Closely following the news about Israel and Palestine, it is impossible not to see the many, many parallels with Kurdistan and the countries, mainly Turkey, that occupy it like Israel occupies Palestine. But we need to zoom out further, much further. We need to stop “condemning”, and we need a no-states solution.
Palestine is occupied, and so is Kurdistan. Yes, also the part of Kurdistan that is situated in Turkey. The Turkish army has violently suppressed the Kurds’ aspirations for self-determination for many decades, massacred the population in large numbers and implemented a policy of forced assimilation starting a century ago this month. That’s longer than Palestine has been occupied, actually – I wonder if you ever realized that?
With their violence and policies of exclusion, both Israel and Turkey ensure that there is a constant stream of new recruits joining the armed struggle. Both countries love to claim that they are not fighting the people but what they call the terrorist organisation, but the reality on the ground is of course totally different. It’s undeniable that Palestinian civilians are terrorized and murdered by the Israeli army and by settlers who are enabled by the army. It is also clear that Israel holds many civilians as hostages in jail, including children. And it is a fact that a Palestinian state has been rendered impossible over the decades.
Same in Turkey and Kurdistan. Turkey says it’s fighting the PKK, but everybody who stands up for Kurdish rights gets in trouble. Kurds who are in politics, journalism, the legal profession, human rights or women’s activism, you name it, are prosecuted under vague and broad terrorism laws. Turkey holds hostages in prison too, for example Selahattin Demirtaş and many other high-profile Kurdish politicians.
The wars these states wage against the armed resistance intentionally affect citizens too. Gaza is of course a clear case, but so is Kurdistan, both in Turkey and in Kurdistan in Iraq, as well as in the autonomously governed northeast of Syria. Civilians and civilian infrastructure is explicitely targeted.
This violence and suppression is the most effective recruiter of new members of the armed resistance. If there were no suppression and state violence, if Kurds and Palestinians could live their lives in peace and express their identity freely, no recruitment tool of any armed organisation would appeal to young Kurds or Palestinians.
I’d like to add a deeper level though. It was amazingly put into words by the Palestinian academic and author Steven Salaita, who wrote (scroll to IV, The Professional Left Accedes, for the quotes I use here): “One can discern the seriousness of an insurgency in the Global South (…) by the type of reaction it inspires among the progressive intelligentsia. If the insurgency promises to inflict real damage on the oppressor, then members of that intelligentsia will rush to condemn it on moral grounds.” And: “Decolonization is a grueling project, generally beyond the acumen of those weaned in comfort.”
This puts to words why I don’t “condemn” insurgents’ violence of the oppressed. It’s not my task as a journalist in the first place, but the task of political leaders who need to show to which other leader they are close, closer, closest. But also as a human being, I don’t “condemn” it. Because who am I to judge the methods of resistance of people subject to a form of suppression I can’t even begin to imagine and will never ever experience? How arrogant would it be of me to “condemn” the violence of the oppressed while I have the utter privilige to not even watch violent videos because they nauseate me?
Another similarity between Israel and Palestine, and Turkey and Kurdistan, is that the violence could stop if a political solution were found for it. The Palestinian issue and the Kurdish issue are political problems that require a political solution. And for that, the state has to show political will. That political will will be forced by the armed and unarmed struggle of the oppressed. How far does it need to go before the states start protecting lives instead of endangering them further?
It has to go very far, apparently. And that is not strange from the state’s perspective. Political solutions would, after all, erode their power. Let’s put it into even stronger words: they would erode the very concept of the nation-state itself, because nation-states are per definition suppressive structures. That’s why other nation-states support the most violent ones among them, as we see in both the case of Israel and Turkey (and others): they just pay lip service to human rights and international law because that’s all they can do without undermining their own existence as well.
World peace requires, for starters, a no-states solution. As long as we don’t wake up to that reality, we won’t have it.