Kurds and Palestinians? There’s no comparison
Op-ed: Unlike the Kurdish people, the Palestinian people’s national identity is based exclusively on denying Zionism. Political independence for the Palestinians means harming Israel’s security; political independence for the Kurds means a contribution to regional stability.
Israel must support the establishment of an independent Kurdistan, both for strategic and moral reasons. The State of Israel’s history with the Kurds in Iraq is filled with military, economic and diplomatic collaborations. From arms sales through military exercises to agriculture, Israel has been a significant source of support for this persecuted nation. While most of this activity has slipped under the radar—for understandable reasons in some periods of time—it hasn’t stopped the Kurds from voicing their appreciation for Israel in public on several occasions.
Turkey and Iran, the main opponents of Kurdish independence, are openly working against Israel in the international arena. There isn’t a single United Nations vote in which they don’t vote against us. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t miss a single opportunity to lash out at Israel. We have diplomatic relations with Turkey, but nothing helps. Turkey is against us despite our foolishness in issuing a public apology and paying damages for the aggressiveness in the Marmara affair. We have no relations with Iraq, but the United States—Iraq’s patron since Saddam Hussein’s fall—is a temporary barrier.
The rest of the countries opposing the establishment of a Kurdish state, like Syria and Iran, are enemy states. Their enemy is our friend in any event.
An independent Kurdish state will be an important ally to Israel. What used to be concealed will come out in the open over time. It’s a shot in the arm for other countries in the region. The advantages from friendly relations with Israel will turn into a magnet that will attract other countries. That’s enough for us to push for the establishment of a Kurdish state, including through AIPAC and other Zionist organizations, with all our might.
Which brings us to the moral aspect. An ancient nation’s desire to receive political independence after sitting on its land for a sufficient number of years, nationally and culturally separated, must serve as a reminder for those who believe in Zionism. Here’s some hypocrisy: If you’re so supportive of this move, someone on the Left asked me the other day, why don’t you support Palestinian independence? The best answer is that they’re not interested.
Zionism invented the Palestinian people. Unlike the Kurds, the Palestinian national identity was based exclusively on denying Zionism. The unity is based on the desire to see no Jews in the 1967 or 1948 borders. The desire for nationality and unity has developed—it exists today—but not enough for them to give up on the dream to kick out the Jews. The unwillingness to compromise, which has been proved on every occasion, is the foundation.
That’s also the main difference between the Left and the Right, not just regarding the Kurds but also in terms of nationality. In the Western world, including Israel, there’s deep contempt towards “rightists who think.” It’s the silliest original sin of most “public opinion leaders”—the ease in which solid political perceptions are turned into dust. In Israel, this ease makes it possible to bind together everything that comes from the Right in order to cancel and reject it.
That’s how populism (of which there is no shortage, unfortunately, on the Right) is mixed with a deep-rooted ideology. Anyone who opposes the problematic idea of two states in the 1967 borders is turned into a messianic person seeking a binational state. It’s hard to find writers on the Left who delve deep into the ideas behind Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the rare moments in which he clarifies his comments.
It began somewhere in the ideological battle over influence and ideas: On one side stood the supporters of the utopian “John Lennon” approach of cancelling borders, religions and nationalities, because we’re all human beings; on the other side stood the supporters of nationality and separation between groups with a different identity. Over time, these insights were undermined by populism. The Right and the Left are equally responsible for that, but this tendency on the Left carries a political price—defeat everywhere in the world.
That’s how solid security-strategic perceptions about the need for land and security control are mixed with religious messianism. That’s also how weighty statements about healthy nationality are mixed with slips of the tongue and Facebook nonsense with a nationalistic inclination. That’s how Kurds are mixed with Palestinians for hypocritical reasons, without seeing that the opponents of nationality are actually seeking Palestinian nationality.
The difference between the Kurdish nationality and the Palestinian nationality lies in the ability to survive as an independent state and in the price of this kind of independence. With the Palestinians, it means harming Israel’s security, which is why the interest is reduced independence, somewhere between an autonomy and Netanyahu’s “state minus.” With the Kurds, nationality means a contribution to regional stability. And that’s, very briefly, the entire difference between interest and theory.