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A new wave of Holocaust negation and an introduction into legal and historical revisionism

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(Patria) The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has prepared an analysis in view of the formation of controversial international commissions of the Government of the Republika Srpska entity (Bosnia and Herzegovina) for establishing historical facts regarding Srebrenica and Sarajevo, which represents a new wave of the Holocaust denial and announces legal and historical revisionism. The most interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “The Holocaust (Sho'ah): a new wave of Holocaust negation and an introduction into legal and historical revisionism” are published below.

The Holocaust (Sho'ah):

A new wave of Holocaust negation and an introduction into legal and historical revisionism

Five major world surveys and reports on anti-Semitism (EU Commission's survey and report entitled Perceptions of Antisemitism[1], Israeli annual report on anti-Semitism[2], the annual report published by Simon Wiesenthal Center[3], the Holocaust remembrance project[4] survey and  the American CNN television channel poll on Anti-Semitism in Europe[5]) followed the period in the run-up to and during the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2019). During his presentation of the annual report on anti-Semitism Israeli Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett called upon all governments to eradicate anti-Semitism from their societies and to assume strong position against hatred towards Jews, stressing that “It is Israel’s responsibility to help our millions of brothers and sisters in the Diaspora against the rise of anti-Semitic crimes”. One of the bases for the above report was the Perceptions of Antisemitism survey published at the request of the European Parliament by the EU Commission on the eve of 2019 International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which dealt with the perceptions of anti-Semitism among the Europeans.

This is the biggest survey on Jewish people's experiences with hate crime discrimination and anti-Semitism ever conducted worldwide. Covering 28 EU Member States, the survey reached over 27,600 respondents.

Anti-Semitism in the EU on the rise

Surveys have shown a large increase of anti-Semitism in the EU, with nine out of ten Jewish respondents having stated that anti-Semitism increased in the EU in the past five years. Unfortunately only 36% of the general public in the EU share their opinion, while  85% of Jews consider anti-Semitism to be the biggest social and political problem in their respective EU country. Moreover, 89% of Jews assess anti-Semitism as being most problematic on the internet and on social media; 28% of all respondents experienced anti-Semitic harassment at least once in 2018; 79% of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the five years before the survey did not report the incident to the police or other institution; 34% respondents avoid visiting Jewish events or sites because they do not feel safe; and 70% of Jews believe that the government in their country does not combat anti-Semitism effectively. The greatest concerns were stated by Jews in France (95%), followed by those in Germany (85%), while they are least concerned in Denmark (56%).

The survey has also shown that the Jews in Germany suffered the largest number of anti-Semitic attacks. Just over one third of Europeans stated that anti-Semitism increased in their country during the last five years while almost two thirds of Europeans did not notice any increase in anti-Semitism. More than a half of respondents considered Holocaust denial to be the most problematic manifestation of anti-Semitism in their respective countries, followed by online anti-Semitism on the internet and social media.

In his response to the report the first Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans stated: “I'm deeply concerned about the growth of anti-Semitism as concluded by the report of the Fundamental Rights Agency.  It is essential that we combat this scourge forcefully and collectively. The Jewish community must feel safe and at home in Europe. If we cannot achieve this, Europe ceases to be Europe.” 

Although the protection of EU citizens is primarily the responsibility of Member States, in December 2018 the EU Council  unanimously adopted the Declaration on the fight against anti-Semitism and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe. EU Member States are also called to use the definition of anti-Semitism laid down by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Anti-Semitism in Europe is another large-scale survey carried out by the CNN media network at the end of 2018 in seven European countries covering 7000 respondents. In Germany, Great Britain, Austria, France, Sweden, Hungary and Poland the survey revealed that a quarter of Europeans polled believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance and significant influence in conflicts and wars across the world. A third of respondents believe that the Jews use the Holocaust to reach their goals, and one in five said they have too much influence in politics and the media. More than 40% said Jews were at risk of racist violence in their EU countries and 28% said most anti-Semitism in their countries was a response to the actions of the state of Israel. About two-thirds of the respondents believe the Jew population to be much higher than it really is and a quarter of Hungarians estimated that the Jews account for 20% of the total population on Earth. 

In view of the growing anti-Semitism in Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “There's old anti-Semitism in Europe that came from the extreme right, and that's still around. But there's also new anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme left and also the radical Islamic pockets in Europe that spew forth these lies and slander about Israel.” Netanyahu praised the right-wing leaders of Austria and Hungary for fighting anti-Semitism, which triggered reaction from Israeli President Ruven Rivlin who stated that anti-Semitism is "an evil that can be found anywhere – left and right, among the nationalists and the religious"  and argued that combatting the phenomenon by forming coalitions with neo-fascist movements is impossible. Israeli President believes that neo-fascism is "absolutely incompatible" with Israel's principles and values and that rejecting neo-fascists movements is a way of fighting anti-Semitism.

Israeli historians Greif and Israeli to head the commissions for the revision of legal and historical facts regarding Srebrenica and Sarajevo

The above reports and surveys also contain analyses of the reasons for anti-Semitism in the EU and, what is most important, detect and define what EU citizens think about the Jews and what the Jews think about the EU countries where they live and work. There is a clear discrepancy between the perceptions of Jews and the perceptions of Jewish and non-Jewish EU citizens regarding the threats posed to Jewish communities in the EU.   Denial of the Holocaust is found to be the main reason for the increase of anti-Semitism in Europe.

These days the interest of the international community has been drawn to the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the Government of the Republika Srpska entity – whose armed and police forces were found responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica by the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) while the political leaders of Republika Srpska were convicted of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague – has established two controversial international commissions to probe the crimes committed in Srebrenica and during the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. Both commissions are headed by Israeli Jews. Professors Gideon Greif and Raphael Israeli have agreed to head these two commissions thus assuming the historical responsibility for leading the processes which deny the final judgements delivered by international courts on the genocide committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Analysts believe that Greif and Israeli's involvement in the attempts to negate the final judgements and deny the genocide in Srebrenica opens room for Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitism advocates in Europe and worldwide to continue their activities and/or establish similar commissions.

Srebrenica genocide was recognised by ICTY's final judgement

Two UN courts – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – confirmed in their judgements the relevant facts and defined the crimes committed against Bosniaks in Srebrenica as genocide and the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo as the crime against humanity and the violation of laws and customs of war. ICTY ruled that the crimes committed in Srebrenica and Sarajevo were cases of Joint Criminal Enterprise.  The UN and other embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and many international organisations have condemned the formation of the two controversial international commissions, claiming that international courts already established the truth regarding Srebrenica and Sarajevo. International officials regard the setting up of those commissions as an attempt of revisionism and denial of the genocide and siege of Sarajevo which were recognised by UN courts, while the victims feel the commissions are trying to revoke the facts established in ICTY and ICJ judgements and prevent the victims to achieve justice. Moreover, their goal is also to influence the judgements to be adopted at second instance against Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.

The fact that the two controversial international commissions for probing the crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo are to be headed by Israeli professors Gideon Greif and Raphael Israeli has triggered strong reaction in European and American political circles. Bearing in mind how much the international community, especially the US and the EU, as well as the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina have done to prosecute those responsible for war crimes, analysts believe that the work of the controversial international commissions led by the two Jewish professors will be in the centre of attention of European politicians, especially among the members of the European Parliament (MEP) who supported several resolutions confirming the Srebrenica genocide with 98% of their votes. During the past four years MEPs have launched and implemented a series of measures, actions and activities at the EU level to ensure full protection of the Jewish community in Europe. The two commissions also represent a finger in the eye of the last Resolution adopted by the European Parliament in November 2018, which introduces a new condition for Serbia's EU accession: if the Republic of Serbia is to join the EU, it has to accept and recognise ICTY judgements, including those confirming the Srebrenica genocide. The latter has been denied on many occasions by Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.

Are Greif and Israeli undermining Jewish fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial?

Analysts have noted that the involvement of two Jewish professors in the controversial international commissions for Srebrenica and Sarajevo established by the Government of Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina to revise the legal facts that were internationally confirmed by final court judgements will most probably inflict most damage on Jewish communities living in EU countries and elsewhere and their fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Besides their private interest, it is the question what drives the two Jewish professors during the time of increasing anti-Semitism in Europe and the world to get involved in the commissions that negate the UN courts' final judgements on genocide against the Muslim Bosniaks in Europe. In its report the Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center presented the results of its continued efforts aimed at the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. In the period 2001-2018 there were 105 convictions while four trials are still underway. Proceedings before ICTY are still pending and the question is whether the involvement of two Jewish professors in the controversial commissions established by the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina will also cause damage to court proceedings taking place worldwide against Nazi war criminals.

The Holocaust remembrance project survey, which was published on 25 January 2019 and sponsored by the Yale College, Grinnell College and the European Union of Progressive Judaism, brings some very interesting findings. The study covered all EU Members States except Spain, Portugal and Sweden. One of the key findings is that instead of protesting revisionist excesses, Israel supports many of the nationalist and revisionist governments. The study states that in terms of the Holocaust revisionism is worst in Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania, where the governments are trying to minimise the role of their peoples in mass killings of Jews.

Why are the archives on the Holocaust in Serbia hidden?

The Holocaust remembrance project survey also states that many archival collections pertaining to the “Ustaša state” are kept in the depositories of the Serbian Ministry of Defence and are inaccessible “under the excuse that they had to be stored outside Belgrade during the 'NATO intervention' of 1999”. It is also noted that “some academics interviewed complain that many of the archives useful in understanding the Holocaust are in Serbia and difficult or impossible to access”. 

In the coming period Jewish organisations worldwide fighting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, the State of Israel and the UN mechanism are expected to react against the establishment of international commissions of the Republika Srpska for the revision of final judgements on the Srebrenica genocide and the crimes against humanity committed in Sarajevo. Strong reactions are also expected from other EU states which have, together with the US, Canada and Australia, adopted resolutions confirming the Srebrenica genocide which was established by the final judgements of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

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