This is a bit off theme for this blog, but it needs to be said. There is not enough attention paid to the treatment of diasporas in Social Justice. I’m not just talking about Jews. I’m talking about the Romani, I’m talking about the various African diasporas, and, most specifically in this case, I’m talking about the Kurds.
The Kurds had their land conquered by the Ottomans, and when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after WWI, the Sykes-Picot agreement divided Kurdistan between four other countries, dividing the people and putting them under the rule of other countries. What has been done to them? Here are just three highly simplified examples.
1. Saddam Hussein gassed the Iraqi Kurds, killing thousands of them.
2. Turkey tried to destroy their ethnicity, forcing Kurds to be re-educated. When they refused, Turkey began violently attacking them. This led to the 30 year conflict between the Turkish government and the PKK, which lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds.
3. ISIS is murdering Kurds by the thousands RIGHT NOW.
I follow several Kurdish blogs. I see their posts. I see their frustration with the apathy their plight receives. I see more posts criticizing the fact that the US is supporting the Kurds than I do criticizing ISIS for killing them. This pattern reflects what I’ve seen with regards to anti-semitism, anti-romanism and other oppressions faced by diaspora peoples.
So just to express my point further, Diaspora peoples, IE people with no safe home country, tend to be treated as unwanted aliens in the countries where they live. Without a safe place to go back to, they are FORCED to live at the sufference of majority cultures that consider them outsiders. Diaspora peoples usually face three basic forms of destruction from the majority populations:
1. Forced assimilation. In the United States, for example, White Jews are offered conditional white privilege in exchange for assimilation. The more we abandon our Jewish identities, the less Jewish we look and act, the more easily we are accepted and given a piece of the White Privilege pie. This is not a violent extermination, but it is an attempt to destroy us as Jews. This is what Turkey attempted to do to the Kurds in a much less subtle fashion.
2. Expulsion. This is another common tactic. Diaspora peoples are not welcome and are driven out. This has happened to the Jews several times as well. England expelled its Jews in 1290. Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa expelled their Jews between the 1940s and the 1960s.
3. Annihilation. The Holocaust was an attempt to destroy two diaspora peoples by Nazi Germany. They wanted to conquer the “native” populations of Europe, but they sought to murder the Jews and Romani and were quite efficient in doing so in large part because the “native” populations of Europe were all too happy to stand by or collaborate when the landless peoples of the continent were being systematically exterminated. Nazism’s reach in that regard even stretched out to affect Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, through both direct and indirect means.
The problem with the current SJ discourse is that it mostly views people in terms of two dichotomies: White/PoC and Colonized/Colonizer. Exiled peoples fail both dichotomies due to a lack of a land and due to the ethnic mixing that comes with being dispersed to many lands. Without the recognition for the kinds of oppression faced by diaspora populations, we are all too often ignored when we plead for help.
In many cases, Diaspora peoples have not been allowed to exist as a people by the countries in which we live. And in those where we are it comes in the form of segregation be it the dhimmi status faced by Jews in many Muslim countries or the limitation of Russian Jews to living in the Pale of Settlement during the Czarist era where they lived in constant fear of pogroms.
These are the questions non-diaspora peoples need to ask themselves: who are the diaspora peoples living in our midsts? Are we treating them as equal citizens, unwanted guests or dangerous invaders? Are we forcing them to assimilate? Are we driving them away? Are we killing them? If we do drive them away, is there any good reason that we shouldn’t be held at least partially accountable for what they have to do to survive?