Robert Spencer Responds on Srebrenica

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Robert Spencer has kindly tweeted me a link to his new post on the most common charges laid against him, with his rebuttal here. I appreciate this is a generic reply rather than direct to me. I do not think Spencer advocates killing of Muslims or war crimes against them because they believe in Islam as I outlined here calling on the Home Secretary to allow him and Geller into the UK. I wanted Spencer in the UK to discuss Islam, jihad and how we combat religious extremism while encouraging secular values in the mainstream. Also so his critics could directly challenge him and we could see his response.

Back in June in my article “Huff and Puff On Srebrenica Genocide Denial” the following points were outlined:

    Spencer remarked in his words that Srebrenica was a “genocide-that-never-was” meaning he was identifying with genocide deniers and not just reporting their articles and views.

    Spencer remarked on the numbers killed at Srebrenica and other claims that countered established events: “Perhaps some challenge can be made to these claims, but it is a legitimate discussion that needs to be had.”

    As a result I wrote the article “Huff and Puff On Srebrenica Genocide Denial” to challenge those claims and point out Robert Spencer did go beyond posting others views on Srebrenica not being a genocide but was identifying with their views rather than the established and proven account.

    In my article I mention the painstaking identification of the victims that make up the 8,000 killed. I have asked if Robert agreed with this figure, and if not how many were killed – in fact every time Robert has sent me a tweet I have asked him. He has not answered.

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Spencer’s Rebuttal

Thankfully since June he has found the time to reply – so here is an excerpt relevant to what I have raised with him taken from here.

The charge: Robert Spencer denies the Srebrenica genocide and justifies Serbian war crimes against Muslims.

The facts: This charge implies that Spencer approves of violence against innocent Muslims, which is absolutely false. It is based on two (out of over 40,000) articles published at Jihad Watch in 2005 and 2009 questioning whether the massacre of Muslim civilians in Srebrenica in 1995, which was unquestionably heinous, rises to the level of an attempt to exterminate an entire people. Neither was written by Spencer and neither approves of the killing of Muslims or anyone. In “Srebrenica as Genocide? The Krstić Decision and the Language of the Unspeakable,” published in the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Vol. VIII in 2005, Katherine G. Southwick writes:

    In August 2001, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down the tribunal’s first genocide conviction. In this landmark case, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstić, the trial chamber determined that the 1995 Srebrenica massacres—in which Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men—constituted genocide. This Note acknowledges the need for a dramatic expression of moral outrage at the most terrible massacre in Europe since the Second World War. However, this Note also challenges the genocide finding. By excluding consideration of the perpetrators’ motives for killing the men, such as seeking to eliminate a military threat, the Krstić chamber’s method for finding specific intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims, in whole or in part, was incomplete. The chamber also loosely construed other terms in the genocide definition, untenably broadening the meaning and application of the crime. The chamber’s interpretation of genocide in turn has problematic implications for the tribunal, enforcement of international humanitarian law, and historical accuracy. Thus highlighting instances where inquiry into motives may be relevant to genocide determinations, this Note ultimately argues for preserving distinctions between genocide and crimes against humanity, while simultaneously expanding the legal obligation to act to mass crimes that lack proof of genocidal intent.

If Spencer is guilty of “genocide denial,” so also is the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. In reality, neither are. The raising of legitimate questions does not constitute either the denial or the excusing of the evils that Serbian forces perpetrated at Srebrenica or anywhere else.

Comparing the rebuttal with previous posts by Spencer

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So Spencer has finally established Srebrenica for him was not a genocide, but denying is about the terms validity not the atrocity itself in this new rebuttal. Katherine Southwick outlined that while stating “In characterizing the massacre of 8,000 military-aged Bosnian Muslim men as genocide, the chamber used the most potent expression possible.”

The problem was in his posts Spencer wanted us to do more than query if it failed a definition of genocide. He invited us to speculate whether the atrocity at Srebrenica may be fabricated, decrying anti-jihadists who failed:

to consider the possibility that Muslims could have carried out any deceptive atrocity-manufacturing in the Balkans. Indeed, some even charge that anyone who thinks that Balkan Islamic jihadists carried out any deception at all must be secretly a sympathizer of this genocide-that-never-was.

Spencer also quoted Jonathan Rooper for us to discuss this claim:

The premise that Serbian forces executed 7,000 to 8,000 people “was never a possibility,”

In the past he has wanted to cast doubt on the extent of the atrocity – when in the current rebuttal it is whether massacre is a more appropriate word to genocide. It is this combined with not wanting to call Srebrenica a genocide which make it look less than a call for a legitimate inquiry and more that of promoting genocide denial claims despite the evidence to the contrary. By quoting the note stating “Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men” in his rebuttal you may be forgiven for not thinking, unless you had read his previous articles, that this figure is for him “a legitimate discussion.”

We can see his current rebuttal as a positive move away from earlier expressing interest in what genocide deniers had to say about the Srebrenica Genocide. If he is after a debate now on the legal use of calling the events a genocide – rather than what has been established happened – this is a positive step in the right direction. If he still stands by his earlier comments the rebuttal is more a deflection from earlier controversial minority views on Srebrenica he repeated.

A genocide by any other name

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Genocidal intent has been demonstrated in court since the note he quotes from 2005. In a follow up article marking the 18th anniversary of Srebrenica in 2013 in The Commentator Denial over Srebrenica dealt blow over Karadzic ruling I mentioned:

This week, the UN Yugoslav War Crime Court ruled to uphold a charge that Radovan Karadzic had genocidal intent in his actions at the start of the 1992 conflict. Despite court rulings that the specific events and circumstances in the fall of Srebrenica were genocide, some still argue against this without consulting the volume of evidence collected.

In the link above on court rulings the International Court of Justice in 2007 had this to say:

The Applicant had argued that the specific intent could be inferred from the pattern of atrocities. The Court could not accept this. The specific intent has to be convincingly shown by reference to particular circumstances; a pattern of conduct will only be accepted as evidence of its existence if genocide is the only possible explanation for the conduct concerned.

However, there was an important exception to these findings. The Court found that there was conclusive evidence that killings and acts causing serious bodily or mental harm targeting the Bosnian Muslims took place in Srebrenica in July 1995. These acts were directed by the Main Staff of the VRS (the army of the Republika Srpska) who possessed the specific intent required for genocide.

Those denying Srebrenica was a genocide are wrong when they say intent has not been established. It has been.

A Legitimate Discussion

I believe in free speech, and nothing should be off limits for people to debate even if others may have hurt sensibilities – with war crimes the pain for survivors is as legitimate as any free ranging discussion. However, we do get to judge how people respond to the mass of evidence regarding the Srebrenica genocide, and Robert himself feels hurt when the implications of what he said are laid out to him – I would counter his feelings and outrage are nothing compared to the survivors who have read his past words. Robert handles himself well in TV and radio interviews, even when provoked. This is at odds with twitter – where name calling, mud slinging and insults have been the order of the day to his critics. Mind you, he gets enough vulgar tweets back at him.

Hopefully a legitimate discussion might entail proper dialogue rather than further playground taunts. So I appreciate Robert taking the time and sending me the link. Who knows it could be the beginning of a civil discussion. It seems Spencer is distancing himself from his previous remarks where he wanted us to question what happened at Srebrenica despite the evidence.

Maybe one day Robert will tell us whether he genuinely thinks “Balkan Islamic jihadists carried out any deception” in Srebrenica or that the figure of 7-8000 executed never happened. Till then he will be accused of smoke and mirrors with his latest rebuttal over what he has actually written in the past.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Robert Spencer Responds on Srebrenica

  1. Suada

    Spencer response shows his acedemic dishonesty and lack of professional integrety. In addition to your points (as you say, he goes far beyond simply qestioning the usage of the term ‘genocide’), Spencer cites Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal article by Katherine G. Southwick. However, he doesn’t mention what Soutwick really says (pp. 193-194);

    ‘In the spring of 1995, the Bosnian Serbs planned to attack Srebrenica definitively. Radovan Karadzić, President of Republika Srpska, issued a directive to the VRS forces to “complete the physical separation of Srebrenica from Zepa as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals in the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica.” This was an order to ethnically cleanse Srebrenica. Citing a Prosecution exhibit, the court suggested that the order was a reaction by Karadzić to international pressure to end the war and negotiate a peace agreement: He sought to take the area while he still had time, before an agreement could be reached. In response to the Bosnian Serb capture of an observation post on May 31, 1995, Bosnian Muslim soldiers attacked a Serb village in late June. This helped provide an excuse for the Bosnian Serb takeover of Srebrenica.’

    This may be contrasted with what Spencer says about the topic. If Spencer really does agree with Southwick’s interpretation, why did he not include this information is his account of Srebrenica, instead of blaming the massacre on the victims ?

      • Suada

        Thank you, I’d also offer the following observations, based on Spencer’s comments on his rebuttals page and on his website, as well as what I quoted above.

        – Spencer does not understand what genocide actually means. Contrary to what Spencer says, it does not mean “an attempt to exterminate an entire people” as Spencer claims. Two international courts – the International Court of Justice and the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – have ruled that what happened at Srebrenica was genocide. A third international court – the European Court of Human Rights – ruled that events in Bosnia in 1992 fit the international legal definition of genocide. This international legal definition, by the way, is already narrower than the one favoured by Raphael Lemkin – the man who coined the term ‘genocide’ in the first place.

        – First article Spencer links on his rebuttals page (“Jatras: Playing the Devil’s Advocate”), consists of an article by Stella Jatras; a well known Orthodox extremist and Srebrenica denier. In the course of the article Jatras gives the typical Serb nationalist account of the background to the Srebrenica massacre, by greatly stressing the alleged atrocities and culpability of Naser Oric’s Bosnian army forces, while wholly neglecting to mention the prior incomparably larger scale Serb offensives and atrocities in east Bosnia (e.g Zvornik, Bijeljina, Foca, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Srebrenica itself, Rogatica, Bratunac et cetera), which led to Srebrenica becoming an ‘enclave’ in the first place and to which Oric’s actions were a response. She claims that the figure of 7,000 dead at Srebrenica is “unsupported by any evidence”, yet claims, with no evidence whatseover, that Oric’s forces killed 3,000 Serbs (the actual number, according to the RDC, was 119 civilians and 424 soldiers), and that the ‘Safe Areas’ (which were surrounded and besieged by Serbian forces for most of the war), were being used as Al-Queda training camps, again with no evidence whatsoever to support this claim. She also rather bizzarely attempts to justify the murder of young boys by suggesting that they would have grown up to be suicide bombers. In other words, she blames everything which happened on the Muslims, demonises them as Islamic extremists, and then accuses them of fabricating their own death toll. Spencer (at least seems to) wholeheartedly endorse her views, he certainly says nothing against them.

        – The second artlcle Spencer links (“After 14 years of investigating events that took place in Srebrenica in 1995 I can attest there was no genocide over Muslims in that enclave”) is even more explicit. In the preamble Spencer implies that Bosnian Muslims fabricated atrocities to blame them on the Serbs (“[some people] refuse even to consider the possibility that Muslims could have carried out any deceptive atrocity-manufacturing in the Balkans”) and refers to that there was a “genocide-that-never-was”. He then goes on to link and endorse an article by Caleb Posner (I have no idea who that is). The article describes the Bosnian Army as a “ragtag Jihadist army” (little more than an anti-Muslim smear), claims that Bosnia “lies within historic Serbia” and claims that the Srebrenica Massacre was not a massacre but instead a “a military engagement that, like many US operations, involved some inadvertant civilian casualties” which the author claims amounted to no more than 2000. It also again brings up “jihadist” (another anti-Muslim smear) Naser Oric, and claims without any proof that his forces killed 3,000 Serbs (which at the same time claiming there is no proof for 7-8000 dead at Srebrenica).

        – In another article (“The Commentator is right behind us — about 500 miles back”) Spencer defends Pamela Geller from the charge she is a Srebrenica denier. In it, he openly endorses denialist views of the massacre.

        – In an article (“Haroon Moghul tries and fails to invest the concept of “Islamophobia” with some genuine substance”) Spencer smears Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as an “open Islamic supremacist” and uses two out of context quotations from The Islamic Declaration, which he obviously copied and pasted, to support this (unlike Spencer, I have actually read it in its original language).

        – In the article (“UN officials and the Muslim regime in Sarajevo orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre”) Spencer endorses an article by a certain Andy Wilcoxson, a notorious apologist for Slobodan Milosevic and a signatory of the the petition of the ‘International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic’ which describes Milosevic as a ‘Serbian patriot’ whose ‘crime was to set an example to the world by resisting NATO aggression’. I will allow the reader to gues what the article says.

        – In the article (“Marxist antisemitic “antijihadist” from One Law For All responds feebly to Spencer’s rebuttal of their false charges”) Spencer implies that Bosnian Muslims staged atrocities to blame it on the Serbs. His ‘evidence’ for this serious charge is as follows; “The Palestinians do that, so why wouldn’t jihadists in the Balkans?”

        – In the article (“Documentary film about the Life of the First Iranian Martyr in Bosnia”) Spencer tries to demonise the victims of Srebrenica by claiming (again, without any proof, and without mentioning any counter examples on the Serb side) that “the Bosnian Muslims and mujahedin of Srebrenica..would mainly raid and slaughter surrounding Serbian villages on Orthodox Christmas, Easter, Saint George’s Day, Saint Vitus’s Day, and the holiday of Blessed Peter.”

        – In the article (“Bosnia: Muslims “wanted to draw NATO into war””) Spencer endorses an article which claims that “there had been some cases in which Muslims fired at their own people to blame the Serbs and trigger foreign intervention.” [emphasis in original] and claims that Serb nationalists were “the local opposition to that jihad”

        – In the article (“OIC to declare a “memorial day” for massacres against Muslims”) Spencer describes Srebrenica (along with other massacres) as one of a series of trumped up, exaggerated, or fictional massacres.

        – In the article (“Srebrenica: The Destruction of Christian Churches and Assault on Christianity”) Spencer endorses the views of the Serbian American amateur “historian” Carl Savich; a Srebrenica denier/justified and apologist for the Nazi collaborationist Nedic regime and Chetnik movement with a long history of hate-speech against Albanians, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. In it, he accuses Muslims of destroying Christian churches in Srebrenica, providing no evidence for such an accusation. He of course does not mention the well documented systematic destruction of mosques and catholic churches by Serb forces across the whole of the ‘RS’.

        – In the article (“Trial begins of former commander of Muslim forces in Srebrenica”) Spencer launches into a highly Islamopgobic tirade, stating (“It looks as if the jihad in Bosnia followed traditional Islamic patterns going all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad, who massacred the men of the Banu Qurayzah and ordered the exile of other Jewish tribes of Arabia.”). Oric was acquitted of all charges, and the ICTY judgement on him (available online) effectively rebuts Spencer’s claims.

        It’s fair from this to say that Spencer believes that the Srebrenica massacre, rather than the culmination of the Bosnian Serb leadership’s plan to ethnically cleanse the Drina Valley (as confirmed by his own Southwick source), believes it was “revenge”, that he expresses doubt as to the numbers killed, that the Bosnian Muslims stages atrocities to blame the Serbs, and that the Bosnain Muslims were jihadists. As for Spencer’s rebuttal itself, I think Marko Hoare summed this up well. Spencer is fundementally embarrassed by his own position, so when confronted by those who recognise him for what he is, rather than have the courage and integrety to say “yes, I deny the Srebrenica massacre” he instead he lashes out in fear and shame, denying what everyone knows to be the truth. Spencer now seeks refuge in the claim that he is merely concerned with the accuracy of label of genocide. Thus, the denier does not merely deny the massacre; he denies his own denial. Of course, no rational person would accept such a plea at face value.

  2. Pingback: EDL’s Tommy Robinson, Robert Spencer, Quilliam and the BBC | Islamophobia Today eNewspaper

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