Above the Fold: Obligation to support the Kurds

More than an obligation, it’s a commandment.

KURDISH AND ARAB protesters chant slogans against Turkish President Tayip Erdogan in Qamishli, Syria, Wednesday. (photo credit: MOHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS)
KURDISH AND ARAB protesters chant slogans against Turkish President Tayip Erdogan in Qamishli, Syria, Wednesday.
(photo credit: MOHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS)
All lovers of Israel have an obligation to defend the Kurds.
More than an obligation, it’s a commandment.
In the Middle East today there are two societies that need to fight and need to keep fighting, and they need to win. If they lose, they will be slaughtered en masse without mercy by the victors. The Kurds are one. The other is Israel.
For that reason alone, Israel, and lovers of Israel, need to step up and defend the Kurds. But there’s more. There is also a historic need to prevent the massacre of an entire people. During the Holocaust, people were silent. Today, Israel and lovers of Israel have both a voice and the power to step in and stop the devastation of the Kurdish people. We learned the lessons history has taught us. Those lessons are not for our own protection alone. Learning from history does not simply mean Jews protecting Jews, it means Jews also protecting allies and others in need.
There has been a long and positive history of symbiotic interaction between the Kurds and Israel. There were and still are secret interactions, classified interactions, and an exchange of intelligence. Kurds have language skills and the ability to move in and around areas where valuable, important information – information otherwise inaccessible to Israel – exists. Israel is in great need of that information, and the relationship is mutually beneficial.
The photos and videos we are shown of men in well-worn keffiyehs and dusty sandals holding outdated RPGs on their shoulders are not a true representation of who the Kurdish people are. They are a nation, a nation without its own state, something Jews know a lot about and can and should empathize with. It is a large nation. The Kurdish Institute of Paris counts the total world population of Kurds to be 45.6 million. Israel’s population, by comparison, has just reached the nine-million mark.
Identifying where the Kurds live is easy. Using approximate numbers, 20 million Kurds live in Turkey. Turkey has a total population of 80 million. It’s simple math. Kurds comprise 25% of Turkey. Some 12 million Kurds live in Iran, out of a population of 82 million. That’s nearly 15% of the total population. Another 8.5 million Kurds live in Iraq out of 37 million, making them about 23% of Iraq’s population. There are 3.5 million Kurds in Syria out of a total population of 18 million. That means that the Kurds of Syria are more than 19%, of the population.

THE HISTORY of resentment between Turkey and the Kurds goes back a century. Post-World War I, two important treaties impacting the Kurds were signed. The first was the Treaty of Serves, signed on August 10, 1920. The Ottoman Empire had fallen, and Western Allies created a provision in the treaty to carve out a state for the Kurds. It was not to be. When the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in July of 1923, it did not mention the Kurds.
The Ottoman Empire came to an end, and when it was divided up Kurds fell under the control of their hosts, whoever and wherever they were. The path toward Kurdish persecutions and massacres was paved, and it has not yet stopped, or been stopped.
Kurds still want a territorial home, a state called Kurdistan. But where? Who will give them the necessary swath of land? In September 2017, the Kurds of Iraq held a referendum and voted 93.25% in favor of independence. Iraqi Kurdistan was established as a state within the State of Iraq. But that did nothing for the Kurds of Turkey, Iran and Syria.
Turkey will never permit a Kurdish state. They will not part with any Turkish territory, and there has been a protracted conflict between Kurds and Turks over this point. That’s why Turks refer to Kurds in Syria as terrorists and why they battle them so brutally. And that’s why Kurds have attacked Turkey using terrorist tactics. The Kurds are trying to force Turkey to grant them an autonomous region. But their tactics are not at all having the desired effect.
The situation is not simple. At this point, it’s not just about the Kurds. Israel and the Western world have been impacted in ways that are still immeasurable. For the moment, let’s leave the issue of oil and the fact that Russia, along with Turkey, will now be in control of the oil wells in the area the Kurds have been forced to flee. Let’s look at ISIS.
In Syria, the doors of Kurdish prisons have opened. In those prisons, along with the Kurds, were as many as 11,000 ISIS fighter-terrorists. Many of those ISIS terrorists stayed in Syria and are now regrouping. Some have been tracked to Yemen and Egyptian Sinai. Many of the names of those terrorists were never even entered into the data banks of Western intelligence agencies. An enormous untapped treasure trove of intelligence has slipped through Western fingers, and those same terrorists are now free to slip across borders and engage in their terrorist activities. They will pick up where they left off, fighting Kurds, fighting Israel and fighting the West.
Helping the Kurds is the right thing to do. We must support them, not only for their sake, but also for ours.
The writer is a political commentator who hosts Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.