Kurdish Opinion Piece Embraces Independence: ‘We Must Learn from Israel’

Iraqi Kurds protest and wave flags of their autonomous Kurdistan region during a demonstration to claim for its independence on July 3, 2014 outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Arbil, in northern Iraq. The Kurdish leader, Massud Barzani asked its parliament to start organizing a referendum on independence. AFP PHOTO …
SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

The Iraqi Kurdish people, in their ongoing fight to become a sovereign nation, “must learn” from the similar history of suffering and persecution experienced by the Jews as they struggled for international recognition as a nation-state, argued a Kurdish author in an opinion article Monday.

In the op-ed, published by Rudaw, Dr. S.R. Valentine, a freelance writer and lecturer in Iraqi Kurdistan, notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently spoke about “the shared suffering of Jews and Kurds as well as common values such as freedom and democracy.”

While Valentine highlights various similarities between the Kurdish and Jewish struggles, he acknowledges a significant difference that he describes as a great “weakness”—the infighting among the Kurds, urging them to unite.

Valentine wrote:

If, as hoped, the Kurds are to gain their independence and be strong as a unified political force, then the PUK and the KDP, like their earlier Jewish counterparts, must settle disagreements and, recognizing common interests, unite as one coherent military and political group.  Independence must not lead to internal strife and blood-shed.

Ben Gurion successfully united the rival tribal Jewish militias and as such the Jews were strong.

On September 25, northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is scheduled to hold an independence referendum that is expected to pass.

“We Kurds should be greatly encouraged by the Jews as we seek our freedom. Our histories and struggles are so similar. We must learn from Israel,” a Tel Aviv-based Jewish Kurd told his friend Valentine as they discussed Iraqi Kurdish independence.

Echoing Israeli PM Netanyahu, Valentine noted:

The Jews, like the Kurds, have had a long history of struggle, suffering and persecution. But both peoples have emerged victorious from ignominious attempts of persecution and genocide.

Throughout their history the Jews have faced adversity, particularly so in the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed an estimated 6 million Jews. Similarly, more than 200,000 Kurds were killed by Saddam Hussein during Anfal in the 1980s when the Ba’athists carried out a merciless campaign of genocide against the Kurdish people….Kurds and Jews have shared a common struggle to be acknowledged as people, as victims of genocide. They are peoples leading similar life and death struggles to preserve their unique ethnic identities as non-Arabs.

Kurds should take a lesson from the fact that despite the overwhelming odds against them, Jews gained their independence and international recognition as a nation-state, argued the opinion article.

Shiite-led Iraq has come out against the Kurdish independence, along with neighboring Iran and Turkey who fear the move will influence the Kurds within their territory to do the same.

Although the United States considers the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops one of its most effective partners against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), it is unclear where American President Donald Trump’s administration stands on the independence question.

Trump’s State Department has signaled opposition to Kurdish independence, saying a referendum “at this time” would distract from “more urgent priorities,” including the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and efforts to resolve Kurdistan’s “internal political disputes.”

Furthermore, the Republican-led Congress has threatened to cut funding to the KRG if it ceases to participate “in the government of a unified Iraq.”

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