Relations with Israel and the Kurdish question

Relations with Israel and the Kurdish question

The rising tension between Turkey and Israel is not the only a problem of confrontational regional relations, but it may also have serious implications on domestic politics. All countries in the region used to manipulate anti-Israeli feelings as a useful tool to hide their authoritarian politics. Anti-Israeli rhetoric is not only the official discourse in Iran and Syria, but in all Arab countries, all sorts of regimes use this rhetoric to fill the gap of oppositionist energies. Moreover, it is also useful to suppress criticism by labeling it as an “Israeli conspiracy.” Now, as tension with Israel rises, Turkey seems to undergo a similar process. Many times, pro-government writers hint that any opposition to the present government may be related to the “Israeli lobby” since the new Turkish government policy dares to challenge Israel bravely.

Recently, the conservative media started to portray the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as an “Israeli pawn.” In the dark days of the 1990s, the PKK was portrayed as collaborating with Armenian ASALA and PKK members were often presented not as Kurds but as Armenians. In fact, it is an old and major problem to avoid recognizing the Kurdish problem in all its aspects. In the past, the main problem was not to differentiate Kurds and the PKK and justify suppression of Kurds as fighting with PKK. Now it is the opposite, now the PKK has considerable social support, but this time the Turkish state and government want to differentiate the PKK to justify suppression and avoid any chance of negotiation for a peaceful solution.

Those who portray the PKK as an Israeli pawn either must be seriously deluded concerning the Kurdish problem or must be thinking about killing two birds with one stone by despising Israel and the PKK at the same time. Nevertheless, such rhetoric risks the democracy in Turkey in two ways. Firstly, it further hinders chances of political negotiations for a democratic solution and social peace, by “evilizing” the Kurdish enemy. Secondly, the anti-Israeli feeling and its anti-Semitic implications are being enforced with the rhetoric of “war on terror” against the PKK.

Anti-Semitism is not as popular in Turkey as it is in many Muslim countries, yet the danger exists. Unfortunately, most Turkish intellectuals are not concerned, but there is a tradition of anti-Semitism especially among conservative circles (and now among secular nationalist circles) in Turkey. Many intellectuals define anti-Semitism only as “hostility toward Jews” and underestimate the fact that anti-Semitism is also a kind of “reaction toward modernity,” so therefore an essential aspect of almost all authoritarian politics.

When anti-Kurdish feelings meet anti-Semitism, one must say farewell to democracy. I hope we do not come to this point.