Sakset/Fra hofta

Albanerne skjulte jøder under krigen, både sine egne og flyktninger. Det gode forholdet mellom albanere og jøder har holdt seg. Albanere er vennlig mot Israel, både på gate- og regjeringsplan.

Michael Totten har besøkt Kosovo og truffet israelere som driver kafé og bakeri i Pristina. De er levende bevis på det gode forholdet. Ikke hos noen albanere han møter finner han tegn på antisemittisme. Tvertom. Han finner en kopi av den uerstattelige Sarajevo Haggadah i et muslimsk hjem.

Islam på Balkan er annerledes. Den passer ikke inn i det vanlige skjemaet. Ikke noe sted i Midtøsten kunne en israeler drevet en kafé. Antisemittismen er noe man får inn med morsmelken. Det er fare for at opinionen i Vesten mister evnen til å differensiere. Albanere og bosniaker er Europas egne, innfødte muslimer. At disse praktiserer en meget moderat form for islam som ikke har noe problem med Israel og jøder, burde interessere oss. Det viser at det finnes en avslappet islam.

Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country, but it isn’t Arab. The ethnic Albanians who make up around 90 percent of the population reject out of hand the vicious war-mongering anti-Semitism that still boils in the Middle East. Israelis can open a bistro and bar in Kosovo without someone coming to get them or even harassing them. Shachar Caspi, co-owner of the Odyssea Bistro and the Odyssea Bakery, proves it.
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I knew already that Kosovo is friendlier to Israel than most countries in the world ※ especially compared with other Muslim-majority countries ※ but I was still slightly surprised to see this. It only takes one Islamist fanatic to blow up a bistro. And it would only take a small amount of the right kind of threatening pressure to drive Caspi, his business partners, and his employees out of town or at least underground. But nothing like this has happened.

“People know you are Israeli?” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “Of course. Everybody knows we are Israelis.”

“Nobody cares?” I said.

“On the contrary,” he said, “people like it. They come to speak to us. They want to be in contact. Here I didn’t see anybody that was negative. On the contrary the people are very warm, very nice. They take Islam to a beautiful place. Not a violent place. When they hear I am from Israel they react very warmly.”

Lots of Kosovar Albanians confirmed what Caspi is saying.

“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 recent 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?”

For noen er bitterheten mot muslimer blitt så sterk at de har vanskelig for å akseptere at det finnes en annen måte å være muslim på enn den man finner i Midtøsten og Pakistan. De går så langt at de har vansker med å akseptere at det var muslimer som var ofre for aggresjon i Bosnia og Kosovo. Da har antipatien gått over til å bli ideologi, hvor man er uimottagelig for alt som forstyrrer verdensbildet. Dette handler faktisk om nyere europeisk historie. Det er ikke noe vi kan løpe fra. Det er vårt ansvar.

Albanernes beskyttelse av jøder under annen verdenskrig er verdt å merke seg.

“We have very much in common with Israel,” entrepreneur Luan Berisha said. “In Albania and Kosovo we are in support of Israel. I would never side with the Muslim side to wipe Israel off the face of the world. 90% of Kosovo feels this way. The reason why is we sympathize a lot with the people who have suffered the same fate as us. We were Muslims even in the Second World War ※ stronger Muslims than we are now ※ but even then we protected them with our lives. Our grandfathers protected the Jews wherever they were in the region.”

Berisha is right. Albanians did shelter Jews during the Nazi occupation, more than any other people in Europe.

More than half survived the Nazi occupation of Kosovo because so many Albanians sheltered them from the Nazi authorities. According to Dan Michman, Chief Historian at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, there were three times as many Jews in Albania at the end of the Holocaust than at the beginning. Albanians were well-known at the time as a friendly population who could be trusted. They refused to surrender Albanian Jews, and they refused to surrender Jewish refugees from elsewhere in Europe.

The dark side of the Nazi occupation of Kosovo were the 6,000 or so ethnic Albanian collaborators who joined the so-called Skanderbeg Division of the Waffen-SS. The Germans had serious problems with them, though. Thousands deserted within the first two months, and the rest were disbanded after a mere eight months of “service.”

I met some Kosovar Albanians who were actually somewhat philo-semitic. One woman who gave me the rundown on local culture and politics showed me a book that I would never expect to see in any Muslim country other than Bosnia (though Bosnia is only 48 percent Muslim.)

It was a copy of the Sarajevo Haggadah.

This book has an interesting history. It’s the text of the traditional Passover Haggadah and was written in 14th Century Spain. It made its way to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, possibly when Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition and were welcomed as refugees in the Balkans by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Muslim clerics saved the book from destruction during the Nazi occupation, and it was hidden in a bank vault during the Serbian Nationalist siege of Sarajevo. It is one of the most valuable books in the world.

It’s hard to describe how startling it was to see any book written in Hebrew in a Muslim-majority country. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Lebanon where something like that just would not happen. What ails the Arab world begins to seem “normal,” at least by the standards of the Islamic world, after enough constant exposure. The Kurds are startlingly different. The Albanians are startlingly different. The story behind the Sarajevo Haggadah is especially salient considering where and by whom the original was saved from destruction.

Totten fletter inn to betraktninger som bør mane til ettertanke, fordi det nå også gjelder vårt eget land: Jøder og muslimske kvinner er som kanarifugler i gruver. Måten de behandles på sier mye om samfunnet.

Jews and Israelis in Muslim-majority countries are like canaries in coal mines, as are women in Muslim-majority countries. You can tell a lot about a place by observing how each are treated. The Taliban impose an oppressive dress code on women at gunpoint, for instance, and the Hamas Charter is explicitly genocidal. It’s possible to take the radical Islamist temperature of a Muslim society simply by measuring the misogyny and anti-semitism at both the government level and among the general population. The only country in the entire Middle East that isn’t anti-semitic at the government level, the popular level, or both, is the state of Israel.

Det skumle er at disse betraktningene er stadig mer aktuelle for europeiske land. Jøder, homofile og muslimske kvinner blir behandlet annerledes. Anti-israelismen, som glir over i og ikke lar seg skille fra antisemittisme, finnes særlig blant deler av den europeiske eliten. Dette gjelder også det en gang protestantiske Norge. At vi skulle ha noe å lære av Kosovo er en utenkelig tanke. Men dette er også en lærdom vi går glipp av ved vårt overflatiske forhold til krigene på Balkan.

Kosovo is clearly well outside the mainstream of the Middle East. At the same time, it is one of the few countries even in Europe that isn’t at least anti-Israel, if not blatantly anti-semitic, at the government or popular level.

An Israeli in Kosovo