A move­ment backed by BRIEF­ING

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY COLIN SHINDLER

THE OVER­WHELM­ING Kur­dish vote in sup­port of in­de­pen­dence on Mon­day was en­dorsed by Is­raelis of all po­lit­i­cal views. It built on half a cen­tury of Is­raeli-Kur­dish co­op­er­a­tion which com­menced when Golda Meir was For­eign Min­is­ter. Nahum Ad­moni, Mos­sad chief in the 1980s, de­scribed this ap­proach on ini­ti­at­ing as­sis­tance to the Kurds as “def­i­nitely hu­man­i­tar­ian, an emo­tional aid to an op­pressed mi­nor­ity”.

There were in­deed many par­al­lels be­tween Jewish and Kur­dish as­pi­ra­tions for a state of their own. De­spite the fact that they were many times more nu­mer­ous that the Jews, the Kurds were dra­mat­i­cally un­suc­cess­ful in re­al­is­ing their dream. Spread in their mil­lions over Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, they have been per­se­cuted and dis­crim­i­nated against by a host of re­ac­tionary regimes.

Sign­ing the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, the World War I al­lies agreed to en­dorse the prospect of a state in at least part of Kur­dis­tan. Im­pe­rial am­bi­tion in the Mid­dle East, Arab op­po­si­tion and a Turk­ish resur­gence en­sured that this agree­ment was ren­dered mean­ing­less — and Kur­dis­tan be­came part of Iraq in 1925. The Bri­tish orig­i­nally promised to make the ter­ri­tory an au­ton­o­mous re­gion when Iraq gained state­hood, but did not en­force its pledge when in­de­pen­dence was achieved in 1932.

It was only in the 1980s, dur­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein’s An­fal cam­paign against the Kurds, that Bri­tish pub­lic opin­ion be­gan to take note. Hun­dreds of Kur­dish vil­lages were de­stroyed; the chem­i­cal weapons at­tack on Hal­abja in March 1988, killing 5,000 peo­ple, forced the hand of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment. Shortly after the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, ob­serv­ing the plight of thou­sands of Kur­dish refugees re­lent­lessly pur­sued by Sad­dam’s armies and es­cap­ing to the refuge of ice-clad moun­tains, the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter John Ma­jor pro­posed a safe haven for the Kurds in north­ern Iraq. This evolved into to­day’s Kur­dish au­ton­o­mous re­gion. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Bri­tain cited the 1948 Geno­cide Con­ven­tion as a le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion — an act which con­veyed sym­bol­ism to Jews.

The Is­raeli in­volve­ment lies in torat hape­riph­e­ria — the doc­trine of the pe­riph­ery — which Ben-Gu­rion and his in­tel­li­gence chiefs, Reu­ven Shiloah and Isser Harel, ad­vo­cated in the 1950s. It ar­gued for quiet al­liances and co­op­er­a­tion with non-Arab na­tions on the pe­riph­ery of a hos­tile Arab world. This in­cluded Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia in the late 1950s and stretched to ter­ri­to­ri­ally con­cen­trated mi­nori­ties such as the Kurds and South Su­danese in later years.

The Bri­tish-born David Kim­che,

Is­rael has an open, un­of­fi­cial pres­ence in Kur­dis­tan

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