The Kurds must not be abandoned again, this time to ISIS

If there are any people on earth who deserve the world’s protection from slaughter, it is the Kurds.

Despite the stereotype of Mizrahi Jews in Israel resenting Arabs because of the way they were treated in the old country, there are plenty of Mizrahim who have good memories of their relations with their former Muslim neighbors. However, there is no Mizrahi community in Israel that feels a kinship with their Muslim former countrymen like the Kurdish Jews do.

A fighter from the Islamic State. (photo: Islamic State)
A fighter from the Islamic State. (photo: Islamic State)

Today ISIS appears to be on the verge of slaughtering the people in the town of Kobani, the heart of a Syrian Kurdish area with a population of hundreds of thousands. Kurds are getting killed in riots in Turkey and protesting across Europe to try to prevent a catastrophe. So I’d like to recall what the head of the Association of Kurdish Jews in Israel, Yehuda Ben Yosef, told me in a radio interview on TLV1 on September 21, when the news of the day was that ISIS had taken over some 60 Kurdish villages near Kobani.

What’s happened to the Kurds in the last 100 years is terrible. The Kurds don’t have a minute of silence. What happened today – our heart is with them, and if we can help, medications or food or blankets, we do it. We do everything to help the Kurds in Turkey who ran away from Syria.

We have a good relationship all over the years. People from Kurdistan come to Israel these years and they are our guests and we keep in touch with the people there by telephone, Internet, Facebook. Today some Kurds from Norway are coming to be our guests, Muslims from Norway, coming to the Jewish community in Israel. In Syria we don’t have contact, but what we can do for people in [Iraqi Kurdistan], we do our best to help them.

In August, Ben Yosef led a demonstration of Kurdish Jews outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. I asked him what the message had been. The same as it is now, he said, only now it’s more urgent.

We think the U.S. must do more to help the Kurds. Give them guns, tanks, airplanes because I think [Iraqi Kurdistan] is the only country that can make fight with ISIS, it’s the only democratic place in this whole area. Iraq is not strong enough, the army is very weak, Syria has problem itself, we can only put our trust in the Kurds.

I don’t want to try to go into the geopolitical considerations of Turkey, Syria and the United States, but I do want to say that if there are any people on earth who deserve the world’s protection from slaughter, it is the Kurds. “What’s happened to the Kurds in the last 100 years” includes oppression by Syria, massacre by Turkey and genocide by Saddam Hussein. They are the bravest fighters, and in Iraqi Kurdistan they’ve created the best thing, if not the only dependably good thing, to come out of President Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Their relationship to this day with Kurdish Jews in Israel says a great deal – and at the same time they have strong ties with the Palestinians. “You [Kurds] have been with us since the time of Salahaddin. And you have stood for the just cause of Palestine,” said Nadhmi Khudhouri, Palestinian Authority ambassador to Iraqi Kurdistan, when the PA opened its diplomatic office in Erbil in December 2011.

The fighting in Iraq and Syria is very confusing; the only thing everyone really understands is that ISIS is an army of monsters and the world cannot just let them rampage on unimpeded. At the same time there’s a very understandable reluctance to send in ground troops. But even the Americans admit now that the airstrikes are not going to save Kobani from ISIS.

Aside from the threat of ISIS, there should be one other thing, and this should be the main thing, that people understand about the fighting in Iraq and Syria: that the brave and good Kurdish people must not be abandoned to be murdered en masse again. The fight to destroy ISIS is an important one, but the fight to save the Kurds – to give them the chance to defend themselves, in which case they will chop ISIS to pieces – is the most urgent struggle on earth. It must be won by any means necessary.

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