Arnon Grunberg



On friends and enemies - Avi Scharf and Sasa Dragojlo in Haaretz:

‘Shortly after 2 P.M on February 5, a planespotter was filming from a field next to Belgrade airport when he spotted a "rare" aircraft coming into land.
The aircraft enthusiast posted the video to his YouTube channel, identifying the plane as a Boeing 707-300. "I had a pleasure to record this magnificent classic bird today at Belgrade Airport!" he wrote in English.

With the serial number 272, the plane belongs to the Israeli Air Force, serving a dual role as an aerial tanker and a transport plane. After a few hours' rest, it took off at precisely 6:04 P.M., into a winter sky painted pink by the setting sun.’


‘But if the February flight earned Serbia half a million euros, two flights in March coincided with an arms deal worth 14 million euros, as Belgrade ignored widespread calls – including one on February 23 by a group of UN experts – for countries to halt the flow of weapons to Israel given the risk of them being used in violating international humanitarian law.’


‘On February 26, three weeks after the planespotter filmed the first arrival of the Boeing 707 in Belgrade, Vucic spoke by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Posting on Instagram afterwards, Vucic said they had discussed "further advancement of bilateral relations." Netanyahu seemed more excited, describing Vucic as "a true friend of Israel."’


‘Since the month of the Hamas attack, Serbia has exported a total 16.3 million euros worth of weapons to Israel. Besides the February, March and May shipments this year, worth a total of 15.7 million euros, Serbia had previously exported arms to Israel worth 540,120 euros in October.
The Serbian government has said nothing about the contents of the shipments, and Serbia's Ministry of Trade rejected a Freedom of Information request filed by BIRN to specify when the export permit was issued and what kind of weapons have been delivered, declaring the information "strictly confidential."
The flights came after the International Court of Justice, ICJ, the UN's highest court, on January 26 ordered Israel to prevent its forces from committing or inciting genocidal acts against Palestinians, in response to a genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel. A final ruling on whether Israel has actually committed genocide in Gaza could take years.’


‘According to Serbian military expert Vlada Radulovic, Israel is in need of guided and unguided munitions for aircraft, especially aerial bombs for penetrating bunkers and underground facilities, rockets for air defense systems, medium-caliber ammunition, tank and artillery shells and infantry weapons.
"Additional quantities of small caliber ammunition for small arms as well as mortar mines are also necessary", Radulovic told BIRN.
Serbia's 155mm artillery shells, produced by state-owned Krusik, are in high demand, he said, and not just in the Middle East.
"Accordingly, Serbia is recognized on the world market as a country that, among other things, produces high-quality ammunition of small, medium and large caliber, including 155 mm shells, as well as mortar mines of different caliber, so this would potentially be an area of interest for Israel," said Radulovic.’


‘There was a time when weapons allegedly went the other way.
Israel has been repeatedly linked in media reports to arms deliveries to Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, in contravention of a UN arms embargo.

‘In May, Israel was among 22 countries that failed to vote at the UN General Assembly on a resolution establishing an annual International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica on July 11. The resolution passed, with 84 countries voting in favor, 19 against and 68 countries abstaining. Serbia's Vucic condemned the resolution as "highly politicized."
"This resolution will open a Pandora's Box; you are going to face dozens of this type of resolution on the genocide issue," he said.
Jaksic said that Serbian authorities and their affiliated media liked to interpret Israel's refusal to support the resolution as a gesture of support for Serbia. In fact, he claimed, "Israel does not recognize the genocide in Bosnia in order to defend itself from accusations it has committed genocide in Gaza."’


‘In July 2022, an Antonov AN-12BK crashed in Greece carrying 12 tons of Serbian arms, killing eight Ukrainian crew members. The plane was supposedly taking the weapons to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost two years later, there remain many unanswered questionsabout the doomed flight, not least the identity of those who died.’

Read the article here.

14 million euros is peanuts, but the friendship between Serbia and Israel is telling.
Any pariah or pariah according to Western standards – as if the West is homogenous but alas –will find other pariahs or former pariahs willing to engage in the act of I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-my-back.
That’s not the only but one the reasons why the sanctions have been so ineffective. Whether the sanctions were against Iraq, Serbia or Russia (yes, Albright and the dead children in Iraq), the results were almost always the same, ordinary citizens were hurt, smugglers and others sort of business people got rich, the regime was thriving. At least surviving quite well.

A last small note: back in 2007 I visited the Zastava factory in Serbia, see here and here, old-fashioned but still deadly. At least that’s what I assumed.

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