Freedom for Kurdistan – An Authentic Nation

No Multiple States for the Palestinian Trojan Horse!

by Norman Berdichevsky (July 2014 – originally published February 2010)

No other people, numbering close to 30 million in the Middle East and at least another million living in exile in Europe and the Americas, can rightfully come close to the claim of the Kurds of being the largest stateless people on the face the earth. It is certainly not the Palestinian Arabs with less than one quarter that number. Contrary to all the media hype over two generations that has elevated the “Palestinian” Arab cause into the world’s leading international issue, milking the consciousness of the so called “international community,” it is a sham and an affront to both geography and the historical truth. Moreover, it threatens continued instability throughout the entire region.

Various Palestinian entities exist that are at odds with each other – The Palestinian Authority administering much of the so called “West Bank” (2.3 million), and “Hamastan” in the Gaza Strip (population of just over a million) are both self governing territories. The West Bank’s populated areas are under the administration of the Palestinian Authority (PLO) while Gaza is wholly unoccupied by Israel and is controlled entirely by Hamas.

There is a disaffected Arab minority in the State of Israel (almost a million), many of whom seek to foster a separatist movement and join an enlarged Palestinian state but the largest number of Palestinian Arabs by far already live in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (a population of about 4 million out of the total Jordanian population of 6 million, living on an area three times the State of Israel).

These population figures have all long been inflated but the fact is indisputable that together the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Kingdom of Jordan comprise about 80% of the area originally allotted to the “Jewish National Home” proclaimed and approved by the League of Nations to be administered under the British Mandate. The Arabs in these several territories are no more different from each other in culture, religion, language and customs than the East and West Germans were from each other before reunification.

Nevertheless, the Western media and American administrations continue to search for what they believe is a magic stroke of proclaiming another Palestinian state that will inevitably create more problems, irredentist demands against both Israel and Jordan and instability throughout the region. The campaign for a Palestinian state resembles the crocodile tears shed just prior to World War II over the “injustices” the German minority “suffered” in the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia and was cynically used by Hitler to destroy the Czech state and its rightful place on the European map.

Ahmadinejad, like Hitler, continues to rave at the very existence of a Jewish State totally ignorant of the two thousand years of cordial relations between the Jews on the one hand and the Persians and Kurds on the other. All three of these peoples survived the Arab Muslim conquest and successfully preserved their identity, history, and languages.

The American Media’s Ignorance and Our Demoralized Troops

In general, the American media, academia with its many “experts” serving their own careers and anxious to solicit aid and research grants in the Arab world, Turkey or Iran have all been hostile to the Kurds. Time Magazine (July 14, 1967) typically called the Kurds “A Troublesome Minority” without presenting any background information on their majority status and heritage in the areas they occupy. Similar views frequently continue to appear in most of the media that frequently ignore both Jewish and Kurdish roots in the region.

The absence of any historical or cultural analysis of the historical presence in the Middle East and Central Asia for millennia of the Kurds, a people, like the Persians and Armenians who speak Indo-European languages contributes to the distorted image of the region as the “historical heartland” of the Arabs.

Lost amidst the acrimonious debate over the American intervention in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein is the emergence of a free Kurdish society, the only long lasting, significant and praiseworthy achievement of that conflict, mistakenly named “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The new autonomous Kurdish region will inevitably assert its independence and rightful place between Iran and Turkey and will inevitably lead to the decline of militant Islam, the curse of all the peoples of the region.   

It is no wonder that we are at an impasse in both Iraq and Afghanistan, not knowing what we are fighting for, or how “American strategic interests” are really involved. Presidents George Bush Senior, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama remain prisoners of the State Department in their approach to the problems of the Middle East, namely their forced obeisance to paying lip service to Islam and the “sanctity” of the borders of the present states carved out of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The only President in modern times to defy the State Department’s conventional wisdom on the Middle East was Harry Truman. 

Even more pathetic and moronic then the media’s platitudes are the pious and totally misplaced hopes that somehow, American policy makers might be able to convince President Hamid Kazai of Afghanistan (whose official title is “His Islamic Excellency”), or the divided Iraqi leadership to rid their countries of corruption in order to win the “hearts and minds of the people.”

Our State Department and President Clinton foolishly attempted to win the cooperation of the most corrupt Middle Eastern figure in modern history, Yasser Arafat, whose massive pilfering of funds and hidden extravagant life style did nothing to make him illegitimate to his Palestinian followers or disqualify him as a potential “peace partner.”   

Our troops are in a quandary and demoralized after almost a decade of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, not knowing what their mission is among hostile Muslims, including those who are their ostensible allies. They know that there is no gratitude in the hearts of the people they are pledged to defend but who cannot themselves mount an effective resistance against fanatics who hold the trump card of Islam.

American ignorance of geography remains catastrophic but has now been wedded to a political dogma that intentionally characterizes Islam as a “Religion of Peace” instead of a political-military doctrine of jihadist expansion through military conflict and continued mass immigration to Europe and the United States.

Where is Kurdistan? Why is it missing on the map?

A Kurdish region was scheduled to have a referendum following the end of World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to decide its fate, which, according to Section III, Articles 62–64 of The Treaty of Sèvres was to include the Province of Mosul. There was however no general agreement among Kurds on what its borders should be and disputes existed among Armenian and Kurdish representatives.

Neither of their proposals was endorsed by the Treaty of Sèvres, which outlined a truncated Kurdistan located on what is now primarily Turkish territory. Thus, the Kurdish populations of Iran, British-controlled Iraq and French-controlled Syria were not included. President Wilson undertook to delineate the borders of the Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish states and did an eminently fair job by all accounts.

The division of Kurdistan following World War I was concocted primarily by the European “Great Powers,” in callous disregard for the basic human and language rights called for in the original Treaty of Sevres. The Kurds, like the Jews and Armenians were all promised national rights in their historic homelands by the League of Nations but foundered on the rock of Arab opposition. Thus, three of the world’s most ancient peoples and belonging to three diverse religions were briefly proclaimed only to be sacrificed to Turkish resistance and British and French great power designs.

Only the modern State of Israel emerged from the cauldron of Arab power ambitions in the Middle East to establish an independent state. Armenia had to wait until the fall of the Soviet Empire to regain its ancient independence and the Kurds continue to wait, divided, forgotten and ignored living under the control of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Both Russian and American attempts to increase their influence among the governments of Turkey, Iran and Iraq have almost always resulted in opposition to the Kurdish struggle for increased autonomy.

Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the region after Arabs, Persians and Turks. They outnumber the Palestinian Arabs by about 4:1 yet they are “invisible” for the media. According to the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK, Kurds account for 18% of the total population in Turkey, 15-20% in Iraq, about 8% in Syria, 7% in Iran and 1.3% in Armenia. In all of these countries except Iran, Kurds form the second largest ethnic group. Roughly 55% of the world’s Kurds live in Turkey, about 18% each in Iran and Iraq, and a bit over 5% in Syria.

None of the specious arguments used to justify the claim for an independent Palestinian Arab state alongside the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the existing 22 independent states that are members of The Arab League is ever employed to elicit sympathy for the Kurdish people. Nevertheless, they are indeed a people who has been deprived of any sovereign homeland and are stateless everywhere.

Turks and Kurds lived as neighbors within the Ottoman Empire and rallied to the cause of their homeland in World War I fighting to prevent incursions of the Russians to the North and rid Anatolia of the Armenians and the Greeks. When the Empire collapsed, the British drew up the Treaty of Sevres to include plans for a Kurdish state, hoping to win their support for the partitioning of the rest of the empire.

The Allies were frustrated by the patriotic visions and military genius of General Kemal Ataturk who rallied Turks and Kurds alike to fight off the European invaders. A new treaty was drawn up at Lausanne to replace the humiliating one for the Turks made at Sevres. As soon as the British withdrew their support from the Greek and Armenian efforts to preserve their promised areas, the Kemalist rulers of the new Turkish Republic claimed to represent both Kurds and Turks equally.

“Nationalism is our only factor of cohesion,” explained Prime Minister Ismet Inonu in 1925. “At any price, we must Turkify the inhabitants of our land.” This meant the exclusion of the existing languages and culture of Arab, Persian, and the elimination of all traces of a distinct Kurdish identity. Instead of brothers in arms, the Kurds became “Mountain Turks.”

True, Kurdistan like Palestine has never had an existence as an independent nation. The goal of a political state in modern Western terms emerged only with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the “carrot and stick” policies of the great powers and neighboring states. A Kurdish state is however now emerging in northern Iraq, and the status of the Kurds as a stateless people appears about to end dramatically. 

Nevertheless, neither our State Department or any of the Foreign Ministries of our European allies dare recognize this fact. To regard it as a positive development and even an achievement paid for by the sacrifice in blood of American soldiers and our treasure is a non-starter. More than that, it is an idea that must, in the words of the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado, ”be denied and mortified and set aside”. The current President of Iraq, is a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, but his position is that of a figurehead who can and will be brushed aside at the first opportune moment.


The Hope of a Free Kurdistan

The Kurds living in Turkey, Iran, and Syria look with hope and great expectations on the growing stability and prosperity of the more than four million Kurds who live in Northern Iraq and control about one-third of that country’s oil reserves. What President Obama and the State Department cannot breathe a word about is that the prospect of an independent Kurdish state would set an example of a free democratic society, relatively free from corruption and inherently pro-American and even pro-Israel, all characteristics totally lacking in the present 22 independent Arab states (before whose kings and sheikhs Obama deeply bows and President Bush wasted his kisses and embraces).

Even George Bush could not be seen to utter a word saluting the achievements of his inspired Operation Iraqi Freedom that actually won freedom for the Kurds. Even worse than that from the standpoint of our Arabist State Department, a Kurdish state would be friendly to Israel.

The reality of a de facto indpendent Kurdistan is a direct outcome of American intrevention in Iraq and the war that rid the country of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. There are no American or coalition troops in Kurdistan today. It has its own elected president, parliament and army (The Peshmerga). The  Iraqi army is forbidden to enter Kurish territory. A visa is needed for Iraqis to enter Kurdistan and the Iraqi consitution recognizes that where Iraqi and Kurdish laws conflict in Kurdistan, Iraqi law prevails with few exceptions.


In a 2005 referendum supervised by non governmental organizations, 98% of the population in Kurdistan expressed their preference for an independent Kurdish state and even today a separate Kurdish flag flies over most public buildings.


It has long been an axiom of all Middle Eastern “experts” that opposiition to an independent Kurdish state was so entrenched in Arab, and especially Turkish opinion, that such a state would never be established, the exact same opinion as prevailed against the possible existence of a Jewish state in the region. 

The peace treaties between Egypt and Jordan and the Jewish state and formal diplomatic relations between them demonstrate how wrong the experts were and the same will undoubtedly be the case in the near future with regards to an independent Kurdistan.

Several Turkish Prime Ministers have promised reforms and “autonomy” including Kurdish language rights and admitted in private that a de-facto Kurdistan already exists. More and more Turks realize that it would be in Turkey’s interest to have such a buffer state on its Eastern border.  

Cordial Kurdish-Jewish Relations

There is an ancient tradition of friendship and cordial relations between the Jews of Kurdistan and their neighbors extending more than a thousand years before the advent of Islam and it has continued after the establishment of the State of Israel.


In what is the most outstanding example of real tolerance on the part of a people who are nominally Sunni Muslims and the Jews, no one among the many sanctimonious advocates of peace and the so called “Abrahamic Religions” that Obama prattles about, not a word of Kurdish-Jewish friendship must be acknowledged. The Kurds in their opposition to the Iraqi state threaten the sacred cause of the Arab League and its contrived notions of the Brotherhood of Arabs and all Muslims and is therefore an affront to the Palestinians and their exaggerated claims.

Jewish immigration from Kurdistan to Palestine began in the 16th century, with the first immigrants from Kurdistan settling in Safed. More Jews arrived in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the year 1948 there were some 8000 Kurdish Jews in Israel. When the State of Israel was established, a large religious revival and “aliyah” to Israel followed embracing both the Jews of Kurdistan and Iraq proper, most notably from Baghdad (whose inhabitants were one-quarter Jewish in 1948).


Today, the Kurdish Jewish population in Israel is over 150,000; their largest concentration can be found around Jerusalem. In Israel, generally, the Kurdish immigrants have kept alive the cultural heritage of Jewish Kurdistan through their distinctive cuisine, music, and traditions.


As early as 1170, Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela in Spain travelled to Kurdistan and described the existence of more than one hundred Jewish communities there still speaking Aramaic and enjoying good relations with their Kurdish Muslim neighbors. Rabbi Samuel Barzani (a family name shared by many Jews and Kurds) founded numerous Jewish schools and his daughter Asenath Barzani (1590-1670) headed the Jewish academy in Mosul and became the first recorded woman to enjoy the title of rabbi.


The USSR (1946-48) and Israel (1960s and early 1970s) provided aid and weapons to Kurdish separatists to weaken the regimes in Iran and Iraq respectively and incurred the wrath of Arab and Muslim leaders who regarded them both as enemies of Islam and Arab nationalism. Only the much maligned Vice-President Biden, for all his comic gaffes, was right about the prospect of a future separate Kurdish and Sunni and Shi’ite states in Iraq when he started his run for the presidency before he was co-opted by Obama. The same view was voiced in an unguarded moment by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

None of the many pundits, commentators, “anchors” and ersatz experts who nightly expound on the Middle East and give prominence to the “centrality” of the Palestinian question have ever questioned why, at the demise of the Ottoman Empire, none of the proposals to give some form of autonomy or independence to an Arab state ever made mention of any specific Palestinian component that was different in any way from the Arabs living under previous Turkish rule. 

This is all the more obvious in the world wide recognition accorded the subject nationalities in the Ottoman Empire who clearly deserved to be accorded a form of sovereignty – the Arabs (in a Greater Syrian state), the Jews, Armenians and Kurds. Mandates were to be provided to guide all four to independence and the large Greek Christian population living on the Aegean Coast around the city of Smyrna (Izmir) were eventually to be annexed following a plebiscite by the Kingdom of Greece.

How Many States/Peoples?

The Palestinian Arabs remain the only group of refugees in the 20th century that have carried their status as refugees around with them into this century and hung it around the neck of the U.N., financed largely by the United States, with no intent or plan to live a normal existence. Although their numbers pale before the forced migration of tens of millions of refugees following the defeat of Germany in World War II and the partition of India in 1947 or earlier exchanges of population between Greeks and Turks following World War I and the division of Cyprus, none of the Palestinian organizations whether the so called “Authority” or Hamas have any plan or purpose to create a normal state or work in harmony with Jordan to absorb them. They wait in the wings as Trojan Horses to bring turmoil to both Israel and then Jordan.  

The reality of inter-Arab, inter-Muslim and inter-Palestinian turmoil was thoroughly ignored, camouflaged and redecorated with words of praise in President Obama’s fawning speech and homage to the “Muslim World” in Cairo. Within weeks of that speech, Pakistan and Iran lurched forward to the brink of Civil War, the same brink on which Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan are tottering. 

Current world-wide support for the Palestinians in another “homeland” in addition to the Kingdom of Jordan whose claim to a distinct nationhood (NO renowned historical figures, history, or flag, language, religion, sense of past nationhood, or common historical memory before the Balfour declaration), is as doomed to failure as the political fiction that the Soviet Union was a Federation of separate Republics representing historic nations and thus entitled to 16 votes at the U.N. 


Both the PLO/Palestinian Authority and the Kingdom of Jordan Agree

No matter that the only authorities to be accepted on the question of Palestinian identity should be their own spokesmen and that from both sides of the Jordan river, the verdict us unanimous. The “international community” prefers to ignore the reality and continue to argue that the Palestinian Arabs have no sovereignty and should be entitled to another country on the ruins of the State of Israel………(under the slogan of two states at peace within secure borders).

In the words of the two decisive personalities that created the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan expressed in royal decrees and sentiments……

“Palestine and Jordan are one…” said King Abdullah in 1948. “The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan,” said King Hussein of Jordan, in 1981. Prince Hassan in a speech to the Jordanian National Assembly on February 2, 1970 underlined that …. “Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine; there is only one land, with one history and one and the same fate.” Accordingly, Abdul Hamid Sharif, Prime Minister of Jordan declared, in 1980, “The Palestinians and Jordanians do not belong to different nationalities. They hold the same Jordanian passports, are Arabs and have the same Jordanian culture.”  

This fact is also confirmed by other important Arab spokesmen, Jordanians and ‘Palestinians’ who were either rulers or scholars. “There should be a kind of linkage because Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people,” according to Farouk Kaddoumi, then head of the PLO Political Department, who spoke to Newsweek on March 14, 1977.


These authoritative statements are by Arabs, Jordanians and Palestinians, must be taken at their face value and word. Jordan occupies 77% of the original Palestine Mandate (originally promised to the Jewish People and presented by Great Britain to the League of Nations as the basis for their mandate).

The Palestinian flag is almost identical to the Jordanian flag and contains the same red pennant and three horizontal bars of red green and black. Only the royal star representing the monarchy is absent from the Palestinian flag. It is also almost identical with the flag of the Pan-Arab Baath movement. King Abdullah II’s wife, Queen Rania, although born in Kuwait, is the daughter of Palestinian parents from Tulkarm in the West Bank.

None of these facts raise any doubts among the media’s gurus preaching the centrality of the Palestinian statehood claim and the necessity of Israel to make concessions amounting to political suicide. An eventual new state on the West Bank and Gaza (or two states) will only make the problem intractable and is a guarantee for continued and expanded turmoil involving claims and counter-claims between the Palestinian leadership and the Hashemite Kingdom.

The population density of Jordan is less than 65 people per square mile leaving lots of room to absorb many more of their fellow “Palestinians” living in the West Bank, Gaza and those Arabs in Israel who feel they are a separate nationality. They cannot at present even legally migrate to Jordan should they so choose.

The claim that the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to another state and the support given to the PLO leadership (Palestinian Authority) by the Russians inevitably clashes with the excellent relations between the Jordanian Kingdom and Russia. The present Jordanian King Abdullah II has made highly visible efforts to ensure that his country becomes a forum to condemn Islamic extremism and separatism in Chechnya. Ultimately, if faced with a rival “Palestinian state,” the Jordanian king will fight for the survival of his throne and he will call upon Russia’s (or Israel’s) leaders to return the quid pro quo for supporting them against Islamic extremism.

The so called “Muslim World” has never been more fractious and almost all of these conflicts were/are not related to the creation of the State of Israel nor can they be solved or assuaged by American deference to Islam. The only conflict in which American intervention has truly made a huge difference and enormous humanitarian contribution and where the people are grateful for American policy is among the Kurds who ask for no further military assistance or financial aid.


They ask only for recognition, a recognition that was already granted by the “international community” through the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920.  Sèvres is a suburb of Paris best known for its manufacture of porcelain, a fragile material that easily shatters. Like its namesake material, the treaty and its promises shattered easily. The Zionist movement aware of the broken promises to the Kurds and Armenians in 1920 knew that the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 offered them an opportunity for a Jewish state that would never come again and had to be seized.


Alas, like Israel, the Kurds are the “odd man out” who cannot rely on any open encouragement, least of all from Obama and the State Department. Everywhere else in the “Muslim World” that President Obama paid tribute to in his Cairo speech, the political leadership formally opposes eventual Kurdish freedom and independence with the same hostility as they show towards Israel. Nevertheless, the Kurds, like the Jews have shown a resilience and deep loyalty to their heritage that will not be denied……..


“The facts are out there but no one is bothering to look or absorb. Twenty thousand Kurds in Stockholm, Sweden, a country that views cultural diversity as an asset rather than a liability have produced more Kurdish cultural works in twenty years than 20 million Kurds of Turkey in 81 years. The discrepancy comes not because we send our brightest to Sweden, but because the country in Europe is a paragon of liberty and probity while that of the Middle East goes ballistic if it hears the words, Kurds and rights, in the same sentence.”


[Striving for Cultural Acceptance: the Kurdish Experience by Kani Xulam; August 17, 2004; Keynote Address, School of International Training] Brattleboro, Vermont


Norman Berdichevsky is also the author of The Left is Seldom Right from New English Review Press. His latest book is Modern Hebrew: The Past and Future of a Revitalized Language.


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