Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani's September 25, 2017 referendum on Kurdish independence sparked vehement opposition in Arab countries, as was expressed in statements by leaders and also by many articles in the Arab press. The main argument raised was that the Kurds are a tool of Israel – which is working to divide Iraq, and after that the rest of the Arab countries. As proof of this, they cited the Kurds' good relations with Israel and the fact that Israel is the only country that supports them.
Along with this opposition, the Arab press also published a few articles defending the Kurds' right to independence and criticizing those who opposed it. These articles rejected the conspiracy theory – i.e. that Israel was backing the referendum, with the aim of dismantling an Arab country – and noted that the Arabs' refusal to tackle their own domestic problems posed more of a danger than Israel did. They also said that those who oppose the Kurdish referendum in the name of Arab unity and the Palestinian problem have made other mistakes over the years – such as also supporting Nazism and Communism. This, while they themselves were doing nothing for the Palestinians, and were even causing harm to the Palestinians within their own countries' borders.
Iraqi Kurds wave Israeli flag along with Kurdistan flag. Image: Aljazeera.net, October 2, 2017
Arab Writers: It Is Not Israel That Created The Kurdish Problem, But Rather The Arab Regimes That Denied Their Rights
Jordanian journalist Fahd Al-Khitan wrote in the daily Al-Ghad under the title "It Is Not a Conspiracy": "The Arab logic immediately came up with a Zionist conspiracy as an explanation for the Kurds' insistence on seceding from Iraq and on holding a referendum several weeks ago. Proof of this conspiracy exists in abundance, since Israel effectively supported the Kurdish demand [for independence] and has been cultivating ties with certain Kurdish elements since the days of yore. But can the historic cause of the Kurds, which exists since before the founding of Israel, be reduced to this marginal fact?
"Israel exploits regional crises to promote its own interests, that much is certain, and Arab and [other] regional forces do the same. We can present many exsamples of border disputes and political conflicts between states that have been exploited by Arab and foreign countries, [such as the conflicts] between Iran and Iraq, between Bahrain and Qatar, between Egypt and Sudan, and the Sahara conflict between Morocco and Algeria. These are all real problems, and the lack of willingness to resolve and settle them gives foreign forces an opportunity to exploit them for their own interests.
"Israel did not create the Kurdish problem. The problem of the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran is a flagrant national product of countries and regimes that denied the legitimate national rights of the [Kurdish] people. Like any oppressed and persecuted nation, the Kurds are trying to enlist support for their cause, regardless of any other consideration. If Israel has indeed managed to infiltrate the Kurdish [ranks], this is nothing but a demonstration of the Arabs' failure to address their legitimate cause, and proof of the fragility of the Arabs' national security, which is breached from every direction – by Israel and by other forces. So don't blame it all on the Kurds.
"The perception of the Kurdish issue involves no small measure of radical nationalism, for there is a strange insistence on merging the various components [of our societies] into an exclusively Arab identity, and on denying the right of non-Arabs to express their national and cultural identity. Whoever lifts up his head and demands his rights is [immediately] accused of serving Israel. Is Israel also behind the referendum in Catalonia? Several days ago, some regions in Italy [likewise] announced their wish to hold a referendum on secession, [but] we did not hear anyone in Italy accusing Israel and Zionism of being behind this move. And what about Britain, whose people voted to leave the European Union? Can Israel, which was created thanks to a British promise [the Balfour Declaration], be behind this as well? If Israel is really motivating the Kurds and pushing them to conspire against the Arab nation, why did the U.S., Israel's number one ally in the world, oppose Israel's will and interests and reject the referendum?
"Using this warped national logic, we avoid dealing with our problems in the Arab world. We have made a habit of blaming others for our failure, not only in the Kurdish issue but in all the challenges we have faced, before and since the establishment of Israel. Israel is no doubt the greatest enemy of the nation, but the enemy within is much more dangerous.
"In the collapsing countries of the east, as well as in the old democracies, a desire for secession and independence is emerging. This is a great challenge for both the Arab reasoning and the Western reasoning, and confronting it requires creative and innovative thinking."
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Lebanese Journalist: Why Do All Those Who Fought For The Palestinians' Right Of Self Determination Deny The Same Right To The Kurds?
Lebanese journalist and political analyst Hazem Saghiya wrote in his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat: "The minute [Kurdish leader] Masoud Barzani announced the decision to hold a referendum [on Kurdish independence], condemnations began to be heard of [the Kurds'] love of Israel: 'you are allies, partners and even agents of Israel.' Some people started digging into history – or even inventing it – in an effort to prove that the situation of the two sides [the Israelis and the Kurds] is identical... [The right to establish] an independent Palestinian state is a right that no reasonable person contests. Ideally, anyone who [demands] rights of his own should support and identify with all the just causes in the world. [But] the political reality does not always [correspond] to this ideal, for in the name of national rights, independence and hostility to Jewish immigration, most Arabs showed solidarity with Hitler and Nazism, and later, in the name of the very same rights, [they also] showed solidarity with the Soviet Gulag regime... These are positions that do not respect people's rights and even undermine them. Moreover, to this day, apologizing for them has not become a prominent part of Arab culture or ideology...
"Iraqis who now holler about the friendship between the Kurds and Israel did not hesitate to treat the Palestinians in the worst possible manner. This happened immediately after the 2003 war [in Iraq], and the Iraqis and Palestinians still remember it... We [also] know that, in Syria and Lebanon, the impassioned calls to advance the Palestinian cause coincide with the most despicable treatment of Palestinians. How did the war on the [Palestinian refugee] camps during the 1980s help the Palestinians liberate Palestine?!
"The Palestinians' own behavior has not always been characterized by the justice in whose name they constantly speak, for they expressed sympathy for Saddam Hussein's attack on Kuwait and later for Assad's suppression of the Syrian majority that rose up in demand of freedom. They took part in the civil wars in Jordan and Lebanon, and their crimes against the rights of the Lebanese and Jordanians are comparable to the crimes of the Lebanese and Jordanians against their rights... So why are only the Kurds required to remain within the framework of a perfect correspondence between politics and justice? Or perhaps what is permitted to the master is not permitted to his slave?...
"As for the Kurds and Israel, the Hebrew state was the only one that welcomed the Kurdish referendum. It probably welcomed it for reasons that were less than noble, having to do entirely with its own [interests], but it did so while others all over the region were [threateningly] baring their teeth at the Kurds. In this situation, can the Kurds be expected to burn the Israeli flag? What have we Arabs done for the Kurds that we can expect them to hate Israel with a passion?...
"Moreover, since the Saddam Hussein era, the Palestinian cause has been used more than any other cause [as a means] to undermine the Kurdish issue and the Kurds' right [to independence], just as Bashar Al-Assad later used the Palestinian cause [to combat] the Syrians' [attempts] to oust his regime. Obviously, such conduct leaves psychological effects and scars in its victims, especially when no Palestinian voices are heard loudly condemning and opposing this use [of their cause].
"The obvious conclusion is that, in this region, we have what can be described as a mechanism of blackmail by means of [accusations of collaboration with] Israel. The Lebanese Christians know better than anyone else how they were subjected to such blackmail during the years of Syrian patronage [over Lebanon], and even the Palestinian leadership itself was not spared [this blackmail] when it tried to take its own national decisions, independently of the will of the Assad regime..."
Al-Hayat Columnist: The Claims Against The Kurds Have Been Disproved
Hazem Al-Amin, another Lebanese columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote cynically: "The Kurds' celebrations last month [over the referendum results] included waving Israeli flags – which pan-Arab eyes saw and made part of the Kurdish aspiration for independence. [They called the Kurdish state] 'an artificial state that is analogous to Israel.' Those with wounded pan-Arab sentiment have gone too far, [arguing that] not only is the future [Kurdish] state a product of Israel, but that it is also a partner in Tel Aviv's creation of ISIS, and wishes that the 200,000 Kurdish Jews in Israel will return to it. [They say] that the future [Kurdish] state is part of the Zionist plan to dismantle the region into small entities based on ethnicity and sect...
"Much can be said against the independence referendum... but it also had an upside, because it made the Arabs expend tremendous energy on writing nonsense, as they haven't done in a long time. [This] revealed that the Ba'th [party], including its branches in Iraq and Syria, is not a random, fleeting phenomenon in the pan-Arab sentiment, but is fundamental; that ISIS is its cousin and suckled the same milk; and that the Arab defeat throughout the conflict with Israel is the result of ignoring the truth. Anyone who says that the Kurds want 200,000 Kurdish Jews to return to Kurdistan from Israel fails to notice that they [the Kurds], by means of their activity that stems from delusions, will in fact restore the situation to what it used to be, and will serve Palestine by correcting the mistake of the pan-Arabism of Rashid 'Ali Al-Kilani and his nationalist Arab cohorts, which motivated them to raid the Jews in Baghdad and send them to Israel with the aid of the Jewish Agency.
"While pan-Arabism is forgiven for having abandoned Palestine, the Kurds are not forgiven for waving the Israeli flag at a moment of national intoxication... After all, they are Kurds, and they have no right to anger or mistakes, just as they are not allowed to dream of a state that was taken from them over a century ago. If they make a mistake, then [Hizbullah secretary-general] Mr. [Hassan] Nasrallah will come out to remind them that he will stand against any plan by [any] religious stream that divides the nation – when he [Nasrallah himself] apparently wants to unite [the nation] under the flag of the Rule of the Jurisprudent [of the Iranian regime] that has no connection to any [Sunni] religious stream...
"ISIS too, which according to the offspring [of Rashid 'Ali Al-Kilani and Hajj Amin Al-Husseini] sold Iraqi territories to Israel via Kurdish middlemen, found a place in the version [of reality] of the opponents of the Kurdish state. According to the latter, ISIS is not Arab and does not belong to the Ba'th, [but rather] is Kurdish and Israeli. The offspring of Rashid Al-Kilani have in their possession documents proving this, that they sent to Mr. Nasrallah; he will reveal them in his next speech...
"The Shi'ite Iraqi forces – once the allies of the Kurds in Iraq, in the post-Saddam era – united in a religious alliance [with Shi'ite Iran] that has no place for the Kurds' aspirations. And lo, they remind the Kurds of the Arabism of Kirkuk [which is actually Kurdish], while forsaking the Arabism of [the Shi'ite] Al-Najaf and of Karbala, and turning [the Sunni] Mosul, after its liberation from ISIS, into an Iranian metropolis. All this does not harm the offspring of Rashid 'Ali Al-Kilani [i.e. the Iraqis], as long as it is done by a strong tyrant [such as Saddam]. But the weak, such as the Kurds, have no right to dream of a state."
 Al-Ghad (Jordan), October 22, 2017.
 This refers to a campaign waged by the Amal militia against the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon during the civil war in 1985-1986. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in the battles, and the Sabra, Shatila and Burj Al-Barajna refugee camps were almost completely destroyed, although Amal never managed to take over the camps.
 Al-Hayat (London), October 3, 2017.
 Iraqi politician Rashid 'Ali Al-Kilani (1892-1965), three-time Iraqi prime minister, led the 1941 rebellion that prompted the British to invade Iraq; in June of that year the Farhud, or pogrom, against the Jews of Baghdad took place. Al-Kilani fled to Nazi Germany, and was known for his connections to the Nazis and to Jerusalem Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini.
 A reference to the Arab nationalist movement, founded in Beirut in the 1920s.
 Al-Hayat (London), October 3, 2017.