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A Serb Killer Breaks Bread with Hamas

Posters of Vojislav Šešelj, founder and president of the far-right Serbian Radical Party, May 2012. Photo: Wikimedia commons.“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” goes the old Victorian saying. In the harrowing weeks that have followed the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel, we’ve seen radical feminists aligning with rapists who tortured and violated young women at a music festival, Jewish “peace activists” aligning with terrorists who would quite happily slaughter them along with all their relatives, and Western liberals marching arm-in-arm with Islamists bellowing antisemitic chants in Arabic.

However, at least to my mind, the alignment of a Serbian war criminal from the 1990s with the Hamas murderers of the 2020s is the strangest and most unsettling of all.

Vojislav Šešelj (pronounced “Sheshel”) was the founder of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which he still chairs, and the main inspiration behind the White Eagles, a vicious Serb paramilitary organization responsible for numerous atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia. Šešelj first emerged in the 1980s, when rising, belligerent Serb nationalism heralded the breakup of what used to be Yugoslavia. During the 1990s, when he served for a time as Serbia’s deputy prime minister, Seselj played an instrumental role in orchestrating and cheering Serb atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia. For the first decade of this century, he was locked in a jail cell at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, where he was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2014, Šešelj was released. He returned to Serbia and was sensationally acquitted in The Hague before an appeal in 2018 secured his conviction for crimes against humanity. Reached by telephone in Belgrade by a Reuters reporter after the appeal verdict was announced, he declared: “I am proud of all my war crimes and crimes against humanity and am ready to repeat them.” The majority of the victims of those crimes were the largely secular Balkan Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, whom Seselj would contemptuously dismiss as “pan-Islamists” and “Turks.”

Since that conviction, I haven’t had occasion to think about Šešelj—in my estimation, a truly evil individual who derived a visceral pleasure from his acts—until this week, when I saw a photo of him hosting the Palestinian Ambassador at the headquarters of the SRS in Belgrade. I will admit that I did a double take, not quite believing that someone who instigated a genocide against members of the Muslim faith was now embracing, and being embraced by, Palestinian Muslims in the Middle East.

In the process, Šešelj outed himself as an antisemite. Again, that was somewhat surprising given that some of the more opportunistic Serb nationalists sought to win sympathy in Israel and among Jews by invoking the brutal Nazi occupation of Serbia, and then misrepresenting the Serbs as victims of the Nazis in the same manner that the Jews were. (No reasonable person could question the suffering of the Serbian nation under Nazi occupation; but equally, no reasonable person could examine the historical record and conclude that the Nazis slaughtered Serbs with the same devotion and the same justification that they applied to the 6 million Jews at their mercy.)

Interviewed by a nationalist outlet after his meeting with the Palestinian envoy, Šešelj (recall again, a man convicted for crimes against humanity) “expressed his understanding for the just struggle of the Palestinian people and great concern over the genocide that Israel is carrying out against the Palestinians, seeking a basis for its genocidal intent in the Bible of the Old Testament.” This recasting of the Hebrew Bible as the point of origin for Israel’s supposed iniquities is a well-worn antisemitic trope; Christians in medieval Europe invoked the jealous God of Israel as a counter to the universalist message of Jesus Christ, and later on, Soviet Communists touted sacred Jewish texts as embodying the reactionary ideology of Judaism. Its sole purpose, like all antisemitic tropes, is to sow hatred of all Jews everywhere.

Šešelj also inserted a hefty dose of anti-Americanism into his remarks, depicting Serbia as a target of U.S. imperialism by way of NATO’s war to liberate Kosovo in 1999—the same U.S. imperialism backing Israel now, he underlined. And in other media appearances, such as a television interview in mid-October, Šešelj has hammered the same themes. “Hamas is above all an ideology,” he said. “Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but a typical liberation organization that wants to liberate the Palestinian territories. They want freedom for the Palestinian people, and they want a Palestinian state.”

No slights against Muslims, no mention (of course!) of his role in stirring up the ethnic hatred that sparked a genocide against them in Bosnia and then Kosovo. The Šešelj of 2023 could be taken for a representative of the Iranian regime or, given the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf he has now taken to draping around his portly frame, a pro-Hamas demonstrator in Paris or New York City.

Are Šešelj and Hamas strange bedfellows? On one level, the answer is yes, insofar as Šešelj has a history of stoking hatred against Muslims that would make the most hardened Islamophobes blush. But that’s not the whole story.

Fundamentally, Hamas and Šešelj share the same worldview: hatred of Jews, hatred of America and a burning desire to fight both using any means, no matter how bestial. In the atrocities of Oct. 7, Šešelj would have recognized something of himself in the perpetrators, particularly in the manner in which they dehumanized their victims. When I saw the Israel Defense Forces’ heart-wrenching video of the atrocities at the Israeli Consulate in New York earlier this month, I was reminded of many parallels—the Nazis, most of all—but also the Serb paramilitaries who murdered their way through Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo 30 years ago. The bond between Šešelj and Hamas is one of hatred forged with the blood of those they loathe.

As Israel’s defensive war in Gaza rolls on, I expect many more such alliances—on the one hand, unlikely, but on the other, perfectly natural—to emerge in the coming months.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

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‘Encampment Has Crossed a Line’: California State LA President Condemns Pro-Hamas Rioters

Protesters at California State University, Los Angeles, attempted to take over a second spot on the CSULA campus in Los Angeles, United States, on June 12, 2024. Photo: Shay Horse/Reuters Connect

The president of California State University, Los Angeles has issued a searing condemnation of a pro-Hamas riot that broke out on campus on Wednesday night and resulted in her being trapped inside her office for hours after activists led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) illegally occupied an administrative building.

“Last night, those involved with the encampment chose violence and destruction,” Berenecea Johnson Eanes wrote on Thursday in a note to the campus community. “The significant damage to [the Student Services Building] will affect student-facing services: including admissions, records, accessible technology, basic needs, new student and family engagement, Dreamer resources and educational opportunity programs. It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to academics.”

Eanes added, “I am saddened, and I am angry … I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable. The encampment has crossed a line. Those in the encampment must leave.”

According to Eanes, as well as various local media outlets, a night of destruction unlike any in the school’s history began on Wednesday when a mob of students stormed the campus, overturning cars, vandalizing school property, and assaulting students and staff. They proceeded to take over the Students Services Building (SSB), which they barricaded with numerous objects they amassed from across campus, including — according to The Los Angeles Times — bikes, tables, umbrellas, and rope. They even used their own bodies, “chaining” themselves to various access points.

The mob’s takeover of SSB was sudden and swift, forcing the school to issue a “shelter in place” order which trapped Eanes and dozens of other administrative staff in their office. Four people, including one student, were assaulted during the attack on the building. When it cleared, police essentially quarantined the area, reportedly declaring it a crime scene.

Footage of the riot shows scenes unlike any that have taken place on US college campuses since earlier this year when pro-Hamas rioters began commandeering sections of school property and refusing to leave unless administrators agree to adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel — an initiative aimed at isolating Israel from the international community as the first step towards its eventual elimination. Broken glass carpeted the building’s floor, the result of the students smashing through door glazings with blunt objects. Meanwhile, red paint stained its tiles, and graffiti displaying anarchist symbols and saying “Free Palestine” covered its interior walls.

“Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat,” Eanes said in Thursday’s statement. “A trust we had in the encampment to practice non-violence has been violated. Trust is a hard thing to restore, but we will do the work together.”

Meanwhile, Students for Justice in Palestine has hinted that more destruction is forthcoming, and the latest local reporting indicates that no one has been arrested.

“We will not back down!” the group said in a social media post. “We will remain steadfast for Palestine!”

Students for Justice in Palestine, which has resorted to intimidation, harassment, and even physical violence to pressure universities into severing ties with Israel, defended their actions in a press release issued on Wednesday. Noting that its members had camped on campus for 40 days, the group said that Eanes, whom they summoned to a meeting after blocking all of SSB’s exits, ran out of time to accede to their demands.

“This direct action is in response to the failure of President Eanes to continue to negotiate in good faith with the Popular University for Gaza Solidarity Encampment on campus,” SJP said. “She has refused to continue negotiations or make meaningful progress toward meeting the demands of the student body. Delaying negotiations past the end of spring semester at a commuter campus shows clear bad faith and an attempt to wait out students instead of actively working to reach an agreement.”

In a chilling statement which acknowledged the intentionality of their behavior, SJP said administrators who had been trapped inside SSB could only exit with “escorts.”

“We will not back down and we will rise again just like our comrades in Palestine,” SJP said after law enforcement reclaimed the campus, suggesting there will be violence next time rather than peaceful protests. “We will remain steadfast in our mission for disclosure, divestment, boycott, and for our university to call for the end of the occupation and bombardment of Gaza.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Judge Allows ‘Mandalorian’ Actress to Proceed With Disney Lawsuit After Being Fired for Nazi Germany Comments

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian” season two, exclusively on Disney+. Photo: Disney+

A US federal judge ruled on Wednesday that actress Gina Carano can proceed with her lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm, which fired her from the Disney+ television series “The Mandalorian” because of a social media post that compared political differences in the US to what Jews experienced in Nazi Germany.

“I look forward to this case moving forward and proving Disney’s blatant discriminatory actions,” Carano said after leaving court in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“Disney should not have carte blanch authority to fire any actor just because Disney disagrees with something they say outside of work,” she added. “No actor would be free to have a voice if that were true.”

US District Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett in Los Angeles ignored efforts by Disney lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to dismiss the lawsuit. Petrocelli claimed Disney has the “right not to associate with a high-profile performer on a high-profile show who’s imbuing” the Star Wars-based series with “views it disagrees with,” which could result in fans turning away from the show. He argued that Disney has the First Amendment right to sever ties with an employee who does not share the company’s values, even if the move violates state anti-discrimination laws. Disney purchased Lucasfilm, started by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, in 2012.

“I’m not convinced there are no disputed facts,” Judge Garnett said in response to Petrocelli’s argument. The judge referred to allegations made by Carano that she was fired in 2021 to draw attention away from some of the controversies Disney was involved in at the time, including its contract dispute with actress Scarlett Johansson and critique of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.

Carano starred as bounty hunter Cara Dune in the first two seasons of “The Mandalorian.” She was not under contract to appear in the third season of the show, according to court records.The actress claims in her lawsuit, which has received funding from X/Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk, that she was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against when she was fired from “The Mandalorian” in 2021 for expressing personal views on social media that Disney did not support.

Lucasfilms, which co-produces “The Mandalorian,” announced Carano’s firing after the former mixed martial arts fighter shared a post on social media that said: “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors … even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

Disney argued that the state cannot force employers engaged in “expressive activity,” like Disney and LucasFilms, to work with someone who allegedly hinders its ability to properly express its values. Petrocelli claimed that the First Amendment entitles Disney to take action to make sure “The Mandalorian” is not associated with views that it and many viewers might find offensive and contrary to the company’s message.

“The messenger is part of the message,” Petrocelli said. “Imagine she made comments that she hates Jews or that there was no Holocaust.”

A final ruling in the lawsuit has not been made yet. Disney has not publicly commented on Garnett’s decision on Wednesday not to dismiss the lawsuit.

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