The Kurdish people largely abstained from expressing their views when two Gulf states recognised Israel six months ago. And an Erbil-based political analyst says it is because they don’t want to antagonise their Arab neighbours, who might take revenge against the Kurds for the support they give to the Jewish state.
Six months ago, when Israel signed its normalisation pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the Muslim world was split into those who supported the deals and those who opposed them.
Oman embraced them. The Palestinians, Turkey, and Iran were among the loudest voices expressing dissatisfaction with the deals, while the Kurds have largely remained tight-lipped.
Support Yielded Zero Results
For Hiwa Othman, an Erbil-based political analyst and a former media adviser to the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, this approach is understandable, as support for Israel has become a “liability” for the Kurdish people.
For years, the Kurds have been considered Israel’s staunch allies, primarily because the two shared a sense of common destiny being minorities in a predominantly Arab region largely hostile to them.
Once Israel was established in 1948 the Kurds were quick to recognise it, even though open relations were only set up in the 1960s.
But Othman says the support the Kurds have given to Israel over the years has yielded zero results.
“In 1975, [during the Kurdish-Iraqi war] Kurds were left high and dry as Israel didn’t come to their rescue. For Syrian and Turkish Kurds, Israel has been a disappointment too, primarily because it didn’t help them against the attacks of [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Edogan, whereas the Kurdish opposition of Iran hasn’t seen any backing either”.
Israel, however, sees the situation differently. In 2009, it was reported that Israeli security were training Iraqi Kurds.
In 2017, Israel was among the very few countries that supported their independence referendum and two years later it acknowledged that it provided the Kurdish people in Iraq with political and humanitarian aid.
While for Othman and many other Kurds that support has been minimal, their Arab neighbours have always viewed them as “stooges”, thereby forcing the Kurdish people to be “careful” in their ties with Israel.
“Of course, Kurds are not chanting the slogan of dumping all Jews into the sea but they are also trying not to antagonise their Arab neighbours, realising that [if they show their support for Israel too much – ed.] those nations can potentially hurt them badly”.
Change is in the Air?
Now, however, as the UAE and Bahrain have decided to recognise the Jewish state, it could make Kurdish support for Israel more open and more understandable, but Othman is doubtful that the change in attitude some Arab nations are taking will be applicable to the Kurds.
“What is halal [permissible] for them is haram [unlawful] for us. It has always been the case and my guess is that it will not change”.
Changes in attitude towards Israel is a difficult issue for the Kurds of Iraq, where the central government doesn’t recognise the Jewish state and where politics is influenced by Iran, who is at odds with officials in Jerusalem.
“Iran controls politics and security and therefore I don’t see a scenario in which Iraq would recognise Israel. Kurds alone won’t do it either [because at the end of the day] what they care about is their own independence, not what’s happening with Israel”, the analyst believes.