In an interview with Al Jazeera television on 4 May 2016 Croatia’s culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic was asked for his thoughts on attacks against him in recent months that have accused him of being a fascist, an ultra-nationalist, a historical revisionist attempting to diminish the meaning of the Holocaust, including attacks from Efraim Zuroff, the head of Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem. Minister Hasanbegovic replied that it is not easy, that it is uncomfortable to work in such a political environment surrounded by false accusations and attacks that are not founded on truth but that every politician must be ready to face negative attacks. As to attacks against him made by Efraim Zuroff minister Hasanbegovic replied:
As far as I am concerned, truer and more just words have never been said about Zuroff’s vitriolic meddling in Croatian politics that, as a rule, justify horrific communist crimes as acceptable, which, by the way, means that communists exterminated more innocent people on political beliefs grounds than by the Holocaust on racial grounds. Truer and more just words have never been said about a person who not only negates the genocide in Srebrenica, perpetrated by Serbs, but also negates Serbia’s WWII government’s active role in the Holocaust and extermination of Jews in Serbia.
I am so proud of minister Hasanbegovic for having the courage to direct the world to the truth, most likely knowing he would be a target of even more hatred because of it.
Minister Hasanbegovic did not need to wait too long before renewed attacks against him started on an international level, filled with untruths, vitriol and pure hatred. The US Foreign Policy portal’s Berlin-based Paul Hockenos, who appears to have chosen as his bread and butter or who appears to have made a career of peddling his biased, imaginary and vilifying stories about so-called far-right nationalism rising in former communist countries of Easter Europe has swiftly spread what feels like burning vitriol against minister Hasanbegovic and Croats. He calls minister Hasanbegovic a fascist and uses references to anti-Croatian propaganda for it instead of more objective takes on Hasanbegovic’s true political direction that has nothing to do with fascism but everything to do with justice and truth for victims of communist crimes. Hockenos seems to have made a career out of using mean-spirited wicked tactics to turn Eastern Europe’s plight in exposing the truth of communist crimes perpetrated under former communist regimes into innuendos and allegations of attempts to revise history and diminish the Holocaust. Some call-to-arms to attack Hasanbegovic and Croatia by those who fight hard and dirty in preventing the truth of communist crimes surfacing could have prompted the appalling article of pure unprovoked hatred Hockenos wrote.
Hockenos wrote an article on 6 May 2016 – “Croatia’s Far Right Weaponizes the Past” – that not only brutally vilifies minister Hasanbegovic but also the Croatian nation. Of course, in his article Hockenos provides a link to Zuroff’s statement on Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s website where Zuroff calls Hasanbegovic a Fascist and Hockenos’ article praises Simon Wiesenthal Centre “as a prominent Jewish human rights organization” – so to perhaps suggest that Zuroff is pure and without blemish and how dare Hasanbegovic criticise him…(?) Well, the centre may be prominent for Jewish human rights – and good for them and especially victims of the Holocaust – but its Head certainly isn’t for Croatians’ human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its Article 12 does state “No one shall be subjected to … attacks upon his honour and reputation …” (Everyone has a right to legal protection against such attacks). Hockenos and Zuroff and others in the camp that attacks Hasanbegovic on such unfounded grounds may think human rights only apply to some.
It did not surprise me that Croatia’s left-leaning media when writing about Paul Hockenos’ article did not question possible motives for such expressed hatred and false accusations against minister Hasanbegovic nor noticed, it seems, the link between attempting to defend Zuroff by attacking Hasanbegovic.
Hockenos, like Zuroff, evidently use the killings by WWII Ustashi regime in Croatia as a reason why today’s world should not be presented with the factual truth of WWII and the period after it, which was riddled with communist crimes. Why else would Hockenos insult minister Hasanbegovic and the Croatian people because people, including minister Hasanbegovic, are interested in what the new Jakov Sedlar documentary “Jasenovac – the Truth” has to say about the research into the actual numbers of Holocaust victims in Jasenovac!? Looks like Hockenos might have been on Serbs’ side when in 1990’s they went on a murderous rampage and ethnic cleansing against Croats and Mislims/Bosniaks under the “excuse” that they (Serbs) feared Croatia would in its independence from communist Yugoslavia do the same as the WWII Ustashi regime did when it comes to killing Serbs etc! Preposterous and outrageous!
Hockenos in his article goes on to say that Hasanbegovic was during the 1990’s war one of those nationalists who wanted whole Bosnia for Croatia (just like it was during WWII)… Oh dear, what a pity Hockenos omitted to say that even if Hasanbegovic may have as an individual wanted such a thing way back in 1990’s it was the Serbs, not Croats, who actually and swiftly cleared much of Bosnia for themselves – using ethnic cleansing and genocide against Croats and Muslims/Bosniaks.
One can, in a way, understand Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s repeated statements that she will not engage in politics that concentrate on historical issues in order to create and maintain divisions among the Croatian people, but given that it is in fact the historical matters that are used to attack and vilify Croatian people and government officials of today any Croatian president does not, to my view, have the right to choose to exclude herself/himself from defending the pride and honour of the people when these are brutally attacked – using matters from the history. Such as the utterly unfair attack by Paul Hockenos’ article, which has caused terrible pain to multitudes of Croatians. The inaction in responding to such attacks, the apparent lack of demands from Croatia’s top echelons for apologies by the author of the article, Paul Hockenos, and the Foreign Policy portal are conspicuous and lead one to conclude with regret that there may indeed be a political protection racket afoot, even from within Croatia, for those who contribute to keeping the world and victims in the dark from the facts of communist crimes.
It is blindingly clear that Croatia is in dire need of condemning communism to the same extent as it did with condemning the Ustashi regime’s symbols. This means banning, forbidding, preventing the symbols of the communist regime from being displayed, shouted, used in public by law. Get to it – Croatia! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)