Thursday, May 10, 2007

Serbo-phobes should take a history lesson

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Serb-bashing, the last acceptable form of racism in Europe, sadly shows no sign of abating. The news that Serbia is to take over the presidency of the Council of Europe this week has sent Serbo-phobes into paroxysms of rage.

"If European countries can't find the courage to act against Serbia, they can't find the courage to act against anyone," complains George Monbiot in the Guardian. But the Serb-bashers are wrong: the Balkan republic has every right to be considered a valued member of the European family.

Of all the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia was the least responsible for its violent break-up. The conflict was precipitated, not by Serb aggression, but by the illegal breakaway of Slovenia, egged on by Germany, in 1991.
Foreign intervention was also responsible for the war in Bosnia: the touch-paper being lit by the US ambassador Warren Zimmerman when he persuaded the Bosnian separatist leader Izetbegovic to renege on the EU-sponsored 1992 Lisbon agreement.
While no one denies that Bosnian Serbs committed atrocities, it's important to remember that the International Court of Justice recently exonerated Serbia of responsibility for the massacre at Srebrenica.

Serbo-phobes castigate Serbia for not extraditing Mladic and Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leaders, to The Hague. But can one really blame Serbs for questioning the impartiality of a court which was set up by the very Nato powers which illegally bombed their country in 1999, and which, from its inception, has shown a blatant anti-Serb bias?

Far from being a pariah state, Serbia has played a positive role in modern European history: it was the Serb uprising against the Nazis in 1941 which postponed the Wehrmacht's invasion of the Soviet Union by a crucial five weeks. Were it not for the bravery of the most unjustly demonised people on the continent, Europe would look a very different place today.

UPDATE: On the subject of Serbo-phobes, here's Timothy Garton-Ash in today's Guardian.
"There( in Kosovo), Blair led the way in forging an international action to reverse a genocide being perpetrated by Slobodan Milosevic against the mainly Muslim Kosovar Albanians. For a liberal interventionist, Kosovo was Blair's finest hour."
If like me, you would like to see the sources for Mr Garton-Ash's claim that genocide was being perpetrated in Kosovo, then you can ask him a question in the comments box after the article. On Mr Garton-Ash's website is the quotation "Facts are subversive". A more appropriate motto for this shamefully inaccurate historian would be "facts are dispensable".

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