Daoud al-Bagstani with the first issue of his Israel-Kurd magazine
For an 'apolitical body', the Israel-Kurd organisation has plenty to say about politics, much of it pleasant to Jewish ears, although its founder, Daoud al-Baghstani , seems to exaggerate Israel's importance on the world stage. Al - Baghstani believes all Iraqi parties are in contact with Israel, including those related to the government; even those with links to Iran have ties with Israel. His aim is to establish a Kurdish lobby in Israel in order to support a Kurdish state. If ten Jews lived in the Kandil Mountains (about 150 km north of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan), Iran and Turkey would not dare bomb Iraq's borders. This interview in the Iraqi al-Zaman newspaper appeared in December 2011. (With thanks: Shmuel)
Daoud Al - Baghstani is one Kurd who arouses interest in the press and media, particularly as founder of Israel - Kurd, an officially-recognised and licensed organisation. He has not hesitated to visit Israel and is considered as one of the preachers of normalization with Israel and the establishment of contacts between Kurds and Israelis in order to support the establishment of a Kurdish state.
- Al- Zaman: What is the purpose of your Israel - Kurd organization?
- Daoud al Baghstani: the foundation of our organization was established on the basis of the presence of a large number of Kurdish Jews in Israel, estimated at over 200,000 souls. They have been neglected and lacked our attention, in particular the Kurds on our side, when in fact they are Iraqi Kurdish citizens who need us and should not be ignored. It should be noted that after the establishment of our organization, some countries, especially Iran and others, wanted to make the issue a political question. But our organization is cultural, social and educational and we have no political goals. But countries like Iran, Turkey, Syria and Hizbollah condemn our organization. We do not fear political revolutions, if this is what they want. We remind them of our history. Most of the Kurdish Jews in Israel do not learn the Kurdish language and we for our part, we will encourage them to learn this language, which is really their mother tongue.
Al - Zaman: Kurdish leaders deny the existence of links with Israel. How did you obtain your licence?
- Daoud al Baghstani: We are apolitical, and we obtained a licence legally like any other organization. Yet we were put under great and prolonged pressure that everyone thinks was inspired by Iran.
- Al - Zaman: how is your organization funded?
- Daoud al Baghstani: Our funding is neither Kurdish nor Israeli. It is God's and comes from God.
- Al - Zaman: why will your organization be neither Iraqi nor Kurdish?
- Daoud al Baghstani: One of the goals of the foundation of our organization was to break the psychological barrier towards Israel, especially when Kurdish leaders hesitate to answer most of the press, when some of our visitors are asked about a number of countries, particularly Arab countries. Why are we ashamed of our relationship with Israel? And why not have connections? After all, even Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, had ties with Israel. Iran has had and still has good connections with Israel. And I am not an Iraqi Arab, I'm an Iraqi Kurd and I am committed to my Kurdish nationalism.
- Al Zaman: Are you encouraging Kurdish Jews to return to Kurdistan?
- Daoud al Baghstani: Yes! Inshallah they should return. And they all yearn to. I felt this with them too. But I could not tell them that Kurdistan is a safe area. Because I can not give them assurances that it is safe to return to their homeland Kurdistan. If ten Jews lived in the Kandil Mountains (about 150 km north of Erbil) and the other villages and areas near the border, the Turks or Iranians would not dare shell our border. Jewish blood is precious and holy. Israel is a small country in terms of area, it cannot train pilots on its territory, they practise in the sky of other countries, but they know how to alleviate the sufferings of its people. We need to emulate it. (..) For our part we are trying to create a Kurdish lobby in Israel for a Kurdish state. There are many Arab countries that have relations with Israel.
- Al - Zaman: What do you mean that Israel is an important country? Why is it important?
- Daoud al Baghstani: Israel is now an important country in the world. One cannot have an alliance with America and be hostile to Israel. The big lie is that a number of politicians argue that they are friends of America and enemies of Israel: this assumption is impossible. The State of Kurdistan region of Iraq cannot be friends of America and Israel's enemies. Israel is a world player.
- Al - Zaman: Are Kurdish relations with Israel more important than with Arab states?
- Daoud Al - Bagstani: Arabs have not helped us with our problems and with a Kurdish state. Have you asked what they did for their fellow Arabs and Palestinians to solve their problems ? If the Arabs did not help the Kurds, then Kurdish contact with Israel is preferable.
- Al- Zaman: Do you know about the relationships of Iraqi political parties to Israel?
- Daoud Al - Baghstani: Yes! But this is not the time to find out, and I do not exclude any party. I say all Iraqi parties have ties with Israel - Sunni and Shiite political parties and even those with direct links with Iran, have covert relationships.
Al-Zaman: Do you encourage the establishment of an Iraqi embassy in Israel and vice versa?
- Daoud Al - Baghstani: the issue is long overdue. We should have seen an Israeli embassy in Iraq after the fall of the regime in 2003. Had there been an Israeli Embassy in Baghdad, Iran would not dare to play the current game in Iraq.
- Al - Zaman: Has the province of Kurdistan, to your knowledge when you were visiting Israel from time to time, relations with Israel?
- Daoud al Baghstani: I do not think so. It has good connections with Iran and Turkey and for the time being Kurdish leaders are afraid to speak even a couple of sentences about the killing of Kurds in Syria (...) Iraqi patriots, aristocrats prefer a connection with Israel a thousand times more than the relationship with Iran. Israel could help Iraq in all fields.
- Al- Zaman: What do you know about intelligence activities in Iraq, Iran and Israel?
- Daoud al Baghstani: I was not communicating with Israel as a state and I have no interest in it. As for Iran, then the Iranian Embassy represents not only Iran but its activity is political and more importantly it is recruiting agents, murderers and traitors - and it does not require any agreement for that.
- Al - Zaman: What do you think about the Arab Spring?
- Daoud al Baghstani: I look forward to a Kurdish Spring smarter and more intelligent than the Arab Spring in Kurdistan.
Translated from a Hebrew version by Ezra Morad