June 13, 2013

Abdullah Öcalan, Leader of The PKK, On The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict

Abdullah Öcalan is the founder and leader of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and has been in a Turkish prison on İmralı island since 1999. Recently, the PKK and the Turkish state entered a peace agreement. In March, Öcalan called on PKK fighters in Turkey to leave and cease its guerrilla activities against Turkey.

The peace process has already produced results on the ground. In early May, thousands of PKK fighters started to make their way to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. But it is still too soon to tell what will become of the Turkish-Kurdish peace process. It could derail, especially in the wake of the anti-government protests that includes the presence of Turkish nationalist groups. Read the articles here, here, and here for more information and analysis.

Also, read this excerpt from the article, "Kurds Uneasy About Turkish Protests," by Harvey Morris (June 13, 2013):
“We will not allow the events in Gezi Park to turn against the peace process,” said Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the B.D.P., referring to the development of a park in Taksim Square that started the protests.

David Romano, author of “The Kurdish Nationalist Movement,” wrote on the Rudaw site that prominent amongst the protesters were nationalists from political groups that “historically played a large role in suppressing Kurdish identity and rights in Turkey.”

While acknowledging that some Kurds had reacted to the anti-Erdogan protests with indifference or even antipathy, he said that those who supported the movement were right to do so.

“Just as Turkish democracy could never be truly healthy as long it suppresses ethnic minorities like the Kurds,” Mr. Romano wrote, “Kurds will never be free under a government that ignores the rights of other groups.”
II. Abdullah Öcalan, Leader of The PKK, On The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict

Below is an excerpt from Abdullah Öcalan's 2007 book, "Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilisation." Öcalan writes about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict near the end of the book, and it appears under a larger section called, "Can The Cultural Tradition of The Middle East Serve As A Source For A New Synthesis of Civilisations?"

I do not know much about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so I don't know if Öcalan's insights are deeply penetrating and valuable or if it is superficial knowledge mixed in with some notable ideas. I don't like his anti-religious bias, but there are some ideas and statements that I agree with, like the need for cultural tolerance and the formation of a democratic federation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Öcalan has a lot of hope for the future of the region and believes there will eventually be an era of peace amongst the various nationalities, ethnicities, and religious groups. 

Source: Abdullah Öcalan. Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilisation. Translated by Klaus Happel. Pluto Press: London. 2007. Pg. 291-92.
"The Arab-Israeli reality is the main problem of the region. There seems to be no solution to it. Its roots date back nearly 4,000 years. We know that the Semitic dialects formed between 9000 and 6000 BCE and spread all over the Arab peninsula, north Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and the area between the Euphrates and the Taurus mountains. Semitic tribes provided a major part of the workforce needed in Sumer and Egypt. The Semitic tribes adhered to various kinds of polytheism until the time of Abraham and the rise of monotheism. Here lie the roots of the problem. As a consequence of the following struggles between the different religious factions, Judaism emerged, as the monotheistic religion of the Hebrew tribes. From now on, Arab and Hebrew tribes went different ways in respect of religion. While the Arabs continued their existence as desert tribes, the Jews created rich urban communities. The religious differences also became visible in social and class differences. Despite several setbacks, the Hebrew tribes flourished until about 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and drove the Jewish population out of the region.

From now on, the Jews had to live in largely isolated societies, predominantly occupied with trade and commerce, and often persecuted. Eventually it was the holocaust which made a Jewish state inevitable and indispensable. However, the creation of the state of Israel led to another conflict within the fragile network of international relations. This conflict seems to be insoluble and has made the Near East a permanent "crisis region." Because of their historically enforced way of existence, the Jews, in order to survive, took part in the rise and spread of capitalism throughout Europe and the United States. In spite of sometimes terrible conditions, they gained increasing influence globally, holding important positions in commerce, finance, science, the arts, and politics all over the world. Therefore, Israel is backed by a majority of capitalist countries.

The conflict with the Arabs is a conflict about land. While the abolishment of Israel is unthinkable, the country will have to transform its nationalist basis in order to contribute to a solution, in the same way that Arab nationalism has to be transformed. Otherwise, the conflict will probably escalate until even the use of nuclear weapons is within reach. Of course, Israel would be strategically superior in such a conflict, but this cannot produce a viable and lasting solution. The whole conflict is typified in the merciless struggle over Jerusalem. The holy city lives under the curse of nationalism. Its name, however, means "sanctuary" (al quds) in Arabic and "place of peace" (yerushaleim) in Hebrew.

The Jews have had many experiences with and among different people as a consequence of their historical expulsion. These experiences amount to a considerable knowledge and capability in science, economy and the arts. Many intellectually outstanding people came from Jewish communities. Jewish culture has produced a formidable material and spiritual strength, which exercises a lasting influence on most of the fundamental ideologies and institutions.

The Arabs, on the other hand, have not had such experiences. They have been able, however, to spread over the entire peninsula and north Africa and have even become quite wealthy recently thanks to the oil under their soil. Hence, the Semitic strands have the means for fighting each other on a worldwide scale and have fallen victim to the religions and nationalism that they have created. If they ever want to achieve anything like a peaceful coexistence, they will have to leave their nationalism behind, and in its stead come to an agreement on the basis of the criteria of democratic civilisation. In my opinion, they should create a flexible federation overcoming the religious and nationalist division. In the long run, they need to cooperate, creating the conditions for cultural freedom and a free-market order, under the umbrella of an Israeli-Arab federation. Besides, such a federation also seems inevitable for the Arab world, which is divided into 23 (mostly small) states. The present Arab union doesn't work. An Israeli-Palestinian union, however, would force all Arabs to come together under one roof. Apart from some reactionary circles, the whole Middle East would benefit greatly from such a federation.

Another indispensable part of democratisation in the Middle and Near East is real secularisation. After thousands of years of destruction and repression in the name of religion, an all-embracing religious reform is needed. This will contribute enormously to the success of any democratisation efforts. At the same time, all nationalist ideologies, which presently determine the conflict in Palestine, must make way for scientifically based philosophies establishing freedom and unity and justice. Only such approaches will lead to mutual tolerance and peace. In this way, an Israeli-Arab compromise and a democratic whole can take the place of the present conflict. Such a development could also have a positive influence on the political situation worldwide.

In the Middle East itself, the civilisational antithesis of European civilisation would be strengthened and would probably radiate far beyond the region, triggering similar approaches elsewhere. The historical consequences of an Israeli-Arab compromise would catalytically push solutions for the other problems of the region. The present situation cannot last long. It is completely senseless and will probably not be tolerated for much longer on the local, regional, and international level. In the twenty-first century, I sincerely believe, we will see peace coming into the region as a consequence of democratisation followed by an economic and cultural impetus. This will have global implications, of course, and will advance the evolution of a new synthesis of democratic civilisation."