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Insults, Cover-up and Incitement:
Croatia's Mesic at the Israeli Knesset

* Croatian President Stjepan Mesic's supposed apology at Israel's Knesset 31 October 2001

* Critique by Jared Israel

[12 February 2007]

The media hype is that Stjepan Mesic (pronounced Styepan Mesich), the current president of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic whose violent secession went far toward destroying the geostrategic state of Yugoslavia, is the political opposite of the nationalist (read: fascist) former president, Franjo Tudjman. Media write-ups refer to him as an antifascist who rejects Croatia's generally unspecified past.

One of the building blocks in the creation of this media image has been Mesic's speech - supposedly an apology for genocide - delivered at the Israeli Knesset on 31 October 2001.  Aside from the moral question: what does it mean to apologize for genocide, there is the practical question: what did Mesic say?  This is relevant to my argument with Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who has been one of the main promoter's of Mesic as a great antifascist struggling to transform Croatia into a modern democratic state, and so on.  Indeed, after Mesic's speech at the Knesset, Zuroff's office issued a press release (and Zuroff wrote a Jerusalem Post article) which described Mesic as "the perfect person" to deliver such a speech and Mesic's Knesset speech as an "unequivocal apology to the Jewish people." [1]

But was it? I decided to find out and went looking for a transcript of the speech, which turned out to be hard to find.  When I did (in the archives of Mesic's presidential website) I could see why those marketing the speech as a sincere apology might be just as happy if nobody actually read it.

The English transcript is reprinted below, with certain key points highlighted in yellow, followed by my comments, in blue font.

You can read the speech without my comments at Mesic's website,
or as archived 12 February 2007 by Emperor's Clothes at

Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes


Croatian Pres. Mesic at the Israeli Knesset, October 2001

Comments by Emperor's Clothes Editor, Jared Israel

 [Mesic:] I am standing before you as the first President of the Republic of Croatia to visit the State of Israel. I am profoundly aware of the historic significance of this moment, and sincerely grateful for the opportunity given me to address you.

This is the proper place and the proper occasion to get rid of the ballast of the past, which placed a strain on our relations over the last years.

This is the proper time and place for saying what has to be said so that Israel can accept my country as a sincere friend and, I hope, future partner - not only in the interest of our two countries, but also in the interest of security and peace in the region and worldwide.

Comment: Note the language.  Mesic does not even pretend that he is motivated by the desire to right a wrong. Rather he states straightforwardly - and arrogantly - that he is there to get something from Israel and to that end he will say "what has to be said" so Croatia can "get rid of the ballast of the past," meaning, for starters, the slaughter of more than 30,000 Jews in Croatia and Bosnia during World War II, not to mention the theft of all their property, regarding which, by the way, Croatia has paid zero compensation. (Not that any sum would be sufficient.)

What does Croatia want?  Mesic never says, so let me: to be stamped 'Free of Clerical-Fascism!' by the Jewish State.

In 1991, Stjepan Mesic's Croatia reinstated the Croatian Ustashe's symbols (from currency to flag). It reinstated Ustasha ideas, primarily hatred of Serbs, who were/are viewed as a heretical (because Orthodox, not Catholic) "cancer" on the Croatian body. (Cancer was precisely the word that Croatian President Tudjman used in 1995 on his victory tour of Croatia, following the Ustasha victory of driving more than 250,000 Serbs from their ancestral homes in the Krajina.  To read his speech, please go to  )

Mesic's Croatia reinstated  Ustasha policy: the destruction of Yugoslavia, against which the Croatian secessionists (led by Mesic and Franjo Tudjman) declared war in 1991; and the removal of all Serbs. Virtually all the Serbs - about 600,000 - in territory claimed by secessionist Croatia were driven out by the regime Mesic helped create and of which he is now president. And as in World War II, Mesic's Croatia was and is openly sponsored by the German government, with its actions sanctified by the Vatican.

But by 2001, in order to be an effective tool of German and Vatican policy - for example, to become part of NATO and the European Union - Mesic needed the stamp of absolution. (Being a clerical-fascist is no hindrance to being in the European Union, but one may not have a clerical-fascist image.) The idea was that after his speech people would think, 'The Jews would never let him address them if he was Ustasha.'

Back to the speech:

What I am going to say, I will say with complete openess and sincerely, because in this regard there is not and there should not be place for any unclarities or doubts.

I am speaking on behalf of democratic Croatia, which upholds the traditions of antifascist and freedom-loving Croatia from the times of the Second World War.

Comment: What on earth does he mean? If he is using  'democratic Croatia' in a sort of symbolic sense, meaning, 'all those Croats who were antifascist,' then OK.  But could he possibly be saying that some sizable percentage of Croats were antifascists?

Back to the speech:

I am speaking of [sic!] behalf of that Croatia which bows with respect and reverence to the memory of the millions of the victims of the Holocaust.

Comment: Same point as above - that is, if he is speaking of some Croatians, OK, but surely he could not mean the majority.  As you may not know, over the past few years a top Croatian rock group called Thompson had two hit songs celebrating, respectively, the Jasenovac death camp and the SS Black Legion.  Can you imagine what the world would say - and justifiably - if a top German rock group had hit songs celebrating the SS and Auschwitz?

Back to the speech:

Let me, first of all, repeat literally what I said yesterday to President Katsav: I am using every opportunity to ask for forgiveness from all those who were harmed by the Croats at any time. Of course - from Jews in the first place.

Comment: This is, on the one hand, so general as to be meaningless.  And if Mesic does not now proceed to explain why he is going up to everyone begging forgiveness, and "from Jews in the first place," then this statement could influence any Gentile, unfamiliar with what the Croatian Ustashe did to the Jews, toward believing that core antisemitic idea, which all have heard: "The Jews are all-powerful, so to get anywhere, world leaders have to bow and scrape before them."

Back to the speech:

As President of the Republic of Croatia, I profoundly and sincerely regret the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War, on the territory of the Quisling-entity called Independent State of Croatia that was neither independent, nor Croatian.

Comment: The speech was portrayed worldwide as an apology for Croatia's Holocaust crimes.  But notice that Mesic is saying that whoever committed whatever crimes (because he still has not said anything specific about any crimes!) - whoever may have done these vague misdeeds, such a person or persons definitely did not represent Croatia.  This is no apology at all; it is a denial of guilt, and now it makes sense that Mesic calls the cloud hanging over Croatia "the ballast of the past" - because he is presenting it as an unjust cloud, a false accusation.

Keep in mind that in December 2006, a video was broadcast on Croatian TV showing Mesic telling a Croatian-Australian audience that when the Nazi invaders installed the Ustashe in power in April 1941 this was a great victory for Croatia, one of Croatia's two great victories of the war. (The second victory was to escape punishment by cleverly switching sides so the Croats got to sit at the winners' table.) Here is a link to the English translation of the transcript of the video:

Back to the speech:

Just as the majority of the Croatian people knew, at the time, that their place was with the antifascist resistance, also led by a Croat, Marshall Tito, present-day Croatia knows that it can build its future and its relations with other countries only on the basis of firm commitment to democracy and freedom, the foundations of which include the imperishable values of antifascism.

Comment: So he does claim that those crimes (whatever they may have been) that were not committed by Croatia, were also opposed by most Croats, who, he says, were anti-fascist, pro-Partisan. It sounds like the Jews ought to be thanking him!

That certainly isn't what the New York Times reported in May 1941, following the German invasion of Yugoslavia. Nazi appreciation of the Croats is mentioned in the last paragraph of the excerpt posted below:



New York Times, May 11, 1941, Page 1, 1840 words

So: "The Croats fought with us and they will receive the fruits they deserve."  And so they did, meaning they were not treated as citizens of a Nazi-occupied territory (like Serbia, pieces of which were given to Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania, and whose citizens were murderously brutalized) but as 'Aryan' citizens of a beloved ally.

The German officer whom the Times quotes saying "The Croats fought with us..." is referring to the widespread mutiny and defection of Croatian soldiers in the Yugoslav Army in the midst of the German invasion, which defection sabotaged resistance to the invasion, and to the immediate support given by key Croatian leaders to the creation of the Ustasha state, sponsored by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and to the Croats' enthusiastic persecution of the Jews and Serbs.

Here is what the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust says about the depth of Croatian participation in the theft of property owned by Jewish Croatians and Jewish Bosnians, beginning soon after the setting up of the Croatian Ustasha state in 1941:

"Collective fines, which had to be paid in gold or its equivalent, were imposed on the Jewish communities.  Overnight, a pseudolegal expropriation drive was launched, which before long turned into an unbridled countrywide campaign of plunder and pillage in which everyone who stood to profit took part – trade unions, youth organizations, sports clubs, the armed forces, and government officials of all ranks. Ordinary citizens also took part in this campaign wherever they could; indeed, the share of “private” elements in the plunder was enormous – at least half of the property of which the Jews were robbed apparently never reached the state treasury but remained in the hands of individual Croatians.  [...] Presenting the state budget for the 1942-1943 fiscal year, the minister of finance, Vladimir Kosak, said that the deficit would be covered by proceeds from the sale of Jewish property. "

-- Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem. Can  be read online at

As I noted earlier, Efraim Zuroff of the Israel office of the Wiesenthal Center gave Mesic's Knesset speech his unreserved endorsement.  But four years earlier, in 1997, in response to Franjo Tudjman's truly bizarre claim that the Croats were the greatest opponents of Nazism in Europe (in other words, Tudjman said much the same thing in 1997 that Mesic told the Knesset in 2001), Zuroff then responded:

"The Croats were absolutely terrible," he [Zuroff] says. "They stand out as the most cruel, barbaric people who played a role in the destruction of European Jewry. Among the collaborating nations, they stand out with distinction, along with the Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians, who actively participated in the killing of Jews. Tudjman is a (historical) revisionist [i.e., holocaust denier - JI]  The difference between Croats and the others is that the others only killed Jews. The Croats also killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs."

-- Quoted in: "Croatia Calling," The Jerusalem Post, February 14, 1997, Friday, Features; Pg. 8, 4608 words, Steve Rodan

One might ask: what changed between 1997 and 2001?  Croatian history? 

In any case, it is unfortunate that in his 1997 remarks Zuroff did not explain why Croatians behaved so terribly during World War II, allowing the unfortunate impression that he believes Croats were/are inherently genocidal.  Whatever he did mean to communicate regarding this, they are not inherently genocidal or anything else. They behaved terribly due to many years of intensive indoctrination by racist political forces and the Croatian church-militant, the Catholic clergymen who taught ordinary Croatians to hate - of course, Jews (as everywhere), but especially, and with an intensity unmatched outside Yugoslavia, the Serbs. Thus you had in Croatia the monstrous/bizarre situation that during World War II the Croats forced at least 250,000 Serbian citizens to convert to Catholicism, on pain of death.

That said, in 1997 Efraim Zuroff did tell the simple truth: that the Croats behaved terribly. And Stjepan Mesic, in 2001, was simply lying.  Which is not surprising, since he is the same Stjepan Mesic who made speeches boasting of the cleverness of the Croatians because, in 1941, they enthusiastically embraced Nazism and then, when it became clear the Nazis were going to lose, they jumped to the winning side, just as Mesic, who had sung songs praising the Ustashe clerical-fascist butchers, could, compelled by necessity, bring himself to make this hypocritical speech at the Knesset of... the Jews! 

Back to the speech:

Over [a] short period of time, in the struggle for independence and directly thereafter, the tragically misdesigned concept of unity of all Croats resulted, on the one hand, in the denial of the dark pages of our history, and, on the other, in the search for models precisely in such pages.

That time passed and will not come back.

Comment: Thus in 50 words does Mesic get rid of the ballast of the official, open Croatian re-embrace of Ustasha politics in 1991.  And note that even as he begins to admit that Croatia did embrace those politics again, he segues to a rationalization: they didn't embrace the Ustashe; they had a "tragically misdesigned concept of unity" and this misdesigned whatever-it-was somehow resulted in denial of the Ustashe crimes. 

Let's consider this for a moment. 

Mesic claims, earlier, that during World War II, "the majority of the Croatian people knew, at the time, that their place was with the antifascist resistance..." Now, after World War II came 45 years of Communist rule.  Surely, the Communists were not pro-Ustasha.  So one would assume that the supposed majority that was anti-Ustasha during World War II could only get stronger, with the help of anti-Ustasha (or at least pro-brotherhood) Communist education.  Thus by the time Croatia seceded in 1991, the majority would have become the overwhelming majority.  Now, with this vast majority of Croats strongly antifascist, hating the Ustashe, any inkling of pro-Ustasha sentiments would - of course - alienate the great majority, who supposedly hated the Ustasha, right? So why would the Tudjman-Mesic forces - who had and of course wanted to keep majority support - want/need to curry favor with the supposedly tiny pro-Ustasha minority, to the extent that they denied Ustasha crimes (thus infuriating the supposed majority) and even, as Mesic says, "search[ed] for models precisely in such [Ustasha] pages"?

This is preposterous. Mesic is, once again, lying, and moreover he is engaging in a blitz of Holocaust denial: denying that most Croats supported the Ustashe; therefore, of necessity, failing to tell us why they supported the ;Ustashe - i.e., because of racist and religious  indoctrination; and trivializing the return of Ustasha politics in the 1990s by describing it as a foolish error of political tactics - a false attempt at unity - indeed, unity driven by desire to please a supposedly feeble or nonexistent force! - that supposedly led, briefly, to some mistakes, namely embracing what (supposedly) most people hated, in order to achieve their support.  Right. It makes the head spin.

Since he is lying about all this, and since, in his speech to the Croatian-Australians, he boasted about how cleverly the Croatians had lied in 1945 -- well, what can I say except, how did this man manage to market his phony apology?

The answer: he had help.

Back to the speech.

We are fully aware of our responsibility in investigating, trying and convicting war criminals, regardless of their nationality and of the time when those crimes were committed.

There is never too late for trying war criminals.

Comment: Note again, that Mesic completely avoids mentioning any Croatian crimes, or, heaven forbid, any Croatian war criminals. Anyway, the only war criminal of any importance that Croatia has tried is Dinko Sakic, responsible for the murder of thousands.  He got 20 years.  His wife, just as bad as he, got off scot-free.  Basically, Sakic was sacrificed at the alter of altering Croatia's image - another trick.  And really, since most of these monsters were in their middle 80s or older, and therefore would be dead and buried long before they could be tried, what did it mean to make such a commitment in 2001?  And what has Mesic actually delivered, since then, to keep his promise?

Back to the speech:

On behalf of the Republic of Croatia I offer the hand of friendship and cooperation. We shall not find it difficult to identify common interests and avenues for building our bilateral relations and cooperation on the international scene.

Our relations cannot and will not develop to the detriment of any country. Our cooperation, I am confident, will benefit both Israel and Croatia, and the cause of world peace.

The State of Israel and its citizens are entitled to existence and to life in peace and security. The Palestinians are also entitled to life in peace and security and - like any other people - to life in their own state. Innocent victims are falling today on both sides. If war has marked Israel's past since its creation, if generations of Palestinians have also grown up amidst war, war is not and should not be the future of either Israel or the Palestinians.

Comment: Unbelievable.  How does he dare to come to the Knesset, make a phony apology speech, insulting the intelligence of the Jewish people by pretending to apologize (for what is beyond apology!) while manifestly engaging in Holocaust denial to disguise the fact that he represents the very forces that slaughtered some 30,000 Jews - and then tell Israel how to deal with those who (like his Ustashe) have pledged to destroy her? All the more outrageous because the people fighting Israel in the West Bank and Gaza are the heirs to the infamous Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who helped World War II Croatia by organizing Muslims into a 20,000-strong Waffen SS division, which helped roundup Jews whom they murdered or sent to death camps.

Back to the speech:

The future of both the Middle East and of the whole world must be peace, lasting and just peace. I am saying this as president of a state which won its independence in an imposed war, and believe me, I know what I am saying when I claim that it is better to negotiate for ten years than to wage war for ten days!

Comment: Again, unbelievable.  It was Croatia that launched war against Yugoslavia. And destroyed Yugoslavia. And drove some 600,000 ethnic Serbs from Croatia proper and the Serbian Krajina - that is, those whom they did not kill.

Back to the speech:

I am saying candidly and clearly what I think and believe. We need not always agree, there may be things about which we shall disagree, but what is essential is the opportunity for open dialogue.

It will help us to get know each other better, to break down prejudices and destroy all reserves - where they might still exist. Only in such a way we shall be able to lay the foundations for fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation in many fields, the economic one in particular.

I have come to Israel at a time when everything on the world stage is changing. The world has responded to the challenge of global terrorism by the action of the antiterrorist coalition led by the United States of America. This coalition, to which both Israel and Croatia belong, is also being joined by countries, which opposed one another until yesterday.

The fight against global terrorism is neither a conflict of civilization, nor a clash of cultures, nor a war of religions. Terrorism has no ethnic or religious background. This is why the conflict we are witnessing, but also sharing, is simply a conflict between civilization and non- civilization.

I have no doubt whatsoever as to who will eventually emerge as the winner in the conflict, waged not only by military means. However, as we should clearly note, the conflict will take time and will also involve casualties on our side. But the stakes are too high and too important for keeping aloof. Our future in peace, security and freedom is at stake.

Let me conclude:

I have come to Israel in order to remove the liability of the past, which strained our relations.

I have come to present my country as it is, although we are far from being ideal.

I have come to lay the foundations for long-term, comprehensive cooperation to the benefit of both parties and to the detriment of none.

I have come to gain knowledge about Israel and to help Israel gain knowledge about Croatia.

I have come as a friend. Hence I conclude my address to you, elected representatives of the Jewish people in Israel, and to the representatives of the Israeli citizens of Arab origin, with the word which I would like to be the future of Israel, of the Middle East and of the world.


Comment: And he ends by daring to interfere in Israel's internal affairs by communicating that he deems it appropriate for Arab Israelis, who in reality have a variety of political views, and who in realty support various political parties, to have their politics defined by and limited to 'Arabness.'  It is a gross violation of protocol for Mesic, a foreign head of state, to use his state visit to intervene in any way in Israel's internal affairs; far worse for this head of state who has supposedly come to apologize for genocide to treat as necessary and proper, and indeed to lend diplomatic sanction, to the politics of Arabism in this tinder box situation of a small country surrounded by territories and states whose leaders and media routinely pledge to drown it in blood and, with the help of the world media and various secret services, who encourage Israeli Arabs to do the drowning.  In other words, he supposedly comes to apologize for genocide and casually incites it.

And extolling Mesic's speech after the fact, Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center's Israel office actually wrote that he was the "perfect man" to deliver this "unequivocal apology to the Jewish people." Prompting two thoughts: a) on what planet does Dr. Zuroff reside and b) with enough apologies like this, there won't be any Jewish people.

End of comments; end of speech.

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Footnotes and Further Reading


[1] The Simon Wiesenthal Center press release can be read on google cache at
Or archived by TENC at


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The Emperor’s New Clothes (TENC) *