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Letters to the San Jose Peace and Justice Center Board
from a member


April 26, 2012

I am writing to request that you reconsider hosting Michael Parenti at your fundraiser on May 31.  Why?

Because I think that Parentiís writings and activities* in support of Slobodan Milosevic should put him outside the bounds of the progressive community. Note that Milosevic, former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (He died of a heart attack during the trial.) 

Parenti should not be considered a suitable speaker for a Peace & Justice Center.

Many of you will remember that Parenti was hosted in San Jose on several occasions by South Bay Mobilization (SBM) and a few years ago by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPJC).  So why am I bringing this up now?

I visited Bosnia last year. I had already read a lot about the war since following it from India in the mid 1990s. The most poignant part of my trip was Srebrenica, a remote town in Eastern Bosnia. It was a UN protected enclave or a safe haven for Bosnian Muslims who had been ethnically cleansed from the rest of Eastern Bosnia. In July 1995, the Bosnian Serb soldiers overran the enclave right in front of the Dutch UN troops. In the following days, over 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were murdered in detention camps around the town in arguably the worst tragedy in Europe since WW2. The bodies of 5,500 of these victims have been identified through DNA testing by a group called ICMP in what has been a 15 year effort. Parenti denies the extent of this massacre and blames the town Muslims for provoking it. If this massacre didn't happen as Parenti claims, I wonder what lies under the graves over 7,000 men and boys that I saw at the graveyard at the edge of the enclave.

Nobody pointed out Parentís past writings in support of Milosevic when SBM and SJPJC sponsored those past events with him. Perhaps we were too overwhelmed by the Iraq war to look at an even worse war that took place only 7 years earlier?

Not many people know Parenti in the Muslim community and hence the event on May 31 could go unnoticed but then some people, particularly in the Afghan community, have noticed his views in support of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Note that other than Palestine, there is no issue which affected Muslims as much as Bosnia, not even Iraq. It wasn't just the extent of the war crimes, but the nature of the crimes: rape camps among other things. You can see Parenti minimizing these crimes here and you can read WILPF's article on the mass rape of Bosnian women here.

Hosting Parenti, an apologist for these crimes, should put the peace center at odds with Muslim, women, and progressive groups.

   Aamir

____________

*More about Parenti - the preface for one of his books was written by Milosevic himself from his cell in Hague. Parenti subsequently headed the US chapter of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic.

 ____________________________________


April 29, 2012

Dear members of SJPJC board:

I totally understand the reasons for not having faith in the mainstream American media. Itís precisely for that reason I have dug up UN reports and ICJ rulings on the Bosnian genocide to prove that the "peace and justice" guest Michael Parenti has cooked up a vile conspiracy theory against Bosnian Muslims and whose presence will be offensive to Muslims, Bosnian and women organizations.

I would request you to read the following testimony from Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian international United Nations war crimes expert, often called "the Father of International Criminal Law:"

Scroll to the section: TESTIMONY OF PROFESSOR M. CHERIF BASSIOUNI

As a part of his testimony, he has said:

We interviewed directly 223 victims and witnesses. We have over 575 affidavits in which the victim is not only identified, but the victim identified the perpetrator as well.

Of the 1,600 cases alleged and brought to our attention, a number of them indicate others who have been raped in their presence. The number of cases exceeds 4,500. Consequently, we are able to make a reasonable projection of four times the number of alleged cases which brings the total to well over 20,000. This number is no longer a figure picked from thin air. It is now based on verifiable facts from which we can make this reasonable projection.

In the same link, you will also find testimonies by Andras Riedlmayer. He is a bibliographer in Islamic art and architecture, Aga Khan Program, Fine Arts Library, at Harvard University.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the source for the mass rape of Bosnian women (20,000) is not CNN or the US government, but these independent international experts. When Parenti minimized these figures from 20,000 to 100, he essentially denies their existence.  

Don't get me wrong, but it is demeaning to Muslims and others when someone alludes that they believe that a genocide has occurred because CNN told them. I think you have worked long enough with the community to know that Muslims have the ability to research and find credible sources - like I have done here! Perhaps it is the "peace" community that should learn instead? :-)

I will also remind you of this article by Parenti called The Demonization of Slobodan Milosevic.

Parenti writes in this article:

"The media-hyped story of how the Serbs allegedly killed 7,000 Muslims in Srebrenica"

Srebrenica was declared a genocide of Bosnian Muslims by International Court of Justice in 2007. I can send you a copy of that ruling if you wish. I have also been to Srebrenica.

So once again, the source for Bosnians and Muslims isn't American media as Parenti claims (and people on the extreme right as well as extreme left accept without questioning), but international courts.

On the others, I don't find credible sources in your letter or Parenti's articles even though you say so. Parenti has cited no source for this:

"During the Bosnian war in 1993, the Serbs were accused of pursuing an official policy of rape. ďGo forth and rapeĒ a Bosnian Serb commander supposedly publicly instructed his troops."

His source for "Muslims bombed themselves in
Sarajevo" is Lord Owen, the former British foreign secretary. This in the same article where he claims that NATO was conspiring against Serbs. Why do you call that a credible source?

The incident Parenti mentions (using Lord Owens as a source) has since been investigated by a UN backed tribunal (ICTY) which judged that the Bosnian Serb army had fired that shell. Don't you think that is a better source? The ICTY judgment is here.

So, the Bosnian and my source here is international war crimes expert. I wish you had made an attempt to find this yourself before believing a very stereotypes accusation that Muslims bomb themselves (to provoke wars).

To conclude, I repeat that Michael Parenti is an apologist for war crimes and mass rapes. I have cited credible sources above. Parenti might still have a fan following in the old fashioned American "left," but naturally, to Muslims and Bosnians, such a writer is very offensive. Please consider their feelings when you host speakers for peace and justice fundraising events.

In solidarity,
Aamir

Back to Speech by prominent war-crimes denier cancelled by U.S. peace group


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