Few of us may realize it, but 850 delegates from North Kurdistan recently
declared democratic autonomy in Amed (Diarbakir), proclaimed as the capital of
North Kurdistan. They invited all Kurds to regard themselves as Kurdistani
citizens. The area the autonomy claims constitutes a substantial portion of
Ankara waxed furious. The world couldn’t possibly be
The Kurds are indigenous folk arbitrarily overlooked by
the powers that artificially carved up the Mideast after the dissolution of the
Ottoman Empire post-World War I. Not only were Kurds denied recognition and
independence, but they were divided among Turkey (an estimated 20 percent of
Turkey’s overall population), Iran (7% of Iran’s population), Iraq (20% of
Iraq’s population) and Syria (9% of Syria’s population) – the latter two being
synthetic political concoctions created by Britain and France,
The lack of elementary Iraqi and Syrian cohesion is
reflected in internal strife to this day.
According to prevalent
mythology, the international community deems self-determination the natural and
inalienable right of each nationality. That, at least, is the pretext for the
worldwide clamor for a Palestinian state.
Swept aside are reservations
about the rather recent origin of claims to a separate Palestinian national
identity, along with the fact that Palestinians are indistinguishable from their
neighbors in language, religion, culture and every conceivable marker of ethic
National designation, we are told, is subjective. If any
collective regards itself as worthy of self-determination, then
self-determination is its due. Yet this principle is hardly applied with
universal even-handedness. Evidence of bias abounds even without bringing in
pervasive animus to the very notion that the long-suffering Jewish people merits
sovereignty just like far younger and less distinctive ethnicities.
Kurdish case clearly underscores such double standards.
Far more numerous
than Palestinians, they’re estimated at between 30 million and 35 million. They
form an obvious separate nationality, non-Arab, with its own culture and readily
distinguishable language (a subcategory of the Iranian branch of the
Indo-Iranian group of Indo-European languages.) They were around far before any
Arabs had learned of the Palestinian moniker, and the Kurds struggled for
independence long into the 19th century, before the advent of Arab nationalism.
They established the short-lived Republic of Ararat in 1927 but it was soon
vanquished. Both Turkey and Iran cruelly suppressed numerous Kurdish uprisings.
Kurds are still fighting for their freedom.
The contrast between how the
world treats the Palestinians and the Kurds couldn’t be more marked.
Palestinians are spoiled with international succor and are pampered financially.
They were offered an independent state back in 1947 but rejected it, preferring
to destroy the twin Jewish state instead.
Practically the entire world
has come round to backing Palestinian statehood again and awaits with fevered
anticipation the unilateral quest for recognition of Palestinian independence at
the UN General Assembly in September.
The unilateral declaration of
Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, however, was greeted with deadly silence. The world
couldn’t care less. It doesn’t glorify the Kurdish nationalist drive, doesn’t
offer it diplomatic assistance, doesn’t shower it with indulgent cheer-leading in
the media and doesn’t fund Kurdish separatists, and has denounced what’s
perceived as Kurdish terrorism but has abided anti-Kurdish ruthlessness in four
countries for many decades.
In short, a nation that meets many more
prerequisites for self-determination than do Palestinians – and other Mideastern
constructs of yesteryear’s Western imperialism - keeps getting a very raw deal.
The Kurds fail to elicit even a modicum of the sympathy so liberally accorded
Nonetheless, potential new opportunities now beckon to
the Kurds. They enjoy semi-autonomy under the Americans in Iraq (though there’s
uncertainty about the post- American future), Syria is rocked by instability,
and partial alleviation of Damascus’s oppression emboldens Iranian and Turkish
Kurds as well.
Perhaps this is the time for bolder Israeli foreign
policy, especially in view of Ankara’s ongoing antagonism toward Israel (our
wishful thinking for Reccep Tayyip Erdogan’s rethink not withstanding). We have
little to lose – certainly not Turkey’s friendship.
There’s no reason not
to express un-stinted Israeli support for Kurdish self-determination – as we did
for South Sudan’s. This isn’t merely the right thing to do as quid pro quo for
Turkey’s own conduct, but because the Kurds deserve it.