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Monday, August 04, 2008

An Israeli in Kosovo

Michael Totten is currently in Kosovo, where he interviews an Israeli who has opened a bistro and a bakery there (Hat Tip: Hot Air). I found the interview fascinating, although as those of you who read the whole thing will find out, the Israeli Jew has a Muslim girlfriend, and obviously I don't approve of that (although, unlike in other countries in this region, I wouldn't kill him or her over it). One brief excerpt:
The Israeli contribution to the local food and drink scene isn’t a secret. I found Caspi’s establishment in the Bradt Guide which lists Odyssea as Israeli-owned. I knew already that Kosovo is friendlier to Israel than most countries in the world – especially compared with other Muslim-majority countries – but I was still slightly surprised to see this. It only takes one Islamist fanatic to blow up a bistro. And it would only take a small amount of the right kind of threatening pressure to drive Caspi, his business partners, and his employees out of town or at least underground. But nothing like this has happened.

“People know you are Israeli?” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “Of course. Everybody knows we are Israelis.”

“Nobody cares?” I said.

“On the contrary,” he said, “people like it. They come to speak to us. They want to be in contact. Here I didn’t see anybody that was negative. On the contrary the people are very warm, very nice. They take Islam to a beautiful place. Not a violent place. When they hear I am from Israel they react very warmly.”
Lots of Kosovar Albanians confirmed what Caspi is saying.

“Kosovars used to identify with the Palestinians because we Albanians are Muslims and Christians and we saw Serbia and Israel both as usurpers of land," a prominent Kosovar recent told journalist Stephen Schwartz. "Then we looked at a map and woke up. Israelis have a population of six million, their backs to the sea, and 300 million Arab enemies. Albanians have a total population of eight million, our backs to the sea, and 200 million Slav enemies. So why should we identify with the Arabs?”

“Israelis are okay,” said a waiter named Afrim Kostrati at a cafe named Tirana. “The conflict is not our problem. We are Muslims, but not really. We have respect for Israelis because of the U.S. I have good friends from there.”

“Albanians everywhere are aware that Jews want to help them in this conflict,” said Professor Xhabir Hamiti from the Islamic Studies Department at the University of Prishtina. “And Jews are aware and thankful to Albanians for saving their lives during the Second World War. So we have our sympathy for Israel. I don't think the Muslims here are on the side of the Palestinians.”

When working in other countries I sometimes have to wonder if my interview subjects are only telling me what they think I want to hear. It happens sometimes, especially in the Arab world – not so much because Arabs want to be deceitful but because they want to be polite and agreeable. Caspi's ability to work openly as a Jewish Israeli bistro owner in Kosovo, though, is strong evidence that the Kosovars I spoke to about this weren't just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. Besides, invective against Israel and Jews is not something many Arabs feel they should have to conceal from reporters.
Read the whole thing (and see lots more great pictures).


At 5:10 PM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

Totten has become a bit of a celebrity for his travelogues and human-interest stories in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world. He has also convinced himself and attempts to convince his readers that, to put it colloquially, "Muslims aren't that bad once you get to know them".

Yes, we all know Muslims who are polite, hospitable, and ostensibly peace-loving people. Statistically, perhaps 90% fall into this group. That still leaves over 100 million Muslims however, who either actively/passively participate in the global jihad or, as the recent survey of Muslim university students in Britain attests, identify ideologically with the aims and tenets of radical Islam, i.e., sharia, misogyny, violence against non-Muslims, etc.

This is the problem with the kind of anecdotal evidence Totten regularly submits to argue his viewpoint.

Caspi's situation is not unique. History is littered with examples of Jews being tolerated as a dhimmi minority in Muslim controlled states. Even blood-thirsty Hamas has said that the Jews who lived in Palestine before Independence could remain in a future Hamastan.

There must be someone after all, to pay the jizya.


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