Plight of Bosnian Muslims Compared to Persecution of Jews

In one of the starkest outcries against the current carnage in Bosnia, a Jewish official in Germany has compared the persecution of Muslims in Bosnia to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

“The expulsion terror practices in Bosnia today is quite comparable to what happened from the beginning of the Third Reich to the outbreak of the war,” Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the central council of Jews in Germany, told German radio last week.

Bubis said he could not understand why the United Nations and NATO have not learned the lessons that came from appeasing the Nazis prior to the outbreak of World War II.

In the interview, Bubis said he supported Western military intervention on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims, who after a three-year-old war, are under increasing attack by the rebel Bosnian Serb forces.

However, Bubis limited his comparison of the Bosnian plight to the plight of the Jews prior to the “systematic annihilation of the Jewish people.”

Similar outcries have echoed throughout the Jewish world over the past week, as Bosnian Serb forces have heightened their assault against the U.N. “safe havens” in Bosnia.

Bosnian Serbs captured Srebrenica, one of the U.N. “safe haven” last week. They have also stepped up attacks on others, including the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

The takeover of Srebrenica has also set off a new round of emergency aid shipments by Jewish organizations.

Last week, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee set into motion an emergency shipment of food, medicine and clothing for tens of thousands of refugees from Srebrenica.

The shipment from Split, Croatia, set out Monday and is expected to reach Tuzla — where many of the refugees from Srebrenica are located — with minor difficulties because it will have not have to encounter Bosnian Serb checkpoints, said Yechiel Bar-Chaim, the Joint’s country director for the former Yugoslavia.

A total of 60 tons of supplies destined for the besieged capital of Sarajevo are being held up by Bosnian Serbs 10 miles outside the city, Bar-Chaim said in a telephone interview from Split.

The joint is working in conjunction with La Benevolencija, the humanitarian aid society of the Sarajevo Jewish community, and World Jewish Relief, the British humanitarian organization.

As a group, the Jews in Bosnia have not taken sides in the war. This allows them to carry out their humanitarian missions.

In Britain, a newly created coalition of Jewish organizations launched what has been described as an unprecedented emergency appeal for Bosnian war victims.

Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said, “There is a moral imperative for Jews everywhere to intervene in the face of racism and xenophobia.”

At the same time, however, the Jewish Board of Deputies, British Jewry’s umbrella organization, was considering toning down a statement on the situation for fear of creating a backlash against Jews in Serbia.

“There is a feeling that anything said by Jews outside is liable to misinterpretation by anti-Semitic factions,” said Neville Nagler, chief executive of the board.

In the Middle East, Israel and Jordan joined forces to coordinate a humanitarian aid effort for Muslim refugees in Bosnia. Under a joint operation called “Peace in the Middle East — Peace in the World,” two planes, one Israeli and one Jordanian, are scheduled to fly to Bosnia this week to bring medical supplies, clothing, blankets and other aid to war victims.

Rabin last week called Jordan Television during a telethon to raise money for the Bosnian Muslims. He made a personal pledge of $3,000.

Rabin told the television audience that he condemned the attacks by the rebel Serbs on the Muslims in Bosnia, adding that Israel opposes all assaults on people based on their religion, be they “Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”

Back in the United States, leaders of the organized Jewish community, though silent for many months, are again raising their voices against the escalating war in Bosnia.

The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council said it was outraged at the deterioration of the situation in Bosnia.

“We deplore the United States’ failure to provide effective international leadership while millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and hundreds of thousands have been killed because of their ethnicity or religion.” said Lynn Lyss, the umbrella group’s chair, in a statement earlier this month.

Both the NJCRAC and the American Jewish Congress called on President Clinton and Congress to end the arms embargo on Bosnia.

In a letter to Clinton, David Kahn, the AJCongress president, and Phil Baum, its executive director, wrote: “It is time for our leaders for recognize the clear failure of the present policies, and at long last allow the Bosnian government to defend its citizens from further aggression and put a stop to the genocide.”

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has also written to the president urging him to commit to prosecuting the Serbian leaders who are responsible for the current policy of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

Failure to prosecute “will make a mockery of the legacy set down 50 years ago at Nuremberg that such crimes must not go unpunished,” the letter said.

The letter was reproduced in a full-page ad in last Friday’s New York Times.

An earlier communication from Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, to Clinton identified Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, army commander, as those mainly responsible for the atrocities.

U.N. human rights envoy Tadeusz Mazowiecki said Monday that Bosnian Serbs had engaged in “barbaric acts” against Muslims after capturing Srebrenica.

Mazowiecki said the Serbs had forbidden his group access to areas where thousands of Muslim males are believed to be held, but that there is considerable evidence of human rights abuses on the part of rebel Serbs.

“What requires investigation is the scale and dimension, but we can say barbaric acts have been committed,” he said.

Dutch U.N. peacekeeping troops, who were in Srebrenica when the Serbs overtook it earlier this month, have said they witnessed Serb soldier executing and mutilating Muslims.

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