|Croatian embassy in Tel Aviv||Israeli embassy in Zagreb|
|Pjer Šimunović||Zina Kalay Kleitman|
Croatia–Israel relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Croatia and Israel. Diplomatic relations were established on April 9, 1997. Croatia has an embassy in Tel Aviv and honorary consulates in Ashdod, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Kfar Shmaryahu. Israel has an embassy in Zagreb.
The Jewish community of Croatia
The Jewish community of Croatia dates back to at least the 3rd century, although little is known of the community until the 10th and 15th centuries. The community that had approximately 20.000 members, many of whom have contributed to the development of the Croatian economy, science and culture throughout the states history, until the beginning of World War II was almost completely destroyed during the Holocaust that took place on the territory of the nazi puppet state, so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH). During the war many Jews were given refuge by the anti-Nazi resistance movement Yugoslav Partisans, led by the Croat Josip Broz Tito, and many of them fought along their side. 111 Croats were honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations. After the World War II half of the survivors choose to settle in Israel while an estimated 2.500 members continued to live in Croatia.
Relations with SFR Yugoslavia
While Croatia was member of the Yugoslavia Federation (1943-1991) it established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1948 through the Federation. Until 1952, a total of 7,578 Jews emigrated from Yugoslavia to Israel in a series of five emigration waves. At first Yugoslavia was mostly neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict but maintained ties with Israel. Considering that Yugoslavia, which was stretched between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold war, was a leader of the third bloc called Non-Aligned Movement and that President Josip Broz Tito maintained close relations with Arab leaders, especially Gamal Abdel Naser, that were considered to be Yugoslavia allies, Yugoslavia severed all diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 after Israel attacked Egypt in the Six-Day War and turned to strong pro-Arab policy. After Tito's death in May 1980 the separate republics slowly began to pursue their own foreign policies in relation to Israel. Croatia sided with SR Slovenia and SR Serbia in their pro-Israeli policy.
Realations during the Croatian War of Independence
After the breakup of Yugoslavia occurred as a result of a series of political upheavals and conflicts during the early 1990s right-wing politician President Franjo Tuđman rose to power in, on October 8, 1991, newly formed Republic of Croatia. Israel has complained about the attitude that Tuđman presented in his book "The Wastelands of Historical Reality", more specifically in the chapter entitled "The history of the multiplication of war crimes and the creation of the Jasenovac and Bleiburg myth" in which he questioned the number of people killed in Jasenovac concentration camp considering that the number was from 30,000 to 40,000 unlike numbers presented by the authorities of Yugoslavia which emphasized a range between 350,000 and 800,000. It later turned out that he was partly right. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. presently estimates that the Ustaša regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people in Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945. The Jasenovac Memorial Site quotes a similar figure of between 80,000 and 100,000 victims. He was also writing about the cooperation of some detained Jewish inmates with Nazi supervisors in Jasenovac, which he based on the memoirs written by the Croatian Communist Ante Ciliga who spent a year as a prisoner in Jasenovac.
Tuđman sent letter to the President of the World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman on January 16, 1992 saying among other: "I am addressing you on behalf of Croatia, currently the youngest European state, but a state with a centuries-long tradition of statehood. At the referendum, the overwhelming majority of Croatian citizens chose to live henceforth in the independent Republic of Croatia, a democratic state assuring all its citizens equal rights, regardless of religious, national or political and other affiliations, and regardless of ancestry or social status. The Croatian people wish to achieve the basic right of every nation to self-determination. I sincerely hope that the Jewish people will show understanding and support our efforts, which are almost identical with the long-standing struggle of the Jewish people to realize their national right to statehood, a right affirmed by the world in 1948. when the state of Israel was proclaimed. As in most European countries, the Croatian Jewish community suffered tragic losses during the war. About three hundred thousand Croatian citizens fell in the Anti-Fascist struggle and as victims of Fascism and Nazism. The Ustasha regime of the Independent State of Croatia commited countless war crimes and crimes against humanity. On the other hand, a vast number of Croats – myself among them – took up arms against the Ustasha reign of terror and the Nazi and Fascist occupation. We deeply regret the fact that the Jewish people in Croatia suffered the tragic fate of the Holocaust. However, the Croatian people showed solidarity with the victims of the Ustasha regime. A wonderful example of solidarity with the persecuted Jews was the action of the school youth of Zagreb. Brought together at the stadium where young Jews were to be singled out, all their Croatian fellow students stepped out to join them. As a historian, I have devoted many pages of my books to the analysis of the horrors of violence suffered by the Jewish people in recent history. To my great regret, parts of my book „Wastelands of historical reality“ have been misinterpreted either as historical revisionism or as anti-semitism. As a former anti-fascist fighter and a commited democrat, I refute all intentions of the kind. The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Communities and National Minorities guarantee the comprehensive development and progress of minorities and citizens, and their complete protection. The Jewish community in Croatia will continue to enjoy, as it has in the past, all the religious and national rights enjoyed by other communities, and this is also evinced by the initiative taken by the Croatian Government and myself to rebuild the Zagreb Synagogue. I am convinced that the friendship between the Croatian and Jewish people will contribute to the building of a new and better world."
Despite these disagreements Israel recognized Croatia as an independent and sovereign state on April 16, 1992, but still refused to start further bilateral cooperation.
This Israeli policy has been heavily criticized by Igor Primorac, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his texts Israel and Genocide in Greece and Israel and the War in the Balkans he wrote: "Since the beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Israel’s political establishment has taken a pro-Serbian stand. Facts that Israel had an embassy in Belgrade since October 1991 and that Srbia was the first among Yugoslavia's successor states to open the embassy in Israel (though ambassador Budimir Košutić will never submit his credentials to the President of Israel due to the UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Belgrade) are just confirming that. Both Israeli public and the press itself as Yad Vashem refused to recognize crimes that Serbs committed in Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence, which is the first case of genocide in Europe since the Holocaust."
In August 1997, Israel and Croatia published a joint statement of their intention to establish diplomatic relations after several months of negotiations. Secret talks between the Foreign Ministry Director General, Eitan Bentsur, and the head of the office of President Tuđman, Hrvoje Šarinić, were held in Budapest. Full diplomatic relations were established on September 4, 1997 after the Croatian government issued a statement apologizing for the crimes commitied by Ustaše in NDH while President Tuđman promised to publish a modified version of his book. Croata opened it's embassy in Tel Aviv, while Israel was represented in Croatia through it's embassy in Vienna.
President Tuđman was still hoping to visit Israel to apologize for crimes committed by some of his people during the Holocaust but regardless his noble intentions he never did because of his sudden death in 1999.
Croatian producer Branko Lustig said on March 4, 2015 in an interview for the Slovenian television that he first met President Tuđman on Zagreb premiere of the film Schindler's List in 1994. He said that Tuđman grabbed his hand at one point while they were watching the movie. Lustig looked up to him and saw him crying. He said that he thought to himself: "Someone who is crying over the fate of these [Jewish] people cannot be a bad man."
Croatian historian Slavko Goldstein said in an interview for Jutarnji list that he asked for an audience with President Tuđman when he saw a film about Bruno Bušić that was pro-Ustasha intoned in the early 1990's. Goldstein said that Tuđman at one point during the meeting banged the table and shouted: "Slavko, as long as I'm here, pro-Ustasha policy will not pass."
After the death of President Tuđman Israel began with active bilateral cooperation with Croatia. In February 2000 Israel sent a delegation to the inauguration of President Stipe Mesić.
In January 2001 two countries mutually abolish visas.
In October 2001 Stipe Mesić visited Israel and apologized for the crimes of Ustasha and NDH against the Jews. He also visited Israel in October 2009.
First Israeli president that visited Croatia was Moshe Katsav in July 2003.
On September 8, 2005, Israel opened its embassy in Zagreb. The first ambassador of Israel who dwelt in Zagreb was Shmuel Meirom.
Israeli writer Amos Oz visited Croatia on March 18, 2011 and said in his speech in front of the gathered Croatian audience: "I will reveal you a secret that no one knows, not even my wife. We have been in Croatia for only 24 hours now and I am already completely in love with this beautiful country. I've traveled a lot in my life, my books have been published in many countries and translated into many languages, I was talking in front of large auditoriums, met crowds of people which loved my books, met with the very knowledgeable readers and performed before a full auditorium of erudite but I can't remember that I was loaded with so much attention on every single step anywhere as here in Croatia. Also, I can't remember that I ever received so much cordial warmth as from my Croatian audience. Both Croatia and Israel have been the victims of oppression and persecution in the past. These terms are not foreign to Croats and Israelis. Israel is a strange country, in some ways unique. Other countries were born out of history, geography, politics and demographics. Israel is perhaps the only country in the world that was born from a dream. Israeli society is wonderful because it is argumentative. Israel is a country of debate. You will not find two Israelis that agree about anything, in fact, it is hard to find one that agree with himself, because all people are ambivalent divided mind and soul. People told me that its very similar in Croatia, that it has more parties than individuals just like Israel. I think that we both have this tendency to discuss a lot. To those who do not agree with this I am here now ready to discuss it."
On February 15, 2012 President of Croatia Ivo Josipović apologized for all crimes that were committed during World War II within the NDH by the Ustaše regime. President Josipović said: "I stand before the Parliament of the State of Israel, and more importantly, I stand before the Croatian children, and without ambiguity, I apologize. Holocaust survivors and all the other victims I beg for your forgiveness."
On July, 22 2015 President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited Isreal. She stated in Yad Vashem:"As president of Croatia, I express my deepest regret to all the victims of the Holocaust that were killed by the hands of the collaborationist Ustasha regime during World War II. I deeply sympathize with your pain and suffering. The Ustasha regime most definitely was not a reflection of the true desire of the Croatian people for an independent state. Unfortunately, they have manipulated with that desire. Croats must face with and accept its past because of the future. The vast majority of the Croatian people, including my grandparents, were part of the anti-fascist resistance movement, one of the proportionately largest resistance movements in occupied Europe during the World War II. I am grateful to those who put us [Croats] on the right side of history. Croatia is based on anti-fascism and the Croatian War of Independence." Croatian director Branko Lustig also visited Israel with the President Grabar-Kitarović. He gave away his Oscar which he won for the film Schindler's List to the Yad Vashem.
|Area||56,594 km2 (21,851sq mi)||20,770 km2 (8,019 mi)|
|Population density||75.8/km2 (196.3/sq mi)||387.63/km2 (1,004.00/sq mi)|
|Largest city||Zagreb – 790,017||Jerusalem – 890,428 (disputed)|
|Government||Parliamentary republic||Parliamentary republic|
|Official languages||Croatian||Hebrew and Arabic|
|Main religions||Christianity (91,06%), Islam (1,47%), Others (7,47%)||Judaism (75,4%), Islam (16.9%), Christianity (2.1%), Others (6%)|
|Ethnic groups||Croats (90.4%), Serbs (4.4%), Others (5.2%)||Jews (74,9%), Arab (20,7%), Others (4,3%)|
|GDP (nominal)||USD$ 59.911 billion (USD$ 13,994 per capita)||USD$ 305.707 billion (USD$ 38,004 per capita)|
|Military expenditures||USD$ 830.000.000 (1.37% of GDP)||USD$ 23.200.000.000 (7,6%% of GDP)|
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel embassy in Zagreb
- Jacob Abadi, Israel and the Balkan States, op. cit. 299
- Vladimir Petrović, Jugoslavija stupa na Bliski Istok – Stvaranje jugoslovenske bliskoistočne politike 1946-1956 [Yugoslavia Steps Into the Middle East – The Emergence of Yugoslav Middle East Policy 1946-1956], Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd, 2007
- Jacob Abadi, Israel and the Balkan States
- Paul Benjamin Gordiejew, Voices of Yugoslav Jewry, State University of New York Press, New York, 1999, p. 378
- Ramet, Sabrina P. (2011). Serbia and the Serbs in World War Two. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-27830-2.
- "Holocaust Encyclopedia: Jasenovac". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Igor Primoratz, Israel and Genocide in Croatia
- Israel and Croatia Announce Diplomatic Relations
- Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration: list of bilateral treaties with Israel
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel embassy in Zagreb