“Kurdistan and Israel” is a historical piece, that moves towards present day events, explaining the relationship between Kurdistan and Israel. It was published by Tablet Magazine, back in November 14th, 2018 and was authored by Mardean Isaac.
The article predominantly relates to Sherzad Omer Mamsani, who appeared “out of nowhere” in the media limelight back in October 2015. He began claiming to be the Kurdish representative of Jewish affairs, as he was of mixed Jewish and Muslim heritage.
“He came here to do business; when I met him, he never mentioned he was Jewish,” said Mordechai Zaken, an Israeli of Kurdistani Jewish origin who is today a senior Israeli political figure dealing with minority relations.
Zaken explained that there was one issue in what Mamsani was saying:
“When he went to the U.S. he was saying we want to help the Jewish community of Kurdistan,” he explained. “There is no Jewish community of Kurdistan! There is none. And he kept claiming there was one.”
Mamsani staged a ceremony linking the expulsion of Jews from Iraq with the Holocaust, and invited the American consul to another at which Zaken says he set up a menorah with the wrong number of candles. “If you look at his Facebook page you can see references earlier to the Quran. He’s an opportunist.”
And for some reason, he was given a sort of approval by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to pursue his goals.
Then, following a lengthy explanation of what Mordechai went through, and some historical testimonies that showed that the Jewish community in Israel was predominantly imaginary, the real purpose of Mamsani’s activities and why Israel supports Kurdish independence is revealed.
“Until the recent Kurdish independence referendum, which led to the Iraqi government retaking the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Israel purchased as much as three-quarters of its oil from the Iraqi KRG.”
Israel reportedly purchased 1/3rd of KRG oil exports, and it did so in quite the veiled manner – in unmarked tankers, or under a Maltese flag. These vessels discharge the oil at Ashkelon, the oil port in Israel near the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government denies every purchasing any oil from the KRG.
“The original reason that these deals were secret was that Israel was effectively buying ‘stolen’ oil, against Iraq’s wishes, at sub-OPEC prices,” said Idan Barir, journalist and researcher at the Forum for Regional Thinking. The opportunity to take advantage of Iraq’s nonrecognition of Israel coincided with economic benefit. “These prices were lucrative for Israel, as well as the KRG, because the oil was left over from their quota agreed with Iraq. Both sides enjoyed it, and the Turks enjoyed it as middlemen.”
In July 2014, Barir went to the Ashkelon port and asked around, and he was questioned by an unidentified security agent at the port.
Later on, a journalist friend of his asked and received an official response from the Israeli Infrastructure Ministry, stating that Israel is not part of any deal with the KRG. The Israeli version claims the following: Even if oil was purchased from the KRG, it was from Israeli businessmen and the tanks that stored it were only leased by the state, not owned.
“Perhaps more significantly, Israel has provided the KRG with internal security assistance since the establishment of the no-fly zone.”
Colonel Amir Goren, who served in the IDF for over 30 years and is now 53, described himself as an “international anti-terrorism expert,” providing “tailored solutions” to “combat, physical and technological needs” for “public and private organizations” in several geographies.
He was the leader of a group of Israelis who trained Iraqi Kurdish security forces from 2004-2006.
Goren used a fake identity in Kurdistan, claiming to be born of a Turkish Muslim father and Bulgarian Christian mother, and—like the rest of the Israelis in his team—never revealed himself as a Jew or Israeli. Despite allegedly there being a Jewish-Kurdish community.
“In the beginning,” he said, “it was very hard to live there. It was just after the war and the local environment was not friendly and even hostile to foreigners, so I used to be accompanied by local security guards. In all daily routines—bathing, sleeping, and so on—I was always accompanied by a gun. It was a challenge to keep my identity under cover, because a lot of military forces were there: Turkish special forces, Iranian special forces and intelligence, al-Qaeda—and they all had an eye on foreigners. But I soon started feeling like a local and driving without guards to visit markets, restaurants and the countryside. I managed to establish good connections with the locals and I was invited several times for weekend hunting trips near Suleymania, Kirkuk, Sinjar, and the Nineveh Plain. When I lived in the Christian neighborhoods, I used to visit churches on Sundays. While living in the Muslim neighborhoods, I prayed in the mosque with the Muslims because I wanted to be integrated and accepted.”
The official version of support being provided was to combat terrorism, Islamism and extremism.
Israel, at least on the surface supports Kurdistan independence as part of a humanitarian justification, but in all reality, it is simply to receive oil, since Iraq is officially an enemy state.
“There is no Kurdistan: They aren’t an entity that you can trade with separately,” Yifa Segal, of the International Legal Forum, explained. “But it’s not unprecedented to create a legal framework that distinguishes between a state and a particular part of it. Legally, it’s a very simple amendment to make: You just define Kurdistan in a way that it’s clear enough technically. It will open up a whole different possibility regarding trade.” It remains unclear, of course, what practical difference the legislation would make given from the KRG’s end, given that it remains part of a country that does not recognize Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “the only leader in the world who advocated the referendum,” an examination of the prime minister’s statements last September reveals recourse to generalities and abstractions.
Finally, people who have first-hand experience in Israeli support and their support for independence have the following to say:
Mardean Isaac cited, Kamal Chomani, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for the Middle East Policy, “is a prominent and articulate critic of human rights abuses and political oppression in the KRG.” He is from Erbil and now based in Hamburg.
“Israel’s support for the KRG has not led to any positive changes so far, in fact, it has had an adverse impact,” he told me. “Barzani and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) have used Israel’s rhetoric to further persecute Kurds, stifling political dissent and voices critical of the KRG. Israel should have approached the Kurds as a nation—and not just certain parties and families who do not have much support among the Kurdish population.”
Israel’s leadership has little care for any of that, as long as it manages to receive its oil, under the pretense of humanitarian care and assistance.
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