teleSUR, 13 August 2015 **** Front Page

Struggle by Turkey's Kurds Will Succeed But What About Palestine?

By Bruno Jäntti

Will a Palestinian equivalent of the PKK-HDP emerge or will Israel and its collaborators succeed in changing the Palestinian politics from an inspiring mass movement into a case study in politicide?

Working as a journalist and political activist in Israel-Palestine and Turkey's Kurdistan has enabled me to begin to assess some of the similarities and differences between the struggles waged in both areas. Recent weeks that I stayed in the occupied Palestinian territories provided me with further food for thought on the matter.

Parallels between Turkey and Israel are hard to miss. The very constitution of the Republic of Turkey has toxic discriminatory characteristics, privileging Turks over ethnic minorities whereas the judicial system of Israel (Israel does not have a constitution) privileges Jews over non-Jews. Reflecting these states' founding principle of inequality, both countries have gone to great lengths in their largely successful efforts to prevent the emancipation of other peoples that are living in areas under full control of Turkey and Israel.

Turkey's current constitution, authored in 1982 by a military junta, states that the republic's citizens are solely members of “the Turkish nation” – a characterization that has not gone down well with the approximately 15 million Kurds who reside within the borders of Turkey. Article 10 of the constitution, for example, bans the division of the so called Turkish nation into sub-entities because – needless to say – the Turkish nation is indivisible. In other words, the mere notion of the existence of ethnic minorities in Turkey can be perceived as unconstitutional.

Both states are highly militarized and both states have sweeping “anti-terror” legislation – an instrument often used to subdue non-violent political organizing that challenges the status quo. Both countries have routinely carried out abysmal violations of the Geneva Conventions and both governments predictably refuse to enforce accountability on state personnel which has committed blatant breaches of international law.

Racism and nationalism of Israeli Jewish political leadership is slowly emerging as an acknowledged fact, however, both the Turkish leadership and the general public harbor vicious jingoism that is perhaps not that well-known among many Westerners. Keeping in mind that the PKK is an organization that advocates for Kurdish political and cultural rights and the Islamic State is an expansionist takfiri mercenary entity, a poll from late 2014 reveals results that are somewhat striking. 43.7 % of Turks consider the PKK to be more dangerous than the Islamic State while 41.6 % regard the Islamic State to be more dangerous than the PKK.

The struggles for Kurdish emancipation in Turkey and that of the Palestinians in Israel-Palestine have long histories and many ups and downs. Having said that, the current state of those struggles are quite different.

In Turkey, the main organizations steering the Kurdish movement are the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The former is a politico-military organization that has been involved in an armed conflict with the Turkey for more than three decades. The latter is a political party which was able to pass Turkey's electoral threshold, winning over 12 % of the vote in recent parliamentary elections.

Having worked in a number of locations in Turkey's Kurdish areas, an obvious and immediate observation was that these two organizations form a broad mass movement with millions of active supporters both in Turkey and in diaspora. Although the internal power structure of the PKK is hardly a textbook example of decentralized decision making, the agenda of the organization has been carefully honed with close cooperation with countless Kurdish communities in the country's Kurdish areas and, hence, the organization and its agenda enjoys immense support among Turkey's Kurdish population.

HDP is as much a mass movement as it is a political party. Furthermore, it is not merely a “pro-Kurdish” party but a party that pushes for an inclusive, multicultural and leftist platform. For such a party, over 12 % of the vote in a country like Turkey is an astonishing achievement.

Although operating in an exceptionally hostile environment, it is entirely possible, even probable, that the PKK and HDP will in the coming years succeed in safeguarding long overdue reform of the country's constitution and broader political culture. It is often the case that the more people mobilize themselves to advocate for a particular cause, the more likely it becomes that they will ultimately prevail, even when their adversary is an oppressive and powerful state actor.

In Palestine, such a breakthrough is less imminent. My latest stay in the occupied Palestinian territories gave me further anecdotal evidence on the unfortunate fact that the Israeli crackdown on Palestinian political organizers has truly taken its toll. There are numerous impressive – through relatively small – pockets of various forms of resistance to the Israeli occupation but currently there is no well-coordinated Palestinian mass movement with hundreds of thousands of active participants.

For decades, when the PLO indeed was as an actual representative of the Palestinians, most significant states in the international community collaborated with Israel in crushing the prospects for any Palestinian self-determination. Only in recent years has the Palestinian cause garnered more wide-spread support in the EU and the US. While it might be an exaggeration to say that this is too little too late, it most certainly is so late that the momentum of popular-based political organizing in the occupied territories has declined.

The battle of the Kurds in Turkey has had relatively little support from outside. The PKK has been and remains criminalized by the EU, the US and NATO. Turkey is an important ally of both the EU and the US (and an influential NATO state, of course). All that said, the resilience of the popular-based political structures of Turkey's Kurds has enabled something that is nothing short of remarkable, namely that Ankara will, eventually, be compelled to grant full rights to the Kurds.

What the future holds for the Palestinian struggle, however, is not entirely clear. Will a Palestinian equivalent of the PKK-HDP emerge or will Israel and its Palestinian Authority collaborators succeed in changing the Palestinian politics from the inspiring mass movement of the first Intifada into a case study in politicide?


The archive : Bruno Jäntti, Turkey, Middle East, Ramzy Baroud, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Moshé Machover


[home] [archive] [focus]