By Bill Nicholov
The man whose job was to change my people’s name, erase our identity and rewrite our history is now – in a brutally ironic twist of fate – watching his people’s history being changed and the human rights abuses that they suffered be whitewashed, all in the name of politics and as a direct result of his actions.
Of course, he had already whitewashed the human rights abuses that my people suffered and continue to suffer – while adding, exponentially, new ones.
Matthew Nimetz is Jewish. I’m Macedonian. The UN Envoy spent over two decades implicitly proclaiming that my ethnicity is lesser than every other one in the world.
You see, my ethnic group’s existence was deemed a “diplomatic dispute” by our most vocal oppressor, Greece, and the United Nations joined in. (Being romanticized has its privileges). So they appointed an envoy to negotiate us away and help Greece achieve its admitted objective – our eradication. The first envoy was Robin O’Neil, but once he realized Greece’s motives, he did something different – he defied orders, resigned his post and, in full support of Macedonia, condemned the name negotiations:
“Macedonia must not and will not change its name in order to appease Greece. If Macedonia succumbs to pressures and changes its name, such events will only give more firepower to Greece until it reaches its final goal – Macedonia to vanish from the map.”
Thank you Mr. O’Neil. Just as Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, famously said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Unfortunately, silence is the chosen option for far too many. Imagine watching your nation go through a forced name, identity and history change. Sadly, Macedonians don’t have to imagine and now, neither do Jews as Jewish history in the region is being rewritten. We (Macedonian Human Rights Movement International) have called on Jewish organizations to make a statement in defence of both of our peoples. We reiterate our call to the international community to do the same, and to stop treating our existence as something that is negotiable. Since our inception, as our tagline states, “MHRMI has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986.”
We don’t ignore hatred against anybody – we condemn it.
I’ll summarize what we’re going through:
- Greece annexed a big piece of Macedonia after its partition in 1912/13 and began the ethnic cleansing of Macedonians, including mass murder and expulsion;
- Greece brutally suppressed the name “Macedonia” and any expression of Macedonian identity;
- Sudden tactic/propaganda change – Greece began claiming the name “Macedonia” in 1988. Their M.O.: claim the name of the oppressed in order to mask heinous human rights violations against it. (Side-note: If England claimed the names of First Nations groups, does that mean colonization and brutalization did not occur?);
- Greece convinced the wilfully blind West to force a name, identity and history change on Macedonia and Macedonians, otherwise it would veto NATO and EU membership for Macedonia and put a grinding halt to Western imperialism in the Balkans. (Macedonia doesn’t need NATO and EU membership, but that’s a story for another day);
- The highly-derogatory name “North Macedonia” and, subsequently, “North Macedonian” were imposed. As I explained here, “I am Macedonian from Macedonia. Any other term is designed to negate my ethnic identity.”
- Fellow NATO/EU member Bulgaria got jealous and upped its demands on Macedonians…and Jews.
Here are the specifics on Bulgaria: They also annexed a piece of Macedonia in 1912/13 and, in order to mask their own heinous human rights violations against Macedonians, they want to declare that everything Macedonian is “really Bulgarian”, including our identity, language, history, and heroes who fought for Macedonian freedom against Bulgarian oppression. This includes rewriting history to deny that Bulgaria was a Hitler-ally, occupied Macedonia during WWII and deported over 7,000 Macedonian Jews to the Treblinka death camp in Poland. Oh, and Bulgaria wants to be known as an “administrator” and “liberator” of Macedonia instead. Let’s ask Macedonians who fought against the Nazis what they think…
So this begs the question – will Matthew Nimetz finally follow the lead of his predecessor and denounce the forced name/identity/history change on Macedonia as a blatant violation of our most basic of human rights? Especially considering that it has given free rein to Greece and Bulgaria to ramp up attacks on Macedonians – including Greek government enabled neo-Nazis physically attacking Macedonians, Bulgarian secret police detaining and threatening Macedonians, official government agencies completely wiping out any expression of Macedonians’ ethnic identity, and the daily, non-stop attacks, by the media and government officials, declaring that Macedonians are “sub-human” and “should be shot dead in the streets”.
Will Matthew Nimetz act, especially considering that it now even affects his own people?
No. He decided that he wants to be known as the person who “solved” the so-called “name dispute”. He should realize though (I believe he already has), that his legacy will be as a collaborator in the campaign of cultural genocide against Macedonians. When I met with him a few years ago, his knowledge of the truth about Macedonia and Macedonian history stood out, yet what was more striking was his willingness to set it aside in order to get “credit” for ending the “name dispute”, while knowing full well what Greece’s goals are. He should realize though (he has not), that human rights are more important than seeking credit for something that should not be celebrated. But will he denounce the revision of Jewish history? No. He realizes that the issues facing Jews in the region and Macedonians are intrinsically tied, and one cannot raise the issue of one without raising the other.
After our initial meeting, I asked him the question below in subsequent discussions, which is even more applicable now. (Background: He had said to me “Out of respect and in spite of Greece’s opposition to it, I’m going to refer to you as Macedonian during our meeting.”)
My question to Nimetz: “During our meeting, you told me that you are of Jewish origin. What if I told you that ‘Out of respect, I’ll refer to you as Jewish’, but that I would work tirelessly, every day, to change your ethnic identity and whitewash all of the human rights abuses that your people have endured?”
He ended up doing that to himself and to his own people. What did Macedonians do? MHRMI and I included, and we are the most vocal (appropriate, as I’m incredibly loud) – we denounced the whitewashing of abuses against Jews. That’s what Macedonians do. As an oppressed people – we get it. We denounce hatred against everyone. We just ask for the same.
Bill Nicholov is the President of Macedonian Human Rights Movement International