By Safa Haeri
PARIS 11 Aug. (IPS) In a recent interview with an Arabic daily, Mr. Mas’oud Barzani, the leader of the Democratic Party of (Iraqi) Kurdistan said if the Kurds decided to open diplomatic relations with Israel, they would do it “on the open and announce it officially”.
He was answering a question about reports in the American and European press on the presence in Iraqi Kurdistan of Israeli commandos and military experts training Kurdish forces.
“Even some Arab officials seem to believe the allegations. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara’a proposed at the last meeting of foreign ministers of countries neighboring Iraq to include in the final communiqué a clause expressing concern about Israeli penetration into northern Iraq. Iraq's delegate at the meeting objected, saying that his government had no evidence of such penetration. However, despite the denials and the failure of the accusers to produce any evidence, many in the Arab press continue to treat the alleged Israeli presence in Iraqi Kurdistan as a foregone conclusion”, pointed out Mr. Kamran Qaradaqi, a veteran Kurdish journalist in the Lebanese English-language newspaper “The Daily Star” of 4 August 2004.
Despite the denials and the failure of the accusers to produce any evidence, many in the Iranian and Arab press continue to treat the alleged Israeli presence in Iraqi Kurdistan as a foregone conclusion.
Earlier on the month, a Palestinian newspaper, “Al-Manar”, quoted unidentified sources as saying thatMr. Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, had secretly visited Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other senior Israeli officials and discussed with them steps to declare an independent Kurdish state.
The allegations were based on a story wrote by the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in an article published in the New Yorker magazine last June 2004, quoting unidentified sources that a strategic decision had been taken by Sharon to support an independent Kurdish state that would serve Israel's regional interests.
Hersh reported that the Israelis were training Kurdish commandos and supplying them with advanced military equipment. In their turn, the Israelis seek to use Iraqi Kurdistan as a platform to spy on Syria and Iran, and, in particular, monitor Iran's nuclear facilities.
Though both the Kurds and Israel denied the information, yet conservatives-controlled press in the Islamic Republic jumped on the news, accusing the Iraqi Kurds of having allowed Israel to establish bases in territories under Kurdish control to “penetrate” Iran and carry espionage and intelligence activities against the Islamic Republic.
The presence of Israeli officers and experts in Iraqi Kurdistan dates to the sixties, when Monarchist Iran and Ba’thist Iraq were on the brink of war in the one hand and Iraqi Kurds, under the leadership of the charismatic General Mostafa Barzani, where also fighting the now imprisoned Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Arab hegemony.
However, the Israelis had to pack off after the Iranian Monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi met the Iraqi strongman during the OPEC Summit of 1975 in the Algerian capital and with the intervention of the then Algerian leader Houari boumedienne, signed the historic “Algiers Agreement”, sacrificing the Kurds in the process – the same way he had been abandoned by the Americans in 1979, according to a Kurdish analyst.
But while Mr. Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Kurdish leader admits that Hersh's article had a negative impact on the Kurds, Mr. Ramin H. Artin argues that a Kurdish-Israeli alliance “deserves support of progressive intellectuals and leaders of every nation”.
“Are there Israelis in Kurdistan? The answer is yes. Most of them are visitors who describe themselves as Kurdish Jews. They, or more likely their parents, lived in northern Iraq until they emigrated to Israel in the early 1950s. Some still have relatives in Iraq; others go there to see the land where their ancestors lived for almost 2000 years. Some Kurds and their Jewish visitors have become friends, inducing the Kurds to travel to Israel. Whether the Arab world likes it or not, the fact is that most Kurds consider having Israeli friends and visiting Israel as something normal. Kurds are not "allergic" to the Israelis”, Mr. Qaradaqi observed.
But while, according to Mr. Qaradaqi, Mr. Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Kurdish leader and a prominent independent politician, admits that Hersh's article had a negative impact on the Kurds, Mr. Ramin H. Artinof the Kurdish-American Education Society in Orange County, California, argues that a Kurdish-Israeli alliance “deserves support of progressive intellectuals and leaders of every nation”.
“Such a potential alliance, which would be based on shared values of civil societies rather than on national or religious background seems to be one step forward and deserves support of progressive intellectuals and leaders of every nation”, he said in an article published on 9 August 2004 by the popular Iranian internet site “The Iranians” (www.iranian.com) based in Los Angeles.
In the article, Mr. Artin also regrets that “instead of promoting this idea to become a reality, surprisingly some Kurds feel guilty as if such an alliance would be sinful”.
Bellow is a large excerpt of the article:
The people in the Middle East have been paying a tremendous price for their persistent unresolved conflicts. Needless to say that any conflicts needs at least two self-centered parties. The main conflicts in the Middle East seem to be rooted in the lack of tolerance for those with a different ethnic and religious background or a different viewpoint. Denial of the people’s rights in the region seems to be the rule rather than exception.
In some countries with a fundamental religious rule, if not all, at least half of the population is banned from even choosing its own clothing let alone freedom of expression. In some countries, ruled by a dominant ethnic group, many people have no right or opportunity to even learn their native language.
[The same as the] Creation of Israel has been a thorn in the eye of fascists who would rather eliminate the Jewish state, creation of a Kurdistan as a country is still a taboo and has been referred to as a potential second Israel not only by fascists but also by some progressive groups. Such groups ignore the fact that Israel, despite the brutal behavior of its extremists toward the violent extremists of its counterparts, is still the most democratic country in the region and has not named the country the Jewish Republic of Israel!
While many countries in the Middle East only reluctantly recognize the right of the Israel to exist as a nation, Israel seems to be more tolerant and accepts the existence of a Palestinian state.
Similar attitude holds true by those who cannot see the existence of a Kurdish state, even if the Kurds respect the existence of their counterparts. Those Kurds who question such a jungles law in the Middle East are called dangerous traitors, even if they are among the most peaceful people.
Having gone through a similar experience, an alliance of Kurds and Jews is quite natural. Contrary to a possible assumption that only the Jewish state, the Kurds, and the US would benefit from such an alliance, it might in fact be an evolutionary stage that could be beneficiary to all involved party in the Middle East, once they see that sincere mutual respect and recognition of each other’s rights can lead to peace and prosperity. ENDS ISRAEL KURDS 11804