November 17, 1996 Vreme News Digest Agency No 267

Trials

Is Anti-Semitism Present Amongst Serbs?

by Milos Vasic

The Society of Serbian-Jewish Friendship is suing a Jew for writing that it's members are "professional national workers", war inciters who are using the Jewish people in an instrumental manner and are encouraging anti-Semitism

A hunt for "national traitors" has continued; the sociologist Laslo Sekelj has found himself in that role, a Hungarian Jew and expert on anti-Semitism, as well as author of the book Dishonorable Times (Akademija Nova, Belgrade, 1996). He is being sued for slander by the Society of Serbian-Jewish Friendship, by the dictate of it's president, philosopher Dr. Ljuba Tadic. The first hearing is scheduled for Friday, November 22. The Society of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship is demanding that the court punishes Laslo Sekelj in keeping with the law, and is further demanding 400.000 Dinars as claim for damages. What did Laslo Sekelj write?

The book Dishonorable Times - Experiments of the Nationalistic Rule, appeared in March 1996. Word is of a collection of political essays, of which only one was published here. In the essay under the heading Anti-Semitism and National Conflicts in Yugoslavia, on page 82 and onward, Laslo Sekelj describes the newer manifestations of anti-Semitism in Serbia, attempts to revise the historical role of Serbian fascism and collaborationism in World War II and warns of the role of the Society of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship as "part of the propaganda and war machine in the internal wars in Yugoslavia". Laslo Sekelj adds for VREME that he is surprised by the fact that the Society has filed a complaint against him, when they had failed to file complaints against magazines, organizations and people who were responsible for anti-Semitist incidents, attempts to revision history and tolerating anti-Semitism. The Society has protested, says Sekelj, and has done so often - yet never filed charges. The Alliance of Jewish Municipalities in Yugoslavia and the Belgrade Jewish Municipality were more efficient in such cases.

All stories of Jews who "rule the world", and with whom one should maintain good relations due to the fact that they control the press and finances is an anti-Semitist story, and such and similar statements were heard during the meetings of the Society of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship, says Laslo Sekelj and adds: "I am convinced that they had no evil intentions, and that rather word is of a pragmatic approach". There truly is a difference between Dr. Tudjman's " pragmatic approach" , who is happy that his wife isn't Jewish, but would like to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, since the Jews are "powerful", whether he likes them or not - and the "pragmatic approach" of the Serbian mainstay which likes Jews, yet beholds them as equally "powerful". What disrupts such a Serbian-Jewish idyll is the same way of perceiving the Jewish people as Different, "powerful" etc. Each nationalism shall sooner or later speak out as anti-Semitism as well, since it is directed against Others.

The whole construction of the new and nationalistically-ideologically based "Serbian-Jewish friendship" of Ljuba Tadic, Klara Mandic and friends is somewhat distasteful and potentially dangerous, not for the small number of left-over Jews, but rather for the face and esteem of the Serbs. Mandic has gone too far on a number of occasions: the best known is the case of Ankica Konjuh, a victim of the war in Croatia, who she has proclaimed as a Jew murdered by the Croats, while she was a Croat murdered by the Serbs.

Since things have gone so far as to have the case presented at court - and it has come to that - things should be left for the court to decide. However, from the viewpoint of good manners, ethics and esthetics, the well-known history of the Society of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship and its activists is not the prettiest sight; unfortunately, not even from the political viewpoint: wars and states which that Society had so frenetically urged on and supported - have been lost. The great Serbian Nation is slowly and painfully sobering up from what Tadic, Mandic, Josif, Gams and others who weren't members of the Society have been serving them, yet were drinking out of the same Serbian-Heavenly cup. Those who are non-believers should read the whole February issue of Krajina Magazine from 1995 in which Dr. Tadic attacks Sekelj and David: there Mile Martic states that "war would mean the end of Croatia", there various heavenly Serbs are building up their courage by issuing threats and refusing plan Z-4 etc. The process by which the Serbs are sobering up from their Serb Great and Heavenly theory is painful, difficult and long lasting, and it would be a good thing if the Society of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship would kindly refrain from further intoxicating public opinion with their "heavenly-hugging" stories of the "thirteenth and most unfortunate Israelite tribe". In difficult times Jews should not be introduced into local politics and put in a position by which they would be functional in local political conflicts; such things were always concluded at the cost of the Jews and - occasionally - the bicyclists.