Talking Turkey about Turkey
By Gerald A. Honigman
27 May 2004* *
The Turks are upset with Israel these days.
The same folks who have declared over one fifth of their own non-Turk
Kurdish population (over ten million people) to be “non-existent” in
the past (they’re really just “Mountain Turks, don’t you know?) and
have taken steps to outlaw Kurdish language and culture (Arabic is
one of Israel’s two official languages), are allegedly mad at Israel
for going after the Arab terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. These are
the same folks who have killed tens of thousands of Kurds over the
years in the name of their own security, have invaded neighboring
Iraq for similar reasons, etc., etc., and so forth.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like the Turks, for the most part at least.
But Turkey’s relationship with Israel must not be an unbalanced
affair…something to use when relations are on the downswing with
Syrian Arabs, for example. Now that they’re again on the upswing,
Ankara needs its excuse to back off from the Jews. Gaza schmaza.
Talk about guts…Ankara complains about Israel not wanting Arabs
turning Gaza into a terrorist base and threatens to withdraw its
ambassador–while Israel has agreed in theory to an Arab state being
set up there–but totally nixed the idea of an independent Kurdish
state being set up in adjacent northern Iraq for its own security
reasons. Think about that for a minute. We’ll return with vengeance
to this point a bit later.
So, it’s time to really “talk turkey,” if you know what I mean. Israel
has neglected a brave people who have helped many Jews in the
past. Just ask the hundreds of thousands in Israel who originated in
Iraq. Israeli leaders have done this largely to not anger the Turks
over this painful issue. So the Turks’ policies towards the Kurds
were treated in a hands off manner.
If the Turks, however, insist on joining the rest of the world in
applying hypocritical double standards towards the Jewish State, the
time has come for certain truths to at long last come out in the open.
So let’s begin…
The ink had barely dried on the exchanged letters between President
Bush and Prime Minister Sharon back in April 2004 over the Gaza
disengagement plan when the State Department masters of foggy
doublespeak began to whittle away at any real progress that may have
While I welcomed President Bush’s apparently fleeting April2004 remarks
about Israel not having to return to those 1949 U.N.-imposed armistice
lines (and, for the first time, in public, I heard him call them just
that, not “borders”) or not having to consent to national suicide by
allowing millions of real or fudged descendants of Arab refugees a
“right of return” (half of Israel’s Jews originated in “Arab”/Muslim
lands), it could be argued that all of this was very late in the
coming. An earlier dose of these facts of life could have eliminated
the Arab hope of Israel being offered up on a silver platter by its
“friends”–a la Czechoslovakia1938 –and perhaps led them to negotiate
more seriously. I also wish that Mr. Bush would have explained all
of this to much of the world that was watching him on television in
different terms, not simply as “new facts on the ground.”
The territorial adjustments which Israel deserves has to do with
justice…not simply the imposition of power.
The disputed lands in question that Israel came to “occupy” as
a result of renewed Arab hostilities in 1967 (being blockaded–a
casus belli–etc.) were not Arab lands but unapportioned areas of
the original 1920 Palestinian Mandate that all peoples were allowed
to settle in. Top legal scholars such as Eugene Rostow and others
have written extensively about this. Indeed, the League Of Nations
Permanent Mandates Commission and other sources recorded Arabs pouring
into the Mandate from all over the Middle East and North Africa because
of the economic development going on due to the Jews. Any22 nd or23
rd Arab state that might be created — and second, not first, Arab
one within the original 1920 borders of “Palestine” (Jordan emerging
out of the lion’s share in1922 )– must not emerge at the expense of
the security of the sole, miniscule state of the Jews.
So, with all that’s happening with the Iraq mess right now, and in
light of recent developments regarding the Turks, it’s time to put
things into a broader perspective.
Consider, for example, the world wide obsession to create an additional
Arab state (supposedly in the name of “justice”), while Kurds are
still not yet deemed worthy of one. When America finally withdraws
from Iraq, the Arabs will likely take vengeance upon these people
for their friendship and cooperation with Washington.
Now think about this…
Over thirty million Kurds remain stateless today, often at someone
else’s mercy. At a time when much of the world insists that justice
demands that there be yet another Arab state, there is a nauseating
silence–in most of the media, in academia, at the United Nations,
etc.– over the plight of this people.
Spread out over a region which encompasses parts of southeastern
Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and other adjoining areas as well, these
modern day descendants of ancient Medes and Hurrians continue to find
themselves in very precarious circumstances.
Kurdish culture and language have periodically been “outlawed”
in attempts to Arabize or Turkify them, and in an age when other
dormant nations/national groups were able to seize the moment with
the collapse of empires, the Kurds were repeatedly denied this chance
by an assortment of so-called “friends” and foes alike.
Having been promised independence after World War I, the Kurds saw
their hopes dashed after the British received a favorable decision from
the League of Nations on the Mosul Question in1925 . Predominantly
Kurdish Mosul and Kirkuk were where much of the oil was located,
and the main arm of British imperial power – the navy – had recently
switched from coal to oil.
The Brits decided that their long term interests involved not angering
the region’s Arabs, who–by their own writings–declared that the
rise of an independent Kurdistan would be seen as the equivalent
of the birth of another Israel. Regardless of scores of millions
of non-Arabs living in the region (including one half of Israel’s
Jews who were from “Arab”/Muslim lands), Arabs declared a political
monopoly over what they regarded as “purely Arab patrimony.” We are
living with the consequences of this mindset today.
Much has been written about America’s abuse of the Kurds, although the
mainstream press, media, academia, and other supposedly “enlightened”
folks have – with some notable exceptions – too often ignored this.
Having stood by our side and aided America continuously over the
decades, the State Department has too often pulled the rug out
from under the Kurds after their immediate “use” was deemed over,
with deadly consequences to this people. And yet, they have remained
strangely loyal to Washington.
While I won’t rehash the disgraceful behavior of much earlier periods,
recent and current policies are sufficient to make the point. And while
I am focusing on America, the rest of the world – for the most part –
has been as bad or worse.
Because America has the power to greatly influence the course of
geopolitics all around the world, my focus is mostly on my own country.
But others–especially Israel, whose people were called to be the
original “light unto the nations”–should pay more attention to this
as well. Regarding the latter, any “help” that Israel might want to
provide might actually, in some ways at least, actually hurt. So this
must be thought out very carefully.
America should always strive to be a shining light. I say this not
out of naivete. America has the power and ability to do this as no
other nation has. All it lacks is the will. And this is largely due
to the clique that runs the Department of State. On the Kurdish issue,
it has assumed Britain’s posture in the post-World War I era vis-a-vis
Foggy Bottom insists – after hundreds of thousands of Kurds have
been maimed, gassed, and slaughtered in other ways by Arabs just in
Iraq alone over the last several decades (Syrian Arabs have recently
renewed their previous slaughter of Kurds as well) – that Kurds will
never gain independence. The heartland of Kurdistan had been in the
region around oil-rich Kirkuk.
State insists that the Kurds remain part of a united Iraq, regardless
of the bloody consequences this will probably have for them in the
future yet again. And while I hope I’m wrong, I doubt it.
America’s federal dream, while looking good on paper, has largely
been rejected by the Arabs themselves, be they Shi’a or Sunni. The
majority Shi’a, long suppressed by Saddam, now have other plans.
The Shi’a refuse to grant Kurds any control over their own fate,
regardless of any alleged partial federal agreement achieved so
far with America’s continuous prodding. And Arabs, of any stripe,
are still not about to grant Kurds any real equality. A visit to the
Kurdish Media’s website would be very useful to any and all needing
“enlightenment” in these regards. An article posted by Dr. Hussein
Tahiri’s “The Iraqi Shi’ites: When An Oppressed Becomes Oppressor,”
posted March8 , 2004 in is revealing; and the
site has many other informative essays.
While the formula for a summer 2004 handoff of American power to an
Iraqi government looks reasonable– again, on paper–the reality
is likely to be something far different. I hope I’m wrong, but my
opinions have something to do with tigers changing their stripes or
leopards changing their spots. And those tigers and leopards are very
old and entrenched ones, indeed.
The same State Department – which fought President Truman over
America’s recognition of a reborn Israel in 1948 – insists that there
be no partition of Mesopotamia/Iraq. Britain had earlier received
the Mandate for Mesopotamia at the same time it received the Mandate
for Palestine in the post-World War I era. But, unlike Palestine,
which would undergo a number of partitions in attempts to arrive at
a compromise solution between Arab and Jew, a much larger Mesopotamia
was somehow declared to be incapable of doing this for its Kurds.
After World War I, the British were given control of previous Ottoman
territory. Of this vast area, a small piece – they called it Palestine
– was intended for the Jews. In1922 , Colonial Secretary Churchill
chopped off roughly80 % of Palestine, and handed it over to its
Hashemite Arab allies. Purely Arab Transjordan – today’s Jordan – was
thus born. Arabs rejected another partition in 1947 which would have
given them roughly half of the20 % of the land that was left. President
Bush and State today insist that Arabs will get another state, their
second one in “Palestine.”
The main reason put forth for why Mesopotamia/Iraq is incapable
of this sort of partition is the potential for instability it will
cause in the region. Not only will the Arabs be miffed at someone
else gaining national rights in “their” region, but the Turks, in
particular, will supposedly have a fit due to their own large and
suppressed Kurdish minority.
While a strong Turco-American alliance is worthy of support, the
Turks are wrong on this matter, and too many have allowed them to
get away with this for too long. While it is understandable that
they’re nervous about the potential problems, this does not give
them the right to have a veto power over the plight of some thirty
million long-oppressed and abused Kurds. Again, think of the irony
here regarding Ankara’s “concerns” over rejectionist Arabs, who could
have had their additional state decades ago had they just not continued
to work towards the destruction of the sole Jewish one.
An independent Kurdistan set up in northern Iraq – under the right
conditions – might actually be a blessing for the Turks. Those Kurds
– like those Jews, Greeks, Armenians, etc. – wishing to live in an
independent state could migrate to it. An arrangement could also be
made whereby the oil wealth of the area could be shared with the Turks
as well, since they feel they got robbed via the earlier decision by
the League of Nations on the Mosul Question.
Putting things into the broader perspective, consider the following
The CIA’s Fact Book on the Internet shows Israel to have a population
of roughly 6 million people, of whom about20 % are Arab. Among the
latter are some very hostile elements. Israel’s territory is about20 ,
Turkey has a population of about 68 million people, of whom about 20%
are Kurds. Turkey’s territory is about780 , 580sq Km. About38 Israels
would fit into Turkey.
Despite Israel’s small size, Foggy Bottom has no problem demanding that
Israel allow the creation of another Arab terrorist state, dedicated
to its destruction, right in its backyard. State continues to ignore
proclamations by even so-called Arab “moderates” that Oslo and all
other such “peace initiatives” are but “Trojan Horses,” steps along the
way in the Arabs’ post-‘ 67destruction in phases strategy for Israel.
Now, how will the fifth of miniscule Israel’s population that is
Arab react to this adjacent potential development? And how will the
majority of Hashemite Jordan, which is also mostly Palestinian Arab
(however you define that, in that many, if not most, “Palestinians”
entered Mandated Palestine from elsewhere in the region during the
Mandatory Period), react to this? Arafat’s boys had already tried
a takeover of Jordan in1970 . They were crushed in King Hussein’s
“Black September.” And Israel’s mobilization in the north sent a
message to the PLO’s Syrian allies at the time as well. Yet the Foggy
Folks seem not to be worried about any destablizing effects here.
The same hypocrites who declare that Israel must grossly endanger
itself so that yet another Arab state might be born insist that Kurds
must remain forever stateless because of some problems their freedom
might cause to a Turkey nearly forty times Israel’s size in territory
and over eleven times its size in population, and with the same80 %
to 20% mix of potential “headaches.”
There’s no defense for this. An ex-State Department career person
contacted me after one of my earlier articles. In our subsequent
correspondence, he told me to just accept the fact that the Kurds
will never be allowed their state, while attacking me, of course,
for my reservations over what State has in store for Israel. He even
brought up the subject of “dual loyalty.” I asked him if he would
say that to some 60 million or so – if not more – Christians who are
saying the same thing that I am. No answer – pathetic.
Regardless of America’s good intentions (and we were correct in ridding
the land of Adolf, I mean Saddam), it’s likely that Iraq will become
even more of a mess – rather like Yugoslavia with the death of Tito,
though I really don’t like mentioning him and Saddam in the same breath
– and more costly over time. Entrenched Arab attitudes – centuries
old – are not likely to change regarding their relationships with
their conquered, non-Arab populations. Any of the latter that have
not agreed to the forced Arabization process – be they Kurd, Jew,
Berber, Black African, Copt, Lebanese, etc. have had major problems
to contend with, often deadly ones.
Asking Kurds to forsake the creation of their one, sole state for the
pipedream of an egalitarian Iraq is a travesty of justice if ever
there was one. Regardless of their religious coloration, the vast
majority of Arabs are in no sharing mood when it comes to questions
about what they see as “purely Arab patrimony.” They’re the rulers,
the rest are the ruled. Period…
Again, when America leaves Iraq, as it will sooner or later, the
backlash will once again fall on the people who supported us the
most–the Kurds. We have left them holding the bag too many times
Think about how the course of history may have been changed if an
Israel existed prior to the Holocaust. You read about the problems with
the Shi’a above. Saddam’s regime was largely Sunni-supported. Abu Musab
Zarqawi, of al-Qaida fame, wrote a letter that was recently intercepted
by U.S. forces in Iraq. He’s the guy who is believed responsible for
the recent slaughter of Shi’a in Baghdad and Karbala. In the letter
he listed four enemies. America, of course, was No.1 . No. 2 is the
Kurds. Here’s what he says about them: They are “…a lump in the
throat and a thorn whose time to be clipped has yet to come.”
Now, while Foggy Bottom demands some two dozen states for Arabs
and actually encourages the good cop/bad cop team of Arafat and
Hamas/Islamic Jihad by at least some of its actions, double standards,
and doublespeak, we all need to think harder about the direction we
want the greatest country on Earth – The United States of America –
to follow regarding the fate of our strangely loyal friends, the Kurds.
The roadmap for Kurdistan is long overdue. And if the Turks can join
the Arab chorus in favor of terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction,
then it’s time for Israel to reconsider its silence regarding the
Kurds as well.