WASHINGTON (May. 9)
Atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina are continuing despite mounting international pressure on the Serbs to abandon their assault on Moslem enclaves, a top Bosnian official warned American Jews in an address here last week.
“Baby skulls against the wall — that is not over,” Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic remarked grimly in an address to the 87th annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee here.
“Forty thousand people, 8,000 of them children, are crying for help, but the world pretends not to know,” he said.
Referring to the Clinton administration’s review of possible military action, he said he hoped America would “do the right thing. And I hope that this country will be proud of it.”
Silajdzic, who addressed some 800 Jews here May 6, shortly after the self-styled parliament of Bosnian Serbs rejected a United Nations-brokered peace plan, thanked AJCommittee for all it had done to raise public consciousness about the “ethnic cleansing” campaign being perpetrated mainly by Serbs against Moslems in his country.
AJCommittee, like a number of other Jewish groups, has been active in calling for a stronger U.S. response to the crisis in Bosnia.
“Let me thank the American Jewish Committee, all those who helped us, our deepest sincere gratitude from the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to all of you,” Silajdzic told the overflow crowd to a huge round of applause.
Silajdzic’s address was just one of several emotional speeches at the AJCommittee banquet dinner. Other speakers included U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Jan Karski, a naturalized American citizen born in Poland who was active in the anti-Nazi underground in World War II.
MUST ‘SPEAK OUT AND PROTECT OTHERS’
Some in the Jewish community have likened the “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Bosnian Moslems to some of the atrocities that took place during the Nazi Holocaust, and both Reno and Karski discussed the Holocaust in their speeches.
Reno, who is of Danish descent, recalled her participation in a recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jews.
She said one lesson she had learned was to “never, ever take freedom for granted. Always be vigilant.”
At the commemoration, she said, she sat next to a man, now in his 80s, who had been active in the resistance effort against the Germans.
“Each person can be a hero in the fight for freedom,” Reno said. “Each of us can speak out and protect others, and we must.”
The attorney general also reflected on the tragic denouement of the siege against the Branch Davidians cult in Waco, Texas. It was “a day that I will never forget,” she said.
She spoke of the flood of supportive mail she received after taking responsibility for the events in Waco, saying it was “one of the most overwhelming experiences anyone can have.”
Karski received the American Liberties Medallion from AJCommittee in honor of his “lifetime of service in the cause of human freedom,” and, in a moving speech to the gathering, told of his experiences in the Polish resistance.