Bosnia 1992 and Palestine 1948: An Eerie Parallel

By Jones, Nathan | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1992 | Go to article overview

Bosnia 1992 and Palestine 1948: An Eerie Parallel


Jones, Nathan, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Bosnia 1992 and Palestine 1948: An Eerie Parallel

"When Saddam Hussain sent his divisions plunging into helpless little Kuwait, President Bush proclaimed an inviolable principle: Aggression would not stand. . . The world now looks to the aggression, every bit as cruel and unprovoked, by Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic against Bosnia and Hercegovina. That newborn state has no oil--and no defenses. Will the U.S. and Europe stand up for principle as strongly as they did for petroleum?"

In six weeks of 1992, well-trained and equipped military forces, most of them members of the regular Yugoslav army, fighting in the name of the Serbs who make up 31 percent of the population, have seized 70 percent of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, creating an estimated 670,000 mostly Muslim refugees. U.N. peace negotiator Marrack Goulding has been delayed for hours at Serbian roadblocks, shot at by snipers and shelled by Serbian mortars as he shuttled in and out of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in a vain attempt to halt the fighting.

Forty-four years earlier, well-trained and equipped military forces, most of them veterans of World War II, fighting in the name of the Jews who made up one-third of the population, seized 78 percent of the Mandate of Palestine, creating an estimated 750,000 mostly Muslim refugees. U.N. peace negotiator Count Folke Bernadotte was delayed for hours at roadblocks, shot at by snipers, and eventually assassinated by Yitzhak Shamir's Jewish extremist Stern Gang as he shuttled in and out of Jerusalem in a vain attempt to halt the fighting.

Happily, there also are differences in these two eerily parallel stories. In 1948, the U.S., from the first, supported the U.N. partition of Palestine, and then was shamelessly biased on behalf of the well-organized Jewish militias that seized for their future state of Israel more than half of the land that had been assigned by the U.N. partition plan to the future Palestinian Arab state.

The result was an unsolved problem that, for 44 years, has poisoned U.S. relations with the entire Islamic world, and plunged the Middle East into five major wars.

By contrast, in 1992, the U.S. at first opposed partition of Yugoslavia but, when it became inevitable, joined with the 12-member European Community in recognizing each of the new republics willing to stay within its pre-partition boundaries. Now, however, as the new Yugoslav Federal Republic, comprising Serbia and Montenegro, seeks to absorb part of the territory of two of its neighbors, the U.S. is moving with the EC to block the aggression.

The 51-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe admitted Bosnia on April 30 as a full member, but has postponed a decision on whether to recognize the new Serbia-Montenegro union as the legal successor state to the old six-republic Yugoslav federation. All member states approved both decisions unanimously. The EC recognized Bosnia-Hercegovina on April 6, as did the United States on April 7. The U.S. also stated that it "strongly supports the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina."

Both the EC and the U.S. have refused to recognize the new Yugoslavia, warning that it can be barred not only from the CSCE but also from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations if it does not move to halt the attacks on its Bosnian neighbor.

If the U.S. and all of the countries of Europe now back up their diplomacy with tough sanctions, armed peacekeeping forces, and whatever else it takes to halt the Serbian aggression first conducted against Croatia and now against Bosnia-Hercegovina, a Balkan cancer that could divide Catholics and Protestants throughout Europe, or Christians and Muslims throughout the world, can be expunged.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, dispatched by the U.N. to try to broker a truce, said in mid-April that "continued fighting is going to benefit nobody. It will be a disaster and there will be no winners in any such situation. …

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