Stopping the War in Yugoslavia
This article appeared in "Midstream - A Monthly Jewish Review" in April, 1994. Yohanan Ramati is director of the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defense.
The civil war in Yugoslavia continues, with untold suffering on all sides. The media report the suffering of the Muslims in gruesome detail. The suffering of Croats at Muslim hands gets little attention. The suffering of Serbs is ignored. So it will surprise large sections of the American public that some 600,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia have saught refuge in beliguered Serbia deprived of food and fuel by UN dictate during the deadly winter.
The media in the Western world, the Muslim world and Israel treats us to a regular dose of tearjacking hate propaganda. We see women and children in Sarajevo - the Muslim quarters of Sarajevo - with terrible wounds seeping blood and shattered limbs, to the accompaniment of shells and small arms fire. We do not see the killing and maiming of Serb women and children by Muslim fire in Bosnia or by Croat fire in Croatia . And when Croat women and children are brutally murdered by Muslims, or vice versa, the media response is sporadic and no conclusions are drawn. This organized anti-Serb and pro-Muslim propaganda should cause anyone believing in democracy and free speech serious concern. It recalls Hitler's propaganda against Allies in World War II. Facts are twisted and, when convenient, disregarded. The selectivity in reporting and comment is far too blatant to be accidental. The Western governments do not control their media sufficiently to be responsible for it. So who is? Who is bankrolling and masterminding the vast effort to destroy a people the United States , England and France have no reason to hate in order to establish a second Muslim state in a Balkan province where Muslims are minority?
Part of the answer is provided by a revealing interview by Mr. James Harff (director of Ruder & Finn Global Public Affairs) given to Mr. Jacques Merlino in Paris in October 1993. Ruder & Finn are public relations company, currently registered as foreign agents. Here are Harff's statements, slightly abridged.
Harrf: For 18 months, we have been working for the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo. Throughout this period, we had many successes, giving us a formidable international image. We intend to make advantage of this and develop commercial agreements with these countries. Speed is vital, because items favourable to us must be settled in public opinion. The first statement counts. The retractions have no effect.
Marlino: How often do you intervene?
Harff: Quantity is not important. You have to intervene at the right time with the right person. From June to September, we organized 30 meetings with the main press agencies, as well as meetings between Bosnian officials and Al Gore, Lawrence Eagleburger and 10 influential senators, among them George Mitchell and Robert Dole. We also sent out 13 exclusive news items, 37 last-minute faxes, 17 official letters and eight official reports. We placed 20 telephone calls to White House staff, 20 senators, and close to 100 to journalists, editors, newscaters and other influenctial people in the media.
Question: What achievement were you most proud of?
Harff: To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked from this angle. President Tudjman [of Croatia ] was very careless in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality". Reading this writtings, one could accuse him of of antisemitism. In Bosnia , the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state [there] in his book "The Islamic Declaration". Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this attitude. And we succeded masterfully.
At the beginning of August 1992, "New York Newsday" came out with the affair of [Serb] concentration camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations - B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the "New York Times" and to organize demonstrations outside the United Nations.
That was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the [Muslim] Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia . The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated. But by a single move we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys, which would hereafter play itself. We won by targeting Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as "ethnic cleansing", "concentration camps", etc., which evoked images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional charge was so powerful that nobody could go against it.
Marlino: But when you did all of this, you had no proof that what you said was true. You only had the article in "Newsday"!
Harff: Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia , we just made it known that "Newsday" affirmed it.
Marlino: Are you aware that you took on a grave responsibility?
Harff: We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to be moral.
The American Jewish organizations and leaders outwitted by Ruder & Finn can now pat themselves on the back. They have played a major role in gaining the world's sympathy for antisemitic regimes in Yugoslavia . They are "politically correct".
One small fact remains to be determined: who paid Ruder & Finn? It seems unlikely that the governments of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia could raise the money required. Are we dealing here with Arab money? With the money of US oil companies operating in the Arab states? With the money of international banks?
Can anybody hire Ruder & Finn? An Israeli who was interested in this subject when the Likud was in power was told by a public relations company that it would work for the government of Israel only if it changed some of its policies. The well-orchestrated and well-engineered demonization of the Serbs is a warning to all Jews who want Israel to continue to exist. Israle can become a target. Why are Muslim states (unless attacked by other Muslim states) usually portrayed as innocent victims of aggression? why are the outrages they commit ignored or condoned? Is it because media editors, reporters and commentators in democratic states are afraid to risk the wrath of financiers and oil interests sponsoring them? Is democratic public opinion controlled by the few for their own profit?
For Israelis (and some other people usually at the receiving end of similar machinations and hate propaganda, like the Maronite Christians of Lebanon or the whites and the Zulus of South Africa) the answer to this question - i.e. the nature and motives of the perpetrators - could be a matter of life and death. Those deliberately promoting radical Islam in Europe will promote radicalism and Islam everywhere. And the Western parterns in this venture believe in the power of money far too much to realize that they are creating a menace that will eventually eliminate them too.
The sanctions against Serbia are a disgrace to humanity. Orthodox Serbs were the majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the Serb decimation at the hands of the Croat Ustashis and the Muslim supporters of Hitler in World War II, and still populated more than half of Bosnia-Herzegovina before the current fighting began. The Muslims occupied less territory despite being a larger percentage of the population (48 percent as against 35 percent) as they were concentrated chiefly in urban areas. To fight in order to escape the rule of an Islamic fundamentalist despot like Izetbegovic in a country that belonged to you and was taken away by the fiat of foreigners is the natural reaciton of any people with an instinct for national survival. To continue fighting despite sanctions imposed by a cynical "international community" concerned with business interests - not justice - is a badge of honor.
No sanctions were imposed on Russia when it intervened to remove the nationalist Gamsakhurdia regime in Georgia and turn Georgia into a pliable puppet state after a bloody civil war. No sactions were imposed on Syria for swallowing Lebanon and destroying the Christian power structure there, supplanting it with a coalition of radicals and Islamic fundamentalists. No sanctions were imposed on Egypt for invading and annexing part of Sudan in 1993 (very few know this because the world's press and media ignored the Egyptian invasion, and the UN refused to debate Sudan 's complaints). Indeed, in 1993 hundreds of thousands of people were killed in various parts of Asia , Africa , Latin America and ex-Soviet Europe without sanctions even being considered. Seemingly, the "international community" is tough with radical states only when oil interests are threatened, as in the case of Iraq in 1990.
But these are not the only reasons why the sanctions on Serbia are a disgrace. They are also a disgrace because they are the main reason why the civil war in Yugoslavia has not ended. The endless meetings between Serb, Croat, and Bosnian Muslim representatives continue because the sanctions depriving the population of Serbia of food, medicines and fuel also deprive Izetbegovic of a reason to stop fighting and reach agreement with the others. The Muslims - not the others - keep rejecting proposals made to divide Bosnia , which would put under Muslim rule large areas currently controlled by Serbs. Some of these proposals were endorsed by outside factors responsible for peacemaking in Yugoslavia , but event this did not help. Izetbegovic hopes the Serbs will be broken by the UN embargo, so why make peace with them?
He could prove right. But it may take more than the embargo, Ruder & Finn and the equivocations of democratic politicians and journalists - among them some Jews - to break the spirit of a proud people.