Iranian soccer club won’t play Serbian team with Israeli coach


An Iranian soccer team canceled a game against a Serbian club because its coach is Israeli.

Avram Grant, who last month was named manager of the Partizan Belgrade soccer club, said in a statement on the team’s website that he had been told “unofficially” that Friday’s match against Sepahan Isfahan in Turkey had been canceled because he was Israeli, ESPN reported. Grant called the decision “shameful.”

The team reportedly had to switch its winter training camp from Dubai to Antalya, Turkey, because Grant is Israeli.

Grant was formerly the manager for British soccer clubs Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Ham United.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks August 16-22: Politics, dance, education and music


SAT | AUGUST 16

(BALLET)

In the role made famous by actor Kirk Douglas, dancer Arsen Serobian reinvents the legendary character of Spartacus for the stage. “An Evening of Khachaturian: The Composer and His Ballets,” presents excerpts from three of Aram ” target=”_blank”>http://www.alextheatre.org.

(NATURE HIKE)

If there’s going to be gelato in a body-conscious city like Los Angeles, there must also be exercise. But instead of moving the clothes hanging from your treadmill, head to a night hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, followed by a delicious treat with MOSAIC Outdoor Club of Greater Los Angeles. Enjoy a 360-degree view of Los Angeles from the observation tower at a former military missile control site with your fellow hiking enthusiasts, and then partake in some gelato at Piccomolo in Pacific Palisades. Don’t forget some water, snacks, layers and your hiking A-game! Sat. 6:30-9:30 p.m. (hike), 9:45-10 p.m. (gelato). Free (hike), $5 (gelato). Meet at the intersection of Mandeville Canyon Road and Garden Land Road, Los Angeles. Piccomolo, 970 Monument St., Suite 118, Pacific Palisades. (310) 420-3600. johnseeman@aol.com.

SUN | AUGUST 17

(DARFUR)

Families torn apart. Women raped. Charred bodies. Mass graves. How many times will we have to endure these horrifying images before we make “Never again” finally mean something? Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Paul Freedman’s stark new documentary, “Sand and Sorrow,” asks that tough question and others as he ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jewishworldwatch.org.

(ART EXHIBIT)

What do artist Mariona Barkus and photographers Sheila Pinkel and Joe Ravetz have in common? Talent, strong opinions on political and social standards and the “Art and Advocacy” exhibit at the Platt and Borstein Galleries at American Jewish University (AJU). From Barkus’s black-and-white images and mixed-media sculptures to Pinkel’s and Ravetz’s photographs of imprisonment and homelessness, respectively, these artists use their work as a means to provoke thought and action. Meet the man and women behind the images at the exhibit dedicated to the memory of courtroom artist David Rose, a longtime member of AJU’s Fine Arts Council. Sun. 3-5 p.m. Exhibition through Nov. 23. Platt/Borstein Galleries, AJU, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.middleeastcamp.com.

(SPEAKER)

Do you know the cultural differences among Serbs, Albanians, Bosnians and Croats? Did you know that there are dangerous neo-Nazi groups in Croatia? Were you aware that some Palestinians are actually of Bosnian descent? And did you ever think that one of the most complicated and least-understood modern historical events could be presented through comedy? The Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Los Angeles is hosting comedian, author and pundit Julia Gorin in “Komedy and Kosovo,” a thought-provoking presentation that dissects a complex political issue that still holds relevance today. Come learn, come laugh and come with your own questions. Sun. 3 p.m. $12 (suggested donation). 20367 Lander Drive, Woodland Hills. (818) 704-0523. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.rjchq.org.

WED | AUGUST 20

(BOOK READING)

Peter Ivers was a mischievous composer and host of the L.A.-based punk-comedy cabaret TV show, “New Wave Theatre.” West Coast punk acts like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys shared the stage with such comedy players as John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Harold Ramis on the late ’70s and early ’80s UHF show. “New Wave ” target=”_blank”>http://www.vromansbookstore.com.

(LECTURE AND BOOK READING)

Jews have influenced America’s society and culture for more than three centuries. This impact is explored in “The Encyclopedia of American Jewish History,” edited by Stephen H. Norwood and Eunice Pollack with contributions from 125 noted scholars of American Jewish history and culture. Spend an afternoon with Norwood at the Museum of Tolerance examining the evolution of Jewish culture and ideology through American history. Wed. 2 p.m. Free. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2527 (RSVP required). ” target=”_blank”>http://www.songofdavidmovie.com, ” target=”_blank”>http://www.booksoup.com.

(SHABBAT)

Ethiopian Jew and Los Angeles icon Alula Tzadik is bringing the mountain to Muhammad. The avid musician and community activist figured if the religiously-disconnected Jewish teens loitering at the Third Street Promenade won’t come to synagogue for Shabbat services, he’ll bring Shabbat to them. Tonight is the first of a series of Promenade services to be held by the familiar dinosaur every fourth Friday of the month, with rabbis, cantors and musicians who are volunteering their time to reach out to the post-bar/bat mitzvah, pre-Birthright set. Fri. 7:30-9 p.m. Free. 1322 Third St., Santa Monica. For more information, contact Alula Tzadik, (323) 472-7484. Alulamusic@aol.com.


— Jina Davidovich contributed to this article

Bosnia genocide unrolls in scroll of shame


Radovan Karadzic has been arrested. He faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. It’s an occasion to recall the genocide in Bosnia and the shame of those who did not prevent it.

When Yugoslavia broke up into its constituent nations in the early 1990s, Yugoslav Communist Party leader Slobodan Milosevic reinvented himself as a Serbian nationalist. He called on all the Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to form a single state. In Karadzic, he found a willing henchman.

Karadzic was the leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Until the war, Bosnia was an ethnically mixed state of Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Karadzic’s mission was to create an ethnically pure Serbian space in eastern Bosnia that could be assimilated into a “greater Serbia.” In the war that followed, the euphemism “ethnic cleansing” entered the unholy vocabulary of genocide.

The war raged from 1992 to 1995. It was an ethnic war; a religious war; a war against people, property and culture; a war of irredentism; a war of savagery and barbarism; a war of shame.

First in the scroll of shame are the Serbs themselves. While not alone in perpetrating war crimes in Bosnia, they excelled. They let themselves be swept up in the spirit of fascism.

In Bosnia, they murdered and destroyed like beasts. In Serbia, they cheered. The voices in opposition were too quiet, too few.

Even today, too many Serbs regard Karadzic, Milosevic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, as heroes instead of war criminals. Many greeted the capture of Karadzic with dismay. He might be free still, were his dispatch to The Hague not a condition for Serbia’s accession to the European Union.

Shame on the United Nations. When the war began, it imposed an arms embargo on all sides to the Bosnian war. The Bosnian Serbs continued to receive arms from the Yugoslav army. The Bosnian Muslims had nothing. Thus, the United Nations did not merely equate the aggressors with the victims it favored the aggressors in the guise of evenhandedness.

The Bosnian genocide included the murder of some 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by Serb forces. Despite the fact that Srebrenica was a U.N.-designated “safe area,” Dutch peacekeepers stood aside and did nothing to protect the Bosnian Muslims from the Serbs.

Shame on America. President George H.W. Bush did nothing to intervene. During the 1992 campaign, candidate Bill Clinton criticized Bush for his inaction. Then Clinton was elected and did nothing. A stream of excuses poured out of Washington, while the agony of the Bosnian Muslims went on.

When Clinton was finally roused to action, two weeks of bombing brought Serb aggression to an end. This showed how heart-rendingly easy it would have been for earlier intervention to save scores of thousands of lives.

Shame on NATO. For over a decade, while it patrolled Bosnia after the war, it failed to arrest the indicted Karadzic. At various times, his location was known, but the political will to seize him was missing. It is even said that the NATO powers quietly agreed to let him be, fearful of the repercussions.

Shame on the Jews? It is possible that the Jews have the least reason to be ashamed. When there were rallies and protests to support the Bosnian Muslims, Jews were in the forefront. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was a leader in the Senate effort to end the U.S. arms embargo against Bosnia.

At the 1993 dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel turned to President Clinton and said, “Mr. President, I cannot not tell you something. I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since for what I have seen. As a Jew, I am saying that we must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country. People fight each other, and children die. Why? Something, anything must be done.”

Putting war criminals on trial doesn’t bring anyone back to life, doesn’t return a single refugee to his home. Evil must be fought before the thousands or the millions die, not merely deplored or put on trial afterward. If we don’t really believe this, we should stop saying, “Never again.”

Paul Kujawsky is a member of the board of directors of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles. He can be reached at kujawsky@pacbell.net.

Defending Their Serbia


When Dusica Savic Benghiat makes her daily phone call to her mother in Belgrade, she can frequently hear the air-raid sirens as a backdrop to the 78-year-old woman’s increasingly discouraged voice.

“My mother tells me she doesn’t care anymore. She just stays in bed. If the bombs miss her, that’s fine, and if they hit, somebody will pick up what’s left,” says Benghiat.

The Pacific Palisades resident tries to empathize with her mother’s plight. “If I had to go to the shelter every day, I don’t know what state I’d be in,” she says. “How long can you go on before you go crazy and give up on life completely?”

During the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the first half of this decade, Benghiat, who immigrated to the United States in 1974, served as regional president of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society.

She often called The Jewish Journal and other media, championing the cause of the Serbian people and contrasting their resistance against Nazi Germany to the Croatian collaboration with Hitler during World War II.

But now, contacted by The Journal, she says that the society’s membership in Los Angeles is practically dormant because “it has become uncomfortable to support anything in favor of the Serbians. And I guess we’re weary of fighting the same battle over and over again.”

As to the mood in her native country, “people feel ostracized and demonized, but once you’re bombed, you have no choice but to resist,” says Benghiat.

Like most Serbian-Americans, she charges the American media with bias and historical ignorance. While most Western observers assign much of the blame for the present conflict to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s 1989 edict that abolished the autonomy enjoyed by the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Benghiat has a different perspective.

“My uncle lived in Kosovo in the 1970s, but had to leave because of the persecution by Albanians,” she says. “They were expelling the Serbians; that’s why autonomy was revoked.”

As a Jew, Benghiat particularly resents analogies of the Serb action in Kosovo to the Holocaust. “The Holocaust is unique,” she says. “It is unjust and dangerous to use the term in the present situation.”

However demoralizing and damaging the NATO bombing may be, it will not topple the present government, Benghiat asserts. “I tell you, Milosevic will be the last person to feel the pain,” she says.

What To Do About Kosovo?


Israelis are divided over NATO’s military campaign against Serbia — and opinions and policy are being informed as much by history and the Holocaust as by current political realities.

Israeli sympathy for the Serbs, who were fellow victims of the Nazis during World War II, is countered by the images of massacres and streams of refugees as ethnic Albanians flee their native Kosovo.

Some 72 percent of Israelis support Israel’s relief efforts for the ethnic Albanians who are fleeing Kosovo, according to a poll by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke for many when he said last week: “Israel condemns the massacre being carried out by the Serbs and denounces any mass murder.”

Others, recalling how some Albanians actively supported the Nazis, find themselves less sympathetic to the plight of the Kosovar Albanians.

And still others, believing that the “friend of my enemy is my enemy,” are focused on the outside support for the Kosovo Liberation Army, which spearheaded the fight for independence from Serbia before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic clamped down on the region with an iron fist.

Elyakim Haetzni, an outspoken supporter of Israeli nationalism, lashed out last week at the “leftists” who, in their support for the Kosovo refugees, are “ignoring the fact that the KLA was collaborating with the Iranians and other enemies of Israel.”

But even left-wing Israelis are not unanimous in support of the NATO raids.

Among them is Raul Teitelbaum, a veteran journalist who, at the end of 1943, was among the Jews of Prizren, Kosovo, who were put on a transport to Bergen-Belsen by members of an Albanian division that was working on behalf of the Nazi SS.

“Of course, there were among the Albanians those who fought against the Nazis,” Teitelbaum told JTA. “But those who now say that the Albanians were known to have given shelter to the Jews are manipulating history.

“Clinton says the bombings in Yugoslavia are a lesson of the Holocaust. How can one compare this with the Holocaust? How can tiny Serbia be compared with a world power like Nazi Germany? How can Milosevic be compared with Hitler?”

Teitelbaum also questioned the effectiveness of the NATO raids.

“In a way, President Bill Clinton is the best ally of President Milosevic,” he said. “Thanks to the bombings, there is no longer any [internal] opposition to Milosevic. Thanks to the bombings, Milosevic is able to carry out ethnic cleansing on a scope he had never dreamed of before.”

On the other side of the divide, people such as Labor Knesset member Shlomo Ben-Ami, a historian, had only praise for the NATO operation. In his view, the operation has changed international norms of behavior in the face of atrocities that used to be considered “an internal matter.”

“Kosovo is a belated response to the Nazis,” said Ben-Ami. “From now on, intervention on a moral and humanitarian level is justified.”

Just the same, he conceded — as the Pentagon has already done — that the NATO strikes were unable to stop Serbian roundups of the ethnic Albanians.

“Alas, even the greatest military power in the world, the NATO alliance, cannot prevent a genocide,” said Ben-Ami.

As the public debate continued, the Israeli government, caught up in an election campaign, appeared uncertain how to respond to the NATO offensive.

Israel’s relations with Serbia have been problematic ever since the disintegration of Yugoslavia earlier in the decade. Despite memories of the Serbs as fellow victims of Nazi oppression and despite the fact that Bosnian Moslems were being aided by volunteers from Iran, Israel could not allow itself to support Milosevic, an international outcast.

Israel’s diplomatic relations with Serbia were resumed only three years ago, after the war in Bosnia had cooled. Since then, Israel’s arms industry has sought to sell military equipment to Serbia.

The Serbs have reportedly appealed to Israel for military supplies, according to the April 1 edition of the newsletter Foreign Report. In addition to what the London-based newsletter described as a “shopping list of military equipment,” it says the Serbs are also seeking medicines and credit. The Israeli response is not known.

It was not until March 31, a week after the offensive began, that Netanyahu, denying allegations that he had failed to express his position on the Kosovo crisis, came out in support of the NATO operation.

But his foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, was less enthusiastic regarding the NATO strikes. In remarks quoted last week by Yediot, Sharon told a closed-door audience that Israel had reason not to support the strikes, out of fear that the Jewish state might one day be similarly targeted.

The newspaper said that he asked his audience to imagine what might happen if the Arab residents of the Galilee ever demanded that their region be recognized as autonomous — with links to the Palestinian Authority. Would NATO strike at Israel under such a scenario, as it had done in the wake of the Kosovo Albanians’ attempts at autonomy, Sharon asked.

“Israel must look to the future. It should not give legitimacy to an intervention like that exercised by NATO,” Yediot quoted Sharon as saying.

Sharon subsequently denied the report, as he stated that Israel expects “NATO forces do their utmost to end the misery of innocent people and renew the negotiations between the parties as soon as possible.”

But the subject came up again during a meeting with European ambassadors, when Sharon was asked by the ambassador of Italy what Israel would do if the Palestinians asked for international intervention, as the ethnic Albanians had.

“I hope the question remains hypothetic,” said Sharon. “Israel will never succumb to international pressure.”

While most Israelis are spurning such historical analogies, one journalist saw a parallel between the Kosovo Albanians and the Palestinians.

Harking back to the 1948 War of Independence, Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz wrote: “Kosovo has already been here. At the time, there was no NATO and no television from all over the world, but during 20 months, between December 1947 and September of 1949, between 600,000 to 760,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were deported from their homes and turned overnight into refugees.”

Meanwhile, as the debate continues, Israel has begun sending aid to the Kosovo refugees.

Last Friday, an Israeli plane carrying warm clothes, tents, medicines and other equipment was sent to help those refugees who had fled to the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

And during a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, the government agreed to send additional aid, including a medical team of eight doctors to set up a field hospital in either Albania or Macedonia. Health Minister Yehoshua Matza is leading the mission.

JTA correspondent Douglas Davis in London contributed to this report.

Hungarian Haven


In other circumstances, there would be nothing unusual about busloads of Yugoslavs visiting the capital of their northern neighbor, Hungary.

But with NATO’s daily assault on Kosovo and other locations throughout Yugoslavia, these are no ordinary “tourists.” Roughly 200 Yugoslav Jews — some of whom arrived one day before NATO fired its first missile, on March 24 — are now in Budapest, hosted by the Hungarian Jewish community.

As the Jews here wait and see how events unfold at home, more buses are on their way.

“We are not refugees; we’re still tourists, who crossed the border legally with our passports,” said one woman from Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital, who arrived on March 23 with her two grown children.

“The plan was just to come for a couple of days until things settle down, then go back. But we’re still waiting.”

Indeed, there is a huge distinction between these citizens of Yugoslavia — composed of two republics, Serbia and tiny Montenegro — and the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, Serbia’s southern province.

During 14 months of conflict, the Yugoslav army and Serbian police have forced tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians — known as Kosovars — to flee south into Albania proper. And more are coming every day. In all, 500,000 of the 2 million Kosovars have reportedly been uprooted from their homes.

Escalating tension in the province, fueled by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, prompted NATO to launch its unprecedented air campaign. Soon, there may be other ethnic minorities in Serbia seeking relief from the warfare.

Hungary, for example, is bracing for a wave of ethnic Hungarians from northern Serbia, and many Serbs themselves are believed to be already staying with relatives in Hungary.

All the activity in Serbia is reminiscent of what happened earlier this decade, as Milosevic orchestrated the wars in Bosnia and Croatia next door. From 1991 to 1995, some 200,000 Serbian citizens emigrated abroad, many of them to avoid the army draft. At that time, some Yugoslav Jewish parents also sent their draft-age sons to Israel.

This time around, as NATO strikes loomed last week, the Hungarian Federation of Jewish Communities offered shelter to the estimated 3,000 Yugoslav Jews.

With Yugoslavia a pariah state, Hungary is one of the few countries in the world that hasn’t slapped visa requirements on Yugoslavia’s citizens.

So, on March 23, the Belgrade community took up the Hungarian offer and rented the first two buses to make the 400-mile trip.

As NATO bombing has intensified in the days since, so, too, has the stream of Yugoslav Jews into Budapest. Two-thirds of them are teen-agers and young adults, sent away for safekeeping — and for their parents’ peace of mind.

“I’m here because my mom made me,” said Iva, 23, a university student who, on Monday, sent her first e-mail back home. “She said: ‘Go, while you can. You can always come back.’ But I have just a few more exams before I graduate, so now I don’t know what to do.”

Other arrivals include a handful of families, a few elderly people and several young children.

The visitors are spending their days gathered at the center, the adults sitting on wooden chairs, chain-smoking, nervously talking about the war. Community officials are trying to come up with activities for the kids — such as arts and crafts and basketball games — especially those separated from their parents.

Thrown into the mix are a pair of young sisters, Bosnian Jews who are on the move for the second time in their short lives. They were among the 200 Jews evacuated from Sarajevo to Belgrade in 1992.

Up to 150 of the visiting Jews are being housed at the Jewish Community Center in downtown Budapest, in dorms usually reserved for 40 Hungarian Jewish students from the provinces. But those students are home for Passover. So extra foam mattresses have been crammed in to sleep seven to 10 per room.

The other Yugoslav Jews are sleeping at a Jewish high school in town, which lacks shower facilities.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has quickly swung into action, assisting with individual needs of the Yugoslav Jews, including counseling and finding better accommodations.

In Budapest, when the number of Jews streaming in jumped from 40 to 200 over the weekend, the local Budapest community, which had initially thought it could assist their neighbors on its own, asked the JDC for help.

But now thinking longer-term, the JDC’s priority is to find better housing. One possibility is the Szarvas international Jewish camp, located two hours from Budapest.

Yugoslav Jews want to return home when the dust clears. Many have opted not to come to Budapest — yet — for fear of losing jobs difficult to come by in a country in economic ruin.

And when it comes to the NATO assault, most share the hostility of their compatriots toward the United States and Europe.

“Milosevic is a jerk, but this does nothing to him,” Iva said, echoing the views of many here. “Instead, they’re killing people like my friends, who are forced to serve their military service in Kosovo.”

Meanwhile, Jews in Kosovo have declined offers to help them leave, according to Jewish aid workers who have been active in the former Yugoslavia.

Plans have reportedly been drawn up to extract the approximately 50 Jews remaining in the Kosovar capital of Pristina if necessary, the workers said.

Meanwhile, eight Jewish men from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia fled to Bulgaria over the weekend and are being cared for by local Jews near the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. The men, all college students, expressed fears that the conflict may spill over the Serbian-Macedonian border. *


Echoes from the Killing Fields


It’s the festival of freedom, and, once again, Allied warplanes are flying the skies of Europe to stop tyranny and protect the oppressed. The bombers that failed to arrive in time to save the doomed Jews of Europe a half-century ago are now speeding hope to the threatened Albanians of Kosovo. Finally, someone has learned from history.

So why doesn’t it feel right?

Maybe because this war is turning out to be so much more complicated than it appeared at the outset. NATO bombings don’t seem to be deterring the Serbian butchers, but are rather spurring them on to greater atrocities. The fighting is creating a massive refugee crisis that may yet spread ethnic conflict to neighboring countries, starting with Macedonia. The bombings were supposed to stop the crisis in Yugoslavia, not spread it.

Compounding our malaise is that it’s so hard to follow. Most of us couldn’t find Serbia, Macedonia or Kosovo on a map. Few of us are sure who the bad guys are, or why. To most of us, they’re a bunch of squabbling principalities with strange names. Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Slobovia. It’s the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” sprung gruesomely to life. That’s why they call them the Balkans.

Maybe, too, it doesn’t feel right because this should be a clear-cut case of standing up to do the right thing. And, yet, Americans, the guardians of democracy, seem profoundly turned off to it all. Adding insult to injury, it’s not even clear what the right thing is.

It seemed so simple a few weeks ago. Serbia, the bully of the Balkans, was embarked on yet another orgy of ethnic cleansing, this time against its own Albanian minority. Kosovo province, where Albanians predominate, was being turned into a killing field. It wasn’t long ago when the Serbs were doing pretty much the same thing in nearby Bosnia. For three years, Bosnians were slaughtered or exiled by the tens of thousands while the United States and the West dithered. We couldn’t let it happen again.

In a way, going to war over Kosovo was a sort of penance for all those times the United States didn’t act fast enough in the past. For Bosnia. Rwanda. Cambodia. And, yes, for the Holocaust. For each time this great democracy stood idly by in the face of unspeakable horror. This time, the United States had to act.

Perhaps it’s no accident that the United States finally found its will to resist inhumanity under a secretary of state who lost her grandparents in the Holocaust. Madeleine Albright displays precious few conscious links to her Jewish past. But her link to the Holocaust is undeniable. Long before she entered Clinton’s Cabinet, she was a leading advocate of U.S. activism to defend human rights overseas. Now she can do something about it.

The echoes of the Holocaust in the Balkans are haunting. Ever since Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, the region has been a slaughterhouse. Serbia’s ambition for an ethnically pure “greater Serbia” has led to carnage, mass internment and expulsions, on a scale not seen in Europe since World War II. The language of blood and soil, the reports of massacres, the televised pictures of emaciated internees in concentration camps — they’ve left us feeling sure we’ve seen this before.

Nobody understood this better than Jews. And American Jewry has responded from the beginning with firm calls to action. In the early 1990s, while Bosnia bled, Jewish organizations led the tiny chorus of voices that were demanding U.S. intervention. The Moslem-led Bosnian government even gave a seat in its U.N. delegation to a Jewish organizational official, the late Abe Bayer of what’s now the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, recognizing his role as a leading spokesman for their cause.

But there were contrary voices being raised, early on. Some Jews — left-leaning Holocaust survivor John Ranz of the Generation After group, elder statesman Jacques Torczyner of the right-leaning Zionist Organization of America — wondered aloud why the Jewish community was lining up against Serbia. The Serbs fought the Nazis heroically during World War II, while their neighbors collaborated. Where was our historical memory? Our gratitude?

The hesitations weren’t only historic. Torczyner argued in meeting after meeting that American Jews had no business supporting a Moslem army that was fighting to create another Moslem state in Europe. He still feels that way.

The parallels to Israel are eerie. Israel, like Serbia, sees itself standing alone against the world. Israel, like Serbia, is told by diplomats in striped pants that it must honor the rights of a Moslem minority living in its shadow and seeking independence. Israel, like Serbia, worries that this Moslem minority is no minority at all, but the bridgehead for a vast sea of Moslems ready to pounce.

Most Jews reject such hesitations as repugnant. Serbia, unlike Israel, “defends” itself by burning villages and butchering their inhabitants. It obstructs negotiations and laughs at its own agreements. It’s an outlaw state.

Most of us probably agree with those Jewish organizations that supported the Kosovo bombing from the first. “As people who still live in the shadow of their own experience with genocide, we know all too well the cost of inaction in the face of ‘ethnic cleansing,'” the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism declared in a March 24 letter to the president. Most groups echoed it.

But those sentiments leave some very big questions unanswered. What happens when the bombings fail? Will we go the next step and send in ground troops? Are we prepared for a full-scale war over Kosovo? Polls suggest most Americans don’t want it. Do we ignore them? And what then?

“It was a mistake for the United States to go in without an exit strategy,” says pro-Israel lobbyist Morris Amitay. A former head of AIPAC, Amitay is now vice chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which opposes the bombings. “I don’t think our vital interests are at stake. And, frankly, the president has a credibility problem.”

Confused? Of course. This is where we came in: bewildered, dispirited, repulsed by the killing but unsure we can do anything. Doubtful that the cure is worth the price. And not too sure how we feel about the victims.

Does it sound familiar? You bet it does. It’s just how Americans felt during the Holocaust. Now perhaps we can understand that generation a little better. In a way, we’ve become them.


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.