TIRANA, Albania (JTA) — Israel’s Foreign Ministry has protested the naming of a school in Bosnia for a Muslim Nazi collaborator who incited anti-Semitic hatred during the Holocaust before he was executed.
The Mustafa Busuladzic Elementary School in Sarajevo dismissed the criticism over its August name change, saying that Israel “has no right to give moral lessons to others” because of the building of Jewish settlements, according to an article that appeared last month in the Klix news site.
Busuladzic, a philosopher and educator, wrote in favor of “fighting the Jews” and their “spirit” in 1943, when thousands of Balkan Jews in what is now Bosnia and beyond were being hunted down and murdered by the pro-Nazi Ustase forces, which comprised Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croats and ethnic Germans, of the Croatian puppet state.
Whereas “Jews and their deception and speculation disappeared from the marketplace” thanks to “people fighting against the Jews,” Busuladzic wrote in 1943, “in the bazaar remained Jewish spirit of speculation, imposing, charging price and usury to the extent that the corruption of certain traders, regardless of religion, eclipses that of the missing Jews.”
Citing these and other anti-Semitic writings by Busuladzic, who was executed shortly after the end of World War II by communists, the Israeli Embassy expressed its disapproval of the honor in a letter to the regional government.
“The Embassy of Israel reiterates its sincere regret that the Authorities of Sarajevo Canton approved such a move especially considering the fact that the vast majority of the Bosnian Jewish community was brutally killed by the hand of the fascist and Nazi occupying forces with which Mr. Busuladzic identified himself,” the embassy wrote.
But the school rejected the criticism of Busuladzic.
“Multi-ethnic Sarajevo, which you mention in your letter, is multi-ethnic because of Mustafa Busuladzic and other Muslims who, with their tolerant attitude towards others, made this city multi-ethnic,” the school’s letter reads.
“Busuladzic was not an anti-Semite; as an intellectual, he was speaking about poor Jewish qualities, but also about other, non-Jewish merchants, who were speculating on overpricing. The current situation in the world, where similar banking practices are causing an economic crisis, shows that Mustafa was right,” it added.
Amid rising nationalism that is fueled by Russian expansionism, the veneration of individuals who fought against communism and Russian troops alongside Nazi Germany is a growing phenomenon across Eastern Europe.
Israel, which enjoys friendly ties and robust trade both with Russia and with the region’s other countries, rarely comments publicly on such cases.