to expeditiously ending the wanton violence,” said the chair of the organization, which is an umbrella for 13 national agencies and 117 local community relations councils.

“The Western world must not turn its back on this unfolding catastrophe, the most hideous factional bloodletting in Europe in half a century. We must not sit idly by,” said the American Jewish Committee in a statement.

Some 500 residents of Sarajevo, most of them Jews, were airlifted to Belgrade, in the neighboring republic of Serbia, in April and June by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, according to sources. Some of the refugees have gone on to Israel, and others to Slovenia, Croatia and Spain.

EXCUSES CALLED ‘LAME’

Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, called the explanations proffered by governments and international agencies to justify their inability to end the carnage “lame” and nothing more than “poppycock.”

“If the world felt it important enough to stop Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, it is certainly important to stop the slaughter of innocent people.

“If we don’t, than what we did two years ago is a farce. This is a repeat of history,” he said, “and the Serbians are waiting to see if we respond. Every day that we don’t, they go further.

“We heard the excuses at Nuremberg, that ‘we didn’t know, we didn’t know! (about the Nazi crimes).’ Well, now we know,” said Foxman.

The ADL and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors are scheduled to hold a rally they termed a “call to action” near the United Nations on Wednesday.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that his group has met with Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Salajdzit three times over the past half-year.

The Conference of Presidents has spoken with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and “other officials at the White House, State Department and U.N.” in recent months, according to Hoenlein.

MORE MEETINGS SOUGHT

“They had assured us that actions would be taken, and received the foreign minister thereafter and assured him (as well)” that action would be taken to stop the bloodshed, he said.

More “meetings with administration officials are being sought to underscore our concern,” said Hoenlein.

A delegation of representatives of Jewish organizations met Tuesday with Thomas Niles, assistant secretary for European affairs at the State Department.

Niles told them that the Bush administration is unable to take any action against the Serbian nationalists because of “a lack of concurrence on the part of the European Community, especially France, which is apparently unwilling to make sure that measures are vigorously enforced,” according to Phil Baum, associat executive director of the American Jewish Congress.

He met with Niles along with representatives of the AJCommittee, ADL, B’nai B’rith International, NJCRAC and the National Council of Jewish Women.

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