Israeli media and the war against Croatia

From the very beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Israeli media tended to take a clearly pro-Serbian stand. This was true of reports on what was going on, but was particularly pronounced in attempts to analyze and interpret the developments. There was no trace of sympathy for the attacked as against the aggressor, for the defenseless civilian population on the receiving end of the artillery, navy and air force of the Serbian war machine, which one might have expected and thought natural. Moreover, an invidious policy seemed to be at work in the op. ed. pages: there was no end to letters to the editor and opinion articles that took a pro-Serbian position, while the number of pieces showing sympathy for Serbia's victims was negligible. I have not done research on this, but do know that the Jerusalem Post - a leading Israeli daily, particularly important in this contest because it is published in English - which has carried numerous pro-Serbian letters to the editor and opinion articles, refused to publish quite a few letters and articles that expressed sympathy for Slovenia, Croatia, or Bosnia-Herzegovina. Thus it was adding insult to injury when a member of the Serbian lobby in Israel, writing in the same paper, found it "remarkable that of the 12,000 to 15,000 Yugoslav Jews and their descendants living in Israel today, many raise their voices on behalf of Serbia, but not a single one has a good word to say about Croatia."[2]

The activity of the Serbian lobby should probably be seen as part of the explanation. The lobby is an informal one, but is very well organized and financed, and includes some well-known media personalities. Enjoying an uncontested monopoly on analyzing, explaining, and interpreting the events in the ex-Yugoslavia well into the summer of 1992, it employed all the main methods the regime in Belgrade has been using in putting across at home and abroad what the Serbs call "the Serbian truth": flatly denying the facts, no matter how obvious; diminishing the dimensions of the devastation the Serbs were wreaking on neighboring republics and the numbers of casualties; explaining away the reports of Serbian atrocities by the "anti-Serbian tendencies" of Western media or, alternatively, as the propaganda of those who stood in the way of Greater Serbia. The Serbian lobby also adopted all the main tenets of Belgrade propaganda, insisting that the current war was to be understood as a direct continuation of World War II in Yugoslavia, spreading the Serbian revision of its history, and drawing far-reaching moral and political conclusions from these premises.

In a typical article, the author deplored the fact that when World War II was over, Tito did not permit "mass pogroms [of Croats] which would have drenched liberated Yugoslavia in another bloodbath." and "put on trial only those who [had] perpetrated war crimes." The inevitable conclusion was that the current mass pogroms of Croats at the hands of Chetniks and the "Federal" army were sheer justice, long overdue.[3]

In another article, we were told that any unpleasant connotations of the word Chetnik was due to Croatian propaganda. Conventional Yugoslav history has it that it was the Partisans led by Tito and the Communist Party who fought the German, Italian, and other occupying armies and their local allies, such as Croat Ustashe and Serb Chetniks, and against overwhelming odds achieved what no one else in Europe could: the liberation of their country by themselves, rather than by the Allied forces. Now we learn that it was Chetniks, not the "Partisans" (the quotation marks are the writer's), who were true freedom fighters. The Chetniks of today are freedom Fighters too, defending the right of the Serbs "to stay what they are, keeping their heritage... unmolested and together," rather than being a minority in any place. "Surely" we [the Jews] of all people should feel sympathetic to this sentiment," the writer says in conclusion.[4] This call tor Jewish sympathy and support for the Chetniks was published at the time world media were reporting in some detail how Chetniks were rounding up Muslim civilians in the towns and villages of eastern Bosnia, from Foca in the south all the way to Zvornik and further north, massacring them (mostly by cutting their throats with knives), and throwing the bodies into the Drina, thus repeating the same things World War II Chetniks had done throughout the region.

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