Why Israel should recognize an independent Kurdistan

“The road to Iran runs through Kurdistan and starts in Syria.”

A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS near Bashiqa, Iraq, last year. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS near Bashiqa, Iraq, last year.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the wake of Iranian aggression across the Middle East, the most effective strategy Israel can adopt is to recognize an independent Kurdistan and fully support it.
Across the Middle East Israel faces a variety of security threats, from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad’s regime in Syria to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Islamic State (ISIS) in the Sinai Peninsula. These already existing threats are exasperated by Iran seeking to establish a Shi’ite Crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. In the framework of seeking the establishment of a Shi’ite Crescent, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani recently declared support for Hamas working to wipe Israel off the map as the Islamic Republic built its third underground ballistic missile production factory.
To prop up Assad’s regime and Hezbollah, Iran needs territorial contiguity from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This way, it can import supplies with ease to its proxies via land routes, for Israel has already demonstrated that it can infiltrate and stop Iranian sea or air shipments more easily. However, an independent Kurdistan in Syria and Iraq would territorially break up the Shi’ite Crescent, thus making it more difficult for Iran to carry out its terrorist activities across the Middle East. The Kurdistan region of Iraq led by President Masoud Barzani’s government will not permit Iranian shipments to terrorist groups to pass through its territory.
If Kurdistan becomes a full-fledged independent state in Northern Iraq and parts of Syria, the logistical obstacles for Iran will greatly increase.
As Syrian Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas noted, “The road to Iran runs through Kurdistan and starts in Syria.” He argued that the Kurds can lead Syria into a new era, where the newly founded state is at peace with all its neighbors including Israel. By having another Muslim country in the region maintain warm and friendly relations with the State of Israel, this can help to end the Jewish state’s regional isolation.
It is critical to note that Israel should support an independent Kurdistan because it is the moral thing to do. The Kurds were promised a country in the Treaty of Sevres but this promise was reneged on in the Treaty of Lausanne, leaving the Kurds as the largest nation on earth without a country, a reality that affects 40 million people. The Kurds have their own unique culture, history and language, which are distinct from those of their Turkish, Persian and Arab neighbors. Furthermore, in the past the Kurds had strong leaders who befriended the Jewish People, such as Saladin.
In addition, the Kurds ruled themselves in the past, under the Ayyubid dynasty and the Bohtan Emirate, to name a few. In fact, they were only absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1908. For this reason, the Kurds have a strong sense of nationalism.
The Kurds passionately believe that their culture, language and historic destiny can be best realized by granting them the same rights that other nations possess.
“Only Kurdish strength, a Kurdish military force and a Kurdish state can guarantee that the Kurdish people will be able to live a normal life, the kind of life a nation that has its own state can lead,” Israeli scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar proclaimed. “This is first and foremost an ethical position. They are not immigrants, they are not invaders and they will not go anywhere else. The West and particularly Israel must take a moral stance – which also happens to be a realistic stance – and support, both in word and deed, the legitimate rights of the Kurds to full independence and to a state like all the other peoples of the world. That is the only way to free them from decades of suffering brought on by long-extinct colonial interests.
“All those nations so eager to recognize a Palestinian people, a fictitious people whose existence was unknown before the 1970s, a people without its own language, culture, ethnicity or territory – let’s hear them for the Kurds. The Kurds are a real nation, much more deserving of recognition and rights than the virtual Palestinian people.”
Within the Arab world, it is critical to note that many perceive the Kurds in the same manner that they view the State of Israel.
For example, according to an article written by Ofra Bengio in The Middle East Quarterly, in 1966, then Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli blamed the Kurds of Iraq for seeking to establish “a second Israel” in the Middle East. He also claimed that “the West and the East are supporting the rebels to create [khalq] a new Israeli state in the north of the homeland as they had done in 1948 when they created Israel. It is as if history is repeating itself.”
According to Bengio, these conceptions speak volumes about both how the Kurds and the State of Israel are perceived in the Middle East. She argued that these obstacles that both nations face in the Arab world alongside the similarities between both peoples create a common affinity between the Jews and the Kurds. For all the above reasons, Israelis should support the Kurds in realizing their national aspirations.
The author is an independent journalist and senior media research analyst based in Israel. She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.