In the 1950s I came to know a semi-clandestine cell of Egyptian Jewish e'migre's in Paris. They assisted the Algerian struggle for independence -- a cause which I fervently supported myself. Its leader was Henri Curiel, and one of its members was a young Egyptian Jewish woman, Joyce Blau, who was also an ardent supporter of the Kurdish cause. This was also the field of her academic studies.
Through her, I learned more about the Kurdish story, or tragedy. Though Kurdistan is a compact territory, it is divided into pieces that belong to different states -- Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, with more communities dispersed in other countries.
At the end of World War I, there was an effort to set up a Kurdish state, but the rapaciousness of the victors and the re-emergence of a strong Turkey made this impossible. The Kurds themselves were not completely blameless: they were and are consistently unable to unite. Their leading families act against each other.
After having set up the "Israeli Council for Algerian Independence," I found an Israeli group of immigrants from Iraqi Kurdistan and together we founded the "Israeli Council for an Independent Kurdistan."
As a member, I had some unforgettable experiences. Twice I was invited to address mass meetings of Kurds in Germany. Mass meetings in the literal sense: huge numbers of Kurds from all over Europe cheered my speech, quite a boost for my ego.
My efforts petered out when I discovered that high-level Israeli army officers were already in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping to train the Peshmerga ("Before Death") guerrillas. The motive of the Israeli government in sending them there was quite cynical: to undermine the Iraqi state, according to the eternal Roman maxim "Divide et Impera," divide and rule.
How did they get there? Easy, they were under the benevolent protection of the Shah of Iran. But one day the Shah made peace with Saddam Hussein, and that was the end of this particular Israeli project. When the Shah was toppled and Iran became Israel's deadly enemy, Israeli military intervention in Kurdistan became impossible.
But the sentiment remains. I believe that the Kurds deserve independence, especially if they are able to unite. Since they are blessed -- or cursed -- with oil riches, foreign interests are deeply involved.
THERE IS no similarity whatsoever between the Kurds and the Catalans, except that I like them both.
Catalonia is a highly developed country, and during my several short visits there I felt quite at home. Like all tourists, I strolled in the Rambla of Barcelona -- both Hebrew names, so it seems. They are remnants from the times when Spain was a colony of Carthago, a city founded by Semitic people from Phoenicia, who spoke a kind of Hebrew. Barcelona is probably derived from Barak (lightning in Hebrew), and Rambla from the Arabic Ramle (sandy.)
Trouble is, I also love other parts of Spain, especially places like Cordoba and Sevilla. Would be a pity to break it up. On the other hand, one cannot really prevent a people from achieving its independence, if it wants to.
Fortunately, nobody asks me.
THE LARGER question is why smaller and smaller peoples want independence, when the world is creating larger and larger political units?
It looks like a paradox, but really isn't.
We in this generation are witnessing the end of the nation state, which has dominated world history for the last few hundred years. It was born out of necessity. Small countries were unable to build modern mass industries which depended on a large domestic market. They could not defend themselves, when modern armies required more and more sophisticated weapons. Even cultural development depended on larger language-areas.
So Wales and Scotland joined England, Savoy and Sicily created Italy, Corsica and the Provence joined France. Small nationalities joined larger ones. It was necessary for survival.