Since the Kurdish people have suffered both kinds of violence which typify Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, their political movement is in a unique position to propose an alternative settlement for Palestine and the broader Middle East, journalist Matt Broomfield writes in an essay for the left-wing political site Jacobin.
In his article, the writer and regular Medya News commentator notes that whereas right-wing Western analysts have taken Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza as an excuse to “indulge in its own wish fulfilment of the authoritarian liquidation of dissenting and subaltern domestic populations”, the Left all too often falls into the trap of fetishizing armed resistance and ignoring Hamas’ own authoritarianism. The result is an “unwillingness to think through what the co-option of Palestinian struggle by authoritarian Islamism means for the Palestinian people, or the broader cause of socialist internationalism.”
On the contrary, therefore, Broomfield draws attention to the historical links between the Kurdish and Palestinian liberation struggles, with the Kurdish liberation movement receiving crucial experience and developing its internationalist sensibility in secular Palestinian training camps. Contemporary geopolitical developments have seen the Leftist, secular opposition in Palestine dwindle into irrelevance, while the Turkish state which stands as the principal obstacle between the Kurds and their own dreams of justice and self-determination has also become a key backer of Hamas, the Islamist party which rules the Gaza Strip.
On the one hand, Broomfield writes, “It’s a myth to think Israel has any interest in the Kurdish vision of dismantling the authoritarian nation-state, or breaking with an ethnonationalist understanding of self-determination.” On the other, “Recognition of the Palestinians’ right to resist by even violent means should not preclude a left-wing critique of Hamas’ rule in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in what remains of the West Bank, as preventing the Palestinian people from achieving genuine self-determination.”
Rather, it’s precisely at this seemingly-hopeless juncture that the Kurdish movement’s seemingly-utopian, internationalist vision is most pressingly relevant, Broomfield argues: “Internationalism is not to be sneeringly dismissed as ‘both-sidesism’, drawing false equivalences between profoundly unmatched forces or abstaining from judgement altogether. Rather, it is a call to dissolve the foundations of occupation and empire, by enabling repressed peoples everywhere to fight for self-determination in the broadest sense.”
As such, Broomfield cautions, “The step back from the state form does not deny the Palestinian people their right to self-determination. Nor does it deny the Israeli people their right to a homeland, free from harm…. If Israel is the occupying, oppressor state par excellence… the surpassing of the state form that [Kurdish political leader] Öcalan represents as inherently centralized and authoritarian will ultimately prove necessary, to achieve the true emancipation of all peoples living in and under it.”
This doesn’t mean that the Kurdish model of inter-community cooperation and grassroots democracy currently undergoing trial by fire in Kurdish-led North and East Syria can or should be transplanted to Israel Palestine. On the contrary “any such alternative advanced in Israel/Palestine” will look radically different again, Palestinians must take the lead in determining their own forms of political organisation, and at the present moment it’s hard to see any immediate cause for hope or inter-community reconciliation.
Nonetheless, Broomfield writes, the Kurdish movement can at least offer an urgent “reminder that another way is possible”. To this end, he joins other observers and critics in calling for a reassessment of the so-called one-state solution.
“Rather than Öcalan’s stated goal of a devolved “commune of communes”, or a resurgence of socialist-Zionist kibbutzim, perhaps a more realistic medium-term vision would indeed resemble a one-state solution marked by careful, managed, intercommunity tolerance,” he suggests. “The one-state solution, with Jews, Arabs, and minorities granted equal rights in a federal system, has often been dismissed as an unrealistic fantasy. A fantasy, but no utopia — rather a messy and doubtlessly deeply painful process, but a proposal that perhaps for that very reason deserves deeper thought and exploration than it normally receives.”
He concludes: “All struggle and resistance bear in them the seeds of future social transformation. But it’s for precisely this reason that the form of the struggle, and the demands made by the resistance, matter.”