Talabani, the Kurds, and the Jews
I was reading a thread at LGF about Talabani's selection as interim President of Iraq, when I saw this remark by a commenter named sandspur:
Just saw a little clip of Talabani on FNC. Sorry I can't quote him verbatim, but he said that Jews, Arabs, all will be treated equally.
As extraordinary as Talabani's election was, this comment seemed even more extraordinary. Why mention Jews? Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a link for the quote. But in researching it, I came across some other information that I found fascinating.
There are almost no Jews left in Iraq, although it once teemed with them, and the Jewish presence there was ancient. At the time of WWI, one-third of the population of Baghdad is estimated to have been Jewish. But anti-Semitism in Iraq increased during the early 1940s, influenced by Nazi-inspired leaders who staged a coup (and I don't mean "Nazi-inspired" as a metaphor; I mean it literally). Violence against Jews intensified after the state of Israel was established, and most of the Jews of Iraq left the country.
Well, it turns out that this mention of Jews by the Kurdish Talabani was no fluke. Today, while researching this, I came across an extraordinary article written in 2001 by Michael Rubin, entitled "The Other Iraq." Read the whole thing, as Glenn Reynolds would say.
According to Rubin's article, written before the Iraq war that deposed Saddam, many Kurds were already expressing approval of Israel and studying the country as a model for their own autonomy and liberation. Victims of persecution and genocide themselves, they could identify. What's more, they despised the Palestinians for their support of Saddam. The older generation of Kurds remembered the absent Iraqi Kurdish Jews fondly, and even the younger generation were able to listen to Israeli radio, watch Israeli TV, and access Israeli websites, unlike the inhabitants of the rest of Iraq.
So Talabani's statement doesn't come out of the blue, although it was a total surprise to me. I was ignorant of this long history of relative goodwill in the Kurdish part of Iraq towards Israel and the Jews.
The plot thickens, though, because this long history gets even longer--and more astounding--when genetics are factored in. It turns out, as this article relates, that a team of scientists (Israeli, German, and Indian--that's quite a story in itself!) discovered in 2001 that the Kurds may be the closest genetic relatives to Jews in the entire world.
Once again, read the whole thing.