International Republican Institute
Dr. Bojan Aleksov; Dr. Blerjana Bino; Dr. Anida Sokol; Dr. Hrvoje Cvijanović; Skënder Përteshi; Biljana Papovic; Alban Bokshi; Ivana Nikolić
Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans: A collection of case studies
Copyright © 2021 International Republican Institute. All rights reserved.
Iva Merheim Eyre – Editorial Supervisor and Research Methodology Design
Dr. Bojan Aleksov – Contributing Editor Historical Background
Jews and Western Balkans Societies
Dr. Bojan Aleksov – Principal Author
Albania Case Study
Dr. Blerjana Bino – Principal Author
Bosnia & Herzegovina Case Study
Dr. Anida Sokol – Principal Author
Dr. Ehlimana Memišević – Research Team
Croatia Case Study
Dr. Hrvoje Cvijanović – Principal Author
Kosovo Case Study
Skënder Përteshi – Principal Author
Montenegro Case Study
Biljana Papovic – Principal Author
Aleksandra Grdinić – Research Team
Tijana Velimirović – Research Team
Milena Gvozdenović – Research Team
North Macedonia Case Study
Alban Bokshi – Principal Author
Serbia Case Study
Ivana Nikolić – Principal Author
Dr. Jelena Subotić – Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University in Atlanta
Dr. Bojan Aleksov – Associate Professor in South-East European History at the University College London
Dr. Florian Bieber – Professor of South East European History and Politics at the University of Graz
Production and Editorial Team
Iva Merheim-Eyre, Brady Hills, Emina Ibrahimovic, Breanna Kerr, Biljana Ljubić, Ryan Mahoney, Hannah Mont, Joanna Rohozinska, Daniel Scaduto, Alison Schafer, Jan Surotchak, Alex Tarascio
Graphic Design & Layout
The purpose of this publication is to provide a complex analysis of antisemitism in the Western Balkans. In cooperation with a team of researchers, the International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted online media monitoring to determine the most common narratives related to antisemitism and the relationship between Western Balkan societies and the local and international Jewish community. The publication contains seven country case studies analyzing online media narratives in the light of each country’s specific historical, legal, and societal background. The aim is to provide information that can be used to assess resilience against antisemitism and hate speech and recommend solutions for identified policy gaps.
The seven countries covered in case studies are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro. Locally based IRI partners were tasked with monitoring online media spaces in these countries and analyzing the content of selected online news sources, Facebook sources, and related readers’ comments sections published between January 2019 and May 2020. Furthermore, these partners hand-coded online media content, which allowed them to assess how widely spread particular types of antisemitism are.
Researchers examined more than 9,000 online media pieces. Although instances of antisemitic speech in online media did not exceed 4 percent of examined content, the research indicated several threats that might affect the increase of antisemitism, as well as susceptibility to other forms of extremism. The urge to assign responsibility for specific historical events and the establishment of common regional historical memory is the overarching context into which narratives related to Jews in the Western Balkans are fed. Antisemitic narratives were not substantially different from narratives seen in other parts of Europe and mainly contained familiar conspiracy theories about control of world financial markets, as well as modern conspiracies such as those claiming intentional development of COVID-19. Besides conspiratorial content, violent and vulgar antisemitic language was common. What seems to be specific to the Western Balkan region is the use of antisemitism (and often the use of a certain form of philosemitism) as a tool to sow or intensify regional conflicts.
Holocaust remembrance was often used as a pretext for criticism of crimes of one ethnic group against another, and Holocaust crimes were used in many online media pieces as a comparison for crimes committed during the 1990s. Narratives about wars of Yugoslav succession often link those conflicts with the events of World War II. As there is no common regional historical memory of the succession wars, the interpretation of events around World War II is also affected. Purposeful misinterpretation or utilization of historical events in populist narratives represents a threat to peaceful democratic transition in the region. This issue is even more serious in relation to insufficient attention to Jewish legacy and antisemitism in areas such as education or the preservation of historical sites.
Although the research didn’t find an abundance of antisemitic statements in examined sources, it did confirm the use of antisemitism in local politics and the utilization of international antisemitic narratives as a tool for amplifying other political narratives. Limitations in legal and law enforcement frameworks and the accessibility of extremist literature could contribute to the rapid increase of antisemitism. Public engagement of local Jewish communities is essential for achieving policies protecting the rights of minorities and cultivating public debate.
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