The entry of the multinational forces into Kosovo didn't end violence there; it just ushered in a new kind of violence -- attacks by ethnic Albanians on ethnic non-Albanians (Serbs, Gypsies, Goranis). Some Albanians, known for their ties with Serbs, also have been killed, and it is getting worse every day.
The U.N. mission in Kosovo asked that ethnic Albanian leaders take a public stance against this new form of "ethnic cleansing," and they did -- up to a point. In mid-August a communique from the chief of staff of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Agim Ceku, said that the KLA "forcefully condemns these actions, [and] it invites all the Kosova citizens that belong to the Serb and other minorities not involved in crimes committed against other people to stay in Kosova."
Then it had the notice posted on a Web site -- in a province where few people have have access to a working phone line, let alone the Internet -- and in English.
One forceful voice of protest was sounded -- that of Veton Surroi, publisher of the Pristina daily Koha Ditore. "The Europeans and Americans will . . . point their fingers at the Albanians and accuse the victims of the greatest persecution at the end of the century for turning to persecute others in Kosovo, for allowing fascism to be repeated," he wrote in an editorial. But although the editorial was seen outside the province as a hopeful sign for a future multiethnic Kosovo, Surroi's plea seems to have had little effect at home.
Two weeks ago, the Kosovapress agency put on its Web site in Albanian an attack on Surroi and Baton Haxhiu, the editor of Koha Ditore, who had published most of the KLA communiques when the Kosovo conflict started. It suggested that they might be "spies for Serbs," carrying out "pro-Serbian vampirism" and suffering from "pan-Slavic nostalgias." Are they really "of Albanian blood"? the article asked. It suggested that Surroi remained in Pristina during the air strikes thanks to the aid of Serb paramilitaries. "They may get killed, and it will be understandable," the KLA agency said.
This is of course the primitive vocabulary of intolerance, and it's all too familiar. The nascent democracy in my native Poland almost was derailed a decade ago when Lech Walesa, newly installed as president, decided that his former advisers were not tough enough with yesterday's adversaries. He himself would "pick up the ax" and start "the war on the top" against those he judged too magnanimous. He even managed to stir up some residual antisemitism, even though hardly any Jews are left in Poland.
Witch hunting is always ugly, but with thousands of Kalashnikovs in the hands of people who may hear such calls, the exercise could turn from ugly to dangerous.
Recently, ethnic cleansing in Kosovo acquired a new and international dimension: linguistic cleansing. A Bulgarian U.N. officer was beaten then shot and killed on the main street of Pristina for speaking the wrong tongue. Having arrived the day before in Kosovo he had not learned that answering in a Slavic language when someone asks you the time can mean instant death.
There is little doubt about the ethnicity of the perpetrators in Kosovo -- or about their motive -- to chase non-Albanians out of the province. It may be unrealistic to try to protect every non-Albanian and expatriate in Kosovo. In fact, the only hope is for ethnic Albanians to discredit these primitive attitudes and criminal acts. Those who supposedly enjoy authority among Kosovo Albanians, their leaders, can do it.
Meanwhile, the international community, especially the United States, must demand that Kosovo Albanian leaders tell their people a simple truth: Killing others solely because of their ethnicity, language or even opinions is always wrong and will never be tolerated.
The writer is an associate researcher at the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales in Paris.