Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

Bosnia—Motherland Of "Palestinians"

The current turmoil in former Yugoslavia cannot be understood without knowledge of the region's long history of Balkan wars, ethnic strife, religious persecution and violence. The curious aspect about all this is the existence of a Moslem pocket in the heart of Europe, and how Bosnia came to be the origin of many of today's "Palestinians."

Bosnia, in ancient times, was a Roman province called Illyricum; Christianity was introduced in the Middle Ages. For centuries Bosnia was a football between Hungary, Turkey and Serbia, which fought each other in unending bloody wars. In 1386 Turkey invaded Bosnia. In line with the tenets of Islam, the entire population was forced into conversion. The Pope in Rome preached in favor of war against the Turks, with little immediate effect. But from 1691 on, when Turkey was expelled from Transylvania, Turkey lost one area after another, until in l 878, at the Congress of Berlin, dominated by Otto von Bismarck of Germany, Turkey lost Bosnia to Austria. The result was a stream of Moslem refugees pouring out of Bosnia looking for haven in the Ottoman Empire, because—just as today—the Christian Serbs who had been suppressed brutally by the Moslems were out to take bloody vengeance on the Moslem Bosnians in an effort to settle very old accounts.

This migration of Moslem refugees marked a very important historic milestone in the history of Palestine. The Ottoman rulers adopted a policy of Moslem colonization. In 1878, an Ottoman law granted lands in Palestine to the Moslem refugees from Bosnia. In the Carmel region, in the Galilee, in the Plain of Sharon and in Caesarea, lands were distributed to the Moslem refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The refugees were further attracted by l2-year tax exemptions and exemption from military service.

The same colonization policy as for Bosnian Moslem refugees was also directed toward Moslem refugees from Russia—particularly from Georgia, the Crimea and the Caucasus, called Circassians and Turkmenians—leading to their settling in Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights. Refugees from Algeria and Egypt were also settled in Jaffa, Gaza, Jericho and the Golan.

Thus, the often-repeated Arab claim that the Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Canaanites is just a lie. A hundred years ago many of them lived in Europe and other countries outside Palestine. The Jews, however, have had an uninterrupted presence in the Land of Israel during the 3500 years of our history. Clearly, our claim has much more validity and strength. It is not too late for this historic truth to come out and dispel the heavy clouds of vicious propaganda and lies.

The close ties between Palestinian and Bosnian Muslims—also called "Bushnaks," their Arabic, Turkish name—was shown in World War II: The infamous mufti Hajj Amin el-Husseini, uncle of today's PLO member Faisal el-Husseini, set up an "Islamic Legion" consisting of Bushnaks to fight for Hitler. They wanted to help their Palestinian cousins by killing as many Jews as possible so that none would be left to emigrate to the land of Israel after the war.

Now that Bosnia is independent again, it should not take long before her fiercely militant Moslem President, Alija Izetbegovic, will invite the Bosnian Palestinians to return to their motherland!

 

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