The headline for the Bizpac Review mailing for July 30th read, “Turkish President Erdogan Warns Trump…”
Before going any further, I’ve valued the American and NATO relationship with the Turks too…the Turkish Straits, the Russian bogeyman, and so forth. But, at what price?
The current dispute is over the demand that Washington issued that Ankara release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, imprisoned since 2016, who had a small church in Turkey that Turks accuse of supporting “terrorists–i.e. especially Kurds, who’ve done most of America’s fighting against ISIS and other Jihadis. They refuse to accept that they’re really just “Mountain Turks,” as Ankara renamed them after also outlawing their language and culture, and have forcibly reacted against their bloody subjugators.
Now, if this doesn’t sound familiar, think about what happened to some two million or more Christian Armenians and Assyrians, and others who, like those (Muslim) Kurds above (some 22 million just in Turkey alone, 20 to 25 % of the population), dared to suggest that they too had their own pre-Turkish (and pre-Arab) invasion identities, let alone rights and aspirations in the age of nationalism as well.
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel… A little while back I penned a widely-published piece, under various titles, which gives just about all you need to know about this subject–and much more. While it focused on the Ankara-Jerusalem relationship, the Turks’ potential error now (hopefully) involves thinking they can use the same bullying tactics on Trump’s Washington and State Department as they’ve too often successfully utilized with Israel and previous American administrations.
So, with no further ado (and given that many missed this op-ed earlier), let’s reconsider that New Year’s 2018 piece–but in a somewhat updated form…
Months ago, the Turks complained about the January 31, 2018 Washington placement of Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, on a terror watch blacklist. Ankara has supported Hamas substantially for years, especially since the increasingly dictatorial Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained ascendency in the second decade of this century. That would be the same Erdogan now issuing threats to President Trump.
As the turmoil and chaos in adjacent Syria and Iraq continue but, thanks to America and primarily its Kurdish allies, appear to be winding down, the Turks increasingly have visions of partially recreating the borders of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire–at least in the Middle East. Absent Washington and Moscow’s involvement, this might already have been a done deal by now, with the centuries old rivalry between the Ottomans and Iran’s Safavid and Qajar Shahs over the region at play. Of course, Russia’s involvement is also nothing new–both in pre-Soviet and post-Soviet days. Moscow was non-discriminatory when expanding its own imperial borders via those of the other two players.
While the AKP claims that it’s not really “Islamist,” Erdogan & Co. certainly have an affinity for at least some militant, fundamentalist Islamist groups–including ISIS and Hamas–so it’s been no accident that the border has been fluid for ISIS fighters moving between Turkey and Syria.
Since I began by recalling Ankara’s ongoing support for a group dedicated to the slaughter of Jews and their sole, resurrected, minuscule nation (note: geographically, thirty-eight Israels fit into Turkey; Israel’s population is about 1/11 its size with about the same 20% or so mix of Arabs to Jews as Turkey’s Kurds to Turks), from here onwards my concern will not be about such things as why or how modern Turkey transformed from Mustafa Kemal’s (“Ataturk”) post-World War I’s secular state to one closely aligned with religiously-motivated Islamist extremist groups. Instead, I just got will focus on a comparison between what Ankara faces regarding its own real or perceived threats (hence Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment) and how Israel has handled what, in reality, is a far worse situation.
You see, for quite some time, Turkey has wanted to have it both ways with Israel. And the Jews have let them get away with it. In many ways, you can substitute Washington for Jerusalem in these regards as well.
The Turks have sought economic and military ties and have expected Jerusalem to help in their own matters of “internal security.” In turn, for a while (and possibly selling its collective soul) Israel obtained a powerful Muslim, but non-Arab, neighbor which was not looking to have it for dinner and with which it could have somewhat reasonable relations…another place for young Israelis to visit and such. Of course, Jerusalem was also expected to allow Ankara to dictate terms of this relationship. Recall the Turks’ support of the notorious MV Mavi Mamara incident in 2010, for starters. humanevents.com
Erdogan expects to be able to continue to dictate such terms to Washington as well. For well over a half century, the State Department has kissed the Turks’ (and Arabs’) behinds by shafting some 35-40 million truly stateless people in the region. Nothing has changed much with the advent of Trump either—so far.
But, simply put, for Israel at least, the cost has been too high…
Specifically, Jerusalem has engaged in shameful behavior to assist alleged Turkish friends in the subjugation of those folks mentioned above, who pre-date both Arabs and Turks in their area by millennia, and who are still struggling for basic human and political rights, the Kurds. While Israel has assisted them in some ways, Israeli intelligence and weaponry have also helped Ankara in their torment and suppression. For a number of reasons, this must finally come to a halt.
On a related note, while Ankara has all but closed down the important U.S. airbase at Incirlik for American use, think about what such a new base established in Iraqi Kurdistan might provide…and among people who, for the most part, actually like us (and, given Washington’s repeated shafting of them, G_d only knows why).
So, now let’s begin to check out at least some of the revealing comparisons which need to be examined…
The assorted Arab enemies which Israel faces just among “Palestinian” Arabs (most of whom were newcomers into the original 1920 Mandate themselves)–Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and so forth–have one long range goal…the destruction of both Israel and its Jews.
Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and the latter-day Arafatians of his Palestinian Authority (P.A.–formerly the P.L.O.) play the good cop “moderates” simply to milk dhimmi nations for $$$ billions while building up their own military, courtesy of Uncle Sam and others. Indeed, Abbas’s dead boss’s Swiss bank accounts are legendary.
Bad cop Hamas folks are simply more honest. They get most of their gelt from Iranian mullahs and the new, would-be Turkish Sultan, Erdogan. Look at both Fatah and Hamas websites and such in case you think there’s really a difference in their ultimate plans for Israel.
Please recall (and it can’t be emphasized too often) that on the overall balance sheet, an Arab state emerged after World War I on almost 80% of the original April 25, 1920 Mandate of Palestine. In 1922, most of the original territory–all the land east of the Jordan River–was handed over to Arab nationalism (in one of its many stripes) by Great Britain. So, right from the getgo, and contrary to Arab taqiyya storytelling (you know, like America, not Israel, destroyed almost all their planes in the June ’67 war, etc.), most of the land was given over to Arab nationalism–not to Jews.
Had Arabs accepted the next proposed 1947 partition, they would have wound up with almost 90% of the total area…They rejected it, because, in Arab eyes, no one except themselves had any rights in what they call “purely Arab patrimony” and the Dar ul-Islam. This is the same policy the Turks have followed regarding tens of millions of other non-Turkic peoples within the Anatolian Peninsula as well.
Since those days, Israel (one half of whose Jews who are from refugee families who fled the so-called “Arab”/Muslim world) has made repeated attempts to reach peace via yet additional, so-called land-for-peace measures.
Palestinian Arabs (and most others as well) have rejected all such efforts to reach a real modus vivendi with their Jewish neighbors. While the winds may be shifting a bit today, only time will tell. Right now, for me at least, it simply looks like some Sunni Arabs are looking to use Jews and Jewish blood and treasure instead of their own to ward off aggressive Persian rivals. So, that brings us to where we are today…
Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad & Co. have been engaged in continuous efforts to eradicate Israel and its Jews by any means possible, and civilian targets have been the most sought after for shock value.
So, how has Ankara dealt with its alleged Jerusalem “friend’s” attempt to deal with this murderous violence? By blaming Israel, itself, and expecting Jews to simply put up with it…
On more than one occasion, the Turks have withdrawn their ambassador and have taken other measures in rebuking Israel for its defensive actions.
Given all the above and much more, it’s now time to more closely examine problems Ankara has had with its “Mountain Turks.”
As we’ve already seen, this people pre-dates the Turks’ arrival in Turkey from central Asia by thousands of years. As Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula from the 7th century C.E. onwards and slaughtered, conquered, and Arabized lands and scores of millions of native peoples in all directions, Turks later did the same—minus the Arabization (though they themselves had also been Arabized in various ways). Like Jews in Israel, Kurds were there long before an Arab or Turk ever conquered them and their lands. Regarding the Jews, just check out the ancient Roman historians and those who came before them if you doubt this…
To reiterate, there are tens of millions of Kurds who live in the Middle East (the ancient Gutian conquerors of Babylon, Hurrians, Kassites, Medes, etc.), and about 20-25% of Turkey’s population is Kurdish—about the same mix of Arabs to Jews in Israel. The first Kurdish nationalist revolts in the area dated from the 19th century. Others would come as well…especially after London’s betrayal.
The emergence of powerful Turkish and Iranian rulers after World War I (Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi) wound up leaving Kurds stateless in the new age of nationalism in the region. Other peoples were gaining freedom and states of their own after the collapse of empires in the Middle East and Europe, but not Kurds…a recipe for explosion, for sure.
After Great Britain won a favorable decision from the League of Nations in 1925 tying the oil of Mesopotamia’s predominately Kurdish north to the British Mandate of the same name and subsequently to the new Arab state of Iraq, promises earlier made in support of Kurdish independence were aborted, and the Brits militarily aided Arabs in squashing Kurdish dreams.
Kurds were shafted via a collusion of imperial British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism. The main arm of the British Empire–the Royal Navy–had recently switched from coal to oil. Comprendais mis amigos?
In terms of Israel, think of the British-led, most effective Arab fighting force which attacked the resurrected State of the Jews in 1948, Transjordan’s Arab Legion, led by Sir John Bagot Glub, Glubb Pasha, and then see if you still need to ask why Arabs refer to the birth of an independent Kurdistan as “another Israel.” By the way, after Iraq’s Shi’a army with Iran’s help chased Kurds out of Kirkuk with American tanks and such, guess who begin pumping oil again from there? British Petroleum, BP.
Unfortunately, Kurds have been used and abused by many players ever since–again, sadly including both America and Israel. Turks, at times, also used them to do their own dirty work vis-à-vis Christian Armenians and Assyrians. A good place to start for some review of the American travesty might be the late, great William Safire of The New York Times’s “The Sellout of the Kurds” op-eds in the 1970s.
As World War I came to a close, being a mere remnant of the former great Ottoman Turkish Empire, Ataturk’s Turkey was determined to see no further geographical losses. That being the case, in the age of nationalism, what was there to do with millions of non-Turkic people who predated you on the land?
Well, in the Turks’ eyes–and as we’ve seen above–you could just rename and erase them as a people, outlaw their culture and language, intimidate, murder, and subjugate–etc. and so forth (note: Arabic is the second national language of Israel, Arabs have their own schools, are members of the Knesset, are free to curse Israel, side with other Arabs who wish it dead, etc. and so forth).
Bingo!!!!! That was the ticket…
So, Kurds have frequently just been “Mountain Turks” ever since. Arabs have used these same tactics towards them as well. The Syrian Kurdish scholar, Ismet Cherif Vanly’s book, The Syrian ‘Mein Kampf’ Against the Kurds (Amsterdam, 1968) speaks volumes about this.
The militant (sadly sometimes resorting to terror), originally revolutionary, Socialist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK–which Pastor Brunson is accused of assisting) was born amid this horrendous subjugation of the Kurdish people.
Unlike Arabs, with almost two dozen states (carved out largely from non-Arab peoples’ lands), Kurds have been a truly repressed, stateless people. They have suffered horribly because of this condition–long before Saddam Hussein’s Arab Anfal Campaign slaughtered some two hundred thousand of them in Iraq in the 1980s.
Compare this Kurdish quest for justice to the 22nd state Arabs demand at the sole state of the Jews’ expense, which would be, as we have seen, the Arabs’ second one in Palestine, not their first. Today’s Jordan has that honor. And, much later, Arabs renaming themselves “Palestinians,” fools no one except the ignorant or those who want to be fooled. And, unfortunately, many fit into that category.
As has been noted often in the past, Zuheir Mohsein, as just one example, an official with the PLO’s Executive Council, in his interview with the Dutch newspaper, Trouw, on March 31, 1977, stated, “there are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, etc…. It is only for political reasons that we now carefully underline Palestinian identity… this serves only a tactical purpose… a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
Syria Palaestina was the name the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, bestowed upon Judaea after squashing the Jews’ second revolt for freedom in 135 C.E. to rub salt into the wound. It meant the land of the Philistines, the earlier non-Semitic/non-Arab, invading “Sea People” from Crete., and was done in an attempt to put out the embers of Jewish hopes for independence once and for all.
While Erdogan’s crew vociferously supports Hamas, rants against Washington for placing the latter’s current chief honcho on a terror watch list, and threatens America over possible sanctions it may enact against Ankara because of the Brunson affair, it must again be asked…what compromises did Turks make with their own real or perceived national competitors, such as and especially the Kurds?
Did Turkey agree to a partition with its own twenty-two million or so “Mountain Turks?”
As we’ve seen, Jews accepted repeated partitions with Arabs, resulting in the latter getting most of the territory–despite their lies and taqiyya fairy tales.
The answer, of course, to all of this is a glaring “no.”
Unlike Hamas & Co., the PKK was born not only out of this total denial of Kurdish rights, but the attempted eradication of the Kurds’ very own identity, massacring tens of thousands in the process. Again, Arabs have done this to their own perceived nationalist competitors as well (not to mention similar activities in Iran).
Whatever its bloody sins are, the PKK (and its Syrian affiliate) that Pastor Brunson is accused of somehow aiding has never sought the destruction of Turkey nor of its people. It has merely sought rights for Kurds–not “Mountain Turks”–which the Turks refuse to grant…ironically, those very same rights that Ankara expects Israel to cede to those who would certainly destroy it if given half a chance.
Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has publicly debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and websites all around the world. You can visit his website at geraldahonigman.com Gerald A. Honigman is a longtime senior contributing writer, from 2007, and columnist for Ekurd.net. Honigman has published a major book, “The Quest For Justice In The Middle East–The Arab-Israeli Conflict In Greater Perspective.” For more see below.