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Croatian Jews Upset After Paper Demands That They Criticize Israel

May 22, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Croatian newspaper is calling on the country’s Jews to criticize Israel’s recent military actions against the Palestinians.

The Jewish community’s newspaper compared the call to a similar Communist-era campaign.

The recent editorial in the leftist Feral Tribune paper blamed Croatian Jewish intellectuals for turning a deaf ear to “the terrible events in the Middle East and mass killings of Palestinian civilians in Jenin.”

The editorial failed to mention Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis.

It also criticized the Croatian government for not supporting a recent U.N. resolution criticizing Israel.

“The Croatian political authorities have remained silent and did not sign the U.N. resolution against Israeli war crimes because of petty pragmatical reasons, like the expected 100,000 Israeli tourists in Croatia this summer,” the editorial wrote.

For years, the newspaper has been considered a brave, satirical voice opposing extreme nationalism in Croatia and those who want to downplay Croatia’s actions during World War II, when the country was ruled by a pro-Nazi puppet regime.

The paper’s pro-Palestinian stance is well-known, but the editorial angered some of Croatia’s nearly 3,000 Jews — not only for its pressure on Jewish intellectuals, but for its loaded language, including a reference to “Croatian intellectuals of Jewish origin.”

In response, the Croatian Jewish bimonthly Hakol published a letter written in 1970 by Lavoslav Singer, then- president of the Zagreb Jewish community, in which he reported on a meeting at the offices of the Croatian World War II Veterans Association.

A leading Communist had given orders that Jewish communities sign a statement condemning Israel for bombing an Egyptian factory.

None of the veterans signed, even though some risked their professional careers. They considered themselves citizens of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia who should not be subject to such pressure, Singer wrote.

This time around, the response was more mixed.

Slavko Sajber, a Holocaust survivor and former Communist official, agreed to be interviewed by the Feral Tribune. In an interview, he condemned “Israeli state terrorism” and called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “a pathological killer.”

Slavko Goldstein, a leading Jewish intellectual who heads the Memorial Council for the Jasenovac concentration camp, wrote an article that garnered some criticism in the Jewish community.

“One must not draw a line between Auschwitz and Jenin, like we can read in some articles today, but it does not mean that we can remain silent concerning the crime in Jenin, as crime is always crime,” Goldstein wrote.

On the other side, the most severe criticism of the newspaper’s editorial came from the head of Croatia’s branch of the human rights group Helsinki Watch, Zarko Puhovski, who told Croatian newspapers that the Feral Tribune editorial was “hate speech.”

Puhovski, a Zagreb University sociologist whose mother is Jewish but who has never been an active Jew, said the editorial implied a collective Jewish responsibility for Israeli military actions.

“This is a racist approach, the same as when you demand collective responsibility from whatever nation, from the Jews, the Croats, the Serbs, the Germans or any other nation, based on biological heritage,” he wrote.

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