Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Balkan notes

Modernity has published a guest post by David N Gibbs in which he defends himself against allegations made against him by Marko Attila Hoare here and here. I have commented on it here, and I also strongly recommend the comments by Sarah Correia. [UPDATE: Marko responds here, and the debate continues to rage at Mod's place.]

Marko also has a short piece on the Guardian once again flirting with Balkan atrocity denialism. The same Guardian article is picked up at CiFWatch, where the Guardian's use of the word "massacre" with or without scare quotes is compared when talking about Racak and Jenin. Incidentally, who is one of the key vectors of denialism about Racak? Diana Johnstone, on whom see below.

James Thomas Snyder has a really interesting book review at Dissent of two books published by Sarajevo's Connectum publishing house, Black Soul by Ahmet M. Rahmanovic and Sarajevo: Exodus of a City by Dzevad Karahasan.

Andrew Murphy has a powerful guest post at Harry's Place on Diana Johnstone's "Chomskyite" falsification of history in Counterpunch (the scandal rag that also publishes Israel Shamir, Gilad Atzmon, Alison Weir and, er, David N Gibbs). The comments thread has a number of comments by "Hasan Pristina" which, although I am not qualified to endorse, are well written and seem to deserve more than the automatic deletion that HP now consigns its comments to after awhile, so I reproduce some of them here below the fold:

All too many. And don’t forget that a number of those who have shed bitter tears over the ’suffering’ of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan (e.g. Tariq Ali, Tony Benn, John Pilger) were also Milosevic apologists.
Quite. But they’re the wrong sort of Muslim, don’t you see? Despite the flurry of books and blogs from left and right-wing extremists, Muslims in the Balkans, particularly in Kosova and Albania, have turned their backs on Wahabbism, just as Galloway turned his backs on the Kosovars when he found that they weren’t going to play ball with “anti-imperialism” and his favoured “religious leaders.” So the small, and in the case of Kosova and Albania, miniscule, numbers of exceptions – far smaller than in nearly every country in Western Europe – are prostituted for all they are worth. So to the far left, they are the vile stooges of US imperialism and to the far right, the beer-drinking, pork-eating Muslims of Kosova are barely distinguishable from the Shabaab or the Taliban.
Benn told us on Start the Week on Radio 4 in early 1999 that everything in Kosova fitted into place, “once you understand it’s all about oil.” No oil. So it’s all about natural gas. No natural gas. So it’s all about a pipeline, to which Dervla Murphy devoted an entire chapter in her book Through the Embers of Chaos and repeated in the comments in CiF under atrocity denier and Morning Star “Balkan expert” Neil Clark’s article last week in the Guardian. We are over ten years on from the war. There are still not even plans to route a pipeline through Kosova, which had anyone looked for more than a few seconds at the terrain around there, would have discounted. But what does that matter against the power of hoary, murderous myth?
I have never, and will never, compare the Jewish suffering of centuries to that of the Albanians, Bosnians and, for a time, Macedonians, at the hands of their neighbours during the life of the Yugoslav state. Their suffering has been much less deadly and much less protracted. Let there be no doubt, that for the extremes of left and right, Jews are the ultimate target, whether they try to obfuscate this by “anti-Zionism” or sudden “conversion” to the virtues of Israel. But with lesser targets, they can safely go places where that their authoritarian, Fascist and Stalinist forebears staked out against the Jews: the ability to use the mainstream press for the most blatant denialism and the crudest racism to deny the suffering, the history, the culture, sometimes the very right to survival of the targets of their hatred, and be assured of nothing but the warmest praise from their supporters for doing so.
I hope that this does not happen on this thread, but past experience tells me that when Balkan peoples with a high proportion of Muslims get discussed on HP, we are in for a rancorous time of it.[...]
No, I meant the increased balkanisation of western European countries, casued by migration, followed by violence.
In which case, Kosova isn’t a very good example. A lot of its migration was forced: Albanians out in the early Middle Ages; Serbs out at the end of the seventeenth century, when Austria was locally defeated by the Ottoman Empire; Albanians in (expelled from Southern Serbia) during the late nineteenth century; Albanians out at a varying but substantial pace from 1912-1941 and from 1945-1966; Serbs out in the 1970s; Serbs in (refugees from Croatia and Bosnia) during the 1990s; Turks out 1912-41 and 1948-99; Croats out in 1992. Some of it was voluntary: Albanians from mountains to plains in during the course of the seventeenth century; Serb and Montenegrin colonisers in 1912-1914, 1918-1941, 1945-66 and 1989-1999; Albanians in (returning from expulsion) 1941-1945; Serbs and Montenegrins in (returning from expulsion) 1945-1948; Serbs and Montenegrins out (for better economic prospects elsewhere) from 1953 onwards; Albanians out (for better economic prospects elsewhere) from 1963 onwards.
Linguistic, archaeological and historical evidence is pretty clear that the ancestors of today’s Albanians lived in the area before the arrival of the Slavs. Thereafter, the Slavs remained in a majority until the late seventeenth century, when that position was regained by the Albanians. This, however, is not of vital importance: nationality was not the chief means of distinguishing one person from another in the region until well into the second half of the nineteenth century. There are substantial groups of Albanians, such as the Krasniqi, who are of Slav origin, just as there are Slavs, such as the Montenegrin Zogic, who were originally Albanian. This is not peculiar to Kosova: the ancestors of the fiercest Serbs of the 1990s, those of the Krajina, were, to a large extent, speakers of Vlach, akin to Romanian.
In short, migration in Kosova is a very long and very complicated story in which few things are certain, save that the nostrums cherished by all the nationalities of the region have a little, and no more than a little, basis in fact. It is, for example, very unfashionable to point out that most of Kosova’s history is marked by the absence of ethnic conflict.[...]
Evidence? quote? when did Milosevic ever call for a Greater Serbia or anyone Yugoslav government in 1990-1991?
We could start with Borisav Jovic’s speech of 29 May 1990, then there is Milosevic’s speech in January 1991 that nation should take precedence over republic – in Yugoslavia, this had only one meaning: that all Serbs should be united in a single state, this being the usual definition of Greater Serbia. There is the favourable Serbian government reception of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts memorandum (SANU) in 1986, one of the three documents that which are the nearest to a “Warrant for Genocide” in terms of Kosova, particularly the speech made by Milosevic on his much-publicized visit to SANU in 1990. Then there is Milosevic’s speech attacking the opposition for “hiding in their mouseholes” while he protected all Serbs (including in Bosnia and Croatia) in December 1990.
Of course, Milosevic like to let his international audience think that he was the last person to be mixed up in all of this. Fortunately for him, the media was kept under an increasingly tighter leash, and the intimate ties between the authorities and armies in Belgrade, Knin and Pale, demonstrated by James Gow, which were well in place by 1990, could be disavowed at any time, as could the government’s ties to the Chetniks, organized crime and the paramilitaries. Unfortunately, there were many people with a good knowledge of Serbian who knew different, not least those leaving Serbia as their economic and political future was snuffed out.
There is also the evidence presented to the ICTY in the cases of Slobodan Milosevic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Biljana Plavsic, Borisav Jovic, Veljko Kadijevic, Blagoje Adzic, Milan Martic and Jovica Stanisic. Reneo Lukic and Allen Lynch and, most impressively Michael Palairet have worked on economic policy from 1989 and the systematic rape of the economy of all parts of Yugoslavia for the benefit of Serbia and Serbians outside Serbia. Then there is the work of Vjeran Pavlakovic on Greater Serbia, the Serbian government and Serbian society. [...]
Borisav Jovic is not Slobodan Milosevic
Your question was Evidence? quote? when did Milosevic ever call for a Greater Serbia or anyone Yugoslav government in 1990-1991?
At the time, Borisav Jovic was President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia. Can you explain in what way this is not being part of the Yugoslav government?
or it meant that people should have the right to self termination and the meaningless republic borders that the population had no input in deciding upon should not be considered final.
This is an unusual interpretation. Firstly, if your interpretation were to make sense, it would blow out of the water the extraordinary attachment to SFRY constitutional legalism evinced by the Milosevic government.
Secondly, the epithet used by the Serbian government and its supporters since the days of Milosevic, “Greater Albania,” is explained as meaning exactly that: all Albanians united into one state (It should be admitted that Albanians being grouped into two states, plus Macedonia and Montenegro is still described by some Serbs and extremist foreigners as “Greater Albania”) But there is a difference between “Greater Albania” and “Greater Serbia”: the territory where the Albanians live is fairly compact, but the territory in which Serbs lived in the 1990s contained a lot of cities and large swathes of land inhabited Muslims/Bosniaks and Croats. As we were to discover, the project to realize a situation where people should have the right to self termination and the meaningless republic borders that the population had no input in deciding upon should not be considered final entailed making those territories as compact as those inhabited by the Albanians.
Milosevic was hated by actual Serbian nationalists and regarded as a traitor.
Such people existed on his right, but it is funny how the SPO, the SRS and the “actual” Serbian nationalists, all vocal in condemning Sloba as a traitor, all got into government with him when he offered them the opportunity. As for those outside Serbia, he cut them off when they no longer suited him. They were his dupes, just like so many others.
There were certainly many on the right who never accommodated themselves with Milosevic. But they had little traction in a country where most people’s energies were spent on earning enough to eat and keep warm and where people’s savings had been rendered worthless by the government. In the Yugoslavia of the 1990s, a daily newspaper was a luxury out of the reach of most people and so, for most, the struggle to survive was more important than politics.
He established diplomatic relations with all breaker-way republics after the war.
Firstly, Slovenia and Macedonia were not part of the plan. Secondly, by 1995 they were no longer of use to him. Indeed they, and the refugees from Croatia and Bosnia, were an embarrassment. Your question was about 1990-91, when, having failed to force his will through the Federal Presidency, a “Greater Serbia,” for which the JNA would fight, became the most desirable option.

Milosevic slapped an embargo on the Bosnian Serbs for not ending the war in 1993 leading to uprising against him.
Milosevic said and did nothing about Operation Storm leading to uprisings against him.

Quite. As I said above, the Greater Serbia project was over by then. The uprisings did not take place within the borders of Serbia but were the result of the Serb “authorities” outside Serbia disobeying the man who had left them to their fate.
I think there is a problem here in thinking that, by demanding and fighting for a “Greater Serbia,” Milosevic must have been a nationalist. I don’t think he was; he was, before anything else, a man prepared to do anything to keep and strengthen his hold on power. During the late eighties and early nineties, that meant being a nationalist; later on, it meant abandoning the nationalists. Then, after the fright he had from the Zajedno coalition in 1996/97, he went back to nationalism in the run-up to the war in Kosova in 1998-99. After the loss of Kosova he managed to hang on through a mixture of thuggery, patronage and bribery, but the tide in Serbia had turned against him; he fell because he had nowhere left to go.
Montenegro remained a separate republic that after 1998 was in direct opposition to Milosevic and engaging in treasonous activity, it remained like this despite calls from actual Serb nationalists that it be fully integrated in to Serbia.
Montenegro also has a nationalist tradition distinct from that of Serbia. Throughout the history of Yugoslavia, there has been tensions between the integralist White and the Montenegrinist Greens. The Greens learned to play the game that Milosevic had taught them and he lost. The dire economic situation played no small part in their achievement.[...]
Here is another comment worth preserving, from Andrew Murphy*:

Like I wrote about Ms. Johnstone, if you're antiwar, that’s fine. But taking sides in the conflict especially for a man who started the Balkans war to begin with doesn’t merit virtue or support, simply means [Harold] Pinter was carrying water for Serbian chauvinism.
When World War One broke out, Jean Jaurès, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Euegene Debs did not form an International Committee in Defense of the Kaiser, they oppossed the war entirely.

Previous: Samantha Power's account of Srebernica; Decentism and Yugoslavia in the 1990s; Chomskyite denialism.

*Typos corrected

6 comments:

modernity said...

Well done Bob and Sarah, I am glad that Sarah has done such a good job of highlighting the issues.

I wanted these issues to come out in the open, and whilst I am EXCEEDING busy and could have done without doing this guest post at another time I thought it best to open the issue up, I appreciate that it is very inconvenient for all concerned, including me, but better that than it festers under a rock.

Agreed, I have read Hasan Pristina comments over the years and found them to be informed and interesting...

PS: I am not really here and won't being using a PC for days and days...so enjoy the thread

sarah said...

Thank you, Bob. I believe these exchanges, which tend to very poisonous, offer an excellent opportunity for reflection on what motivates people to take positions. I'm being honest, it's very important to try to understand the people we don't agree with.

But I've been living in Bosnia for the last 6 months (and will remain still for a long time), and things look different when they are seen from this perspective. It's clear to me that this not really about Bosnia or the Balkans, just like the poisonous exchanges on Israel are not really about people being worried about peace there.

I know people, both supporters of Israel and opponents, who actually do clearly worry about peace, but those people I don't see them behaving in a poisonous way.

Unfortunately this poison does have certain effects on the ground here, especially due to its impact on members of the international organizations who got jobs here without really having a deep understanding of what happened in this country. This is why something like Marko's post on Gibbs' book is important. And this is also why blogging about the region is important. Because this is not only about addressing the academic audience.

You would be surprised on how much scholarship and advocacy about this region is based on one week field trips and less, and very superficial approaches, which are then disguised with sophisticated academic language. And how many assumptions are based on rumours and urban myths taken by face value and unchecked.

modernity said...

good points, Sarah,

I appreciate that Marko is stuck, without a flight and I can't contribute too much as it is not my subject area.

I would have preferred this exchange to take place in another time (and place) as it is hard for everyone to do justice to the topic.

I have quickly got a PC and let thru a few posters, please could you keep an eye on matters and if anyone remotely ventures to the extremes, please email me modernityblog@gmail.com.

I won't be blogging or reading my email for days, but it will at least point me in the right direction, if you email any concerns.

Ta very much.

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Marko Attila Hoare said...

My response to Gibbs:

http://greatersurbiton.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/
first-check-their-sources-on-david-n-gibbs-and-shoddy-scholarship/

Anonymous said...

Kosovo the Valley (70 min)

http://abraxas365dokumentarci.blogspot.com/2010/08/true-stories-kosovo-valley-1999.html