ROME (Jul. 5)
The leader of Kosovar Albanians issued a written promise to safeguard Kosovo’s Jews and their property.
Hashim Thaci met twice in recent days with a special envoy of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Eli Eliezri, to whom he issued a letter ordering “the entire Kosovo Liberation Army under my control to respect and protect all the Jews of Kosovo.”
The KLA, the letter said, “will also protect and preserve the property of the Jews of Kosovo whether they are present at the moment in Kosovo or whether they are absent and intend to return.”
It also guaranteed safety to representatives of the JDC.
Despite the assurances, members of Kosovo’s tiny Jewish community, commonly identified as Serbs, remain under threat of revenge attacks from Kosovar Albanians.
Speaking to JTA from Tel Aviv, Eliezri said the situation in Kosovo remained chaotic and dangerous for anyone not of Albanian ethnicity or not speaking Albanian.
Heavily armed paramilitary vigilantes target and threaten such people, including Jews, as Serbs or Serb sympathizers, whether or not they actively worked with the Serbs before or during the NATO air campaign.
The average Kosovar Albanian, Eliezri said, identifies Kosovar Jews, who do not speak Albanian, as Serbs. Indeed, some local Jews have close links with Serbs and Serbia.
“The government wants to control people, but they haven’t succeeded yet,” he said, adding that Kosovo’s Jews are being threatened and ordered to leave their homes “all the time.”
Yechiel Bar Chaim, the JDC representative for the former Yugoslavia, said three Kosovar Jews were evacuated to Macedonia on Sunday.
“They had been directly threatened,” he told JTA.
Last week, the leader of the Kosovo Jewish community and his family were evacuated after armed men ordered them to leave town.
There are believed to be about 40 Jews remaining in Kosovo.