For Cinco de Mayo, American Thinker Took the Carefree, Well-beaten Route to the Balkans
By: Julia Gorin
This past Cinco de Mayo, the eagle-eyed Ruth S. King, board member of Family Security Foundation and columnist for Americans for a Safe Israel’s Outpost, alerted me to what she called an “appalling whitewash of Albania in American Thinker.”
Of course, it’s less appalling if one recalls my own bumpy Balkans history with American Thinker, as I’ve had with almost every other publication that had the momentary courage (or blissful naivete) to publish my minority view (a.k.a. the truth) about Kosovo and who the real aggressor was. Publisher Thomas Lifson had followed the familiar pattern wherein an editor is at first thankful that I put the subject on his radar and did the hard research — then feels immediately overburdened by the subject as soon as it causes real controversy and shows how unpopular the actual history is. Often, they turn on a dime when the hyenas of the majority view start screeching about the rare appearance of something other than the monopoly perspective — that only allowable, only existing (as far as you’re supposed to know), recent recorded history of the region.
And so American Thinker, like American Legion, Baltimore Sun and others before it, went from respect and gratitude to resentment, avoidance and annoyance at the name Julia Gorin. After kindly allowing one or two more Gorin pieces on the subject in 2007, Mr. Lifson declared that A.T. would stay away from the Balkans all together. The way the rest already do (except when it’s a rehash or tangent of the permitted narrative).
But then on Christmas 2010 he reprinted a majority-view article titled”A Srebrenica Christmas,” and when he again broached the Balkans in March 2011 with a good piece by Victor Sharpe titled “Hillary’s War” and I thanked him, he said he almost didn’t run it, since “Nobody is ever convinced to change his/her mind on the Balkans, and it is not worth the trouble focusing on it.” To which I replied, “Publishing the occasional piece on the Balkans amid the avalanche of standard-issue stuff isn’t exactly ‘focusing.’ Interesting that it feels that way to you. Sort of underscores my point about the lack of American palate, fortitude and stamina vis-à-vis the Balkans, where world wars and Orwellian societal experimentation by our elites begin. (Coming soon to Americans.)”
And so now comes the A.T. article forwarded by Ms. King. In the midst of ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied Victory in Europe, it must have seemed harmless and appropriate enough to promote Albanians who saved Jews. Who could object to that, after all? Indeed, the piece is the least objectionable of this variety. Still, it must be said that it’s in line with who our clients in the Balkans are. Not only is Yad Vashem toeing that line by emphasizing the Albanian Righteous over the more numerous and more risk-taking Serbian Righteous, but so is the so-called conservative press, as evidenced by what it consciously or subconsciously chooses to highlight in the region. Which differs not at all from mainstream news sources. Which differ not at all from U.S. policy.
So it seems that on Cinco de Mayo, American Thinker went the carefree route that everyone else goes, instead of the hard way on the Balkans. They whooped it up and joined the party — ala Bush going all Clinton in Albania in 2008 — by printing an article on the hyped-up Albanian Righteous and the righteousness of Albanians — eight years after that PR started making the rounds and suckering in all the other conservative and Jewish outfits. Which makes American Thinker a latecomer to suckerhood. (And I thought Simon Wiesenthal Center was slow.) It’s like going back to school to get a degree in Flat Earth Sciences. As always, I’ll stress that it’s not wrong to let people know about the Albanian Righteous, but by this point the A.T. editor knows there’s probably more to the story, on a subject he was ostensibly steering clear of in the first place.
Albania’s History of Saving Jews By C. Hart
…In a recent ceremony at Yad Vashem, Albanian government minister Edmond Panariti and his cousin Agron were acknowledged because the Panaritis saved a Greek family from Thessaloniki, hiding them in their home in Albania.
Edmond Panariti serves in the Albania government today as Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Water Administration, and previously served for a short time as Foreign Minister. He shared why the Albanians are a people who have a custom of providing refuge to others.
“This is a part of our tradition. Albanians are a very friendly people and hospitable people…They think that a guest enriches them.”
[Just let’s not mention what happens when you’re the host and they’re the guest, which the welcoming Yugoslavia found out all too painfully.]
Meanwhile, very few Jews survived in Thessaloniki, while Albania did not lose one. In fact, there were 202 Jews living in Albania before the war, and 1,800-2,000 after the war. At least 600 of them came from Greece. Not a single Jew living in Albania died at the hands of the Nazis. Albania is the only country in Europe with this record of success.
Albania’s Foreign Minister told this writer in an interview last year that his country could assist the EU in understanding the plight of the Jews in Europe today, who are experiencing a sharp increase in violent anti-Semitism. [By whom, did this foreign minister of a Muslim country mention?] Because of the experience that Albanians had in hiding the Jews during the reign of Hitler, there is an unusual sensitivity to this particular people group that is unique to the Albanians.
Edmond said it not only has to do with Albania’s tradition and culture. “We are the only country in the region that has a religious tolerance. This is not the case with our neighbors. The most amazing thing, and we are taking pride in it, is that we have coexistence between religions.”
Which neighbors? Greece? Macedonia? (Which is 25-33% Albanian and where the Albanian party is a permanent member of the ruling coalition and which has the “fifth-highest proportion of Muslims in Europe” after Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia.) Or did he mean Montenegro? Which is 17% Muslim. Or perhaps he means, more accurately, Kosovo? Surely he doesn’t mean the Christian but rapidly Islamicizing Bulgaria? Or Serbia, which is back to kneeling before its Bosnian and Albanian Muslims, and houses the world’s oldest Jewish choir.
But don’t expect to hear any such begged-for questions from the writer, Mr. or Ms. Hart, since even so-called ‘alternative’ U.S. media take down what Albanians say uncritically — still. Just as the journalistic establishment did with the Kosovo war. There simply is no American Thinking going on when it comes to the Balkans.
Notice that, like everyone else, A.T. had nothing about the April attack by the Albanians’ beloved KLA (”dismantled” by NATO in 2000), on a Macedonian police tower, demanding the creation of an Albanian state. Just as they’d done shortly after the Kosovo war, by starting another war, which I’ll guess you didn’t hear about. A war with Macedonia, which had harbored 400,000 Kosovo refugees. There were only short news items about the recent attack, such as this, but no commentary, no dissection, none of the usual analyses to tell us what it means. Because it’s the Balkans, and Americans simply don’t know what to think until an Albanian, Bosniak, or Croat tells us. Macedonia’s “ethnic tension,” as we in the West like to call it to keep the public from figuring out there’s an aggressor, renewed two weeks later, with a 36-hour-seige starting May 10th in Macedonia’s largest municipality, Kumanovo, on the border with Kosovo. Eight Macedonian police officers and 14 of 44 Albanian terrorists were killed, and another 37 officers wounded.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski referred to the attackers as “one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the Balkans.” This would be the selfsame American BFFs: the KLA and affiliates. In fact, almost all the attackers were from Kosovo. UK Guardian reported further, “[Kotevski] said the group entered Macedonia at the start of May with an aim to launch attacks on state institutions. It was sheltered in Kumanovo’s western neighbourhood of Diva Naselba and police found a huge arsenal of weapons at the location….” Bulgaria had to send its army to the border with Macedonia, to stem any possible terror on its borders as well as a potential refugee crisis. These are all still reverberations, outgrowths, and results of the war that Bill Clinton got us into “to keep the conflict from spreading.” And “to stabilize the region.”
But hey, as long as we’ve found a set of Muslims who don’t mind Jews, who cares what they do to Slavs or what havoc they wreak in the region? Just let’s not think how they might feel about Jews if the host society they settled in was Jewish rather than Slavic, and it was Jewish land they coveted instead. Or how well Albanian hospitality could take a Jewish guest in WWII or the 90s telling his host that his people really shouldn’t be wantonly slaughtering Serbs. No, let’s not get into higher thinking. Besides, the “Kosovars” have a statue of Bill Clinton in the center of town, haven’t you heard.
Of course they do. As Professor Ilia Toli, who has experienced Albanianism from the inside — as an Albanian — put it: “Bill Clinton risked WW3 attacking Serbia in order to draw attention away from his Lewinsky [and Broaddrick] affair…I don’t know whether this is a compliment to be worshiped in the stronghold of the scum of the mankind.”
But it’s certainly fitting. Bill Clinton is a caveman’s caveman.
While I’ve responded extensively to the Albanian Jew-saving PR (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I’ve only peripherally made the point that, in the end, all the Jews left Albania. Because while it may be “the most pro-Israel” Muslim country, or at least the least anti-Israel Muslim country, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a sense of security and comfort for a Jew living in its borders. That is, a tolerant national policy or orientation may not come across in close proximity, as some anecdotal (in addition to numeric) evidence suggests. Here is just one vignette, offered by Professor Toli in a 2013 email exchange that was mostly about Albanian Righteous:
I had a friend one year older in university…He returned from Canada and we were traveling together in the bus home, towards south [U.S.]…He greatly annoyed me with his ardent Albanian patriotism all the way home. At some point to silence him I asked, “Are you Christian or Muslim?” “Muslim,” answered he, completely proud. “Well, I am Christian,” I answered back. That silenced him, but I did notice that he was very much uncomfortably quiet, agitated, and had a fight inside him. A few years later I came to know that this friend was Jewish pretending to be Muslim. He lives in Canada now, Jewish in the open. He didn’t dare to come out as a Jew in tolerant Albania.
I remember in his memoirs [Albania’s Soviet-era ruler] Enver Hoxha wrote about a very educated friend of his in childhood… “Samuel was the son of Haham Kofina, the poorest Jew in Gjirokastra…Haham occupied a small shop, there grew up Samuel, our friend. We loved him, because he was a very good person, honest, and not a ‘Jew’ in the bad meaning of the word.” [Note: “Jew” being implicitly bad was rampant in Communist Eastern Europe all around.]
Certainly there were many instances of righteous Albanian Muslims and Christians. That’s a very long shot from claiming that zero Jews were killed…And judge the following factors: Germans came to Albania only in September 1943 and left in November 1944. (In some parts of the country they never entered at all.) …Also, the pants-down test didn’t work in Albania because the Muslim population was also circumcised…In school in Albania at some point Comrade Hoxha told us that only 10 Jews perished in Albania, 2 of them partizans. At a later point the number became 2, then later on 0. He too was fond of the 0 Jews killed tale.
Indeed, “zero killed” was more like 10 to 12, according to the project The Holocaust Chronicle, while the rest of Albania’s 200 Jews were able to successfully disperse and blend in with the population, which provided them with cover and Muslim names. In Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, author Christopher Simpson noted that relatively few Jews were captured and killed in Albania, but “not for lack of trying by the Balli Kombetar organization and the Albanian SS,” historian Carl Savich quoted him in 2007, adding:
In a July, 1944 [OSS] report on Albania entitled “Political and Internal Conditions”, it was reported that “[Albania’s Interior Minister, Kosovo Albanian] Xhafer Deva, [and Albanian prime minister] Rexhep Mitrovic[a] and Midhat Frasheri [president of the fascist Balli Kombetar, later imported by the U.S.] are with the Germans… Anti-semitic measures are being adopted now.” A captured SS document “revealed that Deva had been responsible for the deportation of ‘Jews, Communists and partisans’ to extermination camps as well as for punitive raids by the SS Skanderbeg Division. The small mountain territory had few Jews, so relatively few were captured and killed.”
(It also helped that Serbs and Roma were hiding Jews from Deva.)
The “Ballistas,” as America’s soon-to-be BFFFs (Best Fascist Friends Forever) were sometimes called for short, “carried out a campaign of deportation and murder of Serbs in 1943 and 1944,” Vojislav Milosevic wrote in 2012. “…Many of these Kosovo Albanians had seen prior service in the Bosnian Muslim and Croatian SS divisions which were notorious for slaughtering civilians…[In 1945,] remnants of the Kosovo Albanian fascist groups continued fighting the Yugoslav government for six years, with a major rebellion from 1945 to 1948 in the Drenica region…Sporadic violence continued until 1951. It is literally true to say that the last shots of World War II were fired in Kosovo.”
Kosovo certainly has a less pretty WWII record than Albania (see block quote under the Yeshiva World News item here), but if one considers that Albania’s borders at the time included Kosovo, the numbers of Jews killed or handed over to the camps change dramatically.
On the subject of Drenica, meanwhile, this last holdout of WWII fascist Kosovo would later become a KLA stronghold as well as the birthplace of Mr. KLA himself, “prime minister” Hashim Thaci. It was a bastion of violent Albanian nationalism, a phenomenon that spurred the following question in writer Milosevic above: “Why such passionate hatred for non-Albanians? A big factor was militant Islam. The Fundamentalist ‘Second League of Prizren’ was created in September 1943 by Xhafer Deva…to work with the German authorities…. Albanian religious intolerance was shown by their targeting Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries for destruction.”
There’s no way around it. Fascism, Islam and extreme nationalism all inform the Albanian identity. The Wikipedia entry on the SS Skanderbeg division reads:
Members took a religious oath using the Quran, pledging “jihad against unbelievers.” …Its garrison was located in the town of Prizren…Early on, it became clear that most of the division’s Muslim Albanian members seemed to be interested only in settling scores with their Christian Serb adversaries, who became the target of numerous atrocities. In order to put a stop to the crimes, the Germans had to disarm battalions of the division in the towns of Peć and Prizren and arrest the Albanian officers…It was generally better known for murdering, raping, and looting, mainly in ethnic Serb areas, and for arresting Jews, than for participating in combat operations on behalf of the German war effort. In addition to indiscriminately killing Serbs and Montenegrins, the division was responsible for the expulsion of up to 10,000 Slavic families from Kosovo as new Albanian settlers arrived from the poor areas of northern Albania.
One is never sure whether it was originally Islam that informed the Albanianism that so hates Serb Christians and destroys their churches, or whether the hyper-nationalism against the Serbian identity resulted in targeting their churches as Serbian symbols, which is what Albanians and their defenders still claim today, what with Albanianism long overshadowing Albanian Islam. It’s a means of justifying their continuing supremacist “but not anti-Christian” violence, perhaps themselves forgetting that’s what it was when it started.
The Albanian public’s record on Jews during the world war remains impressive and touching, so certainly one can understand the temptation for Jewish people to be suckers for anything that Albanians seek henceforth. But why is it human nature to be won over by the tender mercies of those who accept whatever alliance or identity — and its attendant privileges — that an era’s bully is extending (e.g., Fascism, Islam), as opposed to being won over by fellow sufferers and untermenschen under those systems, whom Jews owe something to as well? That would be the Serbian side, the implicit loser of Jewish (though so far not Israeli) support in the Kosovo tug-of-war that underlies this whole WWII Righteous promotion.
Serbs likewise managed to save Jews, and in greater numbers, despite being in a much more difficult position than Albanians. The Serbs were targets and victims of the Nazis too (100 killed — sometimes hung from trees — for every German soldier killed in Serbia), while simultaneously under assault from Albanians and Croats. It’s only touched on in this late 2010 email by late Jewish-Serbian scholar Jasa Almuli (who interviewed several Jews rescued by Serbs, who never contacted Yad Vashem for Righteous status on their behalf):
In Serbia there was not much time to save the Jews as all males were shot by the Wehrmacht during three months at the end of the first year of occupation and about 7000 women and children gassed during three months next spring…All anti-Jewish measures during the German occupation of Serbia were enacted by the Germans. [But there were] two decrees enacted six months before the war by the Yugoslav coalition government in October of 1940, passed under German pressure. One introduced Numerus Clausus for Jewish pupils and students and the other forbade the Jews to trade with foodstuff…The government which introduced these measures was composed of Serbian, Croat and Slovene politicians who acted in this way when the country was surrounded by allies of Germany.
But this is all still tug-of-war, and it’s probably not in good taste to compare one ethnicity’s Righteous to another’s. There’s a reason that it’s important to simply do the right thing in any given conflict, and not go by whether this one or that one was good to Jews, exceptional as it may be. For example, the icing for Dr. Toli on the Albanian Righteous cake: “What absolutely got to my nerves was reading an article about Jew-saving Muslim Albanians on the homepage of Hamas-CAIR.”
And therein lies the rub. Taken to the next level, while most Albanians are not jihadists, as Muslims they are vulnerable to recruitment (”Kosovo ranks eighth overall and first per capita among 22 Western states“). As opposed to Christian Serbs. So why buttress the more enemy-prone side against a comparatively problem-less ally of two world wars? Indeed, one development in the increasing number of Albanians joining Islamic State (as well as in Albanian would-be terrorists before them) is the tendency now to rail against Jews and Israel.
We supported the Albanian-Muslim side against the Serb-Christian side, as we had supported the Bosnian-Muslim side against the Serbs. Even in the Croatian war, we opted for the fascist Jew-killers of WWII. Meaning that in all three cases the West chose the Axis. In all three cases, the Jewish (albeit not Israeli) position was consistent with the prevailing, pro-Axis policy. And so we find ourselves today hearing Bosnian Muslims in Vienna shouting “Kill Kill the Jew!“; counting Albanians in ISIS; and witnessing the Simon Wiesenthal Center beseech Croatia to stop paying Nazis pensions as their clergy continue delivering masses for the Croatian fuehrer. (”It is hard to believe that in the center of the capital of a member of the European Union…hundreds of people gathered yesterday to commemorate the memory of one of Europe’s biggest mass murderers…It is also a badge of shame for the Catholic Church, which allowed such a ceremony to take place in the Basilica of the Heart of Christ….” — Efraim Zuroff. Indeed, there were just two recent years that Croatians skipped the Fuehrer Mass, or at least that we didn’t hear about it: January 2013, the eve of their EU entry that July, and the bookend year of entry, January 2014. And yet the EU has deemed Croatia more suitable for membership than Serbia. In a way, one supposes it is.)
With such contemporary realities, one can certainly understand nostalgically turning to the past for its irrelevant comforts. But we must live in our time. And it was in our time that Albanians — including those from Albania this time — drove out the remaining Jews of Kosovo. Why did the Jews have to go? No one interrupts the Albanian self-back-patting to ask that uncomfortable question. Maybe it’s just impersonal ethnic supremacy — not aimed at Jews, who were merely collateral damage in 1990s Kosovo. Besides, it seemed to be mostly Serbian-speaking Jews who had to go, while 50-some Albanized Jews remain.
Maybe it’s just like Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic, who sometime after his fascist salute to Croatian fans seven months before EU entry (flanked by Albanian teammate Xherdan Shaqiri) got a Hebrew tattoo, as if saying that the seig heil is just part of the Croatian identity and need not be about Jew-killing, so don’t take it personally — and when Serbs do, it’s just Serbs not letting Croatians be Croatians. A message that’s as backwards as the Hebrew letters written from left to right. Naturally, not one among the Jewish media reporting on the internet stir this caused caught that this was the same player who last made international headlines when he did the Nazi salute.
It’s just soccer, after all, where Croatian fans can shout “Kill, kill the Serb!” to little notice, as well as “For the homeland, ready!”; and where Albanians can “harmlessly” fly a drone over a Belgrade stadium, toting a banner depicting a Greater Albania and two infamous Serb-haters, while the media go on to blame Serbs for the ensuing melee, even as Albanian politicians laud the “splendid little provocation” and the Albanian team return to a hero’s welcome.