Israel and the Kurdish Agony

When we need your support, it is not there. Why?

Victor Sharpe,

Victor Sharp;e
Victor Sharp;e

A troubling disconnect has long occurred in Israel without any apparent understanding or knowledge by the public of its fateful and tragic implications.

According to a Debka Report dated July 5, 2008, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Israel. During his time here he showed interest in the Israel Aviation Industries' long-range Heron unmanned aerial vehicles. The UAVs had been loaned by Israel to the Turkish military for use against Kurdish "rebel" bases in northern Iraq, and had radically turned the tide of their operation.

I received a plea some days ago from a Kurdish friend who is very supportive of Israel's struggle to survive among its hostile Arab neighbors. He is also devoted to the Jewish people for he knows of the shared ethnicities believed to exist between Jews and Kurds dating back millennia. He referred to the help ancient Adiabene had provided Judea by sending troops to fight alongside the embattled Jews during their uprising against Roman occupation. Adiabene's queen and her people had embraced Judaism and some believe the Kurds may be their descendants.

Here is part of my Kurdish friend's impassioned letter:

I wish the Jews in Israel and abroad would know better about the policy of their leaders concerning the Kurds, because it happens in the name of Israel, and that should matter to all Jews. The cooperation by Israel with the Turkish military is no secret, but Turkish oppression of the Kurds is unknown to most Israelis. It is hard for me to understand how Israel's cooperation, which benefits Turkey, does not take into account the misery that it imposes upon the Kurdish people who yearn, as the Jews have for centuries, to be free from terror and persecution?

Not so long ago, the Jews in Europe endured the Shoah [he used the Hebrew term for the Holocaust - VS] and they know better than anyone else the horrors of that experience. How can they be so insensitive therefore towards the suffering of a neighboring people? These questions should be asked by the Jewish nation and answered by its politicians. How can they justify it?

Of course it's not only Israel but the whole world that is pro-Turkish and anti-Kurdish. It is not fair to criticize Israel only, but given the history of the Jewish people, there should be a heightened sensitivity towards those of us who are suffering.

We Kurds did not harm the Jews; instead, we have shared so much culture together and we still remember fondly the Jews who lived with us for centuries. But the Turks waxed and waned in their attitude towards the Jews; sometimes they were tolerant and sometimes hostile. There are many Turks today who share Islamist ideas and proclaim hostility towards the Jewish state. Within Turkey lies the same pestilence of anti-Semitism that exists throughout the Arab and Persian world.

I remember your moving article in which you categorically made clear that the people who truly deserve an independent sovereign state are the Kurds; not the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. I also feel deeply that one day there will be an abiding and honorable alliance between the Jewish state and a free and independent Kurdistan. But arming Turkey, our people's oppressor, is morally and geographically not to Israel's advantage. Israel's cooperation with Turkey is, in reality, a misguided support for political Islam and its oppression of the Kurds. It undermines Israel's credibility with the only true friend it has in the Middle East.

In a previous letter, which I received last April, as Turkish troops were invading Kurdistan and jet aircraft were bombarding Kurdish communities in northern Iraq, my friend was more pointed in his criticism of the Israeli leadership's shortsightedness. He defended without question what he called, "Israel's cause and the undying truth that Jews are the rightful owners of the historic Jewish lands now partially occupied by the Arabs." But he also pointed out that "the legitimate arguments and rights Israel has are the same rights and truths it denies in its official policy towards the Kurds. For now and for the future, everything looks black. I fear the worst for us. The whole world is against us, and on the Turkish side there is no change...." He concluded, "Today, when we need your support, it is not there. Why?"

Why, indeed?

Coincidentally, Ruth King, a freelance writer who is a columnist for several magazines, urges those who read "feel good stories about Turkey" to remember the ship Struma. In 1941, while carrying 769 Jewish refugees, it was not permitted to land in Turkey and sank with appalling loss of life.

With the reality of Israel's reconstitution as a sovereign nation in its ancestral and Biblical homeland came the equal reality of its uniqueness and isolation within a hostile world. In this, they share with the Kurds a familial fate. Even though it lives in a terrible neighborhood and desperately seeks friends, Israel cannot and must not evade its unique responsibility towards the Kurdish people, who also suffer from the depredations of their hostile neighbors. The Jewish state must not ignore the Kurds, who remain stateless and shunned by the world and who seek, at last, the historic justice they have craved for centuries but been denied - an independent state of their own.

From the time the current Kurdish liberation struggle began in 1961, the Jewish state was the only nation to actively support Kurdish aspirations. According to Mordechai Nisan in his book Minorities in the Middle East, published by McFarlane in 2002, in 1966 the Kurdish leader at the time, Mustafa Barzani, told a visiting Israeli emissary, Arieh Lova Eliav, that "in truth, only the Jews cared about the Kurds." Mr. Nisan also added that in 1980, Menachem Begin revealed that "from 1965 to 1975 Israel provided weapons and military advisors to the Kurdish resistance fighting against powerful Arab enemies."

One of the Israeli advisors was Rehavam Ze'evi, who was murdered several years ago in a Jerusalem hotel by a Palestinian Arab - the same Arab whom Prime Minister Olmert may be considering releasing to Hamas in
Israeli alliances should include the restoration of a profoundly just, moral and enduring pact with the Kurdish people.
exchange for Gilad Shalit. During the period Israel was assisting the Kurds, the United States became involved and, for a while, helped facilitate the support. In 1975, America abandoned the Kurds, forcing Israel to follow suit.

Is Israel aiding and abetting a state - Turkey - that is persecuting a lonely and isolated people - the Kurds? Is the Jewish state copying the mendacious policies of other nations; namely, putting political and economic expediency above morality? Are Israeli leaders, including Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, truly unaware of the agony of the Kurds?

According to a recent article by James Lewis in American Thinker, titled "Can Israel make it alone?", "Nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests - like survival." With the danger of a profoundly less friendly Obama Administration, he writes: "If the United States abandons the Jewish State, Jerusalem will have to seek new alliances."

Whether or not President Barack Obama acts towards the Jewish state in the way that many commentators fear, any new Israeli alliances should include the restoration of a profoundly just, moral and enduring pact with the Kurdish people, and assistance towards creating a future independent State of Kurdistan.

For more information on Turkey's relationship with Israel and the Kurds, see

Copyright © Victor Sharpe 2009