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Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.

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PostThu Mar 15, 2007 10:12 am     Weeky Standard article,"Enabling Kurdish Illusions"    

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"The Insult And The Rant...?"

By Gerald A. Honigman

You decide.

Recently, as one of my favorite baseball players of all time, Yogi Berra, would say, it was like déjà vu all over again.

Not long ago, yet another example of a scholar--this time, Michael Rubin, a rarity these days who should know better--took Kurds to task in the 3/19/07 Weekly Standard for pressing for independence (or as much secured autonomy as possible), distancing themselves from Arabs who have repeatedly slaughtered them to the tune of hundreds of thousands over this past century. Indeed, he labeled such endeavors “illusions.”

Here’s a chunk of the article to check out…

…(Senator) Biden is correct that federalism cannot be avoided. However, he is incorrect to assume that federalism should be based on ethnic and sectarian division rather than on Iraq's existing geographical provinces. Ethnic division will not bring security. Rather than embrace peace with his neighbors, Barzani now mimics the strategy of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat--seeking diplomatic legitimacy while refusing to renounce violence.

Rubin’s “Enabling Kurdish Illusions” mostly focused on the PKK’s fight with the Turks and--as can be seen in his analogy of mainstream Kurdish leaders with Arafat (how many Arab school buses, restaurants, pizza parlors, etc. and so forth have Talabani or Barzani ordered blown up?) and other comments--holds that Kurds are asking for too much to want something beyond their perpetual, insecure existence among their various butchers and tormentors.

I subsequently asked Rubin in our correspondence if he holds that Arabs should not get their proposed 22nd state (and 2nd, not 1st, one in “Palestine”) because of the terror of both Hamas and Abbas’s alleged “moderate” Fatah.

I received no reply from him on this or my other points. Rubin labeled them all a rant and then claimed that my suggestion that too often sins of both commission and omission in what is and what is not taught in the classroom are tied to financial support--in one way or another--received by those institutions was an insult.

Forget about his real insult to the plight of 30 million repeatedly massacred, subjugated, used, and abused stateless people that his Weekly Standard article represented. That was of no concern.

Keep in mind that much of Rubin’s analysis was on target, and I do agree that as part of a better Kurdish future, the PKK will have to be dealt with. I’ve written this myself.

I, too, see the Turks as friends and valued allies. Here’s a slice from one of my own articles on this topic, “Are You Ready? Here’s The Plan”:

“…The one place where American military bases will probably be welcome in this strategic part of the world (where they increasingly are not) is in Iraqi Kurdistan...like the one America has at Incirlik in Turkey.

This would accomplish a number of things.

First, under the right circumstances, it could help calm the nerves of the Turks. The latter have their own ideas about what to do upon the breakup of Iraq…or even sooner.

Ankara has long pouted over the loss of Mosul and northern Iraq’s Kurdish oil wealth after the Brits manipulated the League of Nations to tie it to its Mesopotamian Mandate gift to its Arab allies in 1925...at the expense of earlier-promised Kurdish independence.

American bases could help insure that the border remains stable…in both directions.

Hopefully, the leftist, militant Kurdish PKK could be convinced, with an independent Kurdish state or secure and highly autonomous Kurdish region as the prize, to avoid problems with the Turks. American forces and Kurdish Peshmerga would have to show Ankara, however, what the alleged “moderate” Abbas refuses to do for Israel…that Kurds are willing to use force even against their own people for the sake of peace with their neighbors. This goes for dealing with jihadist Islamist Kurds as well, notably those associated with Ansar al-Islam.

While one fifth of Turkey’s population of about seventy million is Kurdish and this population is adjacent to Iraqi Kurdistan, it is obviously in the Kurds’ overall best interests to assure their powerful Turkish neighbors (whose armed forces are already amassed on the border, set to pounce) that a peaceful Kurdish state will not be a major headache for them.

Keep in mind that an Israel that can fit almost forty times into Turkey has a similar problem yet is expected to see yet another hostile Arab state (Arabs 22, Kurds 0 ) created in its very backyard. One fifth of Israel’s six to seven million people are Arabs. Why is this not "destabilizing," but mere talk of the birth of an independent Kurdistan constantly gets branded this way Stating the obvious, Kurds would help insure peace with their neighbors since it would be their own best guarantee for their sustained independence or secured autonomy.”

Again, the above was among what Rubin simply called a rant when I answered his note to me complaining of my “insult.”

When “Enabling Kurdish Illusions” was first brought to my attention, it brought back bad memories.

These included my never receiving a doctoral dissertation advisor for daring to bring up such inconvenient truths in a program led by a tenured chief honcho at Ohio State whose only mention of Kurds--while constantly lionizing the cause of Arab state # 22--was when he mocked their plight while speaking of his travels through Turkey.

But this time, decades later, it was even worse, for I was certain that the fairly recent renewed slaughter and gassings of Kurds would finally open eyes a bit more to the hypocrisy which prevails both on the world arena at large and among academics in particular.

Recall , again, that thirty million Kurds remain stateless today, their promised dream of independence in the new age of nationalism aborted on behalf of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism.

Caught between a constricted yet invigorated Turkish nationalism led by Ataturk after the breakup of the Ottoman Turkish Empire post-World War I and its eastern Iranian counterpart under Reza Shah Pahlavi, Mesopotamian Kurdistan became the focus of the Kurds’ main struggle. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) drew his line in the sand beyond which there would be no further retreat. Turkey’s large eastern Kurdish population became “Mountain Turks” from then on…language and culture outlawed, etc. and so forth.

Arabs would do likewise.

Ismet Cherif Vanly’s The Syrian Mein Kampf Against The Kurds (Amsterdam 1968) and the Kurdish experience among Arabs in Iraq are stories that are well known to all who want to know.

To this day, Kurdish kids in Syria are forced to sing songs in school praising their “Arab” identity.

Unfortunately, those who you’d expect would be among the most tuned in have been, instead, among the worse offenders who have played deaf, dumb, and blind to the plight of Kurds while never allowing “Palestine” to move off of the front burner in the halls of academia.

Before going any further, check out this haunting analogy and excerpt from a presentation by a leader of another victimized people in 1937:

Whenever I hear a Zionist...accused of asking too much...I really cannot understand it...Yes we do want a State; every nation on earth...they all have States of their own...the normal condition of a people. Yet, when we, the most abnormal of peoples, and therefore the most unfortunate, ask for only the same...then it is called too much...We have got to save millions, many millions. I do not know whether it is a question of one third...half...or a quarter (indeed, one third of world Jewry would be eliminated within just a few years of his remarks)…

It is not a hardship on any race, any nation possessing so many National States now and so many more National States in the future. One fraction, one branch...and not a big one, will have to live in someone else's State: Well, that is the case with all the mightiest nations of the world...That is only normal and there is no "hardship" attached to that. So when we hear the Arab claim confronted with the Jewish claim, I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority.

It is quite understandable that the Arabs...would also prefer Palestine to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5. or No. 6...but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus...starvation.

The presenter was Ze'ev Vladimir Jabotinsky, the patron saint of Israel's modern Likud Party, testifying before The Palestine Royal Commission in London.

Does this sound just a bit familiar? A rant and no analogy here, Dr. Rubin?

Having seen Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Jews, Armenians, and others in the region live to see their quest for independence eventually fulfilled, it did not take Einstein to figure out how Kurds would react to repeatedly being ignored by the world community and deprived of the same thing…that same world community which today insists that that 22nd state be created for Arabs (on lands conquered and forcibly Arabized from mostly non-Arab peoples) while Kurds remain stateless.

Continued Kurdish frustration, oppression, and subjugation has led to repeated revolts and conflict in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. And again, while those same Arabs, Turks, and Iranians saw the emergence of their own modern nation states, tens of millions of Kurds were told that they were to simply accept their perpetual victimization…including by such folks as Rubin.

After receiving a favorable decision from the League of Nations tying the oil-rich Mosul region to their Mesopotamian Mandate in 1925, the Brits decided that their future depended more on Arab good will than on promises to the Kurds. An Arab Iraq was created with the oil of the Kurdish north tied to it for strategic and economic viability. The British imperial fleet had not long before switched from coal to oil….

The area around oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosul was the heartland of Kurdistan for millennia--long before an Arab or Turk ever set foot in the region. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the competing Talabani and Barzani factions of Kurds joined forces and took on their latest Arab butchers, including Saddam. Yes, he was around for that long.

A country as artificial and unstable as Yugoslavia was thus sired under similar circumstances (upon the collapse of empires and with groups often at each others‘ throats glued together largely for others‘ interests), with British military support aiding in the suppression of the Kurds’ subsequent responses to this travesty.

Unlike the Brits’ other Mandate, Palestine, which would witness several partitions and partition plans to take into account competing nationalisms (like those which would also result in a Muslim Pakistan and a largely Hindu India), Kurds would simply be ignored in the even larger Mandate of Mesopotamia. Keep in mind that Arab nationalism was rewarded some 80% of the original April 25, 1920 Mandate of Palestine with the creation of what would later be renamed Jordan in 1922. Again, the fight today is over the birth of the Arabs’ second state in “Palestine,” not the first.

Arabs declared the whole area to be purely Arab patrimony, and woe unto those who demanded their own slice of justice in the new nationalist age…be they Jabotinsky’s Jews, Kurds, black African Sudanese, etc. and so forth.

So, back to Rubin‘s piece…

Yes, it was déjà vu yet again…

Back in the ‘70s when I was doing masters and doctoral work in New York and Ohio and also a consultant for a major organization guest lecturing on dozens of universities across several states, I noticed those obvious acts of omission and commission mentioned earlier in the halls of academia itself. While it later became obvious to me what was going on, back then I was still too naïve and starry eyed about the positive aspects of the ivory tower to believe…

But, to reiterate, I noticed that while certain topics and issues never left center stage , others rarely--if ever--were even mentioned. At least Rubin now mentions them…

So, while Arab genocidal behavior towards African blacks--Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and not only in the Sudan--has been going on for decades, too many act now as if Darfur and such are new developments.

Ditto for the revolts of the Kurds for freedom against their Arab and other oppressors, the plight of native Middle Eastern Jews (kilab yahud--Jew dogs--in Arabic), Copts, Assyrians, Berbers, and so forth.

Most often, such subjects were/are simply ignored by the same professors who constantly scrutinize Israel under a high power lens and espouse the cause of the Arabs’ 22nd state.

That same tenured chief honcho I referred to earlier who liked to call Jabotinsky a fascist, all but canonized Hitler’s good buddy, the Mufti of Jerusalem. And this was the same academic who taught a doctoral seminar on the Palestine Mandate and never mentioned the Cairo Conference of 1921 where Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, engineered the future separation of Transjordan--over 75 % of the territory--from Palestine on behalf of the Brits’ Arab allies in World War I. Included, such information would put to the lie the Arab claim that the Jews wound up with the whole shebang. A mere accident from an academic expert in this field? Guess again…

Worse yet, academic freedom only goes one way in such classes. Students risk their future careers (as I know all too well) by asking for such balance.

Another professor, who I suspect was more reasonable, allowed me, as a doctoral Teaching Assistant, to do a one day’s lesson on the Kurds. The Arabs in class were disturbed by this deviation from having the Jews frequently under the lens, so I soon “heard” about it. And note that the T.A. was chosen to do this lesson…No professor dared touch such a topic with a ten foot pole.

This was all too typical in Middle Eastern Studies then, and I suspect it remains so today as well.

And seeing articles such as Rubin’s “Enabling Kurdish Illusions” is not promising in this regard either.



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