by Brendan O’Neill, 20 May 2021
Did you know that for the past three weeks Turkey has been engaged in a military assault on Iraqi Kurdistan? It’s been brutal. The Turks, who have one of the most powerful military forces on Earth, have used F-16s, F-4 Terminators and other terrifying hi-tech weaponry to pummel Kurdish positions in northern Iraq.
Families have fled their homes in terror. Livelihoods have been destroyed.
‘Every day, every night… we are being bombed. Our lands are being destroyed. We cannot grow our crops’, says a Kurdish farmer.
It’s unclear how many people have died. According to Turkey, dozens of Kurdish people, mostly militants, apparently, have been killed or captured.
Have you seen any big, rowdy protests in the UK about this worrying act of asymmetrical warfare? Have you seen any footballers wave the Kurdish flag in solidarity with displaced, terrified Kurds? Have you seen social media swamped by furious denunciations of the ‘bloodthirsty’ Turks and outpourings of love and concern for the brutalised Kurds?
I haven’t. I have seen all of that kind of stuff in relation to Israel, constantly, every minute of every day — loud and ever-more self-righteous condemnations of Israel for being a vile, evil, crime-committing nation, a pox on the Earth. But on Turkey’s latest assault on the Kurds? Nothing. Not a peep. Carry on, Turkey — no one’s watching.
There’s a question that hangs like a long, dark shadow over Western leftists’ and liberals’ furious opposition to Israel, and I have never heard a satisfactory answer to it. It’s this: why do you hate Israel more than any other nation?
Why does Israeli militarism offend and horrify you more than Turkish militarism, or Saudi militarism, or American and British militarism for that matter? Why is it ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’ and ‘bloodletting’ when Israel takes action against Palestinian militants, but not when Turkey takes action against Kurdish militants? Seriously — what is the answer?
Turkey’s incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan is called Operation Claw-Lightning. It started on 23 April. It is part of Turkey’s long-running war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the militant Kurdish organisation dedicated to creating an independent Kurdistan and based mainly in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
Operation Claw-Lightning is a follow-up to Operation Claw, a Turkish onslaught in Iraqi Kurdistan that lasted from May 2019 to June 2020. Hundreds of people were killed or wounded in that operation. These operations, of course, are only the latest flare-ups in Turkey’s 40-year war with Kurdish militants, which has led to the deaths of around 20,000 Kurdish civilians and the destruction of between 2,500 and 4,000 Kurdish villages.
The woke set’s myopic loathing for Israel really is extraordinary. We are so used to it now that we take it as normal. But it isn’t normal. There are military tensions and conflicts around the world that are causing great suffering — in Kurdistan, Yemen, Xinjiang — yet none of them triggers the rage reflex in virtuous Westerners anywhere near as much as Israel’s actions do.
Saudi Arabia can bomb a school bus and kill 40 children, as part of its brutal war in Yemen, and most Western campaigners don’t lose a wink of sleep. But Israel just has to start wheeling its military aircraft out of the hangar and they’re up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday, dusting down their Palestinian flags, putting the finishing touches to their ‘Israel is Evil’ placards, and taking to the streets in their tens of thousands to condemn this most wicked, genocidal, apartheid state.
On the rare occasion they do try to justify their feverish obsession with Israel, it just doesn’t add up. The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on for decades and it’s really tragic, they say. And Israel is supported by our governments, so we have a responsibility to act, they insist. What’s more, Israel occupies Palestinian land and that just has to be challenged, they argue.
But all of these things can be said about Turkey versus Kurdistan. It’s a very old conflict. Turkey is a Western ally; it’s a member of Nato for heaven’s sake. And Turkey occupies what many, many people consider to be Kurdish land. So, again, answer this question: why does Israel offend you more than Turkey does?
To be clear, I am not comparing Israel to Turkey. Israel, unlike Turkey, faces an existential threat. It is surrounded by hostility. Hamas is an extremist Islamist movement whose founding charter was full of anti-Semitism. Hamas’s aim is less to build an independent nation state than to punish the Jews. It is currently firing hundreds of missiles directly into Israel.
Whatever one might think of the PKK, it isn’t doing any of these things right now. And yet Israel is loathed for defending itself from missiles fired by an anti-Jewish terrorist organisation, while Turkey is ignored despite continuing its long, ugly war with Kurdish forces.
It seems to me that, increasingly, there is nothing very rational or normal about the hatred for Israel that sporadically sweeps the West. Rather, Israel has become a whipping boy for the elites, a nation that has cynically been turned into the embodiment of evil by virtue-signalling Westerners in desperate need for an outlet for their rage and pontification.
If there is another, more convincing explanation for today’s furious anti-Israel sentiment I’d love to hear it. But until one is forthcoming, the rest of us will be justified in wondering if perhaps an old, dark hatred, whether wittingly or unwittingly, underpins the manic loathing of Israel.