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Jewish and Israeli Support

for Bosnian Muslims

By Yahalom Kashny
May 1, 2011.

Bosnian Jewish community loved and adored former President of the Republic of Bosnia-
Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic. In World War II, Izetbegovic was member of the anti-fascist
Yugoslav Partisans who fought against Croatian and Serbian Nazi-collaborationists known as
the Chetniks and Ustashas.
During World War II, Bosnian Muslims protected Jews and fought against Nazis and their
collaborators. For example, in 1943, Bosnian Muslims captured and destroyed 2,000 German
Nazis in Bosnia. The 16th Bosnian Muslim Partisan Brigade was particularly notable
in destroying short-lived Muslim Handjar Division and inflicting deadly losses to German Nazis
and Italian Fascists in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Dalmatia. The brigade was loyal to Croatian
anti-fascist leaderJosip Broz Tito and his Jewish deputy Mose Pijade.

During the Serbian aggression on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jewish community did not think twice.
They joined the ranks of the Bosnian Army, fighting shoulder to shoulder with their Bosniak
allies against the Serbs.
David Kamhi, former head of the Jewish community, was the first to join Bosniak “Green
Berets” in the besieged Sarajevo. According to Stephen Schwartz (Forward, The Jewish Daily,
24 October 2003):

“Thanks to the pluralism championed by Izetbegovic, the Muslim-led Bosnian government

attracted considerable support from Jews, both within the republic and in other nations.
Several prominent Bosnian Jews joined the republican forces at the start of the war, including
the cantor of the synagogue, David Kamhi, who bore member No. 001 of the so-called
Muslim Green Berets. In the West, numerous mainstream Jewish organizations and leaders
forcefully adopted the Bosnian cause.”

Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal lobbied the United Nations lift arms embargo and provide
weapons to Bosnian Muslims so they could defend themselves from brutal Serbian terrorism
in Bosnia (Bangor Daily News, 18 June 1993).

Side by side with their Muslim neighbours, Jewish people fought in the Army of the Republic
of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thus contributed to the defense of the country from Serbian
aggression. The president of the Jewish Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, honorable Ivan
Ceresnjes, explained in an interview that appeared inKentucky New Area on 5 September

“Jews are fighting in the Bosnian army – side by side with Muslims. They are in the police
force and work in civil defense. The Jewish graveyard, with tombs dating to the 16th century,
is a Serbian stronghold. Serb militiamen have placed a heavy machine-gun in its chapel.”

Sadly, Serbs completely desecrated the entire Sarajevo’s Jewish cemetery, including the
Chapel and remains of Jews who were buried there in tombs. According to eye-witnesses:

“Serb army went into family tombs in the Jewish cemetery, which is located on a hill so it can
face Jerusalem. In these tombs, they actually built rudimentary elevators so that the soldiers
would rise from the tombs, shoot in every direction, kill civilians, and then disappear back into
the earth. They are still doing this; the cemetery is in a very strategic position.”
Distinguished holocaust scholar, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, was the first to describe the events in
Bosnia as Genocide. On 28 February 1993, he concluded:

“What’s happening there [in Bosnia] merits the use of the word genocide. There is an effort
to systematically destroy an entire group. It’s even been conceptualized by Serbian
nationalists as so-called ‘ethnic cleansing.’ That term signifies mass killing, mass relocation,
and that does constitute genocide.”

In the Holocaust, Bosnian Muslims risked their lives to save Jews and Jewish manuscripts.
Sarajevo Haggadah was hidden from the Nazis and their collaborators by a Bosnian Muslim
librarian, Dervis Korkut, who at risk to his own life to smuggled the Haggadah out of
Sarajevo. Korkut gave it to a Muslim cleric in Zenica, where it was hidden under the
floorboards of a mosque.

During the Bosnian war, as many as 1000 Jews gathered around Alija Izetbegovic to celebrate
the Passover holiday (Toledo Blade, 16 April 1992). “I ask you not to leave Bosnia, I ask you
to stay here. This is also your country,” Izetbegovic said. “Our wish is that this country should
be a tolerant community of religions and nations, as it has been for centuries,” he added.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs in the United States issued several resolutions condemning
Serbian war crimes and calling discriminatory arms embargo on Bosnia-Herzegovina to be
lifted so that Bosnia may properly defend itself, a right of every independent nation.

Holocaust survivor Henry Siegman actively protested Serbian obsession with eradication of
Bosnia’s Muslim population. On 11 July 1993, he wrote:

“A Muslim people are targeted for extinction, and the West turns away. There is no
rationalizing this brutal immorality… What we are witnessing is the West’s total abandonment
of Bosnia’s Muslims to the destruction programmed for them. It is as complete and as cynical
an abandonment as that of the Jews in World War II. The notion that America and its allies
are helpless to do anything about this human and political disaster is a palpable lie. It is as
believable as the argument that European countries and America could do nothing to help the
Jews in the 1930s, even while those governments were turning away from their shores
shiploads of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.”

The Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and the holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel both signed the
petition urging the World to bomb the Serbs in 1993 and lift the discriminatory arms embargo
against the Bosniaks. Wiesel publicly protested the systematic slaughter of 8,000 Bosniaks in
Srebrenica calling the Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, pigheaded liar for denying the

On July 6th, 2009, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a prominent
Bosnian Jew, Sven Alkalaj, visited Srebrenica on the occassion of the 14th anniversary of the
Srebrenica genocide. In support of victims of the Bosnian Genocide, Alkalaj called for the
Srebrenica memorial to be held every single month, and not just once per year.

Bosnian Muslim have always loved Jews. In the age of an increased levels of hatred and
antisemitism, Chief Muslim cleric, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, is busy upholding the dignity for the
victims of the Holocaust. He is a distinguished member of the Committee on Conscience. Dr.
Ceric and the holocaust survivor Ida Grinspan of France recently visited Auschwitz
concentration camp to pay respect to the victims of the Holocaust and pray for their souls.

And let us not forget: Israel was the first country in the entire world to help Bosnian Muslims
by accepting Bosniak refugees in February 1993 (The Jewish Post & News, 17 March 1993).
When the Jews were expelled from Spain, Bosnian Muslims welcomed them to their homes
and saved them from persecution.