Michael Totten

The Israel of the Balkans

“All we want is to reduce the Albanian population to a manageable level.” — Zoran Andjelkovic, former Serbian governor of Kosovo
Genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” — United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

The State of Israel is divided on the Kosovo question: should the world’s newest country be recognized? Some, “like former Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman”:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125290, worry that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia might encourage Palestinians to make the same move. The small Balkan state, however, may have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza.
Israelis, as Amir Mizroch “notes”:http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:xx6vStsddw8J:www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite%3Fpagename%3DJPost%252FJPArticle%252FShowFull%26cid%3D1203343699593+%22israel+won’t+recognize+kosovo+for+now%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a in the Jerusalem Post, have excellent relations with the Kosovars. “Israel has an interest in helping to establish a moderate, secular Muslim state friendly to Jerusalem and Washington in the heart of southeast Europe,” he writes. Indeed, Kosovo is neither an enemy state nor a jihad state. Its brand of Islam is heavily Sufi, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Wahhabism and Salafism that inspire Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Kosovo doesn’t belong to the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis. On the contrary, Kosovo has thrown in its lot with the West, and especially with the United States. Serbia’s breakaway province is perhaps the most pro-American country in all of Europe. Bill Clinton is lionized there as a liberator — a main boulevard through the capital Prishtina is named after him — just as George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush are hailed as saviors in Iraqi Kurdistan. It should be no surprise then that Mizroch quotes an Israeli official who says Israel most likely will recognize Kosovo if its “influential friends” in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France, decide to do so.
Concern that Kosovo’s independence might trigger a similar declaration from the West Bank to Spain’s Basque country to Chechnya and beyond is understandable but perhaps overwrought. Bosnia declared independence without unleashing a domino effect beyond Yugoslavia. So did Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Montenegro declared independence from Serbia less than two years ago. It’s doubtful the Palestinians even noticed. Hardly anyone else did. In any case, it had no effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The irrelevance of Kosovo to the Arab-Israeli conflict is underscored by the fact that not a single Arab country has recognized Kosovo. The only Muslim countries which so far have bothered are Turkey, Malaysia, Senegal, Albania, and Afghanistan. The governments of all these countries are, to one extent or another, either moderate, in the pro-Western camp, or both. All aside from Albania have sizeable ethnic minorities of their own. Turkey especially frets about its own separatists — the Kurds in the east — but still went ahead and recognized Kosovo almost instantly.
Many in Kosovo are well aware that they have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza. “Kosovars used to identify with the Palestinians because we Albanians are Muslims and Christians and we saw Serbia and Israel both as usurpers of land,” a prominent Kosovar recently told journalist Stephen Schwartz. “Then we looked at a map and woke up. Israelis have a population of six million, their backs to the sea, and 300 million Arab enemies. Albanians have a total population of eight million, our backs to the sea, and 200 million Slav enemies. So why should we identify with the Arabs?”
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/The-Israel-of-the-Balkans-11266