Israel should support the Kurdish Independence Referendum
Israel should support the Kurdish Independence Referendum

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdistan is set to hold a referendum, where the Kurdish people will decide whether to become an independent state or not.

Based upon the recent history of Iraq, the Kurdish people have every justification for seeking statehood for under both Sunni and Shia Arab control, the Kurds have never gotten the justice that they deserve as a people. As Jews, we should sympathize with their struggle for independence and support their right to hold a Referendum.

Kurdish history has an uncanny resemblance to Jewish history in some ways. Like the Jewish people, the Kurds have been persecuted just because they are part of a different ethnic group and have a unique language and culture that differs from the rest of Iraqis. As one Kurdish source proclaimed, under the Sunni Baathist rule, the Kurds suffered from genocide: “They used chemical weapons against us and destroyed our villages.  The Shias cut our budget and threatened us. We were not even allowed to study Kurdish.  They killed Peshmergas every day and did not send us money. There is no reason to stay with Iraq.”

“We don’t get anything from Iraq,” the source added. “Just terrorism. They destroyed our lands. We are not attacking anyone and we don’t attack anyone else. We want to have our own state and to be a stable place. Why should we be under Iraq if part of it is controlled by ISIS and the other part by Iran? Sunnis and Shias cannot live together in Iraq. It’s the worst thing. If we stay in Iraq, we will be part of the Shia-Sunni conflict and we don’t want it. We just say give us weapons and we will fight for the whole world against the terrorism.”

According to the Iraqi Constitution, 17% of the Iraqi Budget was supposed to go to the Kurds. However, the Iraqi government that is dominated by Iran refused to give the Kurds the share of the budget that they deserve. If Kurdistan is part of Iraq, they need to get the same share of the budget as other regions in Iraq receive but the Kurds don’t get anything from the Iraqi Central Government. Given this, the Iraqi Kurds stressed that since the Iraqi Central Government is not keeping their part of the deal in the Constitution, they have every right to hold a referendum for independence.

As Kurdish MP Omed Xoshnaw proclaimed: “Referendum is something that everyone wants in Kurdistan. It is not one party or one person. It is the real voice of the Kurdistan population. That will be the identity and honor of the Kurdish people. Let us say Yes to respect the blood of our martyrs who died for the freedom of Kurdistan. We have to vote with a YES to get respite finally because we never took comfort in Iraq. We suffered from tanks, rockets, genocide and now the cutting off of our budget.”

Kurdish writer Soran Fesewkany added: “Independence is our legal right. It is not something emotional. It is not a dream and not a poem anymore. It is a legal right and it is a historical need. Referendum is our way to get this right. It is not important for me who will supervise a referendum. What is important for me as a citizen is to vote with a yes. That is my historic responsibility as a people. If other peoples experienced what ours did under the Baathist regime, then they will vote yes and will never refuse the referendum.”

Both the Kurds and the Jews were hated across the Arab world in recent history. According to Syrian Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas, the Arabs viewed both the Kurds and the Jews in a similar manner.   Until recently, none of the Arab states wanted to have anything to do with either the Kurds or the Jews. They viewed the establishment of Kurdistan and Israel as a dagger in the heart of the Arab world. However, with the rise of the Shia Crescent and now with Turkey sending troops to Qatar in order to help out the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world now has a different perception of both the Kurds and Israel.

“It is a very interesting development that the Kurds and Jews are not the enemies for the GCC but Iran and Turkey are for Turkey is a threat to Al Saud,” Abbas proclaimed. “They want to get rid of the Al Saud family and to be the Khalifa. Now, they are willing to divide Iraq and Syria so that it could be a buffer against Iran and Turkey. It is vital and important for Israel to recognize this and to start to lobby in America and Europe that an independent Kurdistan is no longer opposed by many of the Arab nations. They view it positively as a way to roll back Iran’s gains and the Muslim Brotherhood in Ankara. If any nation opposes a referendum, they are allying with Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Assad’s regime and the Russians and Hezbollah. These are the groups that declared the referendum is not acceptable.”

In other words, supporting an independent Kurdistan now coincides with Israel seeking better relations with the wider Arab world and Israel’s struggle against terrorism for both Israel and the Kurds share the same enemies. It also coincides with Israel’s interest to cut the Shia Crescent in half and to thwart Iranian aggression in the region as an independent Kurdistan makes it logistically much more difficult for Iran to support their proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. An independent Kurdistan is therefore the easiest and most efficient way to ensure that Israel’s vital interests are met in the region. Therefore, given the suffering endured by both peoples and the tragic history experienced by the Kurdish people in recent years, it behooves Israel to support an independent Kurdistan.  It is time for Israelis who are hopeful for normalizing their relationship with Turkey to the pre-Erdogan days to forget Turkey and to work directly and openly with the Kurds and GCC.