Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Next - independence for Kosovo - The Jerusalem Post

shlomo avineri, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 23, 2006
On Sunday, a majority of the voters in Montenegro opted for independence and for severing the remaining tenuous links that bound them to Serbia. By a majority slightly larger than the required 55%, they voted for the establishment of another independent state on the ruins of Yugoslavia, the multi-ethnic country founded on the basis of Serbian hegemony after World War I.

It was this Serbian hegemony that led to the country's first disintegration after the Nazi invasion in 1941. After the war, under the communist banner of Tito's partisans, Yugoslavia was reestablished under a complex system which created a balance of power among the various ethnic groups - Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Slav Macedonians, Montenegrans and Kosovar Albanians.

With Tito's disappearance and the weakening of communist ideology, this balance cracked in the 1990s and led, through wars and brutal ethnic cleansings, to the establishment of four new independent states: Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Macedonia. Serbia managed to maintain a sort of state union with Montenegro, and it is this that has now come to its end.

BUT THERE still is some unfinished business - the former Serbian province of Kosovo, with its 95% Albanian population, now under a virtual UN protectorate after NATO's military intervention against Serbia in 1999. This intervention came after more than a decade of brutal Serbian repression of Kosovo's Albanian population, which under Tito had enjoyed an autonomous status within Serbia and which was abolished by ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Only NATO's intervention prevented a massive ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians by Serbian forces.

LIKE IN all national and ethnic conflicts, the issues in Kosovo are complex and fraught with historical and religious memories that go beyond current politics. On the one hand, the population of Kosovo is now almost 95% ethnic Albanian; on the other, for Serbs the area is the cradle of their medieval kingdom; the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, in which the Serbs were defeated by the Ottomans, is a central part of their national narrative.

More recently, Kosovo Albanians have been subjected, since the province's annexation by Serbia in 1913, to systematic "re-Serbianization"; yet after NATO's intervention, more 100,000 Serbs were expelled from the province by vengeful Albanians.

No one comes out of this with clean hands.

IN THE current UN-sponsored talks in Vienna, the Kosovo Albanians, led until recently by their extraordinary philosopher-president, Ibrahim Rugova, insist on their right to self-determination; Serbia, on the other hand, claims that the region should remain part of Serbia, though they are ready to grant it extensive autonomy.

At the end of the day, the issue is simple: whatever the historical claims, the ethnic Albanians are a preponderant majority in the province. Just like Palestinian Arabs, Albanians are entitled to a state of their own: for generations they have viewed the Serbs as oppressors, just as the Serbs have viewed the Albanians, most of whom are Muslim, as an extension of their Turkish oppressors.

Yes, there are Serbian historical sites, mainly monasteries, in Kosovo; yes, there are areas - like Mitrovica in the north, and some enclaves, where Serbs live now in virtually besieged communities, and their rights have to be protected, perhaps through some international presence for the foreseeable future. But neither the UN, nor the EU, can reasonably reject the right of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo for a state of their own.

The question is how this can be achieved through an agreement with Serbia. Given the political climate in Belgrade, it is difficult to envisage.

Serbia is a wounded nation, and it needs empathy and understanding. With the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the Serbs have lost their hegemonic position in what had been the largest country in the Balkans: They lost a war against Croatia; they lost the war in Bosnia, where they brutally tried to annex parts of this republic and ethnically cleanse the Bosnian Muslim population; now Montenegro has gone its own way; and the whole Serbian nation feels stigmatized because of the crimes of the Milosevic regime.

SERBIA NEEDS reassurance and a time to rebuild its society. A generous European policy, paving the way for a relatively quick entry into the EU, could be a way to assuage Serbian sensibilities, help underpin its transition to democracy and wean it from its hegemonic memories.

But all this can be done only if Kosovo becomes independent. Serbian rule over Kosovo Albanians was the last colonial rule in Europe; NATO put an end to it. Now the outcome - independence - has to be granted international legitimacy. There is no other way.

The author is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Mir said...

Right... Yugoslavia was a "hegemonic" Serbia...

yet it was ruled by a Slovenian-Croatian.

You know its funny because I remember when people truly believed that they were Yugoslavians and were proud of taking such a hostile region and uniting it and having peace. Now theres miniscule nations with their nationalist leaders each trying to grab as much for themselves, and their constituents, as they can.

Its a shame.

arianit said...

I extend my most insincere sympathies to the distraught Serbia.

He was referring to the period before 1941 at that point. But I would argue that for a period under Tito rule Serbia was still hegemonic. Look at the development of strategic industries and the army cadres, they were mostly Serbian for a reason.

Until Tito strengthened his authority, Rankovic, a Serbian thug for example, had a greater say what happenned in Kosova than the Slovenian-Croatian leader. Russians had this policy where they would staunchly insist on things being Soviet only for them to turn around at the end of the day and consider them Russian. Serbs behaved the same.

ilir said...

touché Prof.Avineri. Being from a nation that suffered like Jews did, you sure know how to evaluate the situation. I guess this is returning the favour to Albanians, who provided protection for Jews during the WW2. We appreciate your realistic comments. Best regards,

DimTuc said...

Yes, but of course Avineri is no ordinary Israeli. As he says:

"At the end of the day, the issue is simple: whatever the historical claims, the ethnic Albanians are a preponderant majority in the province. Just like Palestinian Arabs, Albanians are entitled to a state of their own."

The Israeli who believes palestinians are entitled to a state of their own is the same one most likely to believe Kosova Albanians are also, despite the "historic" claims of both Serb nationalists and Zionists that Kosovo and 'Judea and Samaria' should belong to them due to some mythic events hundreds or thousans of years ago.

By contrast, there is Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right, who hate Palestinians. It was thus no coincidence that he declared solidarity with Milosevic in 1999 and worried that a Kosova Albanian state would set a precedent for the Palestinians in Israel to join the Palestinian Authority.

Sacred Dardanicum said...

Well I am albanian and I have nothing against Jewish people even more I got a friend from Tel Aviv. She is a nurse in one hospital over there.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

He also does not mention that Kosovo, which he would like to see made independent, was only once before an independent state- during World War II, when the Kosovo Albanians sided with Hitler and were rewarded for their ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Jews, Romas and others by the creation of a ‘Greater Albania’ encompassing parts of Macedonia as well as Kosovo and Albania itself.

Tellingly, Mr. Lyon does not mention how precisely this bloody past has been repeated today. He does not say that the Albanian “Kosovo Liberation Army” which the West supported during NATO’s bombardment of Serbia in 1999 and its successor militias have driven well over 200,000 people from minority populations, for the most part Serbs, out of the province.

Mr. Lyon does not mention that the Kosovo Albanians have destroyed or damaged over 150 Serbian Christian churches, many dating back over 700 years, out of sheer ethnic hatred.

He also does not mention that during NATO’s 1999 bombing the same Albanian paramilitaries expelled the remainder of Kosovo’s centuries-old Jewish population, permanently. For the great crime of being loyal Yugoslav citizens, these Jews were forced to emigrate to Israel.

Albanians have an outrageous history with Jews.

Bg anon said...

Actually I think such articles are also written to remind 'home' audiences of the need for moderation.

Anybody in Israel who knows just a little about the Kosovo problem will know the talk about the Serbian Jerusalem and the author is obviously stating his view in that regard with Palastine.

In Israel, lets be clear, most Jews believe that all that land is Israeli, even if some now concede that accomodation must be made with palastinians. There is a minority of real extremists in Israel that claim that until Israel builds and settles (with Jews) every inch of the land where Palastinians live the Savior will never return etc etc etc.

I do agree generally with the authors (world) views, although it seems quite obvious that his knowledge on Kosovo and Yugoslavia is limited.

I dont agree with this silly 'wounded nation' kind of thinking. Its so immature to see nations like children. Serbia needs some understanding and aid (as does Kosovo and other places) and some Serbs do feel victimised.

I dont think special treatment will reverse this or do I think special treatment is necessary. All that is necessary is fairness, a level playing field for Serbia on all issues.

If Serbia is given that level playing field and decides to tackle problems in a positive way that would be great but if Serbia doesnt choose to do this then Serbia must also take responsibility for failure.

One cannot pander and make too many allowances for nation states, regions et al. If you do, then these nations etc will get used to that treatment and take advantage of it.

ANYC said...

"He also does not mention that during NATO’s 1999 bombing the same Albanian paramilitaries expelled the remainder of Kosovo’s centuries-old Jewish population, permanently. For the great crime of being loyal Yugoslav citizens, these Jews were forced to emigrate to Israel."

Here is something new that has never been mentioned before by anyone anywhere-WTF.I'm sure a bunch of serbs will run with it wild-new conspiracy, bring on the tanjug propaganda.

This is beyond ridiculos. How can anyone take any other comments this idiot makes on this blog, when saying nonsense like this about Kosovo jews.

Mir said...

"Being from a nation that suffered like Jews did"


Are you serious?

SIX MILLION (6,000,000) JEWS DIED IN WW2 due to death camps.

LESS THAN FOUR THOUSAND (4,000) died in Kosovo. Many were fighters and were not killed in 'death camps'. Even more were victims of NATO's 'collateral damage'.

Let me put these 2 numbers next to each other for you?

6,000,000 vs. 4,000


This is completely ridiculous. Your propaganda machine in Kosovo is probably aided by CNN, only they could be so good at making propaganda like that.

Anonymous said...

There is one issue that is bothering me here; there is no media in the whole world that really knows the historical context of Kosova problem. All they say there is Christian Serbs and their churches..., but nobody mentions that Albanians too, not long ago (less than 300 years ago) were also Christians! And the question is where are their churches? Did they dissappear? Did Albanians burned down their own churches and built mosques? Not really true! Well there is a non contestable fact that the churches stayed intact for over 900 years or some even 1800 years, and thats even during Ottoman rule. And Albanians have been Christians at least as much as any European nation if not more. The Islam faith is quite new among Albanians historically talking, and that fact did not either made Albanians burn any churches, because probably they were theirs, nor change their identity dramatically.

If historical arguments would be taken into account in order to determine to whom belongs Kosova then first it would belong to Albanians as a legitimage hiers of Illyrians, but after that it would be Italian because of Roman conquest for over 1400 years, then Turks who owned the whole balkans for about 500 years and the least Serbs who ruled this region but also present day Greece, Albania and Bulgaria a short time compared to others (100 years). Thus serb right to Kosova comes last after Albanian, Italian, Bulgarian and Turk right.

To be short, the religions have come and gone away in this region but people have remained (at least those albanians who have not been expelled to Turkey)

Personally I am Albanian and my faith is Roman catholic, but in no case I would consider my other fellow albanians any different from us...except that they go to mosques if they go at all.

Have a good day to all!