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Date: 2001
Abstract: Byford and Billig examine the emergence of antisemitic conspiracy theories in the Yugoslav media during the war with NATO. The analysis focuses mainly on Politika, a mainstream daily newspaper without a history of antisemitism. During the war, there was a proliferation of conspiratorial explanations of western policies both in the mainstream Serbian media and in statements by the Yugoslav political establishment. For the most part such conspiracy theories were not overtly antisemitic, but rather focused on the alleged aims of organizations such as the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. However, these conspiracy theories were not created de novo; writers in the Yugoslav media were drawing on an established tradition of conspiratorial explanations. The tradition has a strong antisemitic component that seems to have affected some of the Yugoslav writings. Byford and Billig analyse antisemitic themes in the book The Trilateral by Smilja Avramov and in a series of articles published in Politika. They suggest that the proliferation of conspiracy theories during the war led to a shifting of the boundary between acceptable and non-acceptable political explanations, with the result that formerly unacceptable antisemitic themes became respectable. This can be seen in the writings of Nikolaj Velimirovic, the Serbian bishop whose mystical antisemitic ideas had previously been beyond the bounds of political respectability. During the war, his ideas found a wider audience, indicating a weakening of political constraints against such notions.
Author(s): Byford, Jovan
Date: 2003
Abstract: This paper proposes that understanding the causes of anti-Semitic hate crime requires the
recognition of the cultural specificity of anti-Semitism, reflected in its unique mythical and
conspiratorial nature. By neglecting to consider the idiosyncrasies of anti-Semitic rhetoric,
general theories of hate crime often fail to provide an adequate explanation for the
persistence of anti-Jewish violence, especially in cultures where Jews do not constitute a
conspicuous minority, or where there is no noticeable tradition of anti-Jewish sentiment.
This point is illustrated using as an example the emergence of anti-Semitic hate crime in
Serbia in the aftermath of political changes in October 2000. The paper explores this
development in the context of Serbia’s recent past, arguing that the onset of violent
incidents towards Jews entailed two distinct but related stages, both of which are linked to
the conspiratorial nature of anti-Semitic ideology. The first phase – which culminated at
the time of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia – involved the proliferation of the belief in
Jewish conspiracy. At this stage, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, which were to be found
even in the mainstream media, retained an ‘abstract’ quality and their proliferation did
not, in itself, lead to anti-Jewish hate crime. The onset of anti-Semitic violence is
associated with the second phase, which followed Milošević’s downfall, when, with the
marginalisation of conspiratorial culture, the belief in Jewish conspiracy, as an abstract
ideological position, became reified and transformed into concrete instances of violence
against the local Jewish population. In exploring this two-stage process, the paper
highlights the way in which a closer examination of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and
other anti-Semitic texts can help shed some light on the dynamic underpinning the
persistence of anti-Jewish hate crime in modern society.
Author(s): Byford, Jovan
Date: 2008
Abstract: Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (1881–1956) is arguably one the most controversial figures in contemporary Serbian national culture. Having been vilified by the former Yugoslav Communist authorities as a fascist and an antisemite, this Orthodox Christian thinker has over the past two decades come to be regarded in Serbian society as the most important religious person since medieval times and an embodiment of the authentic Serbian national spirit. Velimirović was formally canonised by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2003. In this book, Jovan Byford charts the posthumous transformation of Velimirović from 'traitor' to 'saint' and examines the dynamics of repression and denial that were used to divert public attention from the controversies surrounding the bishop's life, the most important of which is his antisemitism. Byford offers the first detailed examination of the way in which an Eastern Orthodox Church manages controversy surrounding the presence of antisemitism within its ranks and he considers the implications of the continuing reverence of Nikolaj Velimirović for the persistence of antisemitism in Serbian Orthodox culture and in Serbian society as a whole. This book is based on a detailed examination of the changing representation of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in the Serbian media and in commemorative discourse devoted to him. The book also makes extensive use of exclusive interviews with a number of Serbian public figures who have been actively involved in the bishop’s rehabilitation over the past two decades.