It’s early morning in Irbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. A few men gather around a small kiosk where dozens of newspapers and magazines in Arabic and Kurdish are carefully arranged on a piece of cloth on the ground.
The camera zooms in and concentrates on one of the men, who holds a glossy magazine with a large Magen David on the cover. This is not another illustration to an article about Israeli policies in Gaza and West Bank. The title is “Israel-Kurd” and the whole edition is dedicated to relations between the Kurdish nation and the State of Israel.
The anchor of American-funded Al- Hurra TV, who reads the introduction to the Israel-Kurd item, seems just as astonished as the customers at the newspaper stand in Irbil – it’s not every day that you see Israel’s name mentioned in a context other than the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In Iraq, publishing a magazine with the word Israel on its cover is a
risky business, considering the generally negative attitude toward
Israel and those in the Arab world who seek rapprochement with the
“During last year we were often intimidated and threatened by different
elements who didn’t like what we do, but this year it seems that people
are more understanding and interested in our product,” says Hawar
Bazian, managing editor of the magazine. Bazian was born in Iran and
fled the country with his family, finding refuge in Irbil. Although he
has lived there for many years and completed his BA in English
literature at Irbil University, he doesn’t have Iraqi citizenship and is
not able to further pursue his education.
Bazian believes there are many similarities between Kurds and Israelis
and says that his publication, which was established two years ago, is
meant to build a cultural bridge between the two nations.
Obviously, not everybody in Irbil and beyond agrees with him and Mawlood
Afand, the editor-in-chief and founder of the magazine. In addition to
threats and intimidation, the Web site of the magazine has twice been
hacked by Turkish users and the authorities have not given it a work
“There are two approaches to Israel in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Bazian says.
“There are those who are very interested in relations with Israel and
eager to learn more about it, and those who hold quite a negative view
of this country, being influenced by radical Islamic ideology.
They think that Israel is the enemy,” Bazian told The Jerusalem Post
SINCE THE Israel-Kurd association hasn’t received a permit from the
Iraqi authorities, there are no offices, computers or faxes – the
association exists on-line and publishes a monthly magazine in Kurdish.
The Web site is also available in Arabic, English and Turkish.
Some articles are also available in Hebrew. The banner, “Let’s know
Israel as itself,” promises an insight into Israeli society and history.
The Web site mainly offers news from the Kurdish world and Israel and
op-eds and analysis on different developments in the Middle East by
Kurdish, Israeli and American contributors.
“We are the result of the historical suffering done by the Persian, Arab
and Turkish nations against the Kurds, who lost their national,
religious and cultural rights. These enemies try to destroy our future
as well as our past. The Israel-Kurd Institute tries to mention a
historical relationship between Kurds and Jews and review this relation
without any religious or ideological concerns.
So we have a clear message which talks about an honorable and great
historic stage of the Kurdish nation that belongs to Kurdish-Jewish
relations. We will use this for the Kurds’ sake and for the sake of
their national question,” the “About Us” sections of the on-line
“Not only do Israel and the Kurds have mutual interests and historical
ties between their peoples, but also many common enemies,” says Bazian
and starts to count: Iran, Syria, Turkey, the Arabs – almost everyone in
the Middle East. That is exactly why, he believes, the Kurds and the
Jews, two ancient nations who endured enormous suffering and were
stripped time and again of their natural rights, should join forces and
Some Kurdish contributors go even further and suggest that Jews should
come to Kurdistan and help build the national Kurdish home. “Kurdistan
will be the second home for Jews after Israel,” believes Hamma Mirwaisi,
author of Return of the Medes
“Kurds always have treated Jews as equal partners in Kurdistan since
the Median Empire. It may be because Abraham, the forefather of the
Jewish nation, was an Indo-European Kurd instead of an African Semite
like the Jewish scholars have been claiming after Moses came back from
Egypt. Or a large segment of the Kurdish populations are the descendants
of the lost 10 Jewish tribes after they were exiled by the Assyrian
Empire to Kurdistan. Whatever the reasons, the Kurds are treating Jews
equally, even if Islamic clerics are encouraging them otherwise.
“Kurdistan can absorb millions of Jews, because it is a large territory
and in need of the Jews’ knowledge. Jews and Kurds can be a blessing for
one another and live in peace and prosperity for generations to come.”
Other articles and op-eds printed in the magazine discuss the recent
deterioration in relations between Israel and Turkey. “Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan describes Israeli soldiers as ‘murderers’
or the Israelis as ‘barbarians,’” notes one writer. “I believe it’s the
other way around; the Turkish soldiers are the true murderers, not the
Israeli soldiers. Israelis are defending their ancient Holy Land of
Israel, but Turkey occupied the Kurdish holy land of the Medes. They are
occupiers and murderers.”
“Turkey should be held liable for all the damage that was caused to
Israel during the Hamas-supported events, also for damage caused to the
Turkey, with all the support that they get from the Israeli Government
and Unites States, still cannot face the Kurdish Freedom Fighters. I
wish that the Israeli Government from now on will be able to support the
PKK Freedom Fighters against the Turkish Government in order to support
human rights and stop the violence against innocent Kurdish people.”
BAZIAN SHARES THIS point of view and believes the way Israel dealt with
the Turkish flotilla was appropriate and understandable. “We were
watching carefully the developments around the Turkish flotilla, and we
were amazed by the international reactions.
After all, Israel has every right to defend its borders. We would
understand if some other state, such as Iran, which is known for its
provocations, would do something like this, but Israel is a very normal
country. So I think that it was legitimate what happened there.”
Bazian says he would love to visit Israel some day, but now it still
seems a far off dream as there are no diplomatic relations between Iraq
and Israel. But Kurds are used to being patient, he says, and good
things come to those who wait, as the proverb has it. “Any diplomatic
relations have their stages. In the beginning there is communication and
establishing of cultural bridges, which is exactly what we are doing.
It might take time until things change, but Israel has to know it has a
good friend in the Middle East, perhaps its only friend,” he concludes.