One week from today, millions of people will hold a referendum with worldwide impact. Their ultimate goal is to have an independent, self-governing state which incorporates their historic lands carved out of current states. Why we Jews should care and wholeheartedly support this vote is clear. We have our state, and for the time being, we are at peace. We have lost millions throughout our collective history and we have survived many efforts to erase us and our history. Thus, we cannot sit idly by as 40 million people struggle for peace, recognition and the right to exist. Nor can we let our Prime Minister be suckered into a false narrative or be turned into a “useful idiot” by our true enemies.
It is time for Israelis and Jews, in particular, throughout the world to proclaim our undivided support for a Kurdish nation within her historical lands and with recognized secure borders. As Jews, we owe it to them to offer our unquestioning support. The stability of the entire Middle East depends upon it. It should be freely given now, before external forces led by the murderous Turkish leader Erdogan, the ayatollahs in Iran and the failed government in Iraq can attack these people again. Benjamin Netanyahu has stated his support for this referendum, but he qualified his support by adding that one of the main fighting forces of the Kurdish people, the “PKK” are a terrorist organization. This is not correct. In contradiction, retired IDF Major General Yair Golan also denies any linkage between terrorists and the PKK.
The PKK was organized to defend innocent and unarmed Kurds living in Turkey while the Turkish army and local Turkish police have been engaged in an ethnic cleansing effort that has left millions of Kurds homeless targets while imprisoning their leaders on false charges. By calling Kurdish fighters “terrorists” they know that by so doing, it is like waving red meat in front of a crocodile. This is how they justify American air bases in Turkey as, since the 1970s, American have had an evisceral reaction to the thought of terrorists roaming around the world at large. Real terrorists murder children, women and the elderly. They harass people into leaving their homes of several centuries and make them stateless by destroying their homes, animals and livelihoods. Last week, a throng of angry Turks tried to dig up the recent grave of the mother of one of the members of one of the few remaining Kurdish political groups in the Turkish parliament. Who does such things? The Iraqis gassed them in their villages by the thousands. The Turks made their spoken language illegal and punishable by imprisonment. The Iranian regime hang them in public squares on a daily basis from construction cranes. The Syrians imprison and torture anyone who speaks out against the outrages committed upon them, including children. Yes, entire states can be terrorists.
The PKK began training a general army to support the much-vaunted Kurdish “peshmerga” during the early days of Bashar al-Assad’s war against his own people, including his two million Kurdish Syrians. This army, the “People’s Protective Units” or “YPG”, comprised in large numbers by women fighters, has achieved stunning victories against Daesh, as well as Syrian and Turkish organized armies. More importantly, their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who sits rotting in a Turkish prison, believes in a country that is egalitarian and secular. They also have an abiding respect for nature and would be a country full of automatic environmentalists, if given the chance as the beauty of their lands is undeniable. Even Western-influenced Israel is not so liberated in her thinking about the role of women in society. We could learn a lot about equality from the Kurds. It is a shame they are not our immediate neighbors. At least our shared borders would be secure and peaceful.
It is past time for the Kurds of the world to have their own nation. Our humanity depends upon our support. The stability of the region demands it. We cannot call ourselves defenders of freedom if we do not recognize and support the desire to be free by others.