Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope

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The Independent Online
LIKE Robert Fisk, I have pondered the numb response towards the ordeal of Bosnia's Muslims from both British policymakers and groups which normally try to enunciate a principled stand on such a humanitarian issue.

One conclusion I have come to is that many of our responses are still shaped by stereotypical attitudes to whole peoples or faiths. Thus there is the lingering feeling that the Bosnian Muslims are descendants of the 'wild, murderous' Turks who 'threatened' Europe for centuries. This is despite Europe's oldest Muslim community being Slavs, who were the most peaceable of the peoples in the former Yugoslav federation and whose emphasis on mutual tolerance did not prepare them for the cruelties unleashed by a minority of Serbs.

Even the British peace movement has vacillated when faced with a war being primarily waged against civilians. Leading figures have played the same game as their former Cold War rivals in the Foreign and Defence establishments by desperately looking for evidence which shows that 'both sides' in Bosnia are culpable although the degree of guilt may vary somewhat.

Our response to the Bosnia tragedy convinces me that if Hitler had gassed thousands of German Jews while still at peace with the rest of Europe, not only would nobody have stopped him but few effective representations would have been made in international forums.

Dr Tom Gallagher

University of Bradford