Rebuking Fundamentalists, Funeral for Palestinian-Israeli Istanbul Victim draws Thousands

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

One of the thirty-nine victims of the Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) shooting at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Layan Nasser, 19, was buried on Tuesday in her home town, Tira, in central Israel. Roughly a fifth of Israeli citizens are of Palestinian heritage, the majority of them Muslims.

Daesh carried out the attack to undermine Turkey’s tourism industry and discourage foreign direct investment, two engines of the country’s economic growth over the past twenty years. The act was revenge on Turkey for intervening against Daesh in northern Syria during the past year.

Yusuf Munayyer pointed out that Nasser was identified as Israeli in international press headlines, as a victim, and suspects that she would have been instead called an “Arab” had she been instead involved in an act of resistance. His point is that Palestinian-Israelis are seen as sympathetic when attacked by fundamentalists, but when Israeli Secretary of Defense Avigdor Lieberman threatens to ethnically cleanse them, few in the West protest.

Thousands of Palestinian-Israelis attended the ceremony, in what both the Israeli and Arab press saw as a rebuke to the Muslim fundamentalists who blamed the victim by criticizing Layan for attending a New Year’s eve celebration (a Christian festivity, in a night club wearing make up and in an place where drinks were being served).

Layan Nasser had just become a dental assistant rather than rushing to get married, as her mother had wanted. Even her trip to Turkey was a sign of her independence of mind. Her father advised against it, given the deteriorating security situation in that country. The UAE’s The National quoted her cousin Hadil Haj-Yihya as saying, “She is just an innocent kid. She doesn’t know about politics and terrorism. She loved fashion and make-up. She just wanted to live life. She was just a child . . . Now her mother is crying, saying ‘I’m giving her to the grave, not to her husband.’”

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Al-Masdar said that the huge crowds attended the funeral to mourn Layan and “to protest religious repression.”

Among those attending were prominent Palestinian-Israelis, and a disproportionate number of women, who were protesting those voices that criticized Layan’s trip and that of her girlfriends to Istanbul by themselves to celebrate the new year.

One of those who spoke was the mayor of Tira, Ma’mun `Abd al-Hayy, who referred to the criticisms launched at her by religious groups. He said, “We do not accept the besmirching of the reputation of Layan and her friends. We strongly support a plurality of opinions and we reject religious repression.” He continued, “We are proud of Layan and her friends, and of the young generation and their consciousness, and of their decisive stand against illiteracy and close-mindedness. . . Our youth will decide what is good for themselves, and what is not, and no one has the right to impose anything on them.” He added, “We are the true Islam, and there is no place for those who adopt a counterfeit ‘jihad.'”

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The United Arab List political coalition posted on Facebook a statement that also criticized those who slammed Layan and her friends. “the coalition denounces the intellectual influence of Daesh [ISIL, ISIS], and calls for combating both this way of thinking and the practices associated with it, through intellectual work and practical action. It called on the masses and civil society to encourage dialogue and mutual understanding and open-mindedness, instead of repression and the imposition of opinions blackballing. It urged the that the utmost effort be expended to fight this way of thinking and this phenomenon, which threatens the life of the Arab peoples in their entierty, and threatens their identity and their existence and their just struggles.” The list then called for a big turnout at Layan’s funeral and condemned the criminal and sanguinary operation that took her life.

Daesh/ ISIL is a threat to many societies, but Westerners often forget that it is above all a threat to Muslims. Something like 90% of all its victims have been Muslims (especially Shiites but also Sunnis). It has a theory of revolutionary action its leaders call ‘tawahhush,’ acting like wild beasts and making a spectacle of death. These techniques have brought it into disrepute even among other terrorists! As the Palestinian-Israelis pointed out, it is losing friends for Arab causes because it allows them all, including the just ones, to be tagged as barbarous or terroristic. Long after it is rolled up as a territorial state, Daesh will go on poisoning minds, and the United Arab List is correct that an intellectual battle needs to be waged against it. The instinct of the United States has been to undermine secularism in the Middle East because it has been associated with socialism. And, leftist regimes have unwittingly fostered a fundamentalist opposition by associating secular thought with torture in prison. The Middle East can only get past this decades-long crisis by becoming more democratic and more secular. The regime’s elites often want only one or the other, for their own selfish reasons, and so are prolonging the agony. And Western elites have to stop destabilizing the place for the sake of black gold.

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5 Responses

  1. The terrorist wanted to kill Christian who were celebrating, but he killed more Muslims than others. Muslims are always the victims of these terrorist attacks in Mosques, and market places, in nations infested with these terrorists. But in the western nations, that does not seem to be of any importance.

  2. We have to admit that most of those we elect to Congress do not know what is going on within this country, much less so, a foreign country. And our own citizens are mislead by our mainstream media when it suits that media to ‘play the game.’

    Both our government/politicians and our “Christian” churches are to blame for American ignorance of Islam or any other religion that is not “christian.”

    The Israel ‘problem’ is a manifestation of that; members of Congress, including our own presidents, for some reason, are afraid to challenge any wrong doings of Israel. Rather the Congress continues to promote the official political line that “Israel is our friend”, when in fact, except for the protection of the US, and the US selling of arms to Israel. Yet, Israel could give a damn less about the US.

    Regarding “The instinct of the United States has been to undermine secularism in the Middle East because it has been associated with socialism.”, the United States government (both political parties) undermines its own citizens with its whines of “socialism” anytime anything is asked of it to secure health care or a fair wage or safe working conditions for all American workers.

    And this is the same government (both political parties) that expect the American people to go to war in some foreign country to protect the financial interests of a US corporation that has moved its manufacturing to a foreign country.

    In spite of this; “The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources. There is no mind-set that puts this country first.”

    [A Colgate-Palmolive executive. “The Nation”; 11/12/2001].
    In other words, “(Our profits come first, the country second).”

  3. We have to admit that most of those we elect to Congress do not know what is going on within this country, much less so, a foreign country. And our own citizens are mislead by our mainstream media when it suits that media to ‘play the game.’

    Both our government/politicians and our “Christian” churches are to blame for American ignorance of Islam or any other religion that is not “christian.”

    The Israel ‘problem’ is a manifestation of that; members of Congress, including our own presidents, for some reason, are afraid to challenge any wrong doings of Israel. Rather the Congress continues to promote the official political line that “Israel is our friend”, when in fact, except for the protection of the US, and the US selling of arms to Israel. , Israel could give a damn less about the US.

    Regarding “The instinct of the United States has been to undermine secularism in the Middle East because it has been associated with socialism.”, the United States government (both political parties) undermines its own citizens with its whines of “socialism” anytime anything is asked of it to secure health care or a fair wage or safe working conditions for all American workers.

    And this is the same government (both political parties) that expect the American people to go to war in some foreign country to protect the financial interests of a US corporation that has moved its manufacturing to a foreign country.

    In spite of this; “The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources. There is no mind-set that puts this country first.”

    [A Colgate-Palmolive executive. “The Nation”; 11/12/2001].
    In other words, “(Our profits come first, the country second).”

  4. In a joking mood, Einstein once explained the theory of relativity to a lay person as follows: The Germans say that I am a German and the French call me a Jew. If the theory turned out to be wrong, the French would have called me a German, and the Germans would have called me a Jew.

  5. The U.S. has actually undermined secularism not simply because of links with socialism, but with the ethos of a “third way” for development independent of superpowers. This initiative in the post-colonial world in which the 1955 Bandung Conference sponsored by Sukarno of Indonesia frightened Henry Kissinger and other elite foreign policy planners.

    They responded by having Sukarno deposed in a hailstorm of mass murder orchestrated by the U.S. which helped create lists of those to be eradicated in one of the most brutal campaigns ever against center and leftists such as Indonesia’s PKI).

    By 1966 upwards of 1,000,000 people were killed and the military dictatorship of Gen. Suharto came to power in 1967 and only ended in 1998. (The hyper-real 2012 documentary, “The Act of Killing” recreates the manner of mass killings from the view o actual perpetrators.
    link to en.wikipedia.org (For more on the latest research on the 1965 bloodshed in Indonesia, consult the reports prepared by the International People’s Tribunal which has valiantly investigated the bloodbath that occurred during 1965 in Indonesia): link to tribunal1965.org

    The brutal wars in Indochina, contrary to common opinion, had nothing to do with fighting communism but creating a Japan-led economic corridor with South East Asia embedded along with South Korea, particularly Indonesia because of its vast resources and strategic location.

    Claims that the “domino theory” are what motivated the U.S. are simplistic and absurdly ridiculous because what mattered was preventing countries from becoming robustly autonomous and ensuring that they would not have the capacity to develop independently outside of the U.S. sphere; and this included countries wishing to be neutral.

    That is why after the conclusion of the Vietnam War in April 1975, Vietnam was diplomatically and economically isolated, unable to gain international aid for reconstruction until President Bill Clinton recognized Vietnam in July 1995. And the U.S. continued to covertly support the remnants of the Khmer Rouge who were ousted by the Vietnamese in 1978 after several unprovoked attacks initiated by Pol Pot against Vietnam.

    In fact, we can now say with moral certainty that Vietnam’s defeat of the Khmer Rouge remains one of the few actual instances of “humanitarian intervention” during the 20th century because the “auto-genocide” of the Khmer Rouge killed over 2,000,000 people in just over 3 years. (It’s another question how long Vietnam should have remained in Cambodia after defeating the Khmer Rouge).

    One has only to examine the reaction to the election of Evo Morales to the Presidency of Bolivia in 2006 because Morales was a labor activist and historically significant, is a member of the Aymara people, an indigenous group, the first indigenous leader in all of the Americas.

    I mention these historical cases merely to indicate that ideology matters little to the foreign policy of American elites as much as control over a country’s ability to form economic relations in which the U.S. is not allowed a preponderance of influence.

    So the brutal death of 19 year old Layan Nasser, a Palestinian Israeli, should indeed give us pause because there is virtually no understanding of how Islam has had a tradition of secular tendencies with varying degrees of civic freedom in Lebanon (Beirut has been rightly called the Paris of the Middle East), Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from 1923-1938 and remained its strong secular tradition until the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK party in 2002 (but this has been rapidly eroding since the Aug. 2014 election and the aborted military coup in July 2016).

    Iran is currently among the most culturally “Westernized” countries in the Middle East thanks in large part to the same regional demographic shift in which 60% of its is population of 80 million people is under 30. link to iranprimer.usip.org

    Iran provides us with a useful study in the convaluted orientation of American foreign policy. Despite Obama’s successful 6 parties talks with Iran that has created closer ties since the 1979 Iranian Revolution ended official diplomatic ties and the crippling sanctions placed on Iran along with the 8 year war that the U.S. sponsored between Sadam Hussein’s Iraq and Iran (1980-1988), the U.S. has been accepting more Iranian students to study each year since the millennium; and in fact, Iran had the 12th highest number of international students studying in the U.S. during the 2012-2013 academic year.
    link to insidehighered.com and link to nytimes.com

    It seems to me that the United States has created an inherently unstable and contradictory foreign policy that has failed inexorably because of competing interests. It was a mighty achievement to get Israel and Egypt to agree to the 1979 Peace Treaty orchestrated by President Jimmy Carter. But there were two consequences to this peace treaty which still loom large in the present. First, the Soviet Union lost its foothold in the Middle East as a consequence of Egyptian willingness to change sides from the East to the West and there is now ample evidence that the KGB under Andropov was seeking the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with the help of Venezuelan-born and international celebrity-terrorist “Carlos the Jackal.” But Sadat’s death two years after peace with Israel was ultimately accomplished by the Muslim Brotherhood who are still powerful. So, Putin’s support of the unsavory regime in Syria has allowed Russian to regain a foothold in the Middle East for the first time since 1979. That is no small achievement, though for the Syrians, especially during the grotesque siege of Aleppo, there is not much appreciation for Russia’s intervention.

    Note also that the U.S. did not show much enthusiasm for the “Arab Spring” and has done everything possible to support extremism in Syria (the so-called “moderates” were mostly comprised of jihadists).

    Just as the U.S. electoral college was created in order to enable elites to vacate the popular vote should the ignorant masses vote for someone not to their liking, the U.S. does not have a morally encouraging record of endorsing social movements that cannot be controlled. This explains why we have supported religious fundamentalism, the unique Wahabi form of Sunni Islam promulgated by Saudi Arabia, a state which has benefited enormously from U.S. military aid (warplanes and armaments) as well as logistical support for its brutal destruction of Yemen. Support for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf-state coalition is incompatible with allowing de-Baathification of the Sunni majority in Iraq who dominated the Shi’a minority under Sadam Hussein, plus then granting Iraqi Kurds with an autonomous region but not the 15-20 million Kurds in Turkey and parts of Syria who have been savagely targeted in campaigns that are nearly equivalent in potency to what one would call state-sponsored ethnic cleansing.

    So, on the 5th of January in 2017, we are confronted with the specter of fractured states with ever-expansive internecine violence within all but failed states in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

    And consequently (because entirely predictable), Turkey and Egypt have become destabilized as reactionary religious-inspired terror initially targeted religious minorities but has now expanded to include the most liberal and secular segment of the population, the middle class along with the police, military and security services.

    The Dec. 10th bombing in Istanbul occurred outside the football stadium about 2 hours after the end of the match between the two most prominent teams in the first division of Turkey’s professional football league (Beşiktaş and Bursaspor). So, the target was police and security services rather than fans. Even so, the choice of location was not arbitrary: the two bombs exploded in the chic middle-class neighborhood of Beşiktaş located on Istanbul’s European side, something unthinkable in June 2016.

    And the New Year’s Eve attack against revelers in Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, was similar to the vicious Nov. 2015 attack at the world famous Bataclan theater in Paris. The targets were middle class and the rich.

    The main conclusion we should reach is that ISIS with (unwitting?) help by Turkey’s Erdogan and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is creating a wedge between the majority who were raised in states that once promoted secularism in public and allowed a legally enforced minimum of civil liberties with freedom of the press allowed under Mubarak.

    What we are witnessing in Egypt and Turkey is a vicious self-reinforcing campaign of escalating terror against official enemies of the state (which seems increasingly arbitrary). ISIS is employing its greatest asset in urban-based asymmetric warfare: soft targets. And ISIS can dispense with arduous and intensive training in bomb-making by encouraging newly radicalized people to hijack buses and trucks and plow them into public spaces with large crowds. It’s the simplest and most diabolical strategy: create public panic, with governments reacting disproportionately, thereby creating more victims, instilling increased fear and distrust; and in the process, linking secularism with Western decadence and “spiritual pollution” to employ a phrase that was promulgated by the Chinese Community Party in response to the first wave of Western university teachers and cultural influences between 1983 and 1984. link to nytimes.com

    In both Turkey and Egypt, there have been nasty purges of civil servants and loyal security service and senior police along with the mass arrest of novelists, journalists and artists in addition to registered NGOs and international human right groups who have frequently been labelled as “terrorists.” This is a trend soon likely to become fully entrenched as the normalization of state-sponsored domestic terror and state-sponsored cross-border terror replaces a more secular, rights-based society that the “Arab Spring” sought to create. link to independent.co.uk

    Viewed then from the perspective of the “end of history” at the conclusion of the official Cold War, such developments can only be accepted when we finally dispense with feigned surprise at the chilling irony of proclaiming to eschew terror perpetrated by some diabolical “other” and yet continue to exempt ourselves (and our allies) from being held accountable for engaging in preemptive police actions.

    And since we know in advance of the likely calamitous consequences that our military actions will have on a variety of social actors and ethno-political groups in the 110 plus countries where U.S. troops and mercenaries are located , we invariably engage in premeditated evil.

    There should no longer be any need for apoplectic responses by as more countries begin to imitate the U.S. and kidnap “enemies of the people” after which they are denied any basic rights while in the hospitality of a state with “black sites” since this is now unequivocally the new norm.

    For example, China has begun to imitate the U.S. and has only recently released a 36 year old Swedish human rights activist who disappeared for 23 days that would have been unthinkable before extraordinary renditions or outright killing via drones became normalized by President George W. Bush and his successor, outgoing President Barak Obama.
    link to theguardian.com

    Given the Inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS on Jan. 20th, we urgently need to think more circumspectly about Obama’s dual policies of containment in East Asia (China) and Iran (economic sanctions and using cyber warfare to prevent peaceful and internationally legal use of enriched uranium with frequent inspections).

    Sure, President Obama brought a grace and elegance, wit and intelligence and oversaw a West Wing that was scandal-free during his 8 year tenure as the American President. Yet, in foreign policy, Obama has failed dramatically as we have seen most especially since in 2014 and 2015 to the present in France, and several times in Germany from Jan. 2015 to Dec. 2016 and during the last 12 months in Turkey.

    Despite the somber ceremonial remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor that included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama on Dec. 27th, Obama has actively pushed for the increased militarization of Japan (which is provocative to China and undermines the post-war rehabilitation of Japan).

    And this is occurring as South Korea suffers from political instability whose impact on North Korea remains desperately unpredictable precisely when it would be beneficial for stability in Northeast Asia (the region from the Korean peninsula and the Japanese islands to Russia’s Vladivostok).

    This means that the world is far more unstable than when Obama entered the White House 8 years ago.

    There is no reason to think that Russia’s support of Syria and its attempts to form closer ties with China and Iran will be able to shore up an extremely weak Russian economy that is entirely dominated by oligarchs loyal to Putin that operates more like a hybrid ponzi-pyramid scheme. link to theguardian.com

    What is clear from reading interviews among the survivors of the extreme violence against the “soft target” strategy that ISIS has now actively embraced can only be appreciated when we refrain from adopting an alienating “Orientalist” and detestable reductionist “Other” which allows us to inconsistently choose as worthy victims people such as Layan Nasser as well as viciously brutal terrorists (aka “moderates” and “rebels” in national security parlance) when they wreak devastation with our tacit and covert blessing.

    Until we can summon the moral courage to demand the cessation of military aid and diplomatic cover for acts of violence done by states and groups who receive our money and military support, we will continue to sully the memory of Layan Nasser and the other innocent victims whose deaths could have been prevented.

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