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Fuelling Ethnic Unrest

The Middle East conflict is sometimes used as a political tool for regional political, nationalistic and ethnic disputes in the former Yugoslavia. This might also instigate Israel-related antisemitism.

More Information

From time to time, there are pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli rallies and events in many places around Europe, particularly when the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates. In parts of Serbia with a Muslim majority such as Kosovo and Metohija or the Sandzak region, and other countries in the Western Balkan region such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the pro and contra Israel-Palestine rallies can be used as a political tool in regional political, nationalistic, and ethnic disputes.

For instance, the pro-Palestinian rallies are often held in areas with Bosniak-Muslim majority. Often one can see antisemitic posters, banners and symbols at these events, such as “Israel, child-killers”. While at the same time, pro-Israeli demonstrations are organised in the areas with an ethnic Serb majority. Sometimes the real motivation behind these events in Bosniak-Muslim and Serb majority areas is to use them as platforms for populist and nationalist political propaganda, and mutual accusations between local ethnic and religious groups.

One such example comes from Bosnia and Herzegovina when a building in Sarajevo, the city with a Bosniak-Muslim majority, was illuminated with Palestinian flag colors. At the same time, cities with a Serb majority, Banja Luka and Trebinje, illuminated the Israeli flag colors on their buildings.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is multifaceted and complicated. To prevent the use of the conflict for spreading antisemitism (or islamophobia), we should learn more about it and create space for a safe, fact-based, and open exchange of thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, when the conflict is used for daily politics and nationalistic propaganda, it contributes to more misunderstanding and less tolerance. The use of the Middle East conflict for nationalist propaganda can add to more antisemitism (and islamophobia).

References

https://bit.ly/3tSjavj (“Palestine support rally in Sandzak – Rasim Ljajic’s party calls out America and Arab League,” an article published on May 15, 2021, on the Sandzak-PRESS news portal)

https://bit.ly/3lE7BnU (“A rally in support of the Palestinians in Novi Pazar,” an article published on May 15, 2021, on Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty portal)

https://bit.ly/3hPMPR8 (“Bosniak Presidency member to Netanyahu: BiH does not support murder of civilians,” an article published on May 16, 2021, on N1 regional news website)

https://bit.ly/3kmz0Lq (“Sarajevo supports the people of Palestine,” an article published on May 10, 2021, in “Preporod info” – web portal of the Media Center of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

https://bit.ly/2VUYQgn (“Banja Luka and Trebinje supports Israel,” published on May 14, 2021, by S​-News portal)

Official twitter account of the Israel MFA Dep for the Balkans: ISR-BALKAN on Twitter: “Hvala Lepo #Banjaluka! You touched our hearts 💕 Israel stands strong 💪 and keep longing for peace.… “