Friday, October 31, 2008

"Long Shadows" by Erna Paris

Once again, I have read the Bosnia-related section (in this case the penultimate chapter) of a book without taking the time to read the rest of it. While America Between the Wars was promising and seemed to develop a plausible thesis, I was hesitant to recommend the book since I only read the first hundred or so pages, and then skipped ahead to the section on the Kosovo war.

On the other hand, while I only read one chapter of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, I feel fairly comfortable assuming that the rest of the book is as insightful and well-written as Chapter 7, "The Furies of War Revisit Europe: Yugoslavia and Bosnia." Paris is keen and sympathetic observer, a well-informed student of the crisis rather than a superficially knowledgeable voyeur like so many Westerners, and an excellent craftsman. While the book was published in 2000 and therefore

She also knows a telling quote when she hears it. Her portrait of Klara Mandic, a Yugoslav Jew who had been raised by a Serb Orthodox couple after her parents were deported in World War II, illuminates many facets of the bizarre mix of selective memory and historical revisionism that informed the revived Greater Serbia movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Mandic was one of the founders of the "Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society," the ersatz group created to bolster Serb nationalist propaganda about the ongoing "genocide" against the Serbs and to garner public support for Serbian claims in Israel.

Mandic was also a friend and admirer of Radovan Karadzic, and at one point in the interview she became very defensive and heated when Paris pressed her about the indictments against him. Her evasiveness and equivalence-drawing leads her to this telling statement:

"Besides, who speaks about other ethnic cleansing? Right after the Second World War Croatia wanted to be cleansed of Serbs. It took them fifty years, but they did it. And what about the United States? They fought a bloody war in Vietnam and I do not remember that the president was accused of being a war criminal! I ask you, who has the right to make accusations against anyone!"

Here, we have the Balkan revisionist mindset distilled to a single prevaricating paragraph. After a long string of praise for the Serb nationalist project, and some evasive avoidance of the topic of personal guilt on the part of the leadership of that project, she airily denied having personally "heard anything" or having been on the scene when any atrocities were alleged to have occurred. This is typical--we saw Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti using the same tactic of endlessly questioning the evidence and implying that outsiders and non-participants are somehow unable to discern even an outline of reality from evidence. But Mandic takes this reasoning to the logical conclusion--nobody has the right to say anything about anybody.

The Balkan revisionist project is not only a defense of fascism in southeast Europe, it is an assault on the very foundations of internationalism and even on reason itself. The proponents of this ideology conceive of humanity as being forever trapped in static, isolated tribal pockets eternally suspicious of each other and utterly incapable of taking even the most tentative steps towards mutual understanding and tolerance. In their world, we are not allowed to trust anything but personal experiences within the confines of our own tribal domains. It is a bleak, static, and hopeless worldview, and those of us who are committed to a secular, reason-based, democratic, and cosmopolitan world must never give any ground to these reductionist troglodytes.

3 comments:

Owen said...

Another reference to Klara Mandic at Srebrenica Genocide Blog:
http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2007/12/forgotten-1943-genocide-by-nazi-chetnik.html
(towards the end of the article) - including a reference to the Jewish-Serbian Friendship Society of America.

Serb nationalists seem quite unscrupulous in the way that they seek to piggyback their propaganda on the Holocaust. The same Srebrenica Genocide Blog post refers to the manipulative Jasenovac Research Institute of which Darko Trifunovic (author of the original genocide-denying Republika Srpska report on Srebrenica) is a director, along with Milo Yelesiyevich, author of "Ratko Mladic: Tragic Hero".

Owen said...

A BBC account of Klara Mandic's mysterious death:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1325574.stm

According to Adam LeBor Milosevic sent Klara Mandic to the United States to secure the support of US Jewish public opinion for the Serb cause.

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