Kurdish Statehood Adversaries Target Israel’s Stance to Rally Opposition
JNS.org – In the predominantly Muslim Middle East, one sure way to rally opposition to any concept is to tie it to Israel.
Regional players such as Turkey, Iran and the Iranian terror proxy Hezbollah have done just that when it comes to the Kurds — with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently saying that the September 25 Kurdish independence vote was part of a US-Israel plot to divide the region.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited the fact that Israeli flags were waved during celebrations for the “yes” vote for independence to claim that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was involved with the vote.
“This shows one thing, that this administration [in northern Iraq] has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, as reported by the AFP.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied these allegations during a cabinet meeting last week — despite the fact that Israel has been the only country to officially back the Kurds’ bid for independence.
“Few dispute the Kurds have a moral case for statehood,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told JNS.org. “The problem has always been precedent, which is why its neighbors will seek to nip it in the bud.”
Rubin — whose major research areas include the Middle East, Iran, Kurdistan and diplomacy — noted that Turkey and Iran both have Kurdish minorities, which also yearn for independence.
Dr. Mordechai Zaken, an expert on the Kurds and the head of minority affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, told JNS.org that, “The Kurds are entitled to an independent Kurdish national home, just like the Jews, and they will sooner or later be granted this statehood.”
“The Middle East goes according to the rules of the marketplace — bargaining for a deal,” said Zaken, author of the book Jewish Subjects and Their Tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan: A Study in Survival.
He added that this “bargaining” process usually includes threats, intimidation and exaggeration, but rarely any action.
Zaken, who served as Netanyahu’s adviser on Arab affairs during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister from 1996-1999, dismissed Turkish and Iranian rhetoric tying the Kurds to Israel.
“The Kurdish national issue started long before it had any connection to Israel, and before the establishment of the Jewish state,” said Zaken, explaining that the Kurds were promised autonomy in the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, which broke up the Ottoman Empire. But Turkey opposed and prevented the implementation of that accord.
Taken said that, “in 100 years, nothing has changed.” He noted that the difference today is that Turkey and Iran “are using Israel’s support for the Kurds and exaggerating its role, but the truth is that it has little do with recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
Asked about Palestinian opposition to Kurdish independence, Zaken replied, “Not only do the Palestinians oppose Kurdish national aspirations, but [so does] the entire Arab nation.”
“The Arab world has never embraced the Kurdish issue as it did the Palestinian one,” he added.
Addressing the irony in the Palestinian position, the American Enterprise Institute’s Rubin remarked, “Such blind adherence to Arab unity undermines every argument [that the] Palestinians make for their own independence.”