The Kurds: A Jewish Story

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A Kurdish demonstration at Schuman, Brussels on October 25, 2017. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Logan Heller
Staff columnist
@L_Heller55

Allow me to paint a picture of an ethnic group from the near east. Its entire history is one of systematic persecution. Its ideas of equality are deemed unacceptable by its traditional Arab neighbors. They have been leaders in the fight against terror and they protect American interests. Most importantly, they have been involved in a significant struggle for statehood. This could be a description of the Jewish people; however, this narrative is about the Kurdish people.

The Kurds are a diverse group found throughout Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey without their own state. While they have always played a key role in regional stability since the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the Kurds rose to awareness in western audiences for their valiant fight against the Islamic State.

Weak regional actors ensured a power vacuum, in which the IS seized land, committed atrocities and invited westerners to join their jihad. Syria, in the midst of a civil war, offered little help against the growing threat. Iraq’s fighting force was anything but a force and quickly succumbed to the IS. The rampant corruption, poor training and faulty equipment undermined the Iraqi military’s defensive capabilities.

Despite these setbacks, the U.S. found the Kurds, and an untied partnership was created. Many in the American military grant credit for the successful air campaign against adversaries to the Kurds. Their forces led the battle on the ground and provided critical intel. Through their bloodshed and American bombs, the skies of northern Syria lost its smokey haze.

While there has been backlash and condemnation for the U.S. leaving the region, more and more voices are raising alarm bells for President Donald Trump’s commitment for loyal ally Israel.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, drew attention to the concern with his tweet, as shown below.

Israeli citizens and government officials are concerned about the ease and willingness of the Trump administration to abandon an important regional ally so easily. As posted by one of the largest Israeli magazines, Israel Ediot Ahronot, “The conclusion we draw needs to be unequivocal: Trump has become unreliable for Israel. He can no longer be trusted,” (NYT)  

These fears seem to be spreading as more and more Israelis second-guess American leadership within the region. Moreover, the most cornering aspect of the move is how bipartisan outrage from Congress has failed to change the White House’s position. The very same congressmen and women who argued bitterly over the impeachment inquiry disregarded their differences to demand policy reversal. 

Political observers would be hard-pressed to find a greater phenomenon of political unity in an increasingly partisan era of Congress. If a large amount of non-partisanship cannot protect a foreign ally, what hope does Israel have of securing its own security without its critical American help?

All things considered, Israel and the U.S. are still strong allies. Their economies are as linked as their strategic interests in ways that the Kurds never had. The historical relationship goes back over decades. American Jews and corporations alike remind Capitol Hill what a strong ally Israel truly is; however, all those same institutions that Jews look to for a sense of security for Israel are currently not enough to stop Trump from abandoning an ally.

In the haunting words of former Israeli ambassador, Dore Gold, “I feel like a Kurd today.”

While Jewish history often mirrors the Kurdish history, let us all hope that this pattern comes to an end.

Logan is a sophomore government and politics major with minors in global terrorism and international development and conflict resolution. He can be contacted at lheller@umd.edu.

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