Jews and Muslims launch peace initiative from Srebrenica, Bosnia

AFP , Ahram Online , Saturday 27 Jan 2024

Jewish and Muslim dignitaries launched a passionate appeal for peace on Saturday from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as deadly fighting rages in the Gaza Strip.

Bosnia Muslims and Jews
The President of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations and American lawyer, Menachem Rosensaft (R) and the religious leader of Bosnian Muslims, Husein Kavazovic (L) embrace after signing a Jewish-Muslim Initiative for Peace at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Centre in Srebrenica, on January 27, 2024. AFP


A "Jewish-Muslim Initiative for Peace" was presented and signed at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Centre by the President of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations and American lawyer, Menachem Rosensaft, and the religious leader of Bosnian Muslims, Husein Kavazovic.

The place where the appeal was launched holds a symbolic weight, as the Bosnian town saw around 8,000 Muslim men and teenagers killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, a crime described as genocide by international justice.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that genocide had taken place in Srebrenica, but the Serbian government was not responsible. 

The ruler of the former Yugoslavia was held accountable for his genocidal actions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 

The charges presented by the prosecution against Slobodan Milošević, the former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, were: genocide; complicity in genocide; deportation; murder; persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds; inhumane acts/forcible transfer; extermination; imprisonment; torture; willful killing; unlawful confinement; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; cruel treatment; plunder of public or private property; attacks on civilians; destruction or willful damage done to historic monuments and institutions dedicated to education or religion; unlawful attacks on civilian objects.

These actions bear a striking resemblance to what is transpiring in Gaza. 

"We join together in sorrow and our tears become prayers, prayers of remembrance, but also prayers of hope", Rosensaft, who is also general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, said at the ceremony.

He added that this "commemoration" of the victims of the Holocaust and the Srebrenica genocide was also the time and place to "jointly commit" to act to "prevent the horrors we remember here today from being repeated".

"We remember six million innocent Jews killed and many millions of other victims of fascist and Nazi ideology," said the Bosnian Grand Mufti.

"We do this at the place where, half a century after the historic 'Never Again', humanity had again failed its test of responsibility," he added.

'Our two peoples have suffered'

More than six million European Jews were exterminated by the Nazis during the Second World War, including around 12,000 in Bosnia, virtually the entire local community.

"Muslims and Jews are one body. Our ties are strong, forged in times of hardship as well as in times of prosperity... Our two peoples have suffered and have been subjected to attempts to eradicate them", Kavazovic said, referring to Bosnian Jews and Muslims.

In the peace initiative, signed in the presence of the president of the association of Mothers of Srebrenica, Munira Subasic and the president of the Jewish community of Bosnia Jakob Finci, the two men called for "forging the path of reconciliation" and "actively building peace".

The initiative collected applause from Brussels, as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it "a beacon of hope at a time when divisions often seem insurmountable".

"This commitment to fostering partnerships and meaningful dialogue is a powerful testament to the strength that lies in unity," Mijatovic said in a statement.

"It is our collective responsibility to create conditions conducive to remembering and commemorating the victims of past genocides and fighting all manifestations of antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred and forms of ethnic or religious intolerance," she added.

Bosnian Figures Show Support for Palestinians in Gaza and Seek Justice for Genocide

In a display of solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, two prominent Bosnian figures have taken a stand, each in their own way, to support the cause and seek justice.

Novelist Lana Bastašić has severed ties with her German publisher, citing the publisher's silence on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the censorship of pro-Palestinian voices in Germany.

Lana Bastašić, a Bosnian and Serbian novelist who won the 2020 EU prize for literature for her debut novel, Catch the Rabbit, announced on Instagram that she had terminated her contracts with the publishing house S Fischer.

Bastašić criticized the publisher for its failure to speak out about the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices in Germany. 

Meanwhile, Bosnian war survivor Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura has lent her support to the South Africa genocide case against Israel at the ICJ, drawing parallels between the Israeli war on Gaza conflict and the Bosnian war.

The survivor of the Bosnian war has expressed her fears that the landmark genocide case brought against Serbia for the Srebrenica massacre may become a precedent for other genocide cases, including the Israeli war on Gaza.

Buljušmić-Kustura, who experienced the horrors of war firsthand and lost relatives during the conflict, has called on the UN court to take action.

She emphasizes that it is not just Israel that is on trial, but also the entire international humanitarian law and its framework.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that the Palestinian death toll in Israeli strikes on Gaza has climbed to at least 26,257 people.

A ministry statement said at least 174 people were killed over the past 24 hours, while another 64,797 have been wounded since the war began.

On Saturday, Israel continued bombing civilian targets across the Gaza Strip despite an ICJ ruling on Friday mandating that Israel refrain from carrying out any acts that could be deemed genocidal against the Palestinians

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians continued to battle against the rain and cold in different parts of Gaza.

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