Saving the Mideast From Apocalypse

The elimination of the curse of colonial borders imposed on Iraq, not to mention other countries, is of utmost urgency.

Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
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Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand guard on the outskirts of Gwer town after Islamic State (IS) insurgents withdrew, August 18, 2014.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand guard on the outskirts of Gwer town after Islamic State (IS) insurgents withdrew, August 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky

Recent events have laid bare a fundamental fact that must be considered in depth: how the absence of “natural” borders between states gives rise to messianic-religious-ultranationalist racism.

The reason is simple: Artificially drawn, colonialist borders that ignore the natural boundaries between national groups create arbitrary political frameworks in which various groups vie for primacy. Under such circumstances, every national group tends to use the most violent energy at its disposal, which often feeds the flames of the nationalistic, religious, racist and messianic civilization in question. This energy, which appears to be effective in nationalist conflicts within a state, destroys pragmatic nationalism — certainly in its democratic form — like a corrosive acid.

That is the most fundamental reason for the growth of the border-shattering Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known simply as the Islamic State. It is also the basis for the rise of extremism in Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, in which a small ethnic majority subjugates smaller minorities.

It is also the secret of the messianic-religious-racist ultranationalist revolution in Israel-Palestine, from the moment Israel lost its borders and molded itself into a trans-border entity in which two nations vie for primacy.

It is also why the artificial, colonialist borders of Iraq must not be considered as sacred, and why the greatest, oldest and most democratic nation that has so far been denied a state — the Kurds — should not only now be receiving sympathy, support and weapons, but also aid in becoming an independent state.

The lesson that should be drawn from this — the importance of dismantling artificial-colonial borders — is valid not only in the Middle East. From the moment that new borders, based on national identity, were established — with fire and with blood — in Yugoslavia, the racist fervor there waned and the murderous fury abated.

It is even more important to note that Europe’s racist, messianic, nationalistic suicide in the two world wars that began exactly 100 years ago was part of a nationalistic spiral that occurred in the context of borderless colonialism.

A solution to this threatening, border-free conundrum must begin in Iraq. The elimination of the curse of imposed, colonial borders is of utmost urgency. The establishment of three states, each with a distinct identity — Shi’ite, Kurdish and Sunni — is the only effective way to end the religious, racist, messianic spiral of events involving ISIS, which threaten to consume the entire region like a corrosive acid.

Now, a century after more than 100 million people paid with their lives over the borderless world that was once Europe, it is time to save the Middle East from a similar apocalypse and to draw, using determination and wisdom, feasible regional national borders.

A special sense of satisfaction will accompany the development and creation of Kurdistan. It’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving of the right to self-determination and to independence than the Kurds. They are an ancient people that traditionally did not often attack its neighbors and that demonstrated tolerance and openness toward the great range of religious and ethnic groups that surrounded it — Yazidis, Sunnis, Jews, Christians and others.

It is for good reason that Jews apparently found exile among the Kurds to be among the most welcoming and comfortable of exiles.

If the degree to which a nation has a right to self-determination depended on the degree of tolerance and nonviolence it shows to “the other” — and certainly those traits constitute the ultimate practical and moral test of such a right — then the Kurds are very deserving of that right. It is a moral outrage that it is the Kurds’ very gentleness — like that of the Tibetans and the Jews in the past — that has distanced them from exercising the right to self-determination.

It is that outrage, or scandal, that makes the almost Nazi-level murderousness of ISIS possible. There is no reason the disaster that colonial borders visited on Europe in the 20th century should also be the lot of the Middle East. The persistence of this colonialist, no-border situation must be replaced with the careful and considered construction of nation-states. And the first should be Kurdistan.

The establishment of three states — Shi’ite, Kurdish and Sunni — is the only effective way to put a stop to the religious, racist, messianic spiral of events involving ISIS, which threaten to consume the entire region.

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