Many Jews I know have a soft spot for the persecuted peoples of the world, especially the Kurds, a people who, like the Jews, have had to struggle to keep their language and culture alive while living under the domination of other ethnic groups. Our admiration for their struggle for independence has been long suppressed by political realities: isolated internationally, desperate for allies, Israel has had to take what friends she could get.
The alliance with Turkey meant no support for the Kurds – and also no criticism of the slaughter of the Armenians. Even today we can’t do much to support the oppressed peoples around us. Imagine if Israel even tried to come to the aid of the Kurds. Suddenly we would be labelled Zionist invaders and the Kurdish cause would be portrayed as a Zionist plot. This is one of the worst effect of anti-Israel rhetoric: it prevents Israel from supporting the causes of the oppressed. Maybe that’s one of the motives for the anti-Israel rhetoric in the first place: so far we are the only successful rebel against Arab domination, and our neighbors want to make sure no one else follows suit.
But we certainly wish them well. We admire their amazing successes against the Islamic state, with so little outside aid, and we mourn for their losses. They remind us of our own fight for independence in 1948 when most of the world looked the other way.
But what does the future hold for the Kurds? Will they follow in the path of the Jews or take their own path? Let us imagine history unfolding:
As the Kurds declare independence, good people around the world rejoice. Kurds from the diaspora return to fight for their nation’s survival. Many non-Kurds join them as well, including a fair number of Israelis. The invaders are repelled and Kurdistan is accepted as an independent state, a member of the United Nations.
Of course the surrounding peoples, the Turks, the Syrian Arabs, and others, are not happy to see an independent Kurdistan, but no one pays attention to them in the elation of victory and freedom.
Twenty years later: the state of Kurdistan is strong, but still under attack by its neighbors. There are complaints of expulsions, ethnic cleansing, war crimes that occured during the war of independence, such as always occur in the birth of a new nation. These accusations are brought by their Arab and Turkish neighbors, and while the vast majority are false a few of them turn out to be true.
Thirty years later: the surrounding Arab states and their allies attempt to isolate the Kurdish state diplomatically. The nations of the West continue their support, but shrill protests are now heard on University campuses. These verbal attacks are small, but growing in number. They claim that the movement for the self-determination of the Kurdish people is racism. Charges of discrimination against the Arab and Turkish people that remain under their rule are heard. Kurdistan is attacked as an ethnocracy, an apartheid state, even though Kurdistan persistently grants equality under the law ot all its citizens.
Fourty years later: the conflict is boiling over in the media and on college campuses. Left wing professors, including Jewish ones, accuse the Kurds of racism, ethnic cleansing, war crimes. But these accusations never really convince the majority of the people in the West. They believe in the right of self-determination of all people. They know that repelling military attacks always leads to unfortunate violent incidents. They know that the slanders are motivated by ill-will.
Efforts are made to recruit diaspora Kurds to join in the hate-fest, but they all refuse. The Kurds are proud people, courageous people, generous people. They show solidarity with their brothers in Kurdistan. To a man, they refuse to join the slanderous accusations. In angry tones, they denounce the slanderers and and offer complete support for their brothers and sisters in Kurdistan. Because of their pride and solidarity, the protests make no headway. Eventually the protesters turn to easier targets, such as the abuse of rabbits in medical experiments, leaving the Kurds to enjoy their freedom in peace. A great historical wrong has been made right.
On Kurdish independence day, the following conversation is overheard in the town of Zako.
Namo (Kurdish boy): Daddy, whatever happened to the Jewish state?
Rajan (Namo’s father): It’s sad. They were doing very well for a while, son. Amazingly well. They were an economic miracle, exporting computer technology, agricultural technology, military hardware, literature and music, to the world. They had one of the best armies for its size in the world, and the army with the best humanitarian record by far. Their doctors saved thousands in Israel and abroad. Their Nobel prize winning scientists made amazing discoveries that benefited all of humanity. They were the envy of many European countries, and an inspiration for our own fighters.
But they screwed it up. They couldn’t deal with the protests. I don’t mean the Israelis themselves. Although some Israelis betrayed their people, the vast majority were strong. But the diaspora Jews wanted to be part of the protest movement. They wanted to prove their loyalty to their neighbors, to prove that they did not allow their ethnic ties to influence them. They called that “true courage.” They joined their voices to those of the Arabs, the Iranians and the Turks, and because they were Jews themselves the people of the West bought it. Sanctions, divestment, boycotts: the Jews helped empower those movements. And that was the end of the economic miracle, and of the Israeli defense forces. Deprived of income, cut off from military supplies, eventually they could no longer repell the attacks from their local and more distant neighbors. Most of the elite classes escaped, but it was sad to watch the slaughter of the poorer Jews.
Eco (friend of Rajan): Those Jews always seemed like weirdos, but that takes the cake. Imagine attacking your own people! I am glad we’re not like them. Pass the beer, buddy.