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To protect its Kurdish allies, Israel must stand up to Turkey

Israel has repeatedly assisted in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by selling arms, training and know-how to murderous regimes. This makes it difficult to trust that it will do the right thing regarding the Kurds.

By Eitay Mack

Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria, December 16, 2014 (Kurdish YPG fighters/CC BY 2.0).

Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria, December 16, 2014 (Kurdish YPG fighters/CC BY 2.0).

The world is watching with alarm as the Turkish army commences its military invasion of the Kurdish stronghold in northeast Syria, with many observers warning of imminent war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide against the Kurds. There is absolutely no doubt that Turkey’s success in preventing international recognition of the Armenian genocide between 1915 and 1923 has emboldened Erdoğan to commit horrific crimes against the Kurdish people in 2019.

The invasion is also likely to strengthen ISIS and lead to the re-establishment of the so-called Islamic State, which so many Kurds sacrificed their lives to destroy.

The Israeli government now finds itself in the difficult position of having to choose between two historical allies. Israel’s historic alliance with the Kurds goes back to the 1950s, when David Ben Gurion established his periphery doctrine, according to which the Foreign Ministry pursued strategic alliances with non-Arab actors in the Middle East. Under the rubric of this doctrine, Israel provided military, political, and moral support to the Kurds. In 2017 Netanyahu went as far as announcing that Israel supported the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

At the same time, and also under the rubric of the periphery doctrine, Israel built a diplomatic and security alliance with Turkey. That relationship deepened after the signing of the Oslo Accords. In 1996, the two countries signed a military cooperation agreement, with Turkey purchasing billions of dollars worth of military hardware and defense technology from Israel over the ensuing years. According to various reports, Israel upgraded Turkey’s aircrafts and tanks, and sold the country radar systems, missiles, drones, and ammunition. In addition, the Israeli army has sent personnel to train Turkish army officers and soldiers.

In 1950, Israel passed a law regarding the prevention and punishment of genocide. It also ratified the Genocide Convention, which stipulates that it has a duty to do everything in its power to prevent genocide.

Beyond the legal and moral implications, the State of Israel has never before abandoned an ally. If it were to ignore the genocide of the Kurds in northeastern Syria, Israel would be setting a dangerous historical precedent with far-reaching consequences for its foreign policy and its national security.

Successive Israeli governments and defense ministries have tested public confidence by repeatedly assisting in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes around the world by selling weapons, training and knowledge to murderous regimes. These precedents make it difficult to trust that they will do the right thing regarding the Kurds.

The apotheosis of this cynicism was in Israel’s decision to support Turkey in denying the Armenian genocide. According to the ministry’s own records, in 1987 Israeli Foreign Ministry officials aided Turkey in lobbying for the U.S. Congress to kill a vote on establishing April 24 as a memorial day for the Armenian genocide.

In a telegram dated June 7, 1987 Yitzhak Laor, deputy director of the Middle East desk at the Foreign Ministry, writes that the Israelis acted very discreetly in this matter because they knew that if they were associated with attempts to deny the Armenian genocide “even indirectly,” Israel would “face a major scandal,” both domestically and internationally.

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Oded Eran, then deputy head of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote on August 12, 1987 that he felt “very uncomfortable” acting to stop the establishment of a memorial day for the Armenian genocide. “It is not appropriate for a representative of the Jewish state to be involved in this matter,” he summarized.

In another disturbing incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry coordinated with Turkey to put massive pressure on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to cancel its plans for an exhibition on the Armenian genocide. A March 1988 Foreign Ministry document records that Abe Foxman, then director of the Anti-Defamation League, joined Israel in its efforts to block an exhibition about the Armenian genocide, going so far as to threaten he would resign from the museum’s board. Eighteen years later, under Foxman’s successor, Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL reversed its position and officially recognized the Armenian genocide.

Witnesses to an imminent massacre do not have the right to stay silent. Netanyahu’s assurance that Israel will provide humanitarian aid to the Kurds is not enough. It is reminiscent of a similar situation in July of 1994, when Israel sent humanitarian aid to the border of Rwanda to help survivors of the genocide that had been perpetrated by Hutus armed with Israeli weapons.

The Israeli public must immediately demand that its elected officials take the following steps:

  1. Send an unambiguous message to Erdoğan: Turkey may not perpetrate crimes on the Kurdish people with Israeli weapons;

  2. Announce that Israel will freeze its commercial trade with Turkey (in 2017 this amounted to $1.4 billion);

  3. Israel must expel Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, and recall Israel’s ambassador to Turkey;

  4. Israel must recognize the Armenian genocide.

Eitay Mack is an Israeli human rights lawyer working to stop Israeli military aid to regimes that commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Zareh Sahakian

      I, as a son of Armenian genocide survivors, AND knowing full well how Turkish political mind ticks, have often opinionated on Israeli/Jewish news media of the short-sighted and embarrassingly wrong Israeli kowtowing to Turkish bullying about the issue of the Armenian genocide. Turkish superiority complex feeds into a destructive, xenophobic nationalism which in turn rejects ALL those who are not Turkic and deemed inferior. There is ample proof that Turkish xenophobia, along with feeling of belonging to a superior race, resulted in genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915…which Hitler took note and regarded such Turkish action against “inferiors” as a noble act.

      ….and now the impunity of past crimes has emboldened Turks to act as they wish with the Kurds…History has shown that successive Turkish governments (form Sultan Abdul-Hamid in 1880’s to the Young Turk regime of 1915 to Attaturk in 1920’s and 1930’s to the present) when they feel free to “act” as they wished it resulted into the disappearance of nations, minorities, living under their domination.

      It is time for Israel, and the world Jewish communities, to once and for all call on Turkey to join the civilized world community. As long as the Armenian genocide goes unrecognized by Turkey (and remains unpunished) all the while Ankara keeps forcing other nations to be accomplices to its racist policies, we shall see increasingly emboldened, more aggressive and more violent Turkey on everybody’s doorsteps.

      One would have thought Israeli political mind would have figured this one out a long time ago. What a shame!!

      Reply to Comment
      • itshak Gordine

        Long life to the courageous Armenian People. Israel should recognize the Armenian genocide.

        Reply to Comment
        • Some-one.

          How things change….Ten years ago you would have had a very different attitude to both Turkey and more importantly the Armenian genocide.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yes, a settler who is a pure opportunist masquerading as something more principled.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            The Jewish people have always had a lot of sympathy for the Armenian people.
            It is very important for Armenians living abroad to maintain their language and culture

            Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      This Mack speaks in the peremptory tone of the leftists of the 70s. He preaches his childish words in the desert. The fate of the Kurdish people is tragic and Turkey has the behavior of a totalitarian country. Israel should, in my opinion, join with those states that are putting pressure on Turkey and offering weapons to Kurdish resistance fighters. It would finally be time to work for the creation of a Kurdish state allied to Israel and stop supporting causes invented from scratch in the region such as the pseudo “Palestinian People” that waste unnecessarily billions of dollars per year .

      Reply to Comment
    3. itshak Gordine

      The only advantage of this tragic affair is that it increases tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, between Iranians and Turks and between Arab States and Turkey-Iran and between Syrians and Turks, in short, a real oriental salad. Hamas terrorists have taken a stand for Turkey, and this will further isolate them from the Arab world. All this is excellent for Israel because its enemies are opposed. Unfortunately, the Kurdish people are suffering and they absolutely need a state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gita

        Give them part of israel

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Everyone knows where the future state to which they are entitled is.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “… in short, a real oriental salad… All this is excellent for Israel…”

        I’ve had some experience with interpreting the Royal Levite Otzma-Yehuditese dialect of far-right West Bank settlers. Allow me to translate:

        “Excellent. Yeah it’s tragic for the Kurds, it sounds nice to say it, doesn’t it? But look, despite my wistful sighs (and I’m not gonna say boo about the chief perpetrator Trump because I’m not really angry I’m actually delighted) the only people who really matter in this world to me are Jews committed to the settlements. To me, the Kurds when it comes down to it are basically ingredients of an oriental salad and I’m enjoying this lunch. It’s “excellent.” So Trump did us a favor by yet again creating chaos and massive suffering around us, under the cover of which, we get to carry on with la nostra cosa israeliana. We’re having the Palestinians for lunch. While the world looks elsewhere. Because, you see, Kurds, whose land I don’t want to take, are real people, but Palestinians, whose land I covet, are “pseudo”-people. So, unwittingly, as is my habit, I’m belittling Kurds and Arabs as unfortunate elements of “a real oriental salad” that is “excellent.” Jews like me routinely reduce Arabs to animals in our minds, makes occupying them so much easier,
        https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-47-years-a-slave-1.5319717
        but I go my comrades one better and reduce them to salad. I’ll take this salad, enjoy it, and make someone else pay for it. I always do.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Blah Blah as usual..

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Repeating a longstanding pattern, the newly self-styled critiquer of those “Unable to disassemble the undeniable arguments of those who do not agree with you” runs away yet again yelling “blah blah.”

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            No, I’m writing blah blah because you’d be great at writing endless novels full of outdated clichés worthy of a 70s teenager.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The charge levied against me here (by a self-declared hereditary Levite priest in waiting—really, I am not making this up) arises de novo, out of thin air, with no discernible causal connections. It lacks the causal connectedness we take for granted in normal mental life. The charge levied would be no more true or substantiated than if this person had accused me of being great at writing racy Victorian romance novels and bodice-rippers.

            What, obviously, Mr. Ha-Levy is up to is trying to dismiss and trivialize—that is, to dismiss venerated bedrock democratic norms and human rights principles as old as the French Revolution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Man—to trivialize them as being cheesy, immature “70s radicals stuff,” like free love, far left Red Army Faction agitation, hippies, down with the pigs, LSD, flower power and bell bottoms. Tell it to Paul Revere, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Tell it to the men who died landing on Normandy’s beaches in 1944. And the ones who survived that and liberated the concentration camps.

            And this fantasticalism, and this charge of endless novels, from the self-imagined hereditary patriarch of Third Temple goat-sacrificing priests who are gonna kick the Arabs off the Temple Mount and kick in the 21st century Temple Judaism Renaissance and who also has told us the aḥarit ha-yamim are almost nigh. I breathlessly await the au courant page-turning novel. What chapter will be on the red heifer?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Some-one.

      Like Zionism Kurdish separatism has an exoteric and esoteric face. The exoteric face of Kurdish separatism is all “Libertarian Socialism” and Feminism, the esoteric face is narco-capitalism, the “sex trade”, honour killing/femicide, sick cults of personalities which would put the DPRK to shame and on top of all this collaboration with American Imperialism and Zionism. Than there is their ethnic cleansing.+972 does amazing work which I am grateful for however you really should be reaching out to genuine forces striving for social justice in the Levant such as Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Does the fact that someone such as
      itshak Gordine supports Kurdish separatism not register with you?

      Reply to Comment
    5. itshak Gordine

      We are not settlers when we come back proudly to the land of our ancestors. The only settlers are those who took advantage of the distress of the Jewish people to monopolize and impoverish it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Ok, this is cold zealotry and pathological narcissism oblivious to obvious facts on the ground, to any finer distinction, or to any non-Jewish person’s rights. It is also asking for a fight. It brooks no sane compromise. It’s nuts.

        “Peled also described the horrors of occupation on the West Bank. Palestinians are caught between the settlers– “a rabidly zealous violent people, a society that is so fanatic and so violent that it’s hard to really express in words. You have to see it to believe it. Including their children, I’ve never seen children like this in my life” — and the Israeli military that sides with the settlers.”
        https://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/sanders-put-everything-on-the-line-for-palestine-because-bds-movement-has-changed-us-conversation-peled/

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Haaretz, Counterpunch and the Independent are apparently too rightist for the Comrade.
          So Ben now quotes “Mondoweiss”.
          Even the left-leaning Washington Post has called the Mondoweiss website a “hate site” !

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Peled is the Israeli general’s son. Your beef is with an Israeli general’s son, not Phil Weiss or some mythic evil leftist. Peled wrote a book. Peled speaks out. The interview is about that. Moreover, the critique of rabidly zealous violent people is not leftist, it is conservative.
            Ditto with Breaking the Silence. Those soldiers are about honor and purity of arms and honesty and integrity. These are not leftist themes.
            You sound confused.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            You are now visiting a hate site to get your information.

            Soon, our leftist friend will end up visiting Red Ice TV and finally Stormtrooper.
            “They interview the son of an Israeli General, so it must be true” explains Comrade Ben.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It never fails. They can’t win the argument and they know it, so then like a reflex they charge that the source is tainted, it’s “biased,” “leftist,” “Palestinian,” “radical,” “anti-Semites,” “haters,” “blah blah blah.” The minute Peter Beinart came out supporting Ilhan Omar and defending free speech in America about boycott Michael Oren started saying the Beinart was “an extremist, way to the left, a radical leftist, not mainstream, far out of the consensus, blah blah blah.” Which was all false. It’s like somebody trying to say the fifty yard line is the 10 yard line when everybody can see that the team is in the middle of the field, fifty yards one way, fifty yards the other. What are you right wing Israelis so very afraid of that you cannot tolerate free speech? If your cause is so just? You know and I know it’s because of what you are hiding in the backyard and not really hiding very well at all.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            OKay, I give up.
            Stormtrooper and Mondoweiss offer balanced, unbiased and neutral news.
            Hah ha ha !

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Stormtrooper” is your attempt to distract and anti-Semitize, but with an ironic twist since you are nothing if not a Bezalel Smotrichean Stormtrooper.
            The litmus test for “Mondoweiss” is not whether it is “balanced”–it is whether it is honest. And that it is. Phil Weiss is an honest man. To demand that Mondoweiss be “balanced” is just another version of the age-old right wing Israeli occupier trick of two-sides-ism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Mondoweiss and Stormtrooper are both run by honest people.
            Each tells the truth as they each see it.
            Now, I am being totally fair here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I did not mean that Phil Weiss is honest only about how he feels, but in his relationship to reality and his standards for discerning truth from falsehood. Of course, if your aim is “truthiness” and “alternative facts” then you wouldn’t grasp that. But you think the white nationalists who rant that Jews are the crafty plotters of a world-wide conspiracy to replace “the white race” with brown people so the Jews can take over the world are honest? oooookkaaay.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Stormtrooper Editor = Mondoweiss Editor = Evil Wackos

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh now it’s an Evil Editor Problem! LoL! So says the Smotrichean Stormtrooper! Who is YOUR editor? Gilad Erdan? Michael Oren? Eli Ben Dahan? Michael Ben-Ari? Or Itamar Ben-Gvir?
            Your “equation” here is a distillation of the cheap falsehoods you peddle.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The editor of Mondoweiss is exactly like the editor of Stormtrooper.
            They both believe in perfect Utopias that are based on deep ideological principles.
            Comrade Ben supports the creation of ONE of these perfect utopias.
            I support neither.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            An absolutely bizarre response from the advocate for the perfect hyper-nationalist “utopia” of an Arab-rein Greater Israel aka “The Verdant Coastal Plain of Yore and Yonder Blue and White Hills of Judea and Samaria,” a utopian Nationalist Biblical Disneyland, a Leon Uris Exodus-style kitsch figment of fictive utopian imagination. Neither the one state nor two state solutions are utopias. Either will require hard work on both sides and will be messy (much messier than had been needed but Israel has gotten itself into a messy fix–we’ve been over this). But this is reality, and we can’t undo the past. Grown ups realize this. But anti-‘fakestinyanism’ is childish, is in fact a conceptual Narnia-Land, a retreat into (blood-thirsty) fantasy. We have here the spectacle of a mass-poisoning-by-cyanide fantasizer, a frank ethnic cleanser and mass-transferist presenting himself as a non-ideological moderate, a practical compromiser, a bridge-builder. It just gets bizarrer and bizarrer. In the normalization of this extremist agenda we will not collude.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            There is no problem with Israeli Arabs.
            My problem is with JORDANIANs who are currently calling themselves “fakestinyans”.
            I exposed to you on another thread the inherent absurdity.
            You have a man sitting in a US jail because he was found guilty of killing Robert Kennedy in 1968.
            When this man was arrested, he was JORDANIAN.
            According to the Ben Theory of History, this man spontanously changed into a “fakestinyan”.
            Except the US Government does not recognize it.
            Why should Israel recognize it for the other JORDANIANs living in Judea & Samaria ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I am greatly puzzled with your endless “Israel is a pretend Biblical Disneyland” argument.

            If I take a dump tomorrow morning will that also be part of my Disneyland experience ?

            If you genuinely believe Israel is somehow “not real” and represents a “Truman Show”-style simulation, you should see your therapist ASAP. He will probably up the dose of your pills.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’re not listening. Nothing new. The settlers live in a wild west/biblical disneyland theme park, an ersatz or artificial reality protected by the imposition of brute military force that lets the coddled settlers swagger around in a fake heroic “settler”-cowboy-pioneer mode. (The American transplants love this–it is a bad faith existential escape mode, an instant 18th century rabbit hole, totally unavailable to them back home or anywhere else in the world.) While the indigenous “indians” are kept suppressed and out of sight. Likewise, anti-fakestinyanism” is a childish conceptual narnia-Land, a retreat into fantasy.
            I never said “Israel is not real.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            There are many disputed territories in the World where “settlers” live in your Wild West environment. Examples include:
            Armenian-occupied Nagorno Karabach
            Morroccan-occupied Western Sahara
            Turkish-occupied North Cyprus
            Indian-occupied Kashmir
            Russian-occiupied Abkhazia
            and many others.

            Nobody has ever called these disputed regions “Disneylands”.
            Nobody has ever claimed that Armenians are playing “Cowboys & Indians” in Nagorno Karabach.
            Your silly analogy is one of a sick mind that likes to oversimplify complex historical phenomena.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Another note, how can one be AGAINST a nation-state that never was ??
            That is why the crime of “anti-fakestinianism” does not exist.
            Soon, you will accuse me of being anti-Narnian because I am bigoted against the Narnian nation too !

            I notice you have ignored my KEY QUESTION about the nationality of Robert Kennedy’s killer.
            That gets to the heart of the matter, does it not ?
            If he is undeed “fakestinyan” as you claim, when did his metamorphosis occur ?
            Why does the US government list him as JORDANIAN ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            These other conflicts you mention are self-evidently not comparable and I think the Disneyland concept just doesn’t apply in the same way intrinsically and certainly not as it does for these transplanted Floridians and Californians. Your befuddlement about this is interesting for the lack of insight it shows.

            Claptrap about Kennedy’s killer is what psychopathologists would call a loose association–tangential and neither here nor there. If you were a first year law student you’d be put on academic probation for this kind of shoddy connection-making, or at least you’d be identified as “special needs” and the law school admissions committee would be doing a post-hoc review of just how it was they let this one slip by.

            ‘Anti-fakestinyanism’ takes place in a conceptual narnia-land, a childish retreat into fantasy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Armenian Cowboys are playing “kill the Red Indians” in Nagorno Karabach. Some of the Armenians are transplanted Americans who are engaged in their Medieval theme park games.
            According to Leftist Cuckoo Theory:
            White Evil Armenians = BAD
            Brown Muslim Azeris = GOOD
            Your beffudlement of this phenomenon just proves how out of touch you are with the reality in this Caucasus conflict.

            So what is Sirhan Sirhan?
            Fakestinyan or JORDANIAN.
            Just employing big words like “Loose Association-tangentials” does not get you off the hook. Sirhan is a prime example of how a JORDANIAN cannot become something else. He was a JORDANIAN and he remains one today. The same is true of the other 2 million enemy citizens now camping in Judea and Samaria.

            Finally, “Anti-fakestinyanism” is an oxymoron like “Anti-unicornism”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            First of all, I am not arguing anything about Armenians, Azeris, brown, white, purple, or chartreuse, nor about Nagorno-Karabach, but I have not heard a lot about an Armenian-American pipeline of Armenian settlers transferred in in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions under cover of a fake-temporary, actually permanent, belligerent military occupation going on 52 years relentlessly taking Azeri property and calling them Russian fakeazerbaijanians—but I am willing to take up the subject if it becomes “a thing.” And if the Americans give the Armenians $38 billion over ten years, and the Armenians make displeasing an Armenian-American Public Affairs Committee a third rail of American politics, lemme know. So let’s dispense with that inane straw man.

            Sirhan Sirhan is off the point, tangential, and idiosyncratic. Neither the earlier Jordanian annexation nor the subsequent Israeli creeping annexation are determining factors under international law or international community. Sirhan Sirhan is not some weird magical key to the issue. Why is it that the Kennedy assassinations always draw the strangest ideas? I think to bandy this about is to waste everyone’s time here.

            Anti-unicornism is not an “oxymoron,” it is a nonsense Narnia-land concept. Like anti-fakestinyanism. Both being a childish retreat into fantasy. On this last point I’m glad we agree.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben states:
            Nagorno-Karabach is NOT YET a thing.
            The nationality of Sirhan Sirhan is somehow mixed up with Kennedy conspiracy theories.
            Anti-Unicornism is NOT an oxymoron.

            These are the genuine views of our Haaretz-obsessed Comrade.
            Hah Ha
            LOL !!

            Reply to Comment
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