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03:06 06/06/2010
Turks Curtail Nationalism: They Are Palestinian

By Belen Fernandez - Istanbul

This afternoon at Istanbul's Beyazıt Mosque, the funeral ceremony was held for Turkish humanitarian aid activist Cevdet Kılıçlar, one of 9 victims of the Israeli attack on Monday on the Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza. The full fatality list, which was inexplicably withheld until yesterday, includes 7 other Turkish citizens and a 19-year-old high school student named Furkan Doðan with a United States passport, although the U.S. State Department’s noncommittal pledge to “look into the circumstances of the death of an American citizen” suggests that the administration might prefer to relinquish territorial responsibility for him.

In fact, it appears that international territorial boundaries are becoming increasingly tailored to the whims of Israel, which is now under the impression that it is entitled not only to the land of Palestine but also Lebanese airspace and the Mediterranean Sea, with additional claims suggested by the attendance last year at the Organization of American States by Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel Danny Ayalon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has however identified greater territorial ambitions in the region, and recently warned the world of Iran’s intentions to “establish a Mediterranean port a few kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.” The inauguration of the Iranian port of Gaza would apparently thus have occurred had the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) permitted the Mavi Marmara to proceed undeterred, and Netanyahu announced that it was Israel’s right “[u]nder international law and under common sense and common decency” to inspect vessels potentially containing Iranian weaponry. More enlightened commentators have meanwhile invoked the issue of Iran this week merely to suggest that most nations don’t benefit from the Israeli model of legality, sensibility, and decency, especially when it comes to the murder of traditional U.S. allies and passport holders.

Signs of allied realignment at the funeral ceremony for Kılıçlar this afternoon, attended by thousands despite the heat, included ubiquitous green and black headbands reading “HEPİMİZ FİLİSTİNLİYİZ”—“We are all Palestinians.” A man selling bananas in a wooden cart outside the Beyazıt Mosque endeavored to persuade me that the martyr Kılıçlar had in fact hailed from Palestine and that his own bananas were not affiliated with the U.S. despite their Dole labels, while a customer admitted to having sympathized with Israel when its fast food restaurants were on the receiving end of suicide bombs but had eventually amended his sympathies after calculating the ratio of Israeli civilian deaths to Palestinian.

As for yesterday’s Turkish news headlines such as “What the world couldn’t do, this country did,” it turned out that this was not a reference to the only country that could get away with boarding humanitarian aid ships and slaughtering people but rather to the fact that Nicaragua had broken off diplomatic relations with Israel in the aftermath of the attack. The article did not specify whether Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had yet donned a headband reading “We are all Turks,” or how his show of solidarity had been received by Central American citizens who group Arab and Jewish immigrants into the pejorative Ottoman-era category turcos. Israel might meanwhile enhance its post-massacre propaganda campaign by appealing to outdated views of Turks among certain European sectors and nicknaming the Mavi Marmara “Attila the Hun.”

The fact that contemporary Turkish protest headbands read “We are all Palestinians” rather than “You are all Turks” and that the ubiquitous Turkish flag has been joined by the Palestinian one—sometimes superimposed on the same piece of cloth—additionally suggests a tempering of sorts of the intense nationalism for which Turkey is known and often resented. How long Turks will continue to claim Palestinian nationality remains to be seen, although current slogans are presumably more sustainable than past ones such as “We are all Armenians,” coined on the occasion of the 2007 assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

According to a funeral observer standing against a railing at the perimeter of the Beyazıt Mosque today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan must proceed in accordance with new national affiliations and break off all relations and agreements with the state of Israel “in order to deny it the water necessary for life.” A somewhat contradictory foreign policy approach was however advocated by a nearby group of girls holding a banner that read: “If every Muslim dumps a bucket of water, Israel will be flooded”—a result that has not yet been achieved by Israeli usurpation of Muslim water supplies.

- Belen Fernandez is the author of Coffee with Hezbollah. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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