The Turkish Invasion and the Israel-Kurdish Connection

Israel and the Kurdish people have a lot of similarities, and a lot of the same enemies

By Edy Cohen | | Topics: Turkey, Kurds
Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Hundreds of people protested Tuesday night in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv demanding that the Turkish military operations against the Kurdish people in northern Syria be stopped. Protesters carrying Israeli and Kurdistan flags marched from the Turkish embassy to the US embassy urging Erdogan to leave the Kurds alone. The protesters carried signs condemning the Turkish president as well as President Trump, who is “helping the genocide” against the Kurdish people, which is resulting in hundreds of deaths among the Kurdish population.

This is not the first time a pro-Kurdish rally has taken place in Israel. Just a few days ago a demonstration was held in Jerusalem against the Kurdish genocide.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the first world leaders to publicly oppose the Turkish operation. “Israel strongly condemns Turkey’s military invasion of Kurdish provinces in Syria and warns against ethnic cleansing of Kurds by Turkey and its militants,” Netanyahu said. “Israel will make every effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the brave Kurdish people,” the Prime Minister insisted. Other Knesset members like Ayelet Shaked (former Minister of Justice) and Gideon Sa’ar (former Interior Minister) also condemned the Turkish aggression and expressed full support for the Kurdish people.

The people of Israel identify closely with the struggle of the Kurds. Close to 200,000 Kurdish Jews live in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem. These are mostly the descendants from nearly 50,000 Kurdish Jews who were rescued by Israel from Iraq during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah in the early 1950s. There is also a lot of common history that connects the Jewish people with the Kurds. Both peoples suffer from ongoing persecutions – the Kurds by Middle East Muslims, partly because they are not considered Arabs – and both Kurds and Jews are scattered throughout the world. The difference is that the Jewish people have a state, but until today the Kurdish people do not.

While the Palestinian “cause” continues to stir interest in the international media and gain European sympathy, the Kurdish issue does not receive nearly as much attention. Most people do not know that there are about 40 million Kurds living in the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran) and Europe. To this day they are fighting to have their own country because at the end of World War I the victorious powers gave assurances to the Kurds that they would be given an independent state, but that never materialized, due mainly to the violent resistance of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. A homeland for the Kurdish people has been a crucial matter as the Kurds have suffered terrible persecution and oppression in the Arab countries where they live.

The current Turkish offensive began with the withdrawal of US forces from the region. The Turks took advantage of the vacuum left by the US troops and launched a brutal campaign to end the autonomy gained by the Kurds in northern Syria. The second goal of Turkey’s operation is to occupy Kurdish territories in Syria, as well as impose its agenda on those parts of Turkey dominated by Kurdish refugees for many years. In other words, the Turks want an ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in order to “Arabize” the region and get the Kurds to join their Turkish national objectives. The Kurds are now losing their homes and becoming refugees moving around Kurdistan and Iraq for fear of their lives.

The Kurds are the largest national group in the world with no territory of their own. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, they have achieved widespread autonomy in what is known as Kurdistan in northern Iraq, which has led to a rekindling of Kurdish aspirations for independence. 

After joining the fight against ISIS in Syria in 2014, the Kurds were also granted autonomy in parts of northern Syria, but as mentioned, this dream is sinking with the withdrawal of US forces and the entry of the Syrian army into the Kurdish territories on the heels of the Turkish offensive.

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