The Israeli Knesset, the Yezidi Genocide, and Machiavelli

On November 21, 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted down, 59 to 38, a bill that would recognize the 2014 ISIS-targeted annihilation of the Yezidis in Northern Iraq as genocide. The bill was sponsored by Knesset Member Ksenia Svetlova of the opposition Zionist Union. She stated, “Israel was created from the ashes of the Holocaust; we are obligated to recognize the suffering of others.”

There were several semi-informed explanations given for the outcome of this vote ranging from the Yezidi genocide has not been recognized by the United Nations to voting members moved too fast on such a vote, etc. Outside observers have claimed that because some (inaccurately) categorize Yezidis as Kurds and because Kurds are disliked in some quarters, or some Jews have an issue with acknowledging the sufferings of others, the bill was defeated. Some diasporan Jewish publications have stated this is the wrong decision by the Knesset. All of these “explanations” are remiss in not adding the most significant factor in such decisions, realpolitik. Moreover, the Knesset voted on the Yezidi genocide bill rather than tabling it which has been done with resolutions for an Israeli recognition of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. There are three outcomes of such a vote, and all three have their ramifications: a vote for, a vote against, and not having the bill come to a vote at all. The latter generally sends a message without committing one way or the other. In the case of Armenian genocide recognition, one would suppose the Knesset tabling a vote is better than a no vote – at least from an Armenian viewpoint.

The unusual characteristic of the Yezidi vote was that unlike the case of the Armenians, where Turkey has to near-permanently change its political DNA for an Israeli recognition; the Yezidis have no state or body to prosecute associated with their destruction. There are no leaders of ISIS who can be held responsible for ISIS itself has nearly disappeared. Perhaps the Knesset’s Yezidi vote was indeed proceeding “too fast.” However, are their other factors involved that may not be so evident, and whose effects might have had a bearing on both having a Knesset vote and its vote resulting in non-recognition?

Yezidis from the Sinjar area of northern Iraq (or perhaps one should refer to it as Kurdistan) blame Kurdish rivalries for abandoning them, eventually allowing ISIS free-reign in killing untold thousands of men and abducting and auctioning off women and children.

Most Yezidis supported and voted for Masoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party in the Ninevah Province of northern Iraq where the town of Sinjar with its majestic temple is located. However, accounts from Yezidi refugees claim that the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the south of the Turkish border PKK-affiliate, were their only protection. (The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for over a generation.) These Yezidis claim that they might have successfully defended themselves if they were sufficiently armed or given notice of the advance of ISIS groups toward Sinjar, but none of this happened. Where was the Kurdish KDP during all this? Were local Sunni Arabs tribes in collaboration with ISIS and if so what relationships did they have with Kurdish militias? Something undesirable enough was taking place for Barzani’s promise to investigate the specific Sinjar events. It is now 2018, and we are still waiting on Barzani.

Would an Israeli recognition of the Yezidi genocide have exposed activities or arrangements, not in the interest of Israel, Kurdistan, Israeli-Kurdish relations, or even Masoud Barzani? Maybe.

An Israeli recognition or nonrecognition of the genocide committed on the Yezdis has little to do with UN resolutions or moving “too fast” as an uncontested excuse. One needs to look at the secondary repercussions and what Israel would lose or gain recognizing this genocide, currently. Why should Israel take any moral high ground in the political recognition of the Yezidi genocide now, when they could extract more for themselves later?

Machiavelli is alive and well!

Yerevan, Armenia

About the Author
David Davidian is a lecturer at the American University of Armenia. He has spent over a decade in technical intelligence analysis at major high technology firms.
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