For a long time I have warned that we must cease black and white conduct, which
causes damage to us and prevents us from advancing vital interests in the
international arena and in our relationship with the Palestinians and the Arab
world in general. The story of our relationship with the Kurdish people and our
conduct with Turkey concerning them is no different.
Some 130,000 members
of the Kurdish community live here, and their stories indicate that they lived
in peace and with regard among their Muslim neighbors. The very fact that they
preserved their Jewishness in areas remote from other Jewish centers proves that
the Jews of Kurdistan achieved respect and appreciation. You can see that
concentrations of Jews living in similar isolation disappeared over the
Most of the Israeli public does not even know that the Jewish
people from Kurdistan happened to arrive there in the wake of the
exile. The first stage of the exile was undertaken by Shalmaneser V in
and it was completed by his successor, Sargon II in 722 BCE.
kings deported Jews living in the northern kingdom of Israel and east of
The aliya of Kurdish Jews to Israel began before the
establishment of the state, with the majority of the community
the establishment of Israel, during 1950-1954, under the orders of the
and community leaders.
Their emigration was not due to riots or pogroms
of the Muslim population among which the Jews lived, but because of deep
for Israel, which prompted them to follow their community leaders and
We have a moral and a historic debt to the Kurdish people
in all the geographic regions in which they live, especially the Kurdish
community in Iraq. Following the riots, pogroms and harsh conditions
Jews were exposed to, since the founding of the State of Israel and even
it was the Kurdish people who helped Jewish families escape from Iraq to
and from there to reach the Land of Israel. I am personally familiar
incident, the case of the late Fouad Gabai, who was hanged in the
of Baghdad on January 27, 1969 along with eight others also killed by
His widow and four children were arrested and placed in a
detention camp. They were later smuggled to Israel by the Barzani
family, one of
two main Kurdish families in Iraq.
For many years the Kurds have suffered
under the strong arm of the Iraqi regime, their only sin being their
independence, and the Sunni world was silent. The Kurdish people have
been among the adopted sons of Sunni Islam and the Middle East in
The change of government in Iraq after the fall of Saddam
Hussein led to a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war. In 2007, in a live broadcast
Qatar’s satellite channel, the world’s most extreme Sunni preacher,
al-Qaradawi, who kept silent when members of the Kurdish community in
slaughtered during the regime of Saddam Hussein, called upon the Kurdish
leadership not to forget that they are Sunni, and to help their fellow
against the Shi’ites. The Kurdish leadership in Iraq did not buy this
not assist. They suffered too many years for a call like this to bring
Over the years, members of the Kurdish community in Israel have
shared the pain of the Kurdish people suffering in Iraq and Turkey. I
learned from their stories; community leaders returning deeply moved
travelling to Turkey, making sure to reach Kurdish areas to connect with
heritage and to talk to the people,.
OVER THE years of tight relations
with Turkey, the anger of the Kurdish resistance has been directed
Israel more than once. The best example of this took place on February
when, following the announcement by the Turkish court of the verdict in
trial of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a furious mob of Kurds took
consulate in Berlin for a few hours.
The Jewish people, which knows how
to be grateful to every citizen of Poland, Russia or Germany who saved
also needs to know how to be grateful to an entire people with whom we
peace, appreciation and understanding for thousands of years.
to Turkish anger over such a move, one has to say that, just as Turkey
always maintain good relations with Israel while sometimes supporting
opposing Israel (the ultimate being the flotilla to Gaza last week, and
only the leaders from the Islamist parties, such as Recep Tayyip
Necmettin Erbakan or Abdullah Gul, but secular leaders such as Demiral
so too Turkey needs to understand that our good relations with it do not
cause us to ignore our moral obligation to the Kurdish people, which the
international community in its self-righteousness has forgotten about
outside of the global agenda. The Kurdish people deserves what any other
We must stop thinking in black and white. We need to adopt a
world view and a multidisciplinary policy within which resides the
coexistence of good relations with Turkey alongside gratitude to the
people. We are not talking about a revolutionary policy here. Look
Many countries operate within such policies, which, according to my
are much more effective and ethical.
The writer is chairman of the Smart
Middle East Forum.
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