Israel Should Back an Independent Kurdistan
At first the world received reports of Turkish air strikes killing eight, and wounding dozens, as the Turkish military offensive against Syrian Kurds began, with thousands fleeing the bombing. Now, we hear of over one hundred killed, and the U.N. is reporting over 160,000 have become refugees.
Turkey became emboldened by the announcement of withdrawal of American forces in the area. After an eight-year war against Syria and ISIS, the Kurds, who for years were America’s main ally on the ground in Syria, have rightfully expressed that President Trump’s decision to pull forces out of the way was a “stab in the back.”
The Kurds have played a leading role in capturing territory from Islamic State. They now hold the largest swathe of Syria outside of Bashar al-Assad’s government’s hands. But because of Trump’s double-cross, they’ve been forced to call on Assad to send in Syrian government troops.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies, early on said failing to support the Kurds would be “the biggest mistake of his presidency.” Many on both sides of the aisle in America have condemned Trump’s decision. It became a major point of discussion at the most recent Democratic Primary Debate.
The Kurdish people are the largest ethnicity in the world without a state of their own, estimated between 30 and 45 million worldwide, with the majority residing in historic Kurdistan. The area the Kurds consider Kurdistan includes:
- Parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan).
- Northern Syria (Western Kurdistan).
- Northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan). And
- Northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).
The Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, and Iranians, have all oppressed their Kurdish populations.
The Kurds aren’t the “Palestinians.” They are a historic, indigenous people, not a late 20th century invention to deceive the world. Before the era of “fake news,” there already were “fake Palestinians.” The “fake Palestinians” were created to block the historic return and political self-determination of another Middle-Eastern people, the historic, indigenous Jews of the land of Israel.
Israel is a beacon of success in the battle of indigenous peoples to roll back the 7th-century Arab imperialist invasion, conquest, occupation and oppression of the region. The Turkish Ottoman empire wasn’t much better to indigenous people.
So Israel should support independence for the Kurds. Their demand is just, and Turkey’s recent behavior again proves why. I’ve said so, in many articles over the years, the last one about two years ago: “Israel Must Recognize An Independent State of Kurdistan.”
We’ve Seen This Movie Before
In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “It is upon us to support the Kurds’ aspiration for independence.” He called them a “fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they’re also worthy of their own political independence.”
In 2016, then Justice Minister and MK (Member of the Knesset) Ayelet Shaked also openly endorsed the idea of an independent Kurdistan.
Also, in August 2017, Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of 33 Republican Congressmen from the U.S. that he was in favor of an independent state for the Kurds. He described them as “a brave, pro-Western people who share our values.”
Then recently, Netanyahu denounced the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of northern Syria. “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies. Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people,” he said.
But Netanyahu stopped short of advocating Kurdish independence, and has done nothing to recognize a Kurdish state in the last few years. Now is the time.
Prominent Israelis Support Kurdish Independence
In a recent post on Twitter, MK Ayelet Shaked (New Right) called on the world to act strongly against Turkey over its invasion of Syrian Kurdistan, writing: “This is an achievement for the forces of evil. I hope the nations of the world will act and that sanctions against Turkey should be just the beginning. It is time to establish peace structures in the region and a Kurdish state is definitely an important step in that direction.”
Earlier she had written on her Facebook page:
I have said this in the past: It is in the interest of both Israel and the United States, for the security and stability of the region, that a Kurdish state be established.
The Kurds are the largest people in the world without a country. An ancient people who have a special historical connection to the Jewish people. They deserve a state. The Kurds in general, and especially those in Turkey and northern Syria, have done the most to advance Western cause in the region. They are the main factor fighting against ISIS, the West should stand by them.
An Ancient Friendship and Recent Cooperation
She’s right, according to the Talmud in numerous places. King Monobaz I and Queen Helena of Adiabene, from the area of Kurdistan, with its capital city at Arbela (modern-day Erbil, Iraq), even converted to Judaism. They donated large funds to the Temple of Jerusalem, including the gold grape vine cluster hung on the Temple itself. Erbil till today is a city in Iraqi Kurdistan and capital city of the Kurdistan Region.
It’s no secret that close relations existed between Israel and the Kurds throughout most of the sixties and into the seventies, until the collapse of the Kurdish revolt in Iraq, in 1975. Israel has surreptitiously helped the Kurds here and there since.
Political Support in Israel
Politicians and public figures from all sides of the Israeli political spectrum have condemned the Turkish actions. Public demonstrations in support of the Kurds have also taken place.
MK Benny Gantz (Chairman of the Blue & White Party), posted on his Facebook page, in a conversation with the German Ambassador to Israel:
I stressed to her the urgent humanitarian situation and the danger posed to the Kurds and the urgent need for the international community to apply pressure on Erdogan until he stops this terrorist assault.
MK Zvi Hauser (Blue & White) recently commented:
As a nation-state of an ethnic minority in the Middle East, Israel cannot close its eyes to the suffering of the Kurds in the region. The murder of the Kurds will bring a wave of refugees, change demographics, and intensify instability for generations, Israel must internalize the new rules of the game with regard to all challenges.
More than a hundred reserve officers sent a letter to Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, requesting that they do everything possible to stop Turkish atrocities and prevent the massacre of the Kurds in Syria. “We, as Israelis and Jews, must stand against this,” they wrote. The letter was initiated by Major General Milair Yair Pink Regiment Lake Officer.
When President Reuven Rivlin recently visited Chief Rabbi David Lau’s Sukkah, Rabbi Lau said to Rivlin, “In these days, our hearts are with the Kurdish people who are in danger of mass destruction. It is our moral duty to act on the matter immediately, and before it is too late.”
It seems the number one issue uniting most Israelis today, is that Israel should do more for the Kurds.
A New Alliance for Israel?
With all this in mind, Israel should actively and openly revive its former policy of support for the Kurdish people. Israel must recognize an independent State of Kurdistan. And as soon as they declare independence, they should establish diplomatic relations. They should exchange embassies, work in international forums and agencies to support their independence, and at the UN, seek to have them admitted as a member state.
I think the Americans blew it in 2003. They should have carved Iraq into three areas – or states on the way – approximately, a Kurdish north, Sunni center, and Shiite south. They should have offered the Kurds independence almost immediately. Then they would have had a strong regional ally and bulwark against Iran much earlier.
The Americans seem to be missing the boat of opportunity again, with regards to the Kurds. But Israel shouldn’t, it’s about time that Israel recognize an independent State of Kurdistan.
Trump is wrong on this one, but Israel can be on the right side of history!
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.