Geert Lovink on Sat, 19 Apr 1997 13:51:56 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> from ivo

Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 15:26:03 +0000

Defying Geography

Recently, a friend of mine returned from Israel.  She was astonished
how similar that country's mentality is to former Yugoslavia.  Yet, there
in fact are many similarities - being in war is just one of them.  All
Israel males were in war at some point.  The collective subconscious
know that Israel is won and maintained there by war and they are
committed to keep it that way at any cost.  Peace negotiations are
watched with high suspicions.  The pattern of relatively secular cities
(like Tel Aviv) and orthodox, backward country also remind us of
Croatia or Serbia, where Tudjman and Milosevic hold sway on the
country, but lose elections in their capitals.  Rabin caught wrath of
conservative religious leaders by allowing an Israeli soldier who was a
child of non-Jewish parents (they converted later) be buried with others
who gave life for the State of Israel.  The nationalism of some Israelis is
probably reaching the same extremes as the nationalism of the far right
groups in Europe, with the difference that Israelis are obviously not anti-Semitic.  But the way how they treat Palestinians is not much different
from the status of Serbian minority in Croatia.  Gaza is a tiny strip of
coast (2.5 miles wide) so small that it would be difficult to organize a
Marathon event, yet so densely populated that with the three rows of
barbed wire and ubiquitous watch-towers reminds of a large
concentration camp.  In the middle of the Gaza camp there is a little
Kibbutz of 17 Jewish settlers working the land with AK-s hanging over
their shoulders.  What makes people in the Balkans and in the Middle
East so unbelievably stubborn?  The funniest thing, however, is
similarity between Israel's and Balkans' longing to be understood as a
civilized, cultured part of Europe with a long history of democracy and
civil society, for which there is no evidence whatsoever: so, Israel's state
radio and TV do not play popular folk music, which is considered too
East, as the Croatian state media do not play music that sounds too East
(popularly called Cyrillic music, suggesting its Serbian origins).  I just
wonder if Israeli politicians claim that Israel is "in the center of Europe",
as their Croatian counterparts do.


O.K. Coral, Serbia

Jovica Stanisic, the mastermind of Serbian intelligence services, is the
last man in Serbian political life who is around since 1989, now after the
army general, who had been the commander of Eastern Slavonia during
the war, was killed in daylight with plenty of witnesses in the middle of
Belgrade (there are no suspects, though).  Besides Stanisic, everybody is
there directly or indirectly placed by Slobodan Milosevic.  The Eastern
Slavonia army commander might know a lot about shelling of Vukovar,
Vinkovci, Osijek, massacres at Borovo Selo, mass graves in Vukovar,
Arkan's activities in Eastern Slavonia, transfer of military equipment to
Bosnian Serbs, attack on Bjeljina - in other words his testimony at any
International Court of the future might prove highly unpalatable to
Milosevic, Mladic and their clique.  It is also possible that he had a fall-out with Arkan.  The actual hit-man might be brought in from abroad
and than whisked away quickly.  Is Stanisic next?  Or Arkan?  Or maybe


Dressed to kill

Did anybody notice that Milosevic wears Armani suits?  Now, he also
wore them during the economic sanctions.  How did he get them?  There
are organized groups of young Serb emigres in Italy, with past military
experience, whose line of business are hi-tech no-violence burglaries of
boutiques and jewelers.  For a price they clothe Serbian and
Montenegrin politicians, businessmen and mobsters.  Most interesting is
that Italian police knows for them: they all were at some point caught -
and released.  The police stripped their (Yugoslav) passports away and
told them that they have to report to the police station every day at some
time.  They never did.  Instead they disappeared into Italian society,
letting their Yugoslav passports rot at the Italian police (they are not of
much value any more anyway) and continuing their line of work.  Italian
police never really bothered to find them after that.  There were some
disturbing reports that Yugoslav diplomats tried to issue them new
passports in exchange for an upgrade of their services (like killing and
intimidating Serbian political enemies abroad, Albanians mostly), but the
group, according to my confidential source, refused.  Not that Italians
would mind - after all they sunk that ship full of Albanian refugees,
didn't they?  That just reminds me that Francis Fukuyama, professor of
public policy at the George Mason University said at the Virtual
Diplomacy Conference in Washington DC (April 1) that Italy is a
country with "low trust".


The last to go

Meanwhile the events in Montenegro show some of the same disturbing
patterns that preceded declarations of independence in other former
Yugoslav republics: fall out between top politicians (president and prime
minister are at odds) over the future of their role within the federation,
shifting of prerogatives in republic's bureaucracy - republic's
intelligence starts to monitor those with federalist sentiment and not
those with nationalist one, pro-Serb president wants to call the
parliament, but the parliament's chief finds a technicality as a ground to
turn down that call, and meanwhile everybody still swears in
brotherhood and unity.  Croatia 1989? Bosnia 1991?  Montenegro 1997.


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